::Disclaimer: Love Mode belongs to Yuki Shimizu

Izumi runs his fingers across the tops of the piano keys. His touch is light, barely a whisper across the silky surfaces. The keys give just a little under the light pressure, but they make no sound.

Izumi reaches the left side – the low end, where the deepest tones still resonate in his mind. It's been years… but he doesn't have to close his eyes to draw the sounds from his memory.

Without looking, he reaches out to touch the slight flaw in the wood near the left corner of the keyboard. He can still remember – still feel - the heat of his loosened belt buckle trapped between his body and the piano while Takamiya …

Izumi learned new ways to draw sounds from the old piano that night and Takamiya made sure Izumi practiced as often as possible. Izumi became something of a virtuoso without learning to play a single song.

There is a polite throat-clearing sound from the doorway and Izumi turns to look at his long-time friend. Naoya says nothing as he crosses the room to stand beside Izumi.

The silence stretches between them awkwardly. Izumi's so rarely at a loss for words that it unsettles them both.

Izumi wishes there were something he could do to stop thinking for a while. It never used to be problem, he reminds himself, and manages an almost smile.

Noises from the outside world intrude. Reality forcing it's way in. Reality…

Naoya's hand presses against Izumi's arm, warm even through layers of clothing. His understanding eyes wait for Izumi to acknowledge, if not accept.

Izumi nods once, straightening. He reaches for the cover and lowers it over the keyboard, careful to make no sound. He steps backward, eyes studying the instrument, engraving it in his memory.

The impatiently-waiting movers are long gone, but Izumi still sees the piano in its' place… hears its' melody... feels Takamiya's arms around him.

Naoya's beside him again, speaking quiet reminders of final details and the return to Japan. Izumi follows obediently, mind and body moving forward, only memories left behind.

They pass the "sold" sign on the front lawn and climb into the rental car where Aoe sits, pale and drawn, in his expensive suit. He motions impatiently when Naoya asks if he's ready to leave and turns back to the window, looking carefully away from the receding house.

They take the long route, avoiding the one that passes the cemetery; stopping at a small inn for a dinner they can't eat and a night's sleep they can't enjoy. They leave at dawn.

The flight is at 2pm. Even with security precautions and check-in delays, they have too much time to fill. Naoya's quiet voice softens the silence, but doesn't blunt the pain, not even his own. He talks anyway, for their sakes.

Izumi sits across from them on the plane. The seat beside him is empty. His breathing is ragged long after the plane ascends to cruising altitude.

Neither of his traveling companions comment when Izumi opens the prescription pill bottle and extracts two of the small white tablets. A double-dose is enough to knock out an elephant. It takes all his willpower not to swallow a handful.

Naoya's beside him when he wakes, coffee and a roll waiting to help Izumi cast off the effects of the pills. It's twenty minutes until arrival and Izumi has just enough time to freshen up before landing.

Aoe's driver is waiting and they climb into the car without speaking. Izumi leans back and stares out at the blur of lights passing by. It's a soothing, familiar chaos, held at bay by the tinted window glass. Maybe he should live the rest of his life in a car.

Naoya carries the luggage while Izumi struggles with his keys and the forgotten newspapers. He was never very good with details. The mailbox is sure to be overflowing. He doesn't want to think about the refrigerator.

Naoya fusses for a few minutes, straightening and being efficient. For seventeen seconds, Izumi hates him. After Naoya leaves, Izumi wishes he'd come back.

He lays on the sofa and stares at the bare wall. He needs to clean, possibly re-arrange some things. It won't be long until the piano arrives. Until then, he has the melodies in his head.