A/N: Mkay, I know I've been a bitch about this long absence, and I'm truly sorry to all of those I've hurt or irritated by this long absence. I won't try to explain myself; I'll just get right back on the horse /shudder/ I hate horses, and hope that you all will forgive me. Demonkid91, thank you and I'm sorry. That's all I can think to say.
And on the subject of reviews: holy shit, pardon my language. I freaking love you all. That's all there is to it.
Disclaimer: I don't own Gravitation, so (insert witty disclaimer joke here).
Chapter 8 - Fill
As the packed tour bus glided down the road, Tatsuha decided that he did like Canada after all. In fact, he loved it. The scenery was breathtaking. Tatsuha had never seen so much green in his entire life. Fingers itching to capture some of the beautiful landscape, Tatsuha cursed himself for not bringing his sketch book.
A loud yell from the front of the bus stole Tatsuha's attention from the window. At the sight of Ryuichi tackling Shuichi in a hug for the third time in less than ten minutes, Tatsuha stomped on his rising irritation and tried to appear indifferent. It wasn't that he was jealous of Shuichi; he was actually jealous of anyone who got to touch Ryuichi freely at any given time while he, the singer's own boyfriend, had to hide in the corner and communicate through secret messages and meaningful looks. Having to sit back and watch his boyfriend make a fool out of everyone else and pretend he didn't see right through him was also quite aggravating. Especially when the arrogant jerk kept looking back at him with those damnable knowing eyes. Nothing in the man's expression changed, but Tatsuha knew that Ryuichi was telling him something. The same thing he'd told him in his letter.
Sit back and enjoy the show.
Fighting back another scowl, Tatsuha turned to face the window again and decided that he'd much rather watch Canada than his boyfriend's performance.
Another few minutes passed before Tatsuha felt a shift on the other side of his seat. Wondering who would've been bored enough to change seats in the middle of a
twenty-five minute bus ride, Tatsuha turned to see a familiar and not entirely welcome face occupying the seat beside him.
"Tatsuha," the blond man greeted cordially. "I hope you don't mind me escaping back here. Mika's making friends with her future in-laws and things are getting a little too hectic up front for my tastes."
"Sure, it's no big deal," Tatsuha replied, trying not to appear too tense at the close proximity. He looked over to middle of the bus where Mika seemed to be questioning Shuichi's parents and sister in a way that seemed oddly reminiscent of the old 'good cop, bad cop' routine.
"Since Mika's obviously going to be the whole morning, why don't you and I spend some time talking about things?"
"Uhh, sure. That sounds great." The perfect cherry to top off the crap sundae that has been my morning, Tatsuha thought bitterly. He didn't know why Tohma wanted to talk to him of all people. Between years of mutual indifference and the recent cloud of catastrophe cast over their relationship, he and the businessmen were not exactly B.F.F's.
"So," the blond began, "how have you been?"
"Fine." Great. Peachy. Fan-fucking-tastic.
"I'm glad," Tohma smiled. "I can't pinpoint it exactly, but you definitely seem …healthier than before."
"Yep. That's me. Healthy as a horse." Tatsuha knew he was bordering on rude at that point, but seeing Ryuichi wrap his arms around K in a shameless full-body hug that would never have sat well with any other straight man shortened his fuse considerably.
"Tatsuha," Tohma began again, and Tatsuha could see the man's smile take on a somewhat less fake look, "I know you've been through an awful lot lately. And to see you moving on and maturing so much in spite of all you've been through is very inspiring, Tatsuha. You really have grown up."
Feeling oddly touched despite the faint back-handed edge to the compliment, Tatsuha offered a faint but sincere smile to his brother-in-law. "Thanks, Tohma. That…means a lot."
"I know you've been spending a lot more of your time at school and at home. You really seem to have taken a tighter hold on your responsibilities, and you're to be commended for that. I know you don't get a lot of appreciation for all the things you do for you family, but I want you to know that Mika and I both are proud of you for what you do and how well you do it."
Okay. Now Tatsuha was officially weirded out. Tohma didn't do nice. At least, not for real nice. And despite what his reliable Uesugi cynicism was telling him, Tohma seemed sincere. Tohma never seemed sincere. Never.
"Uh, thanks, Tohma," Tatsuha reiterated, still feeling oddly touched despite himself. It felt nice to be appreciated, even if there were likely a million strings attached.
"You're welcome," Tohma replied graciously. "And, Tatsuha, I hope you know that we all do care about you, and I also sincerely hope you will allow anything to jeopardize all the progress you've made." Tohma paused to let that comment sink in, serene smile never faltering despite the clear warning in his eyes. Tatsuha didn't know what the older man was trying to say, much less how to reply. Luckily, he was saved from any further awkwardly serious moments with his brother-in-law by the bus's sudden lurch to a complete stop. Tohma stood, smile still firmly in place, and without another word in Tatsuha's direction, exited the bus alongside Mika and a somewhat traumatized-looking Shindou family. Tatusha stood awkwardly, legs stiff despite the shortness of the ride, and tried to make sense of what exactly had just transpired between his brother-in-law and himself. Was Tohma really warning him? If so, about what? Ryuichi had assured him time and time again that Tohma had no idea of what was going on between them.
Tatsuha searched for his secret admirer as he exited the bus last. His eyes found the singer a few feet ahead, standing beside Shuichi, go figure, and glaring daggers at Tohma's turned back. Sensing he was being watched, Ryuichi turned his piercing blue gaze to Tatsuha's own dark one. Tatsuha almost flinched at the cold intensity in his boyfriend's eyes, a look which seemed out of place even to someone who knew the real Ryuichi Sakuma. The singer seemed to notice Tatsuha's discomfort, and his gaze softened considerably. As the people around them clamored together for the tour, Ryuichi cast a final telling look at Tatsuha before reverting back to his 'normal' self.
I'll tell you later.
The unspoken message did surprisingly little to help Tatsuha's already dizzying sense of confusion.
Ryuichi was angry.
No, take that back. Ryuichi was fucking pissed.
He had been doing such an amazing job of keeping everybody enamored with him on the bus that he had failed to realize the absence of Tohma's indulgent presence until he turned back to cast a fourth meaningful look at Tatsuha. When he saw his bandmate occupying the seat next to his boyfriend, his energetic smile faltered for an instant. Not long enough for anyone to notice, of course, except for one person. Tatsuha would have seen; he would have known something was wrong. That is, if he had been paying any attention to his boyfriend, which he wasn't anymore.
Now, all of his young companion's focus was centered on Tohma. Tohma, of all people. Not that Ryuichi was jealous, of course. The chances of Tatsuha cheating on him alone were microscopic, but Tatsuha cheating on him with Tohma was about as probable as Shuichi leaving Yuki at the altar for a woman. No, Ryuichi was pissed because Tohma was speaking to Tatsuha and he had no earthly idea what they were fucking saying!
Although I could venture a guess, the singer thought bitterly. Judging from Tatsuha's flabbergasted expression, the musician had just complimented him. Any form of compliment always put the poor young monk at a loss. His boyfriend had no earthly idea how to respond to any expression of thanks or appreciation.
Boyfriend. Ryuichi hated the sound of that word. It sounded so…juvenile. But then again, dating a person fifteen years his junior left him with little room to complain about immaturity. Of course, he'd had boyfriends before. Girlfriends, too. Countless nameless, faceless people that meant nothing to him even during their relationships. Tatsuha wasn't one of those superficial, star struck people. Things were different with him. And Ryuichi wanted things to be different.
Maybe that was why he hadn't breached the subject of sex. None of his previous 'relationships' had gone so long without sex. Hell, most of them were only about sex. And the urge certainly hadn't left him. Indeed, as their relationship progressed, everything about Tatsuha became a turn-on. His long, slender body, his dark, smoldering eyes, and the intense, thoughtful look he got whenever he studied a painting. Whatever he and Tatsuha had going for them must have been working, because there was no way Ryuichi Sakuma would deprive himself of his own base needs for just anybody. He knew about Tatsuha's previous sex drive, and he also knew that it had completely driven away after the rape.
Shuichi's elated squeal snapped Ryuichi out of his reverie, and the singer saw that they'd reached their destination. The ride seemed to have taken a lot longer than twenty-five or so minutes. He saw Tohma stand while a perplexed Tatsuha remained seated. Allowing Shuichi to usher him off the bus, Ryuichi glared at his oblivious bandmate. Feeling a burning gaze on his own back, he turned to meet the still painfully confused eyes of Tatsuha. Seeing the younger man's somewhat stricken look, Ryuichi checked himself and softened his gaze. He'd promised Tatsuha everything would be alright, and everything would be. Whatever Tohma was trying to do, he would quickly put an end to it. Seeing his silent reassurance do little to comfort Tatsuha made the urge to cross the distance between them and reassure him with words and physical comfort palpable, and Ryuichi had to turn away. As much as he wanted to ignore it, the fact of the matter was that he and Tatsuha were fast approaching a point where hiding their relationship would cease to be an option. If their feelings were becoming as real and as deep as Ryuichi feared they were becoming, then a real commitment would have to be made soon, and a real commitment meant honesty. Joining the group, Ryuichi pretended to listen intently to whatever the hell the tour guide was saying and tried not to think about how great honesty sounded at that moment.
Despite his confusion with Tohma and his frustration with acting like a stranger around Ryuichi, Tatsuha managed to make it through the tour without attracting any attention to himself. He mentally applauded their acting skills. Ryuichi was excellent at playing the fool, and he had always been good at being invisible. And it was also incredibly easy to view the infantile, public Ryuichi as a stranger. Tatsuha was far more attracted to the suave, devilishly charming, extremely arrogant Ryuichi that only came out behind closed doors or during a performance. Thus, so far, their little act had been a piece of cake.
Then came the time to branch out into groups.
Tatsuha tried not to panic as everyone assembled themselves into groups ranging in number from three to five, as Shuichi's homicidal manager had ordered. Shuichi's parents and sister huddled together while Mika stood immediately to the side of them and happily suggested that they join her and Tohma. The blond man seemed a little put off by Mika's decision, but nonetheless smiled and followed his wife and her future in-laws. Shuichi's two bandmates walked off with a nervous looking man and the crazy American with the gun.
That only left Shuichi, Eiri, Ryuichi, and him.
"Say, Shu-chan, why don't we go up that big, pretty tower? I bet you can see the everything from up there, na no da!" Ryuichi happily suggested, unfazed by the grouping situation. Apparently Shuichi was just as unfazed, for he ecstatically agreed and made to drag a silently smoking Eiri over to what the tour guide had referred to as the Skylon Tower. His brother let himself be dragged along by his fiancé, but not before glancing Ryuichi's way and then letting his gaze fall on Tatsuha. To Tatsuha's surprise, his brother didn't look angry at the situation, merely curious.
Then it hit him.
Eiri wanted him and Ryuichi to be in the same group. He wanted to know how Tatsuha would react to finally being close to his obsession. Former obsession. He wanted to see if Tatsuha would revert back to his former fanboy self when finally given such an opportunity.
He wanted proof that Tatsuha really had grown up.
Steeling himself, Tatsuha met his brother's searching gaze with his own. He had grown up. He'd grown up so much that the boy who used to ride around on a motorcycle and fuck a different man, woman, or both every night seemed like a stranger from a different past instead of himself less than a year ago. Eiri knew that; he shouldn't have needed proof.
But Tatsuha would give it to him anyway.
The foursome entered the large tower and boarded one of the elevators. Shuichi balked when he saw that the elevators were made so that you could actually look outside as they made their ascent. Tatsuha jokingly teased the singer who alternated between making quick fearful glances out the window and burying his face in his fiancé's jacket.
Making eye contact with Eiri again, Tatsuha turned to introduce himself to Ryuichi. "Hey," he said amiably. "Sorry, Shu was too wrapped up in his acrophobia to introduce us. I'm Tatsuha, Eiri's brother."
"Tatsuha-chan! Nice to meet you, na no da!" Ryuichi beamed. The singer then latched himself onto Tatsuha and took all of the young monk's self-control to resist clinging back desperately and refrain from kissing the man when he leaned in for a closer look at his face. "You look so much like your brother, you two could be twins, na no da!"
"He wishes," Eiri snorted. The writer appeared to be as disinterested as ever, but Tatsuha saw a small flicker of bewilderment pass through his brother's eyes at his younger brother's indifference towards being so close to his former idol.
So there, Tatsuha thought smugly, and Eiri's eyes narrowed as he seemed to hear his brother's mental gloating. The elevator finally came to a smooth stop, and the two sets of look-alikes exited onto the observatory deck. Shuichi immediately ran for the side, dragging Eiri with him once again. Allowing the distance between them and the other couple to stretch on for a ways, Tatsuha slowly turned to glance tentatively at Ryuichi.
"I told you it would be fun," the singer murmured, not looking at him. Tatsuha snorted and rolled his eyes. "What was Tohma saying to you back on the bus?"
"Nothing really," Tatsuha replied with disinterest. He'd given up trying to make sense of anything the blond man told him at that point. In retrospect, the whole conversation didn't seem like anything more than a friendly heart-to-heart between two family members. It was a wedding after all; everyone was bound to get all emotional. There was no reason to be paranoid. "Just some sappy family stuff."
"Just watch out for yourself," the singer warned. "Whenever it seems like Tohma's being nice, he's really just being manipulative."
Tatsuha smirked bitterly. "You don't have to tell me that." Events in the past year had shown Tatsuha just how manipulative his family could be.
"Good," Ryuichi finally turned to face Tatsuha. He quirked an eyebrow at the younger man. "How's your speech going?"
"Asshole," Tatsuha shot back. The singer snickered and walked off towards the observation deck. "I'll meet you in your room after the rehearsal dinner. I'll probably have to leave about an hour after you just to be safe."
"You don't have to," Tatsuha insisted, staring longingly at the singer's back.
"I want to." That had to be the end of their little interlude, for Shuichi had decided that he wanted to stay and eat at the restaurant on top of the tower and wanted the singer's help to convince K to change their plans. The two singers ran off together to plead with the odd American, leaving the two brothers standing side-by-side in awkward silence. Well, at least it was awkward to Tatsuha. Eiri seemed completely fine with being abandoned by his fiancé for a little while.
"So," Tatsuha began. "Did I finally convince you of the fact that I'm not a crazed fan anymore? Or was I a little too friendly for you?"
"I don't give a shit how friendly you are. Never had, never did."
"Oh, that's a relief," Tatsuha bit out scathingly. "That whole HIV thing you pulled last year must have misled me. Glad things are cleared up now." It was a low blow and he knew it, but he didn't care. If all those months of therapy and self-evaluation hadn't been enough to show his brother that he had matured, then he would just act immature, dammit.
"Don't be a bitch. This has nothing to do with what happened back then."
"I'm sure," Tatsuha said, rolling his eyes. The two stood on the observation deck without looking at each other for another minute until Tatsuha decided to break the silence, as usual. "I can't believe you and Shu are really gonna do it." Eiri stayed silent. "I am happy for you, you know. You and Shu, you guys need each other."
"Hn." Eiri finally turned to study his brother. "It took a lot to get to this point." Tatsuha nodded, not looking at his brother and best friend. It didn't take a genius to get that Eiri was talking about more than just his relationship with Shuichi. He avoided eye contact with his brother. Eye contact made moments like this emotional, and Tatsuha was not equipped to deal with emotions at the moment. "Tatsuha." Damn. He moved is gaze to meet his brother's. "If you do anything to fuck up everything you've worked for, everything you've had to put yourself through, I will kick your ass so hard your nose will bleed, you got that?"
"I got it." And I love you, too, asshole.
"Yuki! Yuki, K said we can eat at the restaurant here! All he had to do was threaten the manager, and he wasn't even carrying a gun! Come on, let's go! I want to get a good table." Shuichi snatched Eiri by the sleeve again, while the rest of the group, including Ryuichi, made their way over to the restaurant. His secret admirer winked at him as he passed by and Tatsuha allowed a small smile to cross his face. Although he was an asshole, Eiri was also right. Tatsuha had worked hard to get over what had happened last year, and it had been hard. There was no way Tatsuha wanted things to go back to the way they were before.
But then again, some things were just worth the risk.
The rest of the day had passed with little incident. Tatsuha and Ryuichi hadn't gotten another chance to meet up, but at least he hadn't been put through anymore familial heart-to-hearts. Actually, the whole day went pretty damn well.
Then it was time for the rehearsal dinner.
After that, it was time for Tatsuha to make a toast.
However, Tatsuha had conveniently come down with a stomachache about five minutes before that moment and had retreated to his room in shame. Really, how hard was it to come up with a freaking toast, of all things? Tatsuha just couldn't talk about all the warm, fuzzy moments he and Eiri had had in front of people, mostly because he and Eiri had never actually had any warm, fuzzy moments.
Tatsuha flopped onto his bed with a moan. He was such a fucking chickenshit. He felt like a thirteen-year-old girl who pretended to have cramps so she wouldn't have to climb the rope in gym class. He glanced at the clock beside the bed. 9:13. Ryuichi had said to give him an hour. He moaned, rolled off the bed, and stumbled into the bathroom. A long, soothing hot shower seemed like the perfect way to kill time. He stayed in the shower for a good forty minutes, just letting the near-scalding hot water run down his back. He didn't think about the wedding, the secrets, the lies, anything. He simply let the running water wash away all his stress.
After he'd dried off and donned one of the hotel's unbelievably fluffy bathrobes, Tatsuha heard a soft knock on his door. He glanced at the clock again. 10:01. Shit, he was early. Tatsuha dashed to the door and opened it without bothering to check the peephole. Ryuichi slipped quickly and silently past Tatsuha and into the room. Once inside, he turned to face the younger man, and his eyes widened slightly before sliding up and down Tatsuha's still wet, barely covered form appreciatively.
"You're early," Tatsuha accused, but a small smile was playing on his lips.
"I can leave and come back later of you want," Ryuichi murmured with an arrogant grin, walking back towards the door. Tatsuha blocked his way by seizing the singer by the lapels of his jacket and planting a deep, longing kiss on the older man's lips. Ryuichi paused for an instant, and then wrapped his arms around Tatsuha's waist, deepening the kiss even further. He moved one hand up to cup the back of Tatsuha's neck and combed his fingers through the soft, dark locks at the base of his neck. Tatsuha moaned at the touch before reluctantly breaking the kiss.
"I had no idea it was going to be this fucking difficult!" Tatsuha groaned, wrapping his arms around the singer's neck.
"You did just fine, 'Tsutsu," Ryuichi murmured. "Just fine."
Tatsuha gasped at the feel of the singer's warm breath against his bare chest. That feeling was slowly waking up a hunger Tatsuha hadn't felt in months. Not since-
"Oh, gods, Ryuichi," Tatsuha breathed. Ryuichi covered his lips with his own again, this time moving his hands down to the sash of Tatsuha's robe. It took little more than an instant for him to untie the loose knot. Tatsuha didn't even hesitate before slipping out of the robe entirely, letting the damp cotton fall to the floor at his feet. Ryuichi eyed Tatsuha's fully naked body hungrily before shedding his jacket and dropping it to the floor beside the robe. Tatsuha helped him work the buttons on his shirt open and then ran his hands down the older man's chest, stopping at his waist. As Tatsuha's hands began to fumble with the belt buckle, Ryuichi suddenly seized both the younger man's wrists in a vice-like grip.
"Tatsuha," he growled. "Are you sure you're ready for this. Because if you aren't, you need to tell me right now."
Tatsuha paused. He tried to think. After all this time, was he really ready to be intimate again? Were they rushing? Was-
"I am so fucking tired of letting that rule my life!" Tatsuha whispered fiercely, locking his gaze with Ryuichi's. "All I need to know it this…Can I trust you not to hurt me?"
"Yes," Ryuichi answered without hesitation. "But I'm not pressuring you. If you aren't ready, say so. I don't want to—'' Tatsuha cut him off with a fierce, burning kiss.
"I said that's all I need to know."
A/N: Wow that was a sucky pre-sex scene. Can you tell I'm not experienced at writing them? Any tips for stuff like that would be greatly appreciated. Anyhoo, a lot of confusing conversations in this chapter. Can anyone guess what in God's name is up with Tohma? Well, I can, but I don't really count. And poor Ryu was actually ready to totally deprive himself for Tatsuha, and then the horny monk just goes and jumps him. Hm. Lucky Ryu, actually.