IN THE DARK by Moon71

CHAPTER 2: So where has Shuichi been? And how much will he decide to tell Eiri?

NOTES: First of all I must thank everyone who posted such delightful reviews. I wasn't sure what people would make of the first half – I was afraid you all might start thinking this was some sort of Hiro / Shuichi thing and either be too annoyed to read on – or disappointed when it turned out to be something else! I don't do angsty stuff that often so I hope part 2 is okay… oh, and I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks that Eiri was sometimes the real brat in Gravitation – yes, especially in the manga!

Secondly I must apologise for two things – the long delay in posting part 2 and my failure to properly reply to reviews! Both are down to the continuing personality hassles experienced by my computer. Hopefully all will be right soon.

As quietly as he could, Shuichi slipped off his shoes and unzipped his jacket. He dared not put the light on – Yuki was such a light sleeper when he hadn't stayed up working to a deadline for two nights that the soft click of the switch might be enough to wake him. The very thought of Yuki asleep in bed, his lean, beautiful body warm beneath the sheets, was enough to fill Shuichi with longing, but he did not want to risk it – better to sleep on the couch for what was left of the night. That way, Yuki wouldn't know what time he got home.

Assuming Yuki would even care…

Shuichi liked to think he would; liked to believe Yuki was pleased when Shuichi kept him informed of his movements, thought the writer never said so. Then again, there were lots of things Yuki never said… but he had said he had wanted to be with Shuichi.

He had said that.

Even if he had also said –

"Where have you been?"

Shuichi let out a yelp, spinning around in the direction the voice had seemed to come from. A moment later there was a bright burst of light as Yuki clicked open his lighter. The flame illuminated his pale features long enough for Shuichi to see him sitting staring at him from the couch.

"Yuki!" Shuichi cried, "you scared the crap out of me!"

"I asked you a question," Yuki said in the same flat tone, clicking the lighter shut and throwing them back into darkness, the only point of light the small orange glow of his cigarette. "Where have you been?"

Shuichi swallowed, moving cautiously toward him through the shadows, finding his way to the couch to sit down beside Yuki without touching him. "Just out… out for coffee with Hiro."

Yuki leaned closer. Shuichi heard him sniff. "You don't smell like coffee. What have you been drinking?"

"Just alco-pop – one or two… I don't really like beer, you know, and…"

"Why are you so late in?"

"I…" Shuichi hesitated. He wanted to put the light on, to break this unsettling mood. But he couldn't bring himself to move. "I'm… sorry, Yuki… were you worried…?"

"Why weren't you answering your phone?"

"My…" Shuichi blinked. "Yuki did you really call me?" He felt a brief rush of pleasure, but then reason asserted itself. "You can't've done, I've had my phone on all night, here, I'll show…" he fumbled about in his trouser pockets, picked up his jacket and searched through that, then his rucksack. Then all at once he knew. "Shit, it's still at the studio! I was going to call you in the afternoon but K took it off me and said I could have it back when the recording was finished! I… guess he forgot to give it back…"

Was it just wishful thinking, or did Yuki relax just a little beside him? Shuichi heard him exhale softly. As his eyes grew used to the poor light saw him lean forward to tap ash from his cigarette.

"You still haven't told me why you were so late. Where were you?"

Shuichi shifted uncomfortably. "Just in the park, with Hiro…"

Eiri's golden eyes glinted fiercely through the shadows. "The park…?" There was a sharp note of hostility in his voice.

What was it? Did Yuki not like him being there with someone else? Was the park special to him too? No, surely not… "Yeah…" Shuichi murmured. "We were just… y'know… talking…"

"About what? About whatever was keeping you up last night?"

Shuichi blinked. "You knew about that…? Oh Yuki…" He fought the urge to throw his arms about his lover. "Really, it wasn't anything important, I just had a bad dream and…"

"What about?"

"About…" he drew in a deep breath. He hadn't wanted to do this, not on this night, but he couldn't resist Yuki's interrogative tone. "About… what happened. You know, with… with Aizawa…"

"You didn't say anything about it this morning."

"Well… like I said, I told Hiro about it…"

"So you could talk to Nakano about it, but not me?" Yuki's voice was so soft that even sitting next to him, Shuichi had to strain to hear.

"I – I didn't know you'd want me to talk about it…" Shuichi mumbled, "most of the time I don't want to anyway, but… well… you never mentioned it, so…"

"I threatened him, I beat the crap out of his friend, I got the film back… didn't that make any difference? Wasn't it enough for you? Does everything have to be spelt out to you…?"

"You – you don't understand, Yuki!" Shuichi cried in sudden distress, "It's not that I don't think you care! It's just that I – I – the last time we talked about it, I made you cry!"

Yuki remained quite still for a moment. Then Shuichi heard a soft, rueful sound. "I thought that would make you happy..."

Shuichi frowned in confusion. In a way, that was true. It had proved that Yuki really was human. He had said he hadn't cried in six years… yet he had cried in front of Shuichi; had cried for Shuichi, or so it seemed. He had let Shuichi hold him while he wept. And he had said that he wanted to be with him.

Shuichi had wanted to be with Yuki almost from the moment he had laid eyes on him, though he had fought against it for as long as he could… which hadn't been very long. He had wanted to be with him without even knowing why, when Yuki was so cold and his words were so hurtful and it seemed as though there was nothing in Yuki to love. But then things slowly began to change. When he had reproached Shuichi that day in his study, thinking he had accepted Mika's bribe, Yuki had shown he was capable of being hurt. During their first night together, he had shown he was also capable of being gentle. When he had come to find Shuichi in the park after throwing him out of his flat the day before, he had shown he could be kind. And then there was the Aizawa business…

Each time Shuichi had been ready to give up, to try to find some way, any way, of forgetting him, Yuki had loosened just a little more, and it had begun to seem as though Shuichi could happily spend a lifetime unravelling the knots and kinks until the real Yuki Eiri was spread out before him. But when Yuki had cried in Shuichi's arms, he had shown that he could not only be unwound but broken. And that was frightening.

Shuichi had always believed he was good for Yuki, no matter what anyone else said. He knew, just knew the real Yuki was there somewhere, that there was more to him than the harsh, impenetrable exterior. But what did he really know of anything? What did he really know of what had made Yuki the way he was? Maybe Yuki was better off that way, tightly bound up, secured against the world?

But Yuki had said…

"I'd never want to make you cry, Yuki," Shuichi answered at last. "I love you too much for that…" Slowly, gingerly, he reached out a hand and slipped it into Yuki's. After a moment, his lover returned the grip.

Shuichi longed to tell him everything. About where he and Hiro had really been, what they had done. When he had told Hiro about the dream, his friend had insisted Shuichi should finally see a counsellor. He had first suggested it just after Shuichi had been assaulted by Aizawa's hired thugs, but Shuichi told himself he didn't need that sort of thing; he had made getting Yuki back his only focus, told himself that was all that mattered. And in a way it had been true – if he had lost Yuki to Ayaka after all he had been through to protect him, he really didn't think he could have found the will to continue living.

After that was over he had thrown himself into his work. It wasn't until Aizawa had come around threatening Yuki – his Yuki, his own dear, precious Yuki – and Yuki had reminded him of what had gone on, that it had all flooded back. Not immediately; his first concern, as always, had been Yuki. But then Ask's contract had been terminated by NG and the group disbanded, and though neither Seguchi-san or Yuki would discuss it, Shuichi knew it was somehow linked to what Aizawa had done to him. Or perhaps, more precisely, done to them.

The dream of the night before had been so horrible, so graphic, so real, he could not risk going back to sleep when he woke. Of course he had yearned to cling to Yuki, but he couldn't… not when he was still trembling and soaked with sweat. He couldn't tell him what the dream had been about – he just couldn't make him cry again.

Hiro had gone with him to a counselling drop-in centre, and stayed quietly in the background while Shuichi talked to a counsellor. He had cried quite a lot – it had actually surprised him how much - but the counsellor insisted that was quite normal. She had been so kind, answering questions he had hardly known he wanted to ask, helping him make sense of the senseless brutality of the attack. When he told her about what had led to it, including the feud with Ask, she had helped him understand his own sense of confusion and doubt over the malicious cruelty Aizawa had shown, turning what seemed like a silly playground spat into a viciously cruel vendetta.

By the time it was over, Shuichi already felt so much lighter that he had burst out laughing when the counsellor had mistakenly thought Hiro was his boyfriend. After that they had bought a few drinks and sat in the park, reading some of the advice leaflets, by which time Shuichi had found himself ravenously hungry and paid for dinner for both of them at an all-night café.

"Was I there?"

Yuki's question startled Shuichi. "Huh? Where you where - ?"

"In your dream," Yuki whispered. "Was I there… in your nightmare…?"

"No, Yuki!" Shuichi cried indignantly. He decided not to add that in part of the dream he had been desperately trying to find Yuki but had never succeeded. "If you had been, it wouldn't have been a nightmare!"

Yuki made another low, scornful sound that Shuichi guessed would pass for a laugh. Shuichi shivered. Yuki was there beside him, yet he seemed to be getting farther and farther away. Yes, of course he had wished so hard for his lover to open up to him, but not here, not now, not in this thick, oppressive darkness.

Shuichi sprang up, determined to snap on the light and drive away the shadows before they swallowed Yuki utterly. But Yuki's suddenly painful grip on his hand stopped him.

"Wh-why don't I make us some tea?" Shuichi offered hopelessly. "Or how about hot chocolate? I bet you'd love hot chocolate…"

Yuki did not even seem to hear him. "The day after it happened… when you collapsed and I brought you back to the flat…" Shuichi heard his breath catch. "When I… took you. Did I hurt you?"

"No, Yuki!" Shuichi cried unhappily. He didn't want to think of that time – it reminded him too much of Yuki threatening to leave, and the utter helplessness Shuichi had felt, to have Aizawa's savage brutality compounded by Yuki's desertion. Never, before or since, had he come so close to despair.

Yet there was something inevitable about this moment. They had to have this conversation, sooner or later; it had been waiting, silent and unseen, hovering between them since the day after the assault, showing through only briefly in Yuki's eyes when they had come together for what he had obviously considered the last time. There was no point in fighting against it now, or hoping for it to happen at a more convenient time.

"It was too soon," Yuki continued, "I shouldn't have done it."

"I wanted you to! Don't you remember? I was the one who…"

"But I must have hurt you…"

"That didn't matter," Shuichi answered, feeling tears sting his eyes, partly brought by the memory, partly by the frustration of being unable to reach Yuki now. "I needed to be with you! Because I love you!" he added, hoping that explained it all.

For him, it did, whether Yuki could understand it or not. His love for him was now as much a part of him as music itself. Even that afternoon in the drop-in centre, grateful as he was for Hiro's quietly reassuring presence, he had secretly wished it was Yuki there with him, wished that Yuki was sitting there silently holding his hand, wished that he had been able to answer affirmatively when the counsellor had asked if this was his boyfriend.

For a moment it seemed as though Yuki was satisfied. He drew on his cigarette once more before crushing it out; often with him a gesture signalling the end of a conversation. But just as Shuichi began to relax, Yuki began to speak once more in that lost, weary tone.

"You wanted to stop me leaving. You let me because you…"

"No! It wasn't like that! I just needed to be with you! I needed you to touch me!"

Shuichi closed his eyes against the darkness, willing himself back into the warm, safe, secure atmosphere of the counsellor's room. She had suggested he discuss this with his boyfriend. Shuichi had looked hopelessly back at Hiro, but his friend had just given a small shrug and a smile, as if to say why not? Shuichi had never imagined himself raising the subject, but now that Eiri had…

"I was afraid," he said softly, "I was afraid I'd never want it again after… after what they did. Sex, I mean," he added, feeling his cheeks grow hot. How was it that he could talk so freely about such things with the counsellor, yet still not do so with Yuki, his lover, without blushing? "I'd always liked what you did, even when you were a bit rough… I mean, I'd never felt ashamed of anything we did… but they made it all seem so ugly… and they said things to me… called me things… I didn't want to feel ashamed because of that…"

Yuki shifted. "That wasn't the only reason," he whispered.

Shuichi swallowed hard, clearing his throat several times before he could get the words out. "No. I wanted to make sure you would still want to touch me too," he heard himself say, "I thought you… I thought maybe you were leaving because you didn't like me anymore… You knew I'd never been with anyone before you… I was afraid you'd think I was… dirty, after what they did… and you wouldn't want to touch me anymore... "

A soft moan of distress broke free from Yuki. "Was that what you thought when I left? When I… proposed to Ayaka? That I didn't want you anymore?"

"I don't know…" Shuichi shook his head. "I was confused... scared… angry…"

"It was my fault…" Yuki said in a thin whisper.

It's my fault. Shuichi froze, a tightness gathering in his chest. He could hear the words all over again, as clearly as if Yuki was saying them now. It was because of me… I put you through the same thing I went through…

Of course he wanted to know everything about Yuki. But those words disturbed him. He did not want to think about what they suggested. The idea of anyone doing to his Yuki what they had done to him made his heart ache so hard that he really though it might burst. Even while it was happening, while they were hurting him and taunting him, he had held on to thoughts of his music, of Hiro, of Bad Luck… especially of Yuki. Something, some strange intuition, perhaps the same instinct which had drawn him to Yuki in the first place, told him now that whatever had happened to Yuki, he had not had such comforts to cling to, that… bizarre as it seemed looking at Yuki now… he lacked Shuichi's strength.

If that was true, Shuichi would have to learn to be strong for him. To look after him, to listen to him… but most of all to find him and bring him back whenever he was lost. One day Shuichi would tell him about the counsellor. Maybe one day they might see her together. And maybe, just maybe, one day Shuichi would be able to see the complete, unravelled Eiri without causing pain to either of them. But for now, it was time to bring his Yuki back.

"It wasn't your fault, Yuki…" Shuichi reached out to touch his companion's face and was not surprised to find his cheeks wet with tears.

For the first time he found himself grateful for the darkness, not only because he did not think he could bear to look at Yuki just then without his heart really breaking, but because it allowed him to be bolder than usual, to act on an impulse as soon as he felt it. He was alone with Yuki in the darkness. Just the two of them. There was nothing to see; nothing to sense at all beside their quiet breaths and the heat and scent of their bodies.

He leaned in to softly nuzzle Yuki's throat, slipping the shirt down from his shoulders. The faintest streetlight from the balcony windows illuminated his lover's pale skin, giving him a fragile, unearthly quality which only intensified Shuichi's desire. He ran his hands across Yuki's chest, kissing where he stroked. To have Yuki so passive under his touch was such a strange experience that he actually gasped in relief when he felt strong hands seize him and a warm mouth close upon his. For a moment they wrestled, but Yuki quickly pinned him to the couch, panting heavily against Shuichi's neck before biting down hard where it joined his shoulder. As Shuichi cried out, Yuki drew back sharply.

Shuichi could feel Yuki's heart thumping against his own. He tried to reach up to pull him back down, but Yuki resisted.

Neither of them seemed to breathe as they gazed at one another through the shadows. And all at once Shuichi had a moment of clarity. Yuki – Uesugi Eiri – had not always been the way he was now. Shuichi had suspected it long before Seguchi Mika had hinted about it; even before Yuki had begun allowing fleeting glimpses of a gentler, more vulnerable self. Someone, at some time, had hurt him badly enough to change him. The counsellor had said something about that when trying to help Shuichi understand what lay behind the cruelty others were capable of.

What had she said? That if someone's first experience of sexual love was rape, if sex became associated with power instead of tenderness, they might find it hard to behave any other way and might mistrust the motives of anyone who did. That wasn't Yuki, it really wasn't. Yuki could be kind, he could be tender. But was it what Yuki thought he was? The counsellor had also said that people who grew up witnessing or suffering abuse sometimes became abusers or were drawn to those who would abuse them. Was that what Yuki feared? That he would hurt Shuichi?

Shuichi's mind snapped back to what Yuki had said that day.

I don't want to kill… again…

He had taken someone's life. Did that mean he no longer trusted himself?

"You won't ever hurt me, Yuki," Shuichi whispered. "You've never hurt me and you never will."

"I've never hurt you?" Eiri's tone was incredulous.

Shuichi sighed, taking Yuki's hand and placing it gently against his own neck, just where Yuki had nipped him. "You know what I mean."

"You're an idiot," Yuki rasped, "a stupid, reckless idiot, and you – "

Before he could continue, Shuichi seized Yuki by the hair and kissed him fiercely. Yuki struggled briefly, but after a moment his arms tightened around Shuichi and his eyes fluttered shut.

Before he lost himself utterly in Yuki's kiss, Shuichi allowed himself a brief glimmer of satisfaction. Yuki had silenced him that way several times – but he had never expected it to work in reverse.