Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on Maki Murakami's exquisite story "Gravitation." I take no profit other than enjoyment.
A/N: This is an AH...Alternate History, rather than a true AU. It branches from the anime canon to explore one answer to the question: What if Shu didn't opt to go to Hiro at the end of Track Six?
It's not in any way related to my "Yushu" future history for the boys.
My apologies again to the fans of Shu's father. I have taken...great liberties with the character. My only excuse is, this is based on the anime, in which Papa-Shindou was never even mentioned.
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Nowhere To Go
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Catch Me Before I Fall
The view out Seguchi Touma's office window was probably spectacular; the president of NG productions would have settled for nothing less than the best.
If you liked Tokyo.
At the moment, Eiri would trade it all for one glimpse of an unruly mop of pink hair.
"How in hell could he just disappear?" he asked that view, knowing the question to be rhetorical. If Touma knew the answer, Shuuichi wouldn't be missing. He'd be tucked up safe and sound in Yuki Eiri's meat locker if that's what it took to keep him ...safe and sound.
"K's working on it," Touma said quietly from his seat at the desk behind him. "If it's any consolation, if it were a professional job, we'd have him by now. However he's hiding, it's so low tech, it's stone age."
Four days. Four fuckingly long days.
"It's his own doing, Eiri. If you're right—"
"If I'm right, if he was...assaulted...sexually, being alone right now would be, for him, devastating. Dammit, Touma, he's—" His voice caught as he was transported to his own past, to an innocence greater, if possible, than Shuuichi's. Of a trust betrayed, and the horrific consequences. Of the nightmares and the blood no amount of washing had ever truly purged from his hands.
He'd fought Touma's help, tooth and nail, then and in the ensuing six years. He'd fought that help, but he'd had it. He'd never, ever been alone, not really.
Unlike Shuuichi. Poor, sweet, innocent idiot Shu had just disappeared, having been rejected by the egocentric asshole he was convinced meant the world to him, after giving up his dream career to protect that selfsame asshole's public image. A dozen replays of that final admission had made that small sense at last.
I couldn't let them hurt you...
So he'd...what? let some bastards beat him then fuck him? What the hell was that all about? How could that save anyone? And why quit the band? Why disappear?
Unless he'd felt so damned filthy afterward a razor blade to the wrist had become preferable to facing his fellow musicians, especially his guitarist and best friend, Nakano Hiroshi. He doubted anyone else's opinion really mattered to Shuuichi at this point.
It didn't make sense. None of it made any—
"It's not your fault, Eiri," Touma said quietly, like an echo from six years ago.
His head went light and he took a deep breath, then swallowed hard, turned away from that view to meet Touma's somber gaze.
"The hell it's not. If I hadn't kicked him out—"
"Nonsense. And you know it. Whoever was behind this couldn't have known about that."
"Then, if I'd never let him move in. However you want to dice it, I'm the reason he was attacked."
"The reason, or simply an excuse. We don't know why until we know who. Either way, Eiri, it's not your fault."
He stared down into Touma's green contacts, feeling the ghosts of the past rise up and freeze his face. "It never is, is it, Touma?"
Touma frowned. "It wasn't then and it's not now."
Maybe someday, he'd believe that.
He sighed, and looked away. "Just...keep trying, will you, Touma?"
"Of course." Touma stood up and pressed a hand to Eiri's arm. "Go home, Eiri. Get some sleep. You've got your pills?"
"I hate to take them...in case he calls."
"Route your phone to my office."
"Oh, like that will help."
"Caller ID, Eiri. Shimisi is the essence of tact. She'll know it's him, reassure him, tell him I ordered you to get some rest. When you wake up, return the routing."
Tempting. God, it was tempting. He'd barely closed his eyes in four days.
Touma smiled, his self-satisfied I won smile. "You know I'm right. He'll only blame himself should you take ill over this."
"There's a point. Maybe I should check myself into the hospital. You can plaster it all over the news that I'm dying. He'd show up then."
If he was still alive.
"Probably he would," Touma said.
Dammit, he had to be. He'd know it if he weren't, wasn't that what all lovers claimed? Except... he didn't love him. He just felt guilty. Yeah, that was it. Not love. Guilt.
Right. Keep talking Uesugi, and you might convince—
"And if you don't get some sleep," Touma continued firmly. "I'll call the hospital for you. Go home, Eiri. Let K try working his magic first."
Eiri dipped his head in reluctant agreement and left Touma's office, more exhausted than after a weeklong deadline marathon.
He knew Touma was right, that there wasn't a damned bit of good he could do, and a hell of a bother he could be to the busy executive, though under normal circumstances, that fact wouldn't affect his actions in the slightest.
He generally didn't give a flying fuck about Touma's business obligations, but in this case he cared a great deal, seeing as how Touma's interests were his as well. Bad Luck had become an exceedingly valuable commodity, their first single was selling beyond Publicity's wildest expectations. And with the vocal scope and sheer heart Shindou Shuuichi brought to the band, Touma could be looking at several years of chart-topping singles and platinum albums.
Without Shuuichi, Bad Luck was nothing but a bad investment.
Fortunately, Touma did have resources. Quite amazing resources, not the least of which was Bad Luck's own gun-toting, ex-CIA manager, Claude "K" Winchester. The sooner Touma quit worrying about him, the sooner all those resources would be focused on finding Shuuichi.
Eiri had exhausted his own list of possible bolt holes in the hour following Shuuichi's disappearance, serving only to remind himself of how little he knew about his month long roommate. He hadn't even known the kid's home address, not that it would have made a difference: Nakano had called Shuuichi's mother from Eiri's place, right after the brat had disappeared, a call that had resulted in panic followed by hourly calls to NG from the frantic woman.
Frantic requests for reassurance no one could give her.
Eiri frowned and punched the button for the elevator.
Shuuichi had to be alive. He was the essence of life. Suicide simply wasn't in his character. He'd left the band because he was embarrassed, that was it. He couldn't face them, knowing they knew. Eiri knew that feeling intimately. There'd been a time he hadn't been able to face his world-wise older sister, let alone his innocent younger brother.
Never mind they'd never offered him anything but loving support. He knew he'd failed some essential test and all their reassurance couldn't change that knowledge.
So, what test had Shuuichi failed? What test could that talented little idiot possibly have failed?
The elevator dinged. The "down" light flashed. The door opened on a puzzled-looking Nakano Hiroshi, who started, blinked, and stepped out.
"Nakano," Eiri said, with a nod, and started to pass, but Hiro caught his arm, pulling him up short, holding him in the hallway as the elevator closed and left.
"I...think I might have something."
Eiri's irritation vanished along with the exhaustion. "Yeah?"
"I...it may be nothing, but..."
"Dammit, Nakano, spit it out!"
Nakano raised a hand to scratch the back of his head, disrupting the smooth fall of hair, as he would when searching for a sensible response. Eiri curbed his impatience, knowing that anger would only chase the younger man away, likely to Touma's office, and whatever he'd discovered would be beyond Eiri's reach.
Touma had told him to sleep. Touma was determined to handle it.
Well...Touma couldn't have it. Not if it he could help it.
"Well, you know Shu's father is a construction foreman," Nakano said at last.
He didn't, but he nodded all the same, not to waste time on trivialities.
"Well, Shu used to work for him, during the summers. Odd jobs around the site. Anything to make some money, but he had to quit when his father got promoted to high-rises."
Nakano gave him a strange look. "Shu's terrified of heights, didn't you know that?"
"Are you kidding me? He's a roller-coaster addict."
"Loves the speed, hates the height. Closes his eyes on all the slow parts. Besides, he's an adrenaline junkie, in case you hadn't noticed."
"Yeah? So?" Eiri twitched impatiently. "What's this got to do with where he is now, other than putting roller-coaster repairman out of the list of possible Shuuichi-careers?"
"I called Shindou-san, to see if, by any chance Shu had put that work experience on some application. I mean, he's got to get a job, right? And 'ex-rock star' might not be much use, even if he was dumb enough to list NG as a reference. Anyway, I thought if he did list his father, they might have called the company to check—"
"Don't tell me they did?"
"Before I got a chance to ask Shindou-san, he left the phone to answer some question, and ...dammit, I could swear, I heard Shu's voice. Singing. I heard Shindou-san yell to shut down that racket, and it stopped, but—"
Nakano shrugged, staring down the hallway as if he were seeing anything but the modern decor. "I thought about that, but I didn't hear any backup, just the voice. And then, the phone went dead."
This time, Nakano looked him squarely in the eyes.
"I figure, someone maybe didn't want me to hear any more."
"You think Shu's working for his father?"
"It'd be one way to lie low. His father didn't like him singing. Hated him being with you. If Shu wanted to avoid us all, it'd be his best bet. And his father could put him on the payroll as an independent contractor under an assumed name. That would make it real hard for K's sources to spot."
"But if he's been working for his father, why would his mother be calling Touma for information?"
"Only one way to answer that, Yuki-san, and that's to ask Shu. It's possible she knows and is helping his cover, but I don't think so. She's as up front as Shu. If it's for real, I don't think he'd be happy to know how frightened she is. I don't think he can know."
"Where's the job?"
Nakano silently handed him a piece of paper with an address on it.
Eiri eyed the writing, strangely uncertain what he should do. He knew what he wanted to do, that was pretty well a no-brainer. If Shu was at this address, he wanted to pound whoever was responsible for keeping that fact hidden—likely his homophobic father—into something resembling sushi prepared with a dull serrated knife.
But what would Shu want?
Nakano's firm but gentle grip again found his arm. "Go to him, Yuki-san. If I know Shu, and I think I know him pretty well after all these years, just the fact you've come to find him will be enough. He doesn't want to be alone, he's just afraid, for some reason, that—"
"Well, well, well, what have we here?"
Nakano's brow tightened. He turned slowly to face the dark-haired, slender man oozing down the hall toward them.
"Aizawa," Nakano said calmly, with an acknowledging tip of his head.
"Moving in on Shindou's territory already, Nakano?"
"Just keep moving, Aizawa. I'm really not in the mood."
"No doubt." The young man sneered as he pressed the elevator's call button. "Being a has-been does have its downsides, doesn't it?"
"Don't count Bad Luck out yet, Aizawa."
"No? Still keeping the happy face on, Nakano? Without a lead singer, Bad Luck is history. Ask is number one here now."
Ask. Now he recognized the man. Aizawa Taki, the lead singer of Touma's other major band. The band whose limelight Shuuichi had usurped that first night. Bad Luck been the opening act, the warmup band, but after Shuuichi, only Ryuichi himself could have triumphed.
The man's strangely drooping eyes scanned Eiri with an annoying intimacy that made Eiri want to give him a face-lift with his fists. "What did a man like you see in that skinny runt anyway?"
Tightening his fist on the note Nakano had given him, he returned that assessing look in spades, stopping pointedly on the singer's expensively-tailored crotch.
"Far more than I'll find here. —Hiro?" The elevator arrived. Eiri nodded to Nakano in a deliberately warm farewell, and stepped into the elevator, quickly keying the door closed in Aizawa's face.
"Take it over to him now, or you're fired, do you understand me?"
The voice surprised Eiri. Deeper, more mature, with a harshly commanding tone gentle Shuuichi would never achieve, yet amazingly similar to Shuuichi's in diction and quality: the voice, he'd lay odds, of Shuuichi's father.
The cage lift rattled to a stop two floors from the top of this still-skeletal building, and Eiri stepped free, seeking the source of that authoritative voice, found it out on one of those structural beams, a slight figure leaning easily against a support beam, arms akimbo, gazing out across the maze of steel, the wind whipping his clothing.
"Dammit, how many times must I tell you, don't look down!" The figure straightened with a jerk. "You idiot! If that hits someone, they could die!"
A sob drifted to Eiri on a breeze, a painfully familiar sound. No doubt who was on the receiving end of those harsh words.
Shuuichi. Out on that steel maze, crouched and clinging desperately to a catwalk. A small figure the wind up here could knock about like a leaf. A small figure that could easily roll right under the simple safety railing.
Shuuichi...who was terrified of heights.
It appeared his father intended to cure him of that weakness, one way or another.
Eiri moved calmly along the catwalk, utterly impervious to the effects of the large open areas around him, the quick death that awaited a careless step.
The slight figure, Shu's father, put hands on hips. "Damn you, get up, get back here and get another box of rivets. Time's wasting!"
"C–can't." It was a choked cry, and the helmeted head bowed. "I–I...s–sorry. Sorry."
"Well, no one's coming after you. Eventually, the wind will win and you'll die. Is that what you want?"
"Bastard," Eiri said in a pleasant, conversational tone.
Shindou-the-elder twisted, glaring. "Who the fuck—"
"But you have a point." Eiri raised his voice and looked beyond the elder Shindou. "Shuuichi, don't go crazy on me, baka."
The sobs shaking the narrow shoulders ceased abruptly. A gasp reached him.
"Yeah, brat. You're busted. I want you to look up at me. I want to see those gorgeous eyes of yours."
Slowly, the hardhat lifted, twisting, and the gorgeous purple eyes in question looked back over the narrow shoulder, glistening across what seemed like a mile of narrow catwalk bridging virtually empty space. He wasn't really in danger, as long as he didn't panic. Shuuichi had balance like a cat. He could do it easily.
As long as he didn't panic.
"Ah. Even prettier than I remembered. Mostly, you're kinda silly looking, but those eyes are special, you know that? Now, listen to me, you idiot. Your father here has a point, even if he is as big an idiot as you." He ignored the growled objection from the man at his side. "You don't need anyone to come get you, and it's time you figured that out. You know I wouldn't anyway. But I'll wait right here for you to come to me."
"I–is that wh–what you want, Yuki?"
"Considering I came here to take you home, I'd say it probably is."
"My home. Your home. Wherever you want, but you're not hiding. Not any more. I haven't slept or gotten a paragraph written since you disappeared, so get that cute little butt of yours over here, will you?"
The big eyes flooded, looked down, and his whole body shuddered. "C–can't."
"Shu, look at me."
The eyes appeared again.
"Shu, I lied. Just like I lied about hating you. If I have to, I'll come out there and carry you back in, if that's what you really want. I don't think it is. I think you're one of the bravest men I've ever known. I think you're out there now because you want—" Eiri let his coldest look fall on Shuuichi's father. "—someone to care enough to come get you. Well, I've got news for you, someone cares too much to come get you. He knows you need to conquer this on your own. Me? I just want to go home and if you fall and make a mess on the sidewalk, there'll be police and reporters. Worse, I'll have to explain your sudden demise to that Hiro guy."
"Hiro? He...he knows I'm...?"
"Hell, yes. He put me onto it. Heard your caterwauling on the phone when he was talking to your dad here. Pop didn't tell you, huh? Well, fancy that. Now...will you get over here?"
White teeth worried his lower lip, then slowly, very carefully, he wormed his way around and began to inch his way back, his eyes locked on Eiri's.
"Well, that's pretty good. You do know people actually walk on those things all the time?"
The mouth set, his brows lowered determinedly, and he slowly rose to his feet, then continued to inch his way, barely lifting his feet. Predictably, a toe caught. Shuuichi stumbled, grabbed for the railing—
Beside him, Eiri heard the brat's father gasp.
Maybe the bastard actually did care.
Fortunately for both of them, a second flailing pass caught and held the rail in a double-fisted, white-knuckled stranglehold.
When his own heart resumed beating, Eiri sent another taunt across the space between them: "Grace and charm, brat. Are you through scaring us all out of ten years' growth?"
The fear was back, the eyes swimming. "Yuki, do you really want...?"
He lifted his hands, palms up, welcoming, and Shuuichi's million watt smile broke through. The next instant, Eiri damn near lost those ten years for real as Shuuichi ran the final five meters and leapt into his arms.
"Idiot!" he shouted, as he caught his balance and eased Shuuichi down until his feet were solidly on the catwalk. Even so, the shivers wracking Shu's under-sized body threatened to send them both plummeting to the sidewalk far, far below.
"Well, I hope you've enjoyed making a fucking spectacle of yourself."
Ah, yes. Shuuichi's loving father. Damn. He'd almost successfully forgotten about him.
Eiri worked the hardhat from Shuuichi's head, (he kept banging his chin on it, and they were, according to the fellow down at the bottom of the lift, who'd sent him up here without that protection, supposedly in a 'safe' zone) found a natural, ebony-colored mop of hair, matted with sweat, beneath. Knowing Shuuichi's face wouldn't come unglued from his chest for at least three minutes, he let his attention expand at last.
Shuuichi's father was...pissed. That was to be expected. And they were, indeed, quite the center of attention for at least a half-dozen localized workmen.
"You, I take it, are that Yuki Eiri person who seduced my boy and lured him away from his family."
Ooo, papa-Shindou was sincerely pissed.
"Explain to me, Shu," Eiri asked, into that sweaty head, "why I should give a fuck about this person's obviously misinformed opinion?"
"You mean you're not Yuki Eiri?" Shindou demanded.
"I–I don't know if you should, but...I do, Yuki." It was a very small voice emerging from the general vicinity of his chest.
"And this is because...?"
"Because he's my father."
"That annoying biological fact never stopped me from tuning out my father."
"And because I love him."
"Oh. Well, if that's the case..." He set his chin on Shuuichi's head and met the elder Shindou's angry gaze. "Shindou-san, pleased to meet you. Now, if you'll excuse us, I'm going to...lure...your son away again."
"Shush, brat." Eiri shifted until he had Shuuichi tucked to his side with one arm, and urged him toward the lift-cage. Shuuichi went without resistance, seemingly in a daze.
"Leave now, boy, and don't bother coming back. Ever. Not here. Not to my house."
Shuuichi froze, looked back at his father, then up at Eiri. Slowly, he slipped free of Eiri's hold and began to back away.
"I...I can't, Yuki."
"You don't belong here. . ."
"It doesn't matter. I'll make myself belong. I have to. There's...nowhere else for me to go."
"Are you kidding me? Touma's going out of his mind. Have you been living in a cave? That damned CD of yours is flying off the shelves."
But Shuuichi was shaking his head. "Doesn't matter. I...can't sing any more."
"Then just come back to me." He hadn't known for certain he'd make that offer, but now he had, he knew it was right. Guilt, love, or just plain stubborn refusal to lose to a man like Shuuichi's father, he wouldn't, couldn't leave Shuuichi here.
But Shu still backed away, shaking his head.
"At least call your mother, will you?"
"M–mom?" Shuuichi paused, a puzzled look on his face. Beyond him, Shindou took a menacing step forward. Eiri glared at him, and he froze, his gaze, dark brown with a hint of Shuuichi's purple, fixed on his son.
"She's worried sick about you." Eiri pushed his advantage. Nakano had called that one right: Shu didn't know. "What do you expect when her only son goes missing? She's been driving Touma crazy with her phone calls."
"M–mom?" This time, Shuuichi aimed that question at his father. "Y–you said she'd d–disowned me."
"Get back to work!" Shindou shouted at the men openly listening, and when they'd reluctantly obeyed, he hurried over, his face hard with anger. "What do you think?" he hissed in a low voice, "That I'd tell her her son had come crawling back after whoring himself on the streets?"
"W–whor...ing?" Shuuichi's voice rose. "Whoring? I was raped, Dad. Three guys did me in a fucking parking lot while a fourth took pictures."
Another glared warning. "Keep your voice down, boy! You let them. You said it yourself."
"Let them?" Shuuichi shook his head as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Is that what you call it? Cooperate, they said, and those you love won't be hurt. Give up everything, everything that makes you...you and we won't destroy the one person who means more than life to you. Never sing again and we'll leave you alone. Smile while we fuck your ass into hamburger and maybe we'll let you live. Of course, you'll never be able to look your lover in the eye again, never be able to stand to let him touch you. But that's okay. He threw you out anyway. And your father's still there. You can go to him. He'll help. He'll understand. He's your father, after all."
Never sing again ... Past the runaway revelation Eiri had been dreading and expecting, that one line stuck out, resonating with sudden clarity, and a sense of pieces falling into place. Only one person stood to gain by Shuuichi's never singing again. One person who had smugly declared Bad Luck yesterday's news.
Aizawa. It had to be Ask's lead singer behind the attack.
"I didn't know what else to do." Shuuichi dropped to his knees, shaking uncontrollably. Eiri knelt beside him, and Shuuichi groped blindly for him, clinging like a man drowning when Eiri pulled him close. "I didn't know, Yuki," he whispered. "I never imagined. I'm sorry. I'm so very sorry."
"Idiot." he murmured back, and because, dammit, Shu deserved to hear it: "I'm the one who should be apologizing. I knew you were hurting and I let you get away." He paused, then said, pointedly: "But I'd rather smear Aizawa's face into the gutter."
Liquid amethyst eyes blinked at him. "How... I mean, what are you talking about? Who?"
Eiri brushed the tears from his cheeks. "The answer was pretty obvious, once I heard your side of the story. The ass is crowing his way around NG as if he's the crown prince to Ryuichi's kingdom."
Shuuichi chewed his lip.
"Don't worry, brat. One call to Touma, and he's yesterday's news."
"He took pictures..."
"So I gathered. I told you: we'll take care of it." Eiri stood up, drawing Shuuichi with him. "C'mon. Let's go."
"I...can we stop by my home...on the way? So I can talk to my mom?"
Shindou's hiss interrupted. "Go with this man, Shuuichi, and you have no mother. You certainly have no home."
Shuuichi shuddered, then straightened to stare squarely at his father. "I will go with him, father, and if you want to keep me from talking to mom, you'll have to call the police to keep me out of the house."
Oh, good call, brat, Eiri thought, seeing Shindou's indecision. But:
"Don't worry, Dad," Shuuichi said, his infinitely forgiving voice turning soft, gentle. "I'll tell her I asked you not to say anything. And you don't have to worry about my...intruding any longer on the household. I just want to see her ... let her know I'm all right."
"All right? With this man?"
Shuuichi turned to face him, staring up at him searchingly. "Will I be all right, Yuki?"
"No promises, Shu. Not with you and me, not with NG. Life's a crap shoot."
That searching look drifted out across the maze of steel. "Or...a catwalk. Sometimes... you just fall off."
Eiri caught his chin and turned that searching gaze back to himself. "And sometimes," he said firmly, "there's someone there to catch you."
Another searching look, then, in a tiny whisper: "Kiss me?"
In front of his father. In front of this hard-core construction crew.
Kiss me. Catch me. Before I fall . . .
He cradled Shuuichi's face between his palms and bent his head.
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A/N: This is the end of the original story, but as I rewrote for posting, more story is happening, (Eiri started thinking too much about that past of his, and the parallel between their lives has become an issue that really needs addressing now.) so eventually I'll be posting a second section. However, writing time is currently at a premium, so not sure when I'll get at it.
Also, please, please, please if you find continuity errors or sentences that don't make sense or anything that just seems out of left field, please let me know. This chapter has seen several incarnations and I'm reading snowblind now. As with all my stuff, it's not been beta'd, so please let me know so I can fix it. THANKS! As always, I love reviews (I'm only human) but mostly, please enjoy. —Vin
Reviews: All of you who have left reviews I LOVE YOU! I wish I had time to respond, but I thought I'd better get this posted while I had the chance.