SOLITUDE by Moon71

SUMMARY: After the public "outing" and Hiro's decision to quit Bad Luck, Shuichi goes to Eiri for consolation, but Eiri isn't in a consoling mood. Why? Oh, how Eiri hates to be asked that question…

TIMELINE: The "sequel" to a scene in Track… oh gawd, now I've got to look it up… hold on… Track 10, Heads or Tails, where Shuichi dresses up as a battery to pay a "secret" call on his beloved Yuki…

DISCLAIMER: Still not mine.

DEDICATION: TO YELLOW MOTH for really great chatter!! Oooh I love venting my spleen to someone!!

NOTES: Thank you, thank you to all who reviewed the last part of "Sushi Bar" and / or "Twenty-seven Days." I have begun work on the follow up to "Sushi Bar" I promised; more details and other crud will be posted on my LJ ASAP. I am sorry I can't yet post a link to it – just like Shuichi, I'm too stupid. But for those of you familiar with Live Journal, I am Moon71 there too and the journal is open to all, not just members or friends.

Hope you all like this one – Eiri's weird moods was one of the many things that hooked me on this story and I can't help reading between the lines and trying to find out exactly what is going on in that brain of his. The "battery" scene in particular, with Eiri so standoffish after being so gallant in front of the reporters, really set my mind working…

QUICK NOTE TO HIKA: Sorry if you thought the ending to "Sushi" wasn't clear – because it was set during the anime, not after it, I couldn't let Eiri reach a definitive conclusion. His conclusion is essentially the same as it was at the beginning of the story – that he and Shuichi can't possibly last. The only difference is that he's having even more trouble convincing himself of that. Obviously I know he's wrong, but it was supposed to be from Eiri's POV, not mine!


Eiri lay down on the bed with a deep, weary sigh, folding his hands behind his head. As a general rule he hated lying on his back – too often in the past he had struggled awake from nightmares of being held down, of being paralysed and left at someone else's mercy. But his back was hurting so badly from hours and hours at the computer that there was no other way to be comfortable.

Funny, he had forgotten that was the reason he hated the position – he had almost forgotten the nightmares. But then it was beginning to appear that he had forgotten a great deal – until recently.

He heard a soft movement from outside the door. Shuichi? Was he still there? Eiri wouldn't blame him if he'd just given up and gone –

Gone where? Home?

What exactly did he mean by home? Where was Shuichi's home? With his parents? In that cheap bed-sit he'd been renting before he'd descended on Eiri? He knew what Shuichi would say if he asked him – that his home was here, with Eiri.

Or at least it had been, until fifty reporters had effectively moved in with them…

Why did you say what you did? In front of TV cameras – that we're lovers?

Why? How he hated that question. There was only one "why" he was interested in – why did everyone still keep asking him why? Not just Shuichi, but everyone else in his world. He had had his number changed and refused to answer the phone, but still some of them managed to get through with their whys? Tohma… Mika… Tatsuha, even his father, who more usually used Mika to pass on his demands and complaints. Even Mizuki, the only person he had permitted into his home since the day the reporters had arrived. She hadn't actually asked the question – technically she was more interested in his rocketing book sales and in the new manuscript she was insisting must be completed in half the time. But the question was still there in her eyes. Why?

Why? Who knew? Who cared?He didn't know why he did anything. He didn't know anything anymore.

If there was one question he really would like an answer to, it was why he had bothered to go to Shuichi's debut concert all those nights ago. After he had done that it was too late to go back – he had admitted it during the last session with his psychiatrist. Once he had gone to the concert it was as if fate had just taken hold of them both – pulling them along even as it pulled them together.

He shouldn't have gone.

No – it was worse than that. What he shouldn't have done was carried on teasing and provoking him before that. That day he had taken Shuichi home with him in his car, he should have just dried him off, given him a beer, apologised, wished him luck and then told him to fuck off out of it.

No… he shouldn't even have taken him home. He should have just made his apologies there in the rain, got back into his car and driven off alone.

No… no… what he really, really should have done was picked up the stupid pink haired brat's lyrics in the park, handed them back to him, kept his sour, mean spirited opinions to himself and gone on with his walk.

Or even better, just let them blow away into the night.

That damned concert had done it. Seeing Shuichi on stage, seeing him in his element, brought all those unformed ideas and responses into one clear thought. It had made him realise that he had done all those stupid things that had led up to this moment because he –

"Yuki…?"

A soft, cautious whisper, a tentative little scratch of fingers on the door. Eiri didn't move, even when he heard it creak open.

"Yuki, can I stay with you a bit longer? Do you want me to go?"

So quiet. So meek. So… not Shuichi. The chilly reception had obviously hurt him.

"You're here now," Eiri grunted tersely.

"Oh. Yeah – I guess…" He heard Shuichi padding across to the bed. A moment later he felt it dip slightly as Shuichi stretched out beside him, not touching him. "Why are you angry with me, Yuki?"

Ah, yet another classic why? which Eiri couldn't answer. Why was he angry with Shuichi? Because he was angry, he could feel anger clenching in his gut the moment he had found him on the floor in that ridiculous battery costume. Only the Gods knew where he had found the thing, and only Shuichi could be stupid enough to use it, but it shouldn't have made Eiri angry.

It wasn't as if the "coming out" had really been Shuichi's fault. It had obviously been done for him – by that American lunatic, from what Shuichi had said – and Shuichi had not exactly handled it well. He had charged to Eiri's defence as if Eiri was some sort of helpless maiden in distress when he would have been much better off sitting tight in the flat until the professional cavalry – in the form of Seguchi Tohma and his endless connections – had arrived to save the day. But he had acted out of some sort of misplaced chivalry – out of love, one might say -not out of a wish to grab publicity or force Eiri into a corner. And it was Eiri who had really "outed" them, in the end…

The silence lengthened, the question unanswered. Eiri felt a movement beside him. "I'm sorry…" Shuichi whispered sadly, "I know Seguchi-san said it'd be easier for us both if we stayed apart for a bit, but I just wanted – well – I just wanted to see you for a bit, you know?"

Cold fingers brushed against the back of Eiri's hand, sending a shiver through him.

"I – I'm frightened, Yuki… I've been so happy these last few months, and all of a sudden it's like all the people I care about are so far away! Sakuma-san's now my rival instead of my friend – I feel like I put him away in that box with all the things which remind me of him - and I can't be with you, and… and then – well - the thing is… I went to talk to Hiro today, to try and get him to change his mind, but he wouldn't listen. He seemed so far away from me too!"

Shuichi fell silent again. Eiri had a sense he was waiting for some response. When he didn't get one, Eiri heard him sigh heavily; felt the bed shift as he got up.

"Look, just forget I said anything, okay? I know you don't really care about any of this…" There was a remote, weary tone to Shuichi's voice, all the more disturbing for the fact it carried no note of reproach. "Anyway, just seeing you makes me feel a bit better… but I guess you want to be on your own, right? I'll get going… "A quick kiss on Eiri's cheek. "Love you…"

"Wait." Eiri caught hold of Shuichi's arm. Suddenly he knew the answer – to that one question at least. He knew why he was angry. He knew it the second Shuichi had said he would leave.

Though it was a shock to him, it was true none the less – he had missed him. Without him the flat seemed to echo with silent, colourless emptiness. What was the point in taking a break from his writing when there was no-one to share it with? What was the point in cooking when there was no-one to appreciate it? What was the point in going to his bed when there was no-one waiting for him in it? True, he had got twice the work done, but there was no satisfaction in it. Of course he had got a lot of writing done – what else was there to do? Who was there to disturb him? Once Shuichi had arrived, then he had told himself enough was enough; that he needed sleep. If Shuichi had stayed away any longer, would Eiri have worked himself into exhaustion?

"Yuki…?" Shuichi's tone was uncertain.

"Where've you been staying?" Eiri asked. A stupid question, and one he already knew the answer to, but he had to say something. And he wasn't quite ready to tell Shuichi what he had just been thinking.

"Oh!" Shuichi brightened a little, lying down beside him once more. "Seguchi-san let me stay in one of the courtesy suites at NG! It's really cool – there's room service and satellite TV and a Jacuzzi and a huge stereo system and the internet and a really terrific view of the city, and I have my keyboard there and everything, but… but I just got lonely there on my own… Sakano-san said Seguchi-san didn't want Hiro or even Fujisaki staying over there with me because – well – you know – apparently they've already started gossiping about Hiro and me – can you believe that? Me and Hiro! - but… anyway, I wanted to invite my mum and dad and Maiko, but Seguchi-san paid for them to have two weeks holiday so the reporters couldn't start hassling them too! They didn't want to leave me, of course, but when I thought about it I knew Seguchi-san was right. Seguchi-san's great, isn't he? He really thinks of everything…"

"Yeah," Eiri said with a rush of bitterness. "He certainly does that."

Shuichi fell silent. After a moment, Eiri felt a small hand working its way under his jumper, sliding over his abdomen, tracing the muscular contours of his chest. He felt the weight of Shuichi's head coming to rest upon his shoulder; hair smelling of some fruit scented shampoo brushing against his nose.

"Yuki…"

"Yeah…?"

"Why did you tell those reporters we were lovers?"

Eiri suppressed a groan. They were back to why again. Well then, why? Why, in fact, had Eiri gone home at all that day? He had been warned. If anything, catching sight of his own block on the television in the pharmacy waiting room should have been the most unbelievable stroke of serendipity. He could have called Tohma, got him to use those blasted connections of his to have the whole thing silenced in an hour and hid out somewhere until the coast was clear. If publicity was what NG wanted, they could have turned the whole thing into a deliberate joke – but one that was on the reporters, with Eiri and Shuichi supposedly in the know. Yuki Eiri and Shindou Shuichi? Having a gay affair? Sorry guys, fooled you there! Ha, ha, fucking ha. They could even have got Shuichi to sing a song on live television.

Instead, Eiri had left his mobile switched off and just… gone home.

Why? So that he and Shuichi could meet their doom together?

Yet it had actually felt good to "come out" – not as some newly liberated gay Japanese man, but as Shuichi's lover. He was sick and tired of rumours and gossip, of hints and speculation and outright lies. He had tried leaving Shuichi once to spare them both that sort of crap, and look where it had got them. No, he had had enough of pretending, even to himself, that Shuichi meant nothing, that their time together was meaningless, that it hadn't changed him. From the age of sixteen his whole life had been a tangle of lies and half-truths, rewritten history and reinvented identity, illusion, cover-ups, damage limitation and –

"Bullshit."

"Huh - ?" Shuichi sat up in surprise.

"I was tired of all the bullshit."

"Oh." Shuichi seemed to think this over. "I think that's what Hiro felt, too."

Eiri looked up into Shuichi's eyes, registering the unhappiness there. For the first time, what he had been saying when he had turned up in that stupid costume came together in Eiri's tired brain.

Nakano had quit the band.

"He's just pissed," he declared with a sigh.

"– Huh - ?"

"Nakano. He's just sulking. He'll be back when he's had a chance to check his bank balance."

"Hiro isn't in Bad Luck for the money!" Shuichi cried indignantly, "he was a straight-A student in school – he even got an offer from one of Tokyo's biggest medical schools! He could still be a doctor if he wanted to! He's in Bad Luck because he loves it!"

"If he loves it so much, why'd he quit?"

Shuichi shifted uncomfortably. "I told you – he didn't like what K did – what he and Sakano-san are trying to do now. Using what you said to sell more of the album, I mean."

"Then he really is a child," Eiri muttered.

"Yuki…!"

Eiri thrust an arm irritably over his face. "Look, just stop whining about it! If your beloved Hiro can't cope with a bit of shameless publicity seeking – if that's the worst he thinks the likes of K can pull – then he's in the wrong business and he's got enough sense to realise it. You said yourself my books are selling like hot cakes – if things carry on that way I'll be able to buy myself a Jag to keep the Mercedes company. There's no such thing as bad publicity, right?"

"Is that why you write books, Yuki?" Shuichi asked very softly.

Eiri lowered his arm. "What…?"

"Is that why you write books? So you can afford nice cars?"

Touché, kid, you should take up fencing. Assuming any master in their right mind would let you loose with a rapier…

"Listen… Shuichi…" Using his name usually got his lover's full attention. "You and Nakano might be true musicians, but you're working your way up in the mainstream music industry. And they don't call it an industry for nothing."

"But K – "

"Forget about K! Do you know how many, many Ks are out there in the music industry? For that matter, in any industry where youth is a prerequisite? How many young singers, dancers, musicians, actors, models – whatever - end up on the scrapheap even before they'd finished puberty? I've seen it! I've watched Seguchi break the hearts of boys and girls younger than you with just one of his patronising little smiles and a soft little thank you for coming – and don't tell me you don't know what I'm talking about. If it turns out you're tougher than Nakano, shocking as it seems, then it's time to let him go! You're the real child here if you can't see that!"

Silence.

Eiri blinked. He had expected an explosion of fury, but none came. When he looked into Shuichi's eyes he expected to see them brimming with tears, but they were dry. The sadness went too deep for that.

"You don't understand…" Shuichi's voice came at last in a thin, distant whisper. "Nobody does. The others – K and Sakano and Fujisaki and even Seguchi-san – they think it doesn't matter, that people won't care as long as I'm still there to sing. I mean, they're not saying it to me, yet, but I know they think it. They tried to bring in a session guitarist the other day, but I wouldn't work with him! It's just not the same without Hiro… I think about selling a million copies… I even think about our date," he added reluctantly, "but none of it seems to matter when I think that Hiro won't be there to celebrate with me…"

Eiri hesitated. Perhaps he didn't understand. He had never had a real friend, not even back in school. Mika had been the closest he had had to a friend during his lonely childhood; then there had been Seguchi. But he didn't think either of them counted – he had been raised very traditionally and there was too much dominance and submission involved, the child deferring to the adult, not the give and take of peers. He got on well with Tatsuha, but once again the rules of age applied. His brother might take liberties, address him as "bro" instead of aniki, but underneath it all he was as bound by those constraints as Eiri.

But even if he couldn't empathise, he could begin to appreciate what it meant to Shuichi. He had seen that friendship in action many a time since the day Hiro had turned up at his flat to reproach him – most respectfully – for upsetting Shuichi and Eiri had ignorantly assumed he had just become an unwitting member of some petty gay love-triangle. He had seen them fight and make up; he had seen them exchanging little smiles on stage and trading crappy little in-jokes on the phone.

Something dug into him then, stabbing straight into his gut. Was it jealousy he was feeling? Was it envy? Because Shuichi and Hiro shared something he had never had? Because Shuichi seemed more concerned with Hiro than with him? Because he wanted to come first with Shuichi? Because Shuichi was the closest thing he had ever had to a friend?

Shuichi had turned away from him; his head was bent and his shoulders hunched. Eiri reached out a hand to touch him, but then let it drop to the bed.

Shuichi was fucking with his head again. Why had he even started this stupid conversation? He didn't care if Nakano quit. He didn't care if Nakano entered a monastery or had a sex change or emigrated to China. He had come in here to get some sleep. Now that Shuichi was here to keep him warm he'd sleep just -

"Fine," Eiri growled, "you're right, I don't understand. Your friendship with Nakano is on too high a plane for me to appreciate. Now just come here and keep quiet, or get the hell out. Either way, I'm going to sleep." He rolled over onto his side, facing away from his companion.

He started violently as a surprisingly strong hand pulled him back. Eiri tensed defensively, ready to lash out, but Shuichi was too angry to take heed. He was glaring down at him, fists clenched, face flushed, burning with anger. "Why do you always have to act like such bastard, Yuki?" he demanded, "I really thought… after everything that's happened I thought that you'd started to care about me… and with the date and all…" he paused to wipe roughly at his eyes.

Eiri scowled. Somehow, Shuichi trying not to cry was far more unsettling than Shuichi bawling like a baby. "If you want to know the truth about that…" he began, intending to hurt, but Shuichi cut him off.

"I know K put you up to it," he choked, "I'm not that stupid, Yuki! I was a bit upset when I figured it out, but then Hiro pointed out that at least you'd agreed to take me, and I thought… wow – that means Yuki must really care! And anyway, I'd still get my day out with you no matter who bought the tickets! But it's out of sight out, of mind for you, isn't it? You weren't even pleased to see me this evening! You didn't even kiss me or hug me or anything! You told those reporters we were lovers but you can't even act like a real boyfriend when we're alone together! I'm surprised there wasn't some woman here with you already! One week apart and it's like you've forgotten me!"

Forgotten…

The word froze Eiri's rising anger at once. Slowly he let his muscles relax, both in his body and in his face, sinking almost passively back onto the bed. He saw Shuichi slump in response, his expression a mixture of defiance and contrition.

For a moment neither of them moved any further. Then, very slowly, Eiri reached out a hand and gently drew an unresisting Shuichi down beside him.

"I'm… sorry, kiddo," he said quietly, "one week with hardly any human contact has pretty much screwed my people skills…"

"I… thought you liked being on your own…" Shuichi sniffed.

"I did, until you started fucking with my mind," Eiri answered with genuine bitterness, "I suppose I've got used to your noise…"

Shuichi managed a watery little smile. Eiri kissed him, shifting on the bed until his lover was lying beneath him. The very warmth of him seemed to thaw the shell of ice that had crystallized around Eiri since Shuichi had been gone. The clean scent of his skin, the softness of his hair against Eiri's fingers, the sound of his breathing, pulled Eiri back out of himself. How far inside had he retreated after only one week? There was something familiar about it – in a way Shuichi was right, and he had just reverted to what he had been before Shuichi's influence had begun to change him.

But it was more than that. That spontaneous public confession had drawn him so far out of himself that it had sent a shock jolting through him, making him recoil back inwards as soon as it had passed…

Such self-reassessment could keep. For now, all he knew was how much he had missed this hot, wiry, responsive little body. He pushed up Shuichi's vest and nuzzled his flat belly, tugging slowly at the loose combat trousers. The sooner Shuichi was naked beneath him, the better they would both feel. He needed to have him as close as possible. He needed to be inside him, just to share in his warmth. He had grown so cold without him…

But though Shuichi was absently stroking Eiri's hair, he did not seem to share Eiri's enthusiasm. Eiri put his hand down between Shuichi's legs and found him unresponsive. When he drew back up to look at Shuichi's face, he saw fresh tears.

Eiri sighed deeply. "Come on, Shuichi," he said, "spit it out before you choke on it. What aren't you telling me?"

Shuichi heaved a shuddering sigh. "It's Hiro."

"You don't say."

"The thing is, he told me something… something really mind-blowing … and I don't know what to do about it...!"

"Come on, the suspense is killing me…"

"I can't! It's too private!"

Eiri rolled his eyes. "Oh come on, Shuichi – who the hell am I going to tell? Why would I be bothered to tell anyone?"

"But it's – sort of about you… I mean… it's sort of to do with you… in a way… he's kind of… jealous of you…"

"What's Nakano done?" Eiri smirked, "declared his undying love?"

"Well… yeah. Kind of…"

"WHAT - ?!"

"No – no – I don't mean like that!" Shuichi protested, "not for me, Yuki! For…" he turned his head away, chewing uneasily on his lip. "For Ayaka-chan!"

Eiri stared stupidly at the young man beneath him, trying to take in what he had just heard. He barely even realised Ayaka and Hiro knew each other. Besides, they were worlds apart – Ayaka was a pretty girl and from what Shuichi had told him Hiro had worked his way through a lot of girlfriends, but he could hardly imagine a shy, traditional temple girl being his type.

But then again, if anyone had told him a year ago that his type would be a loud, uncultured, vertically challenged brat of a boy with pink hair and awful dress sense, he would have happily punched out their lights. It was beginning to seem that whatever disorder of the brain that had afflicted him and Shuichi the night they met in the park was dangerously contagious…

Shuichi eyed him dubiously, as if searching for the slightest flicker of jealousy in the eyes of Ayaka's former fiancée. When he was satisfied none would appear, he sighed again. "It's all got so complicated… Hiro says he's jealous of you because he reckons Ayaka-chan still loves you, and every time he sees me it reminds him of you and of her and every time I talk about you and say how great things are with us it gets on his nerves and when he sees us getting on he feels lonely and… and… oh, crap, Yuki, what am I going to do? I love Hiro, you know, I mean – not like I love you, but sort of like he was my brother, if I'd had a brother, and he's always been so good to me, I mean, he always knows how to make me feel better… and I want to do the same for him, but I don't know how, I'm just too selfish!"

"Well, that's true…" Eiri murmured wearily. After one week he had forgotten how many words Shuichi could produce before he had to draw breath.

Shuichi hardly seemed to hear him. "I mean… I didn't notice anything! They sort of hung out together the night she came to Tokyo, and then again after she came to our concert, and then when she came to tell me you'd… you know… proposed to her… and Hiro says they exchanged email addresses or something, and she gave him her mobile number… would she do that if she didn't like him just a little? Man, I don't know anything about girls… I thought of asking Maiko but she's got such a big mouth and I think she has Ayaka's number too… Maybe I should talk to her? Ayaka, I mean…"

"I don't think so…" Eiri rolled off Shuichi, stretching out once more on the bed, suddenly infinitely tired. He had enough trouble trying to make sense of his own feelings these days without trying to fathom someone else's. Besides, it was none of his business.

"Yeah, you're right, that's a crap idea." Shuichi burrowed close once more. For a while he was so quiet and still that Eiri thought he might actually have fallen asleep. But then he gave a small, plaintive sigh. "I guess I really better let you get some sleep now… promise not to work too hard, and remember to eat, huh? I don't think I could get used to a skinny Yuki…" he pressed his mouth softly to Eiri's. "At least I won't be on my own tonight – the night security guard at NG said I could come down to his office and watch his Endurance videos…"

"Stay." The request – sounding more like an order – escaped Eiri's lips before he thought to call it back, his hand locking tight on Shuichi's arm.

Shuichi gaped at him. "But…"

"Look, I'm not Seguchi's brother-in-law for nothing. I'll call him in the morning and tell him to drive off the vultures and have your junk sent back over."

"But – K – "

"Tohma can handle K," Eiri said with assurance. "K might have a magnum, but one of Seguchi's basilisk smiles can make birds in flight drop dead from the sky. Besides, NG's had enough free publicity out of me…"

"Oh Yuki…!" Shuichi whimpered, gazing at him in adoration.

Eiri scowled up at him. "Stop simpering and get undressed, dumbass. You don't think I want you here for the pleasure of your conversation, do you…?"


By the time Eiri had returned from the shower, Shuichi was fast asleep. Eiri lay quietly down beside him and closed his eyes. But though his whole body was throbbing with exhaustion, oblivion was a long time coming.

It wasn't his problem. Nothing to do with Usami Ayaka was his problem anymore. So many years he had spent cutting the threads that bound him to his past and to those who remembered it, only to have Shuichi, who was nothing to do with it, bind him up all over again. What elemental force was it the boy channelled, attracting everyone Eiri knew towards him and through him right back to Eiri? Tohma, Mika, Tatsuha, Sakuma, Ukai Noriko, Ayaka; even Sakano, Fujisaki and K – there was hardly anyone currently trapped in Shuichi's orbit who hadn't first been known to Eiri, who hadn't at least hovered on the periphery of his consciousness. Nakano was the only significant figure Shuichi had brought into Eiri's world – and now Nakano was in love with Ayaka.

There were times when Shuichi seemed less like a boy than an evil spirit bent on some sort of secret mischief. At any rate, Eiri was staying out of this latest twist in the plot. Nakano was Shuichi's problem, not his.

With a soft sigh, Eiri pressed his finger to Shuichi's brow, as if to rub away the faint, troubled frown still lingering upon it.

22/9/07