Summary: A late night, long distance phone call leads Eiri to say something he had not planned on…

Rating: T… probably, for mild sexy bits.

Disclaimer: All right, no messing about as usual as this really is someone else's property - I do not own Gravitation but I do owe a great debt to Maki Murakami for the great pleasure it has given me.

Dedication: Without hesitation, to Vindalootoo, the true queen of Gravitation fan fiction, who gave me the courage to post this!

Author's Note: Welcome to Moon71's first Gravitation fic – and, the way I see it, my first true fan fiction – I don't really count Alexander the Great as my stories there are in no way based on the film. For those of you who have no idea who I am or what I'm talking about, believe me, it's not worth losing any sleep over. What I'm really trying to say is that I haven't written anything based on someone else's characters in about 15 years, so be gentle with me!

Shuichi awoke slowly to a sound now sweeter to him than music itself – the voice of Eiri Yuki. Of course it wasn't quite the scenario he so often dreamed of; Yuki was not lying beside him, trailing his long, elegant fingers through Shuichi's hair and whispering that he loved him. But Shuichi was lying in Yuki's bed, his body still tingling with the afterglow of lovemaking, with his head resting on a pillow which still retained his lover's scent and the knowledge that Yuki was close by. And just for a little while that was enough. Not wanting to ruin the moment, Shuichi lay still and just listened.

Not that he could understand anything that was being said – Yuki was talking on the phone in English. Vaguely Shuichi recalled Yuki saying something about possible deal to translate his novels for the American market, but he had come home from the recording studio that evening hungry and tired and, as always, desperate to be with Yuki, and he had been so pleased that Yuki was in a welcoming, positively talkative mood, that he had got lost in the sound of his voice, and in the changing expressions of his handsome face, and in his own efforts to appear interested in what he was being told, that he realised he had hardly taken in a word of what Yuki was actually saying.

Shuichi listened very carefully, charmed by the moment, trying to pick out phrases he might recognise from watching subtitled American films or listening to lyrics from the international world of pop music, but it was no use – he had always assumed he had heard enough English in his time to make the sound of it quite natural, but away from the clichés of action films and love songs it was just too confusing.

It was only when he finally heard the phone click back into the cradle that he opened his eyes and propped himself up on his elbows. "Yuki…?"

The other man turned in faint surprise, as if he had forgotten Shuichi was there. Shuichi recognised the mood – Yuki's mind was already on his work. He had given Shuichi as much of his attention as he could spare for that night, and it was now time for Shuichi to disappear, preferably onto the couch; at the very least anywhere he would not be seen or heard. Of course it wasn't what Shuichi wanted, but his ability to accept Yuki's unspoken conditions, to go against his own lively, impulsive – well, all right, yes, he supposed, sometimes spoilt and self-centred – nature, had made a grudging invitation to stay a week stretch out to months.

But Yuki did not snap or him or retreat to his study as soon as he realised Shuichi was awake. He just gazed at him expectantly. Encouraged, Shuichi said softly, "I liked hearing you speak English just now – you do it so well…"

"Like you'd know," Yuki replied, but without rancour.



"Say something to me in English…"

"Go to hell, I've got work to do."

"Please, Yuki…!" Shuichi tried very hard not to whine, knowing how much it provoked the writer, risking what he hoped was an appealing little smile.

Yuki scowled impatiently at him, but then all at once his expression softened and grew pensive and he moved slowly back over to the bed. Shuichi shivered, caught somewhere between fear and pleasure, as Yuki's exotic golden eyes fixed penetratingly upon his and he leaned closer until Shuichi fancied he could almost feel Yuki's warm breath upon his face. After what seemed an age, Yuki reached out, caressed Shuichi's cheek, and whispered what sounded like three words to him in English, followed by Shuichi's name.

"Oh Yuki," Shuichi gasped when he finally found his voice once more, silently repeating the foreign words to himself so that he would not forget them. "What did you just say? Tell me, tell me, tell me!"

"Shut up," Yuki replied, drawing back abruptly.

"Yuki!" Shuichi wailed in distress, "tell me that isn't really what you just said!"

"No, stupid, it's what I'm saying to you now! As in shut up and go to sleep! I've got a deadline to meet and you need to get some sleep before that trigger-happy American lunatic storms the place looking for you!"

"…Okay, Yuki," Shuichi sighed. In the end, Yuki was right – he did need sleep, so much so that he could not even muster the energy to argue with him. He pulled himself up and was reluctantly swinging his feet onto the floor when Yuki suddenly pushed him back.

"I said go to sleep, moron – not get out of bed," Yuki told him curtly. Before Shuichi could take it in, let alone risk asking for a goodnight kiss, his lover had snapped off the light and slammed the bedroom door behind him. Shuichi lay back, cuddling the Yuki-scented pillow and spreading his legs over smooth cotton sheets still warm from where his lover had lain. It wasn't perfection, but it was as close to it as he thought he could get for now. For as long as he could keep awake, he repeated the three English words to himself, over and over again. Something – something – something – Shuichi. He mustn't forget. He mustn't forget…

And then, quite unexpectedly, something else Yuki had said snapped into his head.

That trigger-happy American lunatic…

Claude K Winchester was in a state of mellow bliss. The latest edition of Urban Commando Monthly had arrived that morning with a four page article on how to be a better sniper and now before him on his laptop he had a long email from his wife Judy complete with new photographs of their little son Michael as well as some rather sexy publicity shots from Judy's latest film. With the memory of the latest promising sales figures for Bad Luck's new single fresh in his memory, a cup of coffee at his elbow and his beloved magnum in his hand, newly cleaned and polished, what more could a man ask for?

So content was his mood that when Shuichi Shindou appeared in the meeting room, having apparently strayed from the recording studio where he was supposed to be rehearsing, K's only feelings towards him were of warm affection. When he saw the nervous look on the young singer's face and the faint blush on his olive cheeks, he was even tempted to gather him into a manful, all-American bear hug – but years of working with the Japanese had taught him to respect that strict reserve, even when it came to impulsive, affectionate people like Ryuichi Sakuma. Besides, Shuichi had such an overactive imagination he would probably take K's sudden burst of brotherly love as attempted rape. So he settled for a friendly smile. "What can I do for you, Shuichi?"

Obviously encouraged, Shuichi came closer. "I was… well… I was wondering if you could… uh… help me… with… well, what I mean is, I had this idea that… maybe… you could teach me some English…"

"Oh?" K eyed him curiously, then shrugged. "Well, sure. Any particular reason?"

"Well, I… I thought…" Shuichi seemed to rally. "Well, I was working on this song, you know? And I thought it would sound cool if I added some English words into it – everybody's doing it these days… so…" his cheeks grew as pink as his hair as he looked away and mumbled, "how do you say "I love you" in English?"

K grinned. He supposed it was quite natural for Shuichi to use such a phrase in his songs, but that blush was telling. His eyes wandered down the computer screen to the end of Judy's email. She always ended them the same way. I love you, honey. Well suppose the poor boy did want to impress that stuffy, no-fun son of a bitch he'd inexplicably set his heart on with some cleverly romantic words – who was K to deny him? Maybe, just maybe, the sound of Shuichi cutely lisping out I love you in English would melt even Eiri Yuki's cold heart. Carefully and clearly, he said the words to Shuichi, leaving off the "honey" at the end.

To his surprise, the boy's face fell. Though he repeated them, tripping over the alien L as most native Japanese speakers did, he did not seem pleased by what he heard. "Are you sure that's "l love you"?" he asked reluctantly.

K shrugged and nodded. "You must've heard it in songs before?"

Slowly, Shuichi nodded. "I guess so." What an expressive face that boy had, K marvelled; what open, honest eyes… It was a big part of his charm, something that had caught K's attention – even his heart – the first time he had seen him singing. What was more, unlike with Ryuichi it was still completely natural – Shuichi had not yet learned how to hide behind that air of innocence, that perpetually boyish appearance, let alone use it to his advantage. Now he watched Shuichi's expression change rapidly from disappointment, to confusion, to suspicion, to deep thought and finally to a sort of uncertain hope. "K-san…"


"Can you tell me what something means? Something I – I heard in a song. I just liked the way it sounded," he added with heavily affected nonchalance.

K suppressed a grin. "In a song, eh? Go on…"

Very carefully, Shuichi said the words he had obviously committed to memory. His accent was awful – and they had the cheek to laugh at K's Japanese! – and the emphasis was all wrong, but it was clear enough what he was trying to say. The grin spread helplessly across K's face. Heard in a song? It was possible of course. But if all things really were possible, then it was just, just possible Eiri Yuki's heart was not quite solid ice after all. Seeing the telltale glimmer of tears in Shuichi's eyes, K quickly put him out of his misery. Knowing Yuki's capacity for unkindness, as Shuichi must, however blinded he was by love, he might well suspect a cruel joke at his own expense. "That means… "my own dear,'" K answered at last, "or… "my own sweet…" it depends how you want to translate it."

"…Really…?" Shuichi gaped at him, his whole face lighting up. "Really truly? You're not making fun of me?"

"Hell, you can ask Seguchi if you don't believe me," K chuckled, "his English is pretty good… for a Japanese," he added with a smirk. "Or you could always ask that boyfriend of yours… I'm surprised you didn't ask him first," he added slyly, "I hear his English is nearly fluent…"

"Oh… you mean Yuki?" Shuichi's attempted show of surprise was so transparent it was oddly endearing. "I didn't even think of that! Thanks anyway, K," he called, escaping from the room as fast as he could.

Chuckling richly, K turned back to his computer, laid his magnum aside and hit reply. Judy would love this.


The cheery call followed the closing of the front door. Yuki Eiri looked up, then down at the screen of his laptop once more. He could just pretend he hadn't heard – the brat had learned surprisingly quickly not to burst in on him when he was working. But it was no use – his throat was sore, his stomach was empty, his back was aching, his shoulders were throbbing and he could no longer feel his legs. It was time to take a break. Pushing back from his desk, Eiri rose and stretched out his cramping muscles.

Finally, released from the world occupied by the characters in his latest novel, Eiri allowed his mind to wander to real things. Reluctantly, he even let it stray to the previous night, to that disturbingly odd moment with Shuichi. They'd had supper, followed by coffee, followed by sex – a pattern that was forming rather worryingly into a comfortable routine. Eiri's own need to talk had rather disturbed him, but he doubted Shuichi was listening much anyway so it could hopefully be forgotten – edited out of his everyday conscious memory, as so many unsettling incidents, impulses or emotions often were. And afterwards, when he had finished his phone call to the publishing house in New York, when he had heard Shuichi call him and only then realised the little idiot was still awake… that was harder to forget. So he had praised Eiri's English? So what? Women were constantly flattering him, in and out of bed – why did Shuichi's pointless compliment mean any more than theirs? Shuichi knew as much about English as they did about literature. What was worse, Yuki was beginning to enjoy that admiring gaze Shuichi fixed upon him for doing the stupidest things – cooking meals (to stop Shuichi burning down the house), changing fuses (which Shuichi had blown inexpertly trying to wire some souped-up new gadgets to his synthesiser), now for speaking a foreign language. Hell, one day he'd give him that look for changing a light bulb. And after they'd made – Eiri caught himself. After they'd had sex, the look the brat would give him then…

It had to be down to the sex. Sex always made men behave in stupid ways; the combination of the release of tension, the pleasure, the shared experience… and the privilege, if one could call it that, of being allowed entrance into someone else's body… of the unique pleasure such a privilege gave… added up to a lethal cocktail of spurious sentimentality. Yes, that's what it had to be about. But then again… it was also after the sex… after he had got off the phone… after Shuichi had paid him that lame compliment… when he had given him that other look, the one which suggested he was making a real effort to behave the way he hoped would please Eiri, the look that only really served to make Eiri feel like the kind of bastard who enjoyed pulling the wings off insects or crushing pretty flowers underfoot…

No. Just for once he had to be honest with himself, just so that he didn't fall into the same trap again. It hadn't been just the sex, or the anxiously hopeful look. It was really down to that other night, about a week ago, the night Shuichi had probably already forgotten but which for some reason Eiri, with his deliberately awful memory, could not…

It wasn't as if it had been intentional, he really hadn't meant to be unkind, not that night, not just then. But Shuichi always caught him off guard with that damn pillow-talk of his! Eiri just wasn't used to… to that sort of talk, even now. He didn't know how to say tender things, not with any sincerity. He couldn't even spout the clichés of the romance novel, not with Shuichi gazing up at him so… trustingly. Oh sure, he could talk dirty to his women; he was fluent in the erotic language of one night stands and extra-marital trysts, knew exactly what to say before and after casual sex. But Shuichi said things like I love you, and you're so beautiful and I can't believe you're here with me… and then would wander off into a ramble about how he still could not believe that first meeting in the park had ended with their being lovers, how he still could not believe that someone like Eiri would want him, and how he was so lucky, and he was so happy, as if losing his innocence to the most unromantic bastard in Tokyo was as good a stroke of fortune as winning a lottery.

And the most disturbing thing of all was that it really seemed to be Eiri that Shuichi was talking to, for all that he persisted in calling him "Yuki" long after finding out it wasn't even his real family name. When he babbled on about how it was so wonderful that they were together, it was almost certainly Uesugi Eiri the temple boy from Kyoto he was talking about, not Yuki Eiri the handsome, successful, wealthy author who had women drooling at the bookshop windows. If he had ever come to give a damn about Eiri's career, or Eiri's reputation, it was only because Eiri had insulted his lyrics, or because some mercenary bitch of an ex-lover had managed to sell her story to a gossip rag before Tohma could buy her off. Or, as their relationship progressed, because Shuichi liked to hear Eiri being praised, or conversely, was waiting to leap to his defence when someone published a negative review. It honestly did seem as if all Shuichi wanted from him was love, and that he really thought if he waited long enough, and tried hard enough, he would get it. As if he could see right through the façade of sheer bullshit that made up ninety per cent of Yuki Eiri, and when he whispered those loving words, he knew exactly who he was talking to.

The first few times Shuichi had run on in this vein, it unsettled Eiri so much that he gotten out of bed while Shuichi was in full flow and headed straight for the shower, followed by the boy's indignant protests and more characteristic complaints that Eiri was a meanie and a jerk and Shuichi hated him. That, Eiri had thought, was more like it. Arguing with Shuichi, exchanging insults, that was easy. If Shuichi was whining it was easy to ignore him, to slam the office door in his face, to kick him out of the flat. If Shuichi was being sweet and loving… and not even in some sickly, cloying, puppyish way, but so gently, so… kindly, as if for no other reason than to make Eiri feel loved… that was a lot harder. Eiri had told himself it was amusing to ruin such tender moments, but it actually it wasn't. It was rather pathetic.

So he had learned to endure it, pretending to fall asleep if it got too much. Shuichi didn't mind if he thought Eiri was asleep; he just chattered on regardless, lavishing upon him the kisses and caresses that Eiri resisted when he was awake. And it gradually became addictive, that frivolous love-talk. It… fascinated him. It pleased him, made him – shit, how his mind fought against it, but it was true – made him feel special. It was so soothing, so loving, so… open-hearted.

Damn, it was all wrong. Shuichi shouldn't be with him. The first time the papers had got hold of the story of their little affair and he had kicked Shuichi out, he should never have taken him back. Not even after Shuichi had been… hurt, by that bastard Aizawa. Not even after he had effectively ended Eiri's engagement to Ayaka. Shuichi's love was wasted on Eiri. There had to be someone out there who deserved it more! Some romantic teenaged girl whose heart was still as open as Shuichi's would consider him the boyfriend of her dreams. She would appreciate his attentiveness, his faithfulness, his compassion; she would be only too happy to be seen hanging off his arm at music award shows, to bask in his reflected glory, to listen to him and support him. A girl, yes… Eiri doubted Shuichi was really gay. He had never caught him looking at other men and if Shuichi took any interest in what gay culture there was to be had in Tokyo, it was only to try to find a bar or a nightclub where Eiri might actually agree to be seen with him.

Even that deeply loving friendship thing he had going on with Nakano Hiro seemed to have no sexual element – Nakano seemed quite content to let the other boy clamber all over him or run to him for comfort like a lost child; there was no desire there, only a gentle tolerance that Eiri might almost have envied, if he really gave a damn about such things. Which of course he didn't. Nakano probably never said or did the wrong thing – reading between the lines of Shuichi's endless prattle about their shared school years, it sounded as though Nakano knew just when to indulge Shuichi and when to bring him up short; when to be patient and when to finally lose his temper. But then Nakano was one of those fundamentally nice, well adjusted guys who really seemed to want everyone around them to be happy. Nakano would not have said the wrong thing that night last week…

The irony was that up until then it had been – well – a good night. It had actually been a good day. The night before he had been in a foul mood, plagued by writer's block. There was just one more scene he needed to write before his first draft was finished. After that it would just be a matter of waiting for Mizuki's verdict, then of proofreading, editing and rewrites, something that could be irksome but was far less mentally draining than producing the written words for the first time. The scene in question was not the ending but it was a crucial moment in the relationship between his lovers, which, though they did not know it, would decide their fate. And he had left it aside until the end because he simply did not know how to write it.

Once he finally gave up, he had spent a rotten night, tossing and turning, his mind refusing to shut down. Now added to the annoyance of the unwritten scene was an absurd longing to wake Shuichi, who had discreetly retreated to the couch after supper, hours before, presumably having guessed there would be no sex for dessert that night and, by default, no chance of an invitation to sleep in Eiri's bed. What Eiri felt just then was a longing for companionship, not sex, and that made it worse. He could not allow Shuichi to see him in such a vulnerable mood. So he had lain awake and suffered.

When morning came he was disturbed from a fitful sleep by the sound of Shuichi's voice. Had the brat been making some godawful chirpy racket Eiri would certainly have leapt out of bed to strangle him, but as it was Shuichi was singing. And the song was remarkably mellow, almost sad. It seemed to speak of love and loss, of one clinging to hope even when all hope was gone. It perfectly summed up the mood of the lovers in Eiri's story. And all at once the blocks in Eiri's head fell away, his lovers began to talk to one another in his head, and he knew, he just knew, how that damned scene should go. Without even pausing to shower or dress, he had flown into his office and begun to write.

Within two hours he had had the curious satisfaction of calling Mizuki and telling her the draft was ready. And once she was gone the day was… his own. It made him feel rather light headed, which no doubt explained the strange urge to go down to the recording studios at NG and treat Shuichi to lunch, by way of some obscurely veiled thank you. Of course he ignored the urge, transferring it into something far more rational. He had free time to try out a new recipe he had seen on television. He rather fancied something nice and sweet for dessert, maybe something from that very expensive but impeccably authentic French patisserie that he had been promising himself he would try. It just so happened that Shuichi would get to share all of this, if he hadn't eaten before he came home – not that Eiri was going to call and warn him not to. Anyway, the walk to the supermarket would do him good.

Even when Shuichi had arrived home and they shared their meal Eiri was still feeling alert and something close to cheerful. He had been musing on and off all day about having some fun with Shuichi – of having an early night and attempting one or two new tricks with him. Almost since that evening they had first met Eiri had found sex the easiest direction in which to channel this perplexing attraction to the young vocalist; now, more than ever, it seemed a good idea to get him into bed and let the animal urges of the body replace the higher workings of the mind.

But it did not quite work that way, not that night. It was as if that little snatch of song, wordless and unformed, had forged a new understanding between them. Eiri sat patiently through Shuichi's breathless, blow by blow account of who said or did what at NG that day, down to who had made the tea and what they'd had for lunch. He even found himself… enjoying it. Or maybe it was just the sound of Shuichi's voice he enjoyed – Shuichi did have a marvellously expressive voice; he would probably have made a good storyteller. Shuichi at first seemed suspicious of Eiri's affable mood, but he warmed to it quickly and by the time the glazed French strawberry tarts were produced his eyes were shining with bliss. And in the end it was Shuichi, not Eiri, who made the first move in the direction of the bedroom, clambering into Eiri's lap, pulling the as yet unlit cigarette from between his lips and replacing it with a kiss. Eiri's "damn brat" was developing into a charming little flirt.

Alerts should have sounded in Eiri's brain right then, but the warning systems remained silent even when the sex turned into inexcusably tender lovemaking. Only once before had Eiri permitted himself to be so gentle and expressive with Shuichi – that first night they had slept together, when Eiri's head was still ringing with Shuichi's voice and Shuichi's music and perhaps just a small, secret satisfaction in Shuichi's triumph at the concert earlier. That night he had allowed himself such freedom because it was Shuichi's first time and because like a fool Eiri had still been telling himself whatever attraction existed between them would not last long. Now it was not so simple.

It was not until afterwards, when Eiri was drowsing in Shuichi's arms and only half-listening to the fanciful nonsense being whispered into his ear, that the alarm bells finally began to clang in his head – far, far too late. It was a question that finally set them off. "Yuki… can I ask you something?"


"Yuki… you know… when we were… you know… making love… just as you… um… went inside me… you… smiled at me, I was sort of thinking… wow Yuki looks so beautiful when he smiles… but what were you thinking?"

Eiri was suddenly very much awake. He could feel the panic creeping up through his body like a wave of sickness. "What are you talking about…?" he asked reluctantly.

Apparently unaware of the sudden chill, Shuichi nudged him playfully. "You know, Yuki – just then. When you smiled…"

Yuki remained silent for a long moment. What had he been thinking? For the most part he had been thinking about what all men thought about during sex – he had been thinking about sex! But just then… damn! Had he really smiled?


"I was thinking about how hot and tight you are in there. What else would I be thinking, idiot?"

A fair answer to what could easily be dismissed as a stupid question – vintage Shuichi, in fact. Except that it wasn't true. At that particular moment, the moment when he had entered Shuichi and seen him react the way he always did – first the gasp and the pretty little blush, then the soft squirming to comfortably accommodate Eiri, all of this with eyes closed; then the eyes fluttering open to reveal that loving gaze, always accompanied by a diffident little smile - Eiri had been thinking something else. He had been thinking, quite simply, how unaffected Shuichi remained, even during sex, maintaining his innocence even after so much experience had been forced upon him in such a short space of time And how… refreshing that could be. And that maybe, just maybe, it was a good thing he was here, in Eiri's bed… in Eiri's life. And perhaps Eiri had smiled… just a little.

Such thoughts were all right in the privacy of his head or confided to his psychiatrist. But when it suddenly appeared that Shuichi was aware of them, as if he really could see through the façade and look down right into Eiri's mind, Eiri suddenly felt as though the ground beneath him was unsteady, that the walls he had built around him were crumbling… that all he had buried so deeply was about to come bubbling to the surface to engulf him. Suddenly the whole night seemed a dangerous error… he had given too much away… let Shuichi get too close…

And so he had taken refuge in a quick lie.

The sense of danger was as brief as it was acute, but the damage was done. For a frozen moment Shuichi just stared at him, all the brightness fading from his pretty violet eyes as they began to fill with tears. Real tears, not the kind that he more commonly shed as some sort of emotional release (really, Shuichi could be as hormonal as a woman!) When he really wept, quietly and pitifully, as he did now, Eiri was left at a loss as to how to comfort him. So he lay there, impotently watching his little lover cry, until Shuichi suddenly wriggled from under him and sat up, wrapping his arms about himself as if he was cold… or ashamed.

Eiri tried telling himself it was really Shuichi's fault anyway. What was the matter with him? He was so damned unpredictable! And Eiri had thought women were confusing! After all, during their actual couplings, Shuichi could be open to a bit of dirty talk; he might be shy and inexperienced but he wasn't a prude. Eiri's wicked words would make him gasp and giggle and blush and if he occasionally smacked Eiri for his impudence, well, that added to the fun, especially when it roused Eiri to bring him back into line. Shuichi wasn't averse to a little bit of playful discipline either.

But no; it was no use. This time the blame could not so easily be shifted. Shuichi had told Eiri he was beautiful, and Eiri had returned the compliment by telling Shuichi he was a good fuck. And yes, he had known that was not what Shuichi had wanted to hear.

When he finally got as far as reaching out to put an arm around the boy's trembling shoulders, Shuichi did not shrug him off in a petulant manner but merely slid out of Eiri's reach and disappeared into the shower. And once the shower was over he did not come back to bed. After lying there for nearly an hour, declaring to himself that if Shuichi wanted to sulk that was his affair, Eiri finally dragged himself out of bed and found Shuichi in the lounge, kneeling in front of his synthesiser, his back to Eiri, head bent. Sulking, without a doubt.

"Come back to bed, moron," Eiri called, his best attempt at an apology. Shuichi ignored him. Eiri sighed, suddenly feeling very tired. "Look… just come back to bed, Shuichi." Still no reaction. Growing indignant at the childishness of it, Eiri stalked over – just as Shuichi raised his head slightly, and Eiri realised the damned brat had his headphones on – well of course he had, it was three o' fucking clock in the morning! – and hadn't heard a damn word Eiri was saying.

And suddenly Eiri was aware that it was not Shuichi who was being childish – he had actually handled the situation like an adult, throwing himself into his work to avoid a pointless row. Added to that was the irony that if he had told Shuichi the truth, by now they could have shared a shower (something Shuichi loved, and Eiri allowed, because it was something of a turn-on to have a slippery, giggling, soap-scented body squirming around in his arms) and got back into bed for a second round. While as it was he was standing in his own lounge, wearing nothing but his underpants and feeling uncomfortably exposed, making an utter fool of himself by talking to someone who could not hear him.

In the end he showered alone and went back to bed alone. But as if to punish him, sleep stayed away. And soon enough his never-resting writer's brain kicked in as it always did to convert those disturbing feelings of anger and denial and self reproach into the synopsis for a story, so that it was no longer Eiri and Shuichi, it was A and B, his as yet unnamed lovers, and A was complaining about B's coldness, but B knew that he would never be able to be the lover A wanted, because… because… and soon enough he was in their world and he didn't have to think about his own.

In the morning, Shuichi was as bouncy as a ball and wanted Eiri to hear his new composition, and apparently the whole thing was forgotten. Until last night…

My own sweet Shuichi. Eiri winced. Well at least he had said it in a foreign language. At least he had not said the first three English words that had sprung unbidden, unwanted into his head. Not that they had meant anything – they were just a natural cliché which his writer's brain automatically brought forward to suit the scenario; the hero whispering the words to the heroine in a language he knows she cannot understand. Corny bullshit, hardly worthy of even the most rushed, least heartfelt of his novels.

Well, Shuichi had probably forgotten all about it now anyway – the poor little dope had looked exhausted even before Eiri had had his way with him; he had probably been half asleep by the time the conversation had occurred. Certainly when Eiri had finally come to bed just before dawn, accidentally leaning on his lover's arm in the dark because he had forgotten he had let him stay in his bed (another sign of this disturbing new softness in him, but he could not deny it had felt good to find the sheets warm, and a hot little body waiting for him to curl himself around), Shuichi had been dead to the world. And in the morning the American Psycho had dragged him off before he could…

Oh no. The American, English speaking psycho. Surely Shuichi wouldn't… surely even he… not knowing what Eiri had said…

"Yuki!" Shuichi bounded into Eiri's arms as soon as he opened the office door.

"Yuki, Yuki, Yuki!" He covered Eiri's face in moist, warm kisses. Eiri braced himself as Shuichi's mouth worked its way to his ear, but no kiss or lick followed, only a soft, tickling breath. "My own sweet Yuki," Shuichi whispered, in very, very bad English, then, in case any doubt remained, switched over to the other ear and whispered it in clear Japanese.

For barely a second, their gazes locked. And Eiri had the ghastly feeling that Shuichi was able to see right down into his soul.

Then, in the blink of an eye, Shuichi had sprung away and disappeared into the kitchen, as if nothing had happened. "I'm so hungry Yuki and you look so tired… why don't you let me cook tonight? I'm not as useless as I was, honest! I've been watching some of the cooking shows you like during my breaks and the other night when I had dinner with my family, I even helped my mum make the food…" Shuichi's breathless monologue was punctuated by the sound of something heavy and metallic clattering to the ground. "Owww…! Oh, crap! Yukkkkiiii! Can you bring the first aid box…?"

With a weary sigh, Eiri reached for the box and headed into the kitchen, allowing himself to forget, just for a few more minutes, that strange, nagging sense that Shindou Shuichi and Yuki Eiri were involved in some undeclared war for the possession of Uesugi Eiri, and that Yuki had just suffered yet another minor but strategically telling defeat.