Disclaimer: Gravitation is all Maki Murakami's brainchild. I'm just playing in the sandbox.

A/N: Long time no see! Sorry about that. I'm actually working. (What a concept!) Hope this finds you all ready and eager to enter the holiday season. Personally, I'm hoping for Cotton Candy Snow inspiration! It's in the forecast! YAY!

A/N: This is another little filler piece for the anime. I've never been comfortable with Hiro's implied reasons for coming back to the band (i.e. a date with Ayaka). It's too hypocritical for my favorite, sane Gravi character (he hasn't a lot of competition, has he?) While rewatching the series the other night, this little bit came to me. Hope you enjoy.

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Between the Lines:
For the Love Of . . .

By Vindaloo
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"What . . . What did you say?"

"I said, Nakano-san, that if you sell a million copies of your album, I will go out with you."

There it was: his day, or rather late night, dreams on a platter. And all he had to do was go back. Back to the music he loved; back to the band he hated leaving in the first place. Back to his best friend. Back . . . to the cutthroat manager and producer who were willing to go to any lengths to sell records, even if it meant turning the lead singer's love life into a daytime soap opera.

Never mind Shuuichi manage that all on his own; it didn't need to be plastered all over the tabloids.

And that was after their insane manager had used Shuuichi's obsessive, bittersweet love for Yuki to practically work himself to death to sell those copies legitimately. Here, Shu, work day and night in the recording studio, give nonstop interviews and oh, in your spare time, stand in a freezing cold waterfall and sing your heart out while you get frostbite, all for a fucking date with Yuki . . .

He'd said goodbye to the whole three ring circus. Had told K to take his million copies and shove them up his ass . . . Well, he hadn't said it in so many words, but he'd wanted to. He'd known when he did it that Shuuichi was too damned committed, to both his music and Yuki, to give up and walk out with him. He didn't even consider asking it of him, but he simply couldn't stand seeing his best friend destroyed, bit by bit, (all in his best interests, of course) by people who claimed they cared about him.

And now, here was this lovely young woman, Yuki Eiri's ex-fiancé, someone he'd dreamed about for weeks now . . . holding out the same damned carrot Yuki and K had held out for Shu. Come back. Behave. Lie back and enjoy it, and you'll get a date with your dream partner.

As if a date granted under such circumstances would have a chance in hell of being anything other than an unmitigated disaster. He'd bet K already had the paparazzi primed and waiting to catch them so much as holding hands. Let's go for the heterosexual voyeurs, now we've nailed the yaoi fans.

Hiro's ears buzzed. He took an awkward step backward, caught himself on the window sill and propped there, staring stupidly at the pretty young woman standing demurely in the middle of the packing chaos that was his living room. Her long, sleek hair shimmered in the light streaming through his dirty windows: he hadn't bothered much with cleaning the last few months. First the push to sell the albums, then . . . well, there hadn't seemed much point.

So, sell a million and Ayaka would go on a date. Like hell Yuki-san wasn't behind that proposition. It was like the snarky author to share the torture: if he had to go on a date with Shu, someone else had to suffer as well. And if the arrangement made his eager little lover that much happier, well, Yuki-san just get that much more booty out of his already overly cooperative little uke.

Damn him.

Or maybe it wasn't Yuki-san. Maybe it was K. Gods, that demented bastard would do it. He'd do anything for publicity, and Nakano Hiroshi, Bad Luck's prodigal guitarist, running back now, tail between his legs, that would be headlines indeed. Likely they'd give him some sort of bonus just so they could say they'd met some fictitious demands of his.

But did they really believe he was that shallow? That he'd take advantage of this sweet girl's love for her ex-fiancé, a love that would make her do anything to make Yuki-san happy—which meant making his idiot little lover happy—and snap at the painfully obvious bait?

And yet, Buddha save him, he had been tempted, just for that one brief moment.

But was it the date that tempted him? Was he truly that shallow? Or. . . was it the excuse? His guitar, his beloved acoustic guitar, mocked him from its stand in the corner of the room. He hadn't had the heart yet to pack it, not even to put it in the case with the lid open.

Did he really want to leave?

Sure, he was pissed as hell at K-san's tactics. No one had the right to play with Shu's emotions—he was too easy a mark, wearing them as openly as he did. And setting him up, forcing Yuki-san to Out them both on national television . . . just to sell records, that was about as low as you could get. He couldn't stand to see his best friend used that way, but Shu, innocent, silly Shu, would never even realize he was being used. He'd just keep giving and enduring, and time afer time, ploy after ploy, by the time Hiro could see when K was up to, it would be too late to do anything about it.

Where it came to devious, compared with K-san, Nakano Hiroshi was a piker. He simply couldn't anticipate the schemes K would come up with.

Like this one. Unfortunately (for K) though he'd tempted Hiro, he'd really used the wrong bait. A date with Ayaka was a dream he cherished, yes, but there was an older dream, a more precious dream, one he'd first shared with a tousle-haired middle-schooler he'd discovered dancing in the park, singing Nittle Graspers' newest hit at the top of his young lungs.

He'd been an introverted nerd, back then, studying day and night, preparing, even then, to become the doctor-son his parents dreamed of having. And then, one day, just on a whim, he'd picked up a guitar and discovered a gift, a skill that had rippled up from his heart and out his fingertips almost without conscious intervention. He used to sneak off to the park to practice and one day, as he settled into his private nook on the stone bench he'd claimed as his own, a voice, pure and strong, had infiltrated the morning air. As he listened, his fingers had begun to itch and just like that, he began playing to that enthusiastic young voice, letting his strings ripple in and around the clear tones.

Shuuichi had never missed a beat. He'd danced around a rhododendron shrub and into Hiro's little glen, singing all the while to his 'microphone,' a stick with rhododendrons on the end, and when the song ended, without even asking Hiro's name, had proclaimed they were the heirs to Nittle Grasper, and that one day, they'd sell a million copies of their first album.

That . . . that was the oldest, most enduring dream of his life. A dream shared with the best, most talented friend a guy ever had.

Damn.

"Nakano-san?"

"Ayaka-san, I . . ." What could he say? "You're right. I do . . . care . . . for you. I would be most honored if you would accompany me on a date under any circumstances, but at the moment, I . . . You've . . . given me something to think about and I need to be alone."

"Of course, Nakano-san." She bowed and turned to leave, only to pause at the door. Without looking at him: "I believe he does not hold K-san's actions against him. I know Eiri-san does not. If they do not . . ." Her big eyes lifted and met his squarely. "It seems a great waste of energy for you to do so for them."

A final little bow and she was gone, and he was left standing, more alone than he'd ever felt in his life.

For a moment, he stood staring at the sum of his life: a handful of boxes, a TV . . . and a guitar. Who was he kidding? He didn't want to be a doctor. Had never wanted to be a doctor, even before he'd found music. That had been for his folks. The music . . . he supposed he'd been swept up in Shu's wild fantasies, but only because they'd resonated with his own, unformed as they were at the time. Dreams discovered in the darkness of his room as he lay in bed, his fingers gently caressing the neck of an imaginary guitar. Dreams little Shindou Shuuichi had given form and substance over the years.

Dreams Shuuichi, damned near single-handedly, had made come true. He'd been there, support both musically and psychologically, but any band was only as good as their front man, and Shuuichi had been as good and as dedicated as they came.

And now, Shu was facing a room full of reporters . . . reporters Hiro knew damned well were going to be badgering him about the rumors that Bad Luck had lost its guitarist in a fit of pique, the source of which no one, of course, was talking.

Dammit.

He grabbed his jacket and headed out the door.

Shu's face was plastered all over the monitors of the NG foyer. Hesitant, shy . . . Hiro hadn't seen him this uncertain in years. Not even when Yuki tossed him out on his ear.

Because he'd never been uncertain about his feelings for Yuki. Because Yuki had never betrayed him. Yuki had kicked him out, but in Shu's reasoning, he'd been in Yuki's place on Yuki's tolerance anyway, and that tolerance had simply run out. It had upset the silly goose, but he'd never really questioned the validity of Yuki's actions.

Hiro's desertion . . . that had gotten him where he lived, because he couldn't begin to understand why.

Staring at his handwritten notes—Shu had written those, he could tell by the atrocious handwriting the cameras caught in passing—he thanked the gathered press for coming and announced the upcoming tour, but the instant he paused for breath, the barrage of questions began.

All of them centered on the missing member of the band.

Dammit.

Shu, predictably, tried to make the canned announcement, but Shu could no more lie to the press than he could to Hiro. He began a typical tirade, a torrent of disjointed memories, a flood which likely meant nothing to those in the room, but everything to Hiro. Even Suguru, sitting next to him at the table, could only stare in bewilderment.

Before he thought, Hiro was running, dodging people, taking the steps because the elevator would take too long, running for that room where his best buddy was being torn apart—all because of him.

Hiro skidded to a halt outside the room with the big sign announcing the press conference within. Inside, he heard Shu shout something about needing Hiro to surpass Nittle Grasper.

"Why?" Someone shouted, and Hiro froze, as curious as the assembled reporters to hear Shu's answer. When it came, he grinned. It was so . . . Shuuichi.

"Because Nittle Grasper doesn't have a guitarist!"

He chuckled, a chuckle that broke into laughter and poor young Suguru, who still hadn't caught on to Shu's peculiar brand of logic, shouted something about eternal friendship and psychological needs.

But that wasn't Shuuichi's way. Shuuichi's thoughts and feelings were deep, as deep as anyone he'd ever known, but Shuuichi's arguments, well, Shuuichi's arguments were Shuuichi's attempt at logic . . . which had never been his strong suit. Shuuichi went with his gut. Always. That was his strong suit, because his gut was one hell of a smart organ.

Hiro, still panting from his mad dash, snuck into the room just as Shu turned toward the TV camera and said, simply: "So come back, Hiro. Okay?" Big purple eyes slid past the camera and widened as they landed on him. "Hiro?"

All eyes turned to him and he leaned against the lintel, striving for nonchalant, achieving, without doubt panting, disheveled mania.

"Man," he said with a grin, "You convinced me."

Fin

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Thanks for reading!