Disclaimer: I do not own Gravitation
Menacing, brooding and sullen, the black clouds sulked on the city skyline like the memories of an unsettling dream. Angry and impotent, unable to surge and thunder, they spat relentless rain down onto the slick streets, giving dull concrete a grimy shine. Spattering off the countless, multi-coloured umbrellas of the well-prepared inhabitants, vengeful water hissed and gurgled as it banded together to form deep puddles and ran into protesting drains.
It's just like in the movies, Hiroshi Nakano reflected, when the hero's been duped by the megalomaniac and innocent people are about to die.
Except it wasn't a movie, and his best friend really was crumpled in a heap on the streets, his pale skin dark with bruises, tears streaming down his face, battered and broken. There would be no theme song to take the pain away, no rewind button to take him back and erase what had been done. No director's cut to prevent it from ever happening again.
"It's not your fault, Shuichi," he said at last, dropping into a crouch besides the singer. His long red hair hung in straggling rat tails about his face and he pushed it impatiently out of his eyes, his other hand coming up to wrap around Shuichi's shoulders. The smaller boy flinched at the contact, his head jerking up from where he was huddled into a tiny ball, his huge violet eyes glancing wildly about in his sudden panic. Fixing on Hiro, they softened and Shuichi's shoulders relaxed, allowing the embrace.
Tugging him closer, encouraging Shuichi to nestle his head into the crook of his neck, Hiro shushed him gently and let the vocalist burrow into his chest. A horrible, burning knot of fury was fisting itself in his stomach, but he suppressed the urge to commit bloody murder and focused instead on his wounded companion.
"It's okay, Shu-chan," he soothed, echoing the words that had passed between them when Shuichi had become that target of particularly vindictive bullies in high school. "It's okay, I'm right here…Hiro's here…"
Shuichi snuffled, his throat hoarse from the night's abuse. Hiro waited until he was completely relaxed, ignoring the dead chill creeping into his knees where they rested on the pavement, then coaxed his friend, bit by bit, into a semi-crouch. Shuichi moaned softly as he was pulled up, the back muscles under Hiro's hand spasming weakly in protest. Keeping the tear-streaked face hidden in his collar, he lifted Shuichi until they were both standing, albeit shakily. The rain was soaking into his thin shirt, freezing and insatiable- the taller boy could only guess what the cruel water felt like to his shivering friend.
"Can you walk?"
The sodden pink mop shifted in a negative shake of the head.
Hiro considered Shuichi's slight form. Oh well- he'd spent many of his later teenage years hauling amplifiers from place to place. "Come on then. Up you go."
In response, Shuichi locked his arms around Hiro's neck, unable to prevent a second low moan escaping his lips as Hiro bent down and clasped an arm behind his knees to lift him, bridal style. The guitarist grunted and staggered a little at Shuichi's weight, muttering about the high life of a musician ruining his elfin figure- he almost smiled at that.
They made an awkward, ungraceful picture, but Shuichi had never felt safer.
Setting Shuichi down with a relieved huff of breath, Hiro swiftly unlocked the door and ushered his friend into his home. He hovered at the smaller boy's back, his arms extended just in case Shuichi should stumble or fall. Nudging him towards the couch, he helped the shivering boy to sit, then whirled and bounded off to find some towels, his wet hair sending a fine spray of water about the room with his energetic action.
Taking a brief moment to scramble out of his wet clothes and into some loose sweatpants and T-shirt, Hiro was swift in finding what he wanted. Grabbing an armful of towels from the airing cupboard he strode back across the hall and back into his front room, to where Shuichi sat passive and shaking. A lump formed in Hiro's throat as he noted that the other boy had automatically curled in on himself again. Making sure he had been noticed before moving, the guitarist made his way to the sofa and offered the bundle of towels. Shuichi took one falteringly and hesitated, unsure what to do with himself.
"Taking the wet clothes off first might be an idea."
The vocalist jumped. Hiro sighed and settled next to him, keeping his every move slow and controlled. "Want me to do it?" he asked. "Or would you be more comfortable if I left you to do it yourself?"
Instantly, Shuichi's hand shot out and snatched at Hiro's sleeve. "Don't leave," came the whispered plea. Tears brimmed up and threatened to spill over as Hiro watched, silently.
After a moment the pink-haired boy bowed his head, shamed by his desperation. "Sorry. I'm pathetic, I'm sorry…"
"True. But I think this is one of those times when you're allowed to be, you know?" Hiro touched his arm to reinforce his statement, then grasped the bottom hem of the yellow and green T-shirt. Shuichi kept his head down despite the words, not protesting as his friend coaxed him out of the shirt, listening to Hiro wince sympathetically at the extent of the bruising and the random driblets of blood spotting his skin. Hiro wrapped a couple of towels around the hunched shoulder, encouraging Shuichi to hold them in place. When he did so, gentle hands moved to pat at the thick flannel, trying to dry off the rainwater without exaggerating the injuries.
"We're going to have to clean those when you've warmed up," the guitarist pondered aloud. "Are you up to taking a bath? It'll help with the aches."
As he was speaking, Hiro was prising Shuichi's feet from his trainers and socks and covering them with a third towel, easing the bent legs away from Shuichi's chest so he could pull the soft material up around the other boy's knees. What he wasn't expecting was Shuichi's reaction the instant his hands brushed the pink-haired boy's thighs.
Shuichi let out a squeak of absolute fright and jerked backwards, crying out as his abused body was wrenched by the movement, scrambling backwards away from Hiro as quickly as possible.
Harsh panting filled the air. Hiro was frozen in shock, his hands still holding the towel in thin air. Shuichi buried his face in the arm of the couch, bursting into petrified tears, his entire body defensively tense. He took in his best friend's quaking form, the guttural sobs gasping from his chest, the way he was clutching his arms about himself, the desperation to get away.
Bile rose in his throat and he fought the urge to retch. "They didn't just beat you, Aizawa and his punks, did they?" he forced himself to ask, his voice a little distant in his fight to control himself.
Shuichi just kept crying.
Hiro bit down hard on his fist to keep back the scream of rage that threatened to break loose. His eyes burned for a moment, the knot of anger in his stomach boiling over, a witch's brew churning his emotions, sending him reeling.
Now was not the time for mindless fury. He had to look after Shuichi.
With an inhuman effort, Hiro clamped down hard on his feelings and inched closer to Shuichi. Reaching out a hand, he touched the back that was facing him and began to softly stroke, like a groom soothing a spooked horse, overlooking the resulting flinch. Gradually, Shuichi's weeping died down to silent sobs as his limbs became less violent in their trembling.
It took more willpower than he'd ever thought he had, but Hiro waited, his features schooled to serenity. After an interminable delay, Shuichi shuffled around and clambered awkwardly into Hiro's lap. His wet shorts made short work of dampening Hiro's dry clothes, but the guitarist ignored that, choosing instead to ever-so-slowly bring his arms up and around his bandmate.
"H-Hiro," Shuichi stuttered, his voice muffled, "I-I'm so-sorry, I didn't mean…they j-just… th-they said they'd hu-hurt Y-Yuki… Hiro…"
The embracing arms tightened and Hiro pressed his face into Shuichi's hair, sighing deeply, saving his tension and rage for later. "You are not the one at fault," he told Shuichi, gently. "This was done to you, you had no choice. There was nothing you could have done."
Shuichi coughed feebly, his hands fisting in the material of Hiro's T-shirt. "I sh-should never ha-have b-bothered Yuki," he gulped insistently, continuing to stammer as his breath hitched around his tears. "But I c-can't let go of him, I c-can't, and it's all m-my fault…"
Long fingers traced their way up and down Shuichi's spine, cuddling him up in the neglected towels, holding him close, cherishing him. It was some time before either of them moved.
"You need to sleep."
Hiro stared at his best friend as the smaller of the two slipped under the pale blue sheets of Hiro's bed. Following the revelation on the couch, he had finally managed to get the increasingly exhausted and incoherent Shuichi into the bathroom to tenderly soap and sluice away the filth and grime that covered him, clear water running red with blood. In truth, most of Shuichi's injuries were superficial- it seemed his tormentors had focused their perverted attention on the brutal rape. Shuichi's hips were black with finger-shaped bruises, as were his upper thighs, his wrists and upper arms.
The severe wounds were those around his lower back and groin. Hiro had had to excuse himself to throw up and regain his composure before he could face cleaning up the horrific damage that had been done to his unexpectedly-fragile friend.
Shuichi had endured the treatment in quiet compliance aside from the occasional whimper of pain- a dumb obedience that from his stubborn, boisterous pal made Hiro's heart tear in two.
When at last he had finished the unwholesome task, Hiro had helped Shuichi down into the submerged pool of heated, recycled water of his bath and left the smaller boy to soak away as much of the physical pain as he could. The mental scars would have to wait, though Hiro sat a watchful vigil outside the door, denying that there were tears in his eyes, in case Shuichi should need him.
Now freshly bundled into Hiro's smallest pair of pyjamas, clean and warm at last and suitably dosed up with painkillers, Shuichi looked a little bit like himself again. He reached out suddenly to grab at his protective friend, a gesture of need as much as thanks.
Hiro stroked back a stray strand of hair behind Shuichi's ear as the singer grasped at his sleeve. Shuichi's eyes flickered to the acoustic leaned against the wall then away, almost shamefully.
A little surprised but relieved nonetheless, its owner grinned. "I can play for you, if you like," he teased, lightly, already reaching for the beloved instrument. He didn't wait for a reply before settling it across his knees, tutting at the snapped string and removing it with careful fingers. By the time he'd replaced it with one of the spares he had littered about the place and tuned it, Shuichi had managed to curl himself up on his side under the covers and was watching him.
Hiro strummed a few careless chords, wondering what to play for his drowsy friend.
Inspiration struck. He hunched over, his fingertips caressing the wood absently as he adjusted his position, then let his music do the talking.
Shuichi's eyes widened as he recognised one of the most famous intros in rock history, unmistakable even when it was acoustic. A tiny smile graced his lips and he whispered a vocal accompaniment to Hiro's playing of his favourite song. "Hiro plays guitar…jamming good with Brat and Shu-chan…"
"And the producer from hell," Hiro finished, chuckling. Shuichi's soft singing was the first he had spoken since before the awkwardness of the bath. It was hoarse from the night's abuse and still tight with pain, but it was surer of itself than it had sounded all evening.
Taking a moment to twitch the sheets further up over the pink-haired boy, Hiro returned to his playing, his fingers wandering of their own accord over the strings, lulling Shuichi into a steady, untroubled slumber.
The random, melodic tune died away. "You didn't deserve any of this," Hiro told his sleeping friend. "You can't even go to the police…So help me, Shuichi, if I find them…"
"…th-they said they'd hu-hurt Y-Yuki…"
Fingers tightened to a white-knuckled grip about the neck of the protesting guitar. Hiro stood, carelessly dumping the acoustic back where it had originally rested and storming from the room to get changed.
"I will never forgive you."