I don't own Gravitation or any of the characters, just the plot.

"That sucked." Shuichi had been watching, and unfortunately listening, to Hiro and Suguru play purposely in opposition to one another all morning. He wasn't making any headway with writing. He had a feeling that the few lines he'd scribbled were taken from the passionate throes of the heroine's heartbreak in Yuki's last book. Mostly he was doodling.

"Well have you got any inspirational lyrics to share with us, oh great leader?" Hiro snapped. He was glaring at Suguru's back on the other side of the room.

"How am I supposed to write with the racket you two are making? Isn't the point to play together?" Shuichi was equally irritable. Suguru remained silent, a true testament to how tightly he was wound, and his playing was terrible, an even grimmer sign of his mood.

"Suguru, stop. Stop!" Suguru let up his relentless torture of the keys. "I can't even think." Shuichi was dying to ask his friends what had happened to have torn them apart not only as a couple but as band mates and friends. It didn't seem like bringing it up would make them more productive, though.

"Hiro, can you play something—I don't know—something good?" Suguru whipped around, offended at Shuichi apparently taking sides. Hiro turned so that he couldn't see his ex and closed his eyes for good measure, determined to rub the moment in Suguru's face.

The guitarist plucked at his strings, and played a little bit of nothing before letting his fingers carry him into one of the first songs he'd written with Suguru a couple of years ago. When he realized what he was playing he thought to stop, but the musician in him finally overrode his brain and simply played.

Shuichi was grateful to hear something familiar and well played. He watched his best friend, who was smiling to himself. Suguru had turned back around and was leaning against his keyboard. Shuichi looked away when he saw a tremor pass through his shoulders. Hiro finished the song and after a moment looked up.

"Thank you," Shuichi said, putting all of his heart into it. "So you haven't forgotten how to play." Hiro shook his head.

"How about you, Suguru?" Shuichi asked. "Have you got anything over there?"

Suguru put his hands to the keys without a word. He hovered there a minute, whatever he was feeling hidden from both of them, and then took a deep breath and began with another song they'd written together. Shuichi looked at his friend, but Hiro wouldn't meet his eyes. The guitarist lifted his instrument and jumped in. Suguru faltered at the intrusion but recovered, and they played out the song together.

Shuichi thought it had never been played better. He was sure when they finished that their eyes would meet, they embrace, and all would be forgiven. He was wrong. After their duet, it was impossible for them to ignore each other, but trying to work together from opposite ends of the room without looking at or speaking to each other was as much as they could manage. Even then there were times when Shuichi thought they were on the verge of yelling at each other there was so much tension, but they would deteriorate into angry, discordant musical battles. The following silence would eventually be broken by the caution, halting beginning again.

After what had to be hours Surugu turned his keyboard around and took out a pen. There was no point to losing what little productive work was coming out of the day. Hiro also got more serious about what he was doing. A few times they sounded really good, but Shuichi wasn't getting any inspiration from the slow mending of his friends' relationship to the point where they could at least work together.

Shuichi tried to stop paying attention to them, but that meant the only other person in the room to focus on was himself. He couldn't feel his butt because he'd been sitting down for so long, but he didn't want to stand. He was exhausted from not sleeping, but he still didn't think he'd even be able to take a cat nap. Never before had he been unable to shut his brain off when he wanted peace. His thoughts were still too jumbled to make sense, and his insides were just as disturbed.

Shuichi paused. No, he didn't feel sick to his stomach. His stomach was rumbling, almost as loud as Hiro's guitar in his ear. He imagined it was already well into the night and they had been locked in the studio all day, guarded by a crazy man with an assault rifle.

"I'm starving," Shuichi said, throwing himself onto the table. Hiro and Suguru stopped playing.

"Have you written anything?" Hiro asked.

"Shuichi shifted to lay on top of his notebook. "I can't write on an empty stomach.

"I hardly think it's harder than playing on an empty stomach, and we haven't had anything to eat, either," Suguru said. He started playing again, but Hiro put his instrument down and sat beside Shuichi at the table, also slumping forward so they were more or less eye to eye.

"How you holding up, buddy?" he said, his face pressed against the table.


"Oh, yeah?"

Hiro pulled out Shuichi's notebook from under his arms. He smirked at the flaming ashtray and the herd of rainclouds taking up most of the page, surrounded and covered by mindless spirals and circles shaped like hearts.

"Still having trouble in paradise?"

Shuichi shook his head. Hiro had the tact not to pry. Shuichi watched his best friend rest his head in his hands and desperately wanted to ask him about Suguru, but couldn't find the words of think of how to do it without alerting the keyboardist. Hiro looked a lot calmer than he had that morning, though. He was almost smiling as he added a few of his own doodles to the page.

Shuichi looked around to find Suguru and jumped when he found the younger man behind him. He didn't look any happier than he had earlier, in fact he looked more sour, but Shuichi could have kissed him because he was holding a bag of potato chips and a bottle of coke.

"Here, if you're really not going to work otherwise." Shuichi didn't need to be invited again. Surugu sat down as well, and Shuichi was the only person who didn't feel incredibly uncomfortable and was even able to think about his stomach.

"You guys want any?" Shuichi said, offering the bag to Hiro with his mouth full.

"Go ahead. I don't care," Suguru said, looking at the wall. Hiro felt obligated to eat after that, though his mouth felt like he'd been chomping sand all morning. Suguru took a swig of Coke and Hiro cursed him, not wanting to drink after him despite his dry throat. It was a ridiculous hand up after everything they'd done together, but it was obvious to Hiro that Suguru no longer felt the same about him and he didn't want to be the one hanging on.

No one said anything until the chips and Coke were gone, and Shuichi suddenly felt all of the awkwardness of the situation.

"You guys sounded great," he said, forcing a laugh. "Do you think you got anything?"

"No." Suguru said.

At the same time Hiro answered, "Maybe."

They looked at each other.

"Maybe." Suguru looked away.

"Great." Shuichi answered. "At this rate, we should be out of here by-"

Suguru stood up. Shuichi, who was sitting closer, saw his upset face before he turned his back on the table. Hiro wanted to stand, too, but made himself stay in the chair. Suguru wanted space.

"Suguru-" Suguru waved over his shoulder. He was practically running to the door. His slim shoulders were trembling again. He slammed the door behind him and Shuichi and Hiro waited to hear him scuffle with K and to be marched back in. After a minute of heavy silence it seemed like that wasn't going to happen. Shuichi looked at Hiro, who looked between him and the door, and then ran out after Suguru.

Hiro smashed the buttons on the elevator, hoping his impatience would result in it going faster. When it opened onto the main lobby he saw Suguru standing just on the other side of the glass doors in the falling dusk.

He didn't think about what to say. He burst onto the street, startling Suguru but not, to his amazement, causing him to turn around and run. He wiped at his nose and tried to compose himself in front of Hiro.


"I'm sorry." He was sorry about everything. For pressuring the younger man into a relationship he'd been unsure about, about being his first, about falling in love with him, about not stopping him from leaving, about eating his stupid chips. But all he could manage was I'm sorry.

"It's not your fault." Hiro thought he couldn't be more shocked. Suguru almost smiled at him. He wasn't happy, but he didn't look angry like he had all day, either. "I just—need to get some rest. Let's try harder tomorrow, okay?"

Hiro would try anything with Suguru. He nodded and Suguru turned to walk home.

"Do you—want a ride? Or-" He swallowed hard. "To go get something to eat?"

He was pushing again. Suguru declined more politely than he needed to and Hiro let him go. He walked back to his bike feeling miserable, but he resolved to only let himself wallow until he got home, and then to savor the experience of talking to Suguru again and get started writing to show him he was willing to work together.

Shuichi gave them what he hoped was enough time before he left the studio. He looked around the hall, up and down the stairs and in the elevator lobby but saw no signs of K. He wondered how long ago he'd left. He took the elevator to the main lobby and saw through the glass doors as he stepped out that the sun was just setting. They really had spent all day working, and didn't have much to show for it. He went slowly, his eyes and ears open for Suguru and Hiro so he could avoid them if they were still around, but he didn't see either one.

Shuichi hadn't realized that he didn't have a ride. Tashimi's would take forever to walk to, or he could call a cab, but while he was out he might as well get dinner. He didn't know what in particular he was hungry for, so he walked a few blocks to a strip of restaurants, most of which Yuki had taken him to. He let his hungry stomach lead him to one of his favorites, a small French place where the only lights were from candles. He thought sitting along and eating in the dark would suit his mood.

Without a reservation he had to use his real name with the maitrede. He cringed at the excited shudder of recognition and asked for a private table. He was grateful to be seated at the back of the restaurant. Maybe eating out was a bad idea. His waiter, however, was either more reserved or didn't watch a lot of music television, because he kept his composure while he offered Shuichi the wine list and menu.

Shuichi wasn't sure now why he'd picked a French restaurant. The last time he'd been here the only thing he liked was the dessert. There had been too many other things on his plate distracting him from the fish he ordered, which was only adequate. Yuki ordered duck, which he flatly refused to try.

Does it taste like chicken?

No. It tastes like duck. Just try it.

Shuichi had stubbornly refused like a four year old when Yuki held the duck to his lips. With an irritated sigh Yuki had taken the bite away, and he only warmed up again when they split a creme brulee.

Shuichi ordered the duck and asked for a glass of wine that the chef recommended. There, he could do this on his own, and he could act like a mature adult about it, too. He could be a mature adult.

He dug his shoe toe into the wood floor and tried to keep himself from fidgeting. Okay, so it was hard to sit in a fancy restaurant alone. He was the only table with an occupant of one, and despite it being early for a candlelit dinner most of the tables were full. He stopped looking around when one man across the room caught his eye and tilted his head in a too-friendly manner.

Resigned, he pulled out the notebook with his doodles and turned to a fresh page. He stared glumly at the empty chair across from him and put his pen to the paper with the intention of drawing the chair, but instead he started writing. They weren't exactly lyrics, it was more like a rush of emotions in the form of words that he felt at the absence of Yuki's presence, of any presence. He felt alone, and it had been a long time since he'd ever been alone. He was still on a role when the waiter brought out the wine, and shortly afterwards his duck. Only then did Shuichi put down the pen.

Taking a deep breath, he picked up a knife and fork and closed his eyes to take the first bite of duck. It tasted...like duck. And it was good. He opened his eyes and smiled at the empty chair. A little wine and a little duck and a little writing. What a perfectly lovely evening. The only thing that could make it better was creme brulee, which he ordered when he felt like he'd burst from anymore poultry. He couldn't finish the dessert by himself and gave up before he made himself sick. He didn't feel quite ready to leave, though, and asked for a cup of coffee and to be left alone for a while. Apparently the waiter had recognized him, or was used to pushy customers, and he made no remarks.

Shuichi wrote while his candles burned down in front of him. He filled several pages by the time he'd drunk two cups of coffee and urgently had to use the bathroom. He took his notebook with him and when he came back, feeling greatly relieved and ready to continue, the waiter was seating someone else at his table. The waiter saw him and visibly paled.

"Oh, sir, I'm so sorry. I thought you'd left. I'll get you the next available table. I'm terribly sorry." The couple he was seating watched with interest as the waiter practically got on his knees before Shuichi.

"No, that's fine. I was just going. Enjoy your meal." He nodded to the couple and pulled out a tip for the waiter, which he had to shove in his pocket to get him to take, all the while listening to him apologize. At his insistence, he let the waiter phone him a cab and said he would wait outside to get away from him.

Back on the street with the sun completely down now, Shuichi was tempted to just walk. He already thought he might be worrying Tashimi by staying out so late. He wasn't in a hurry to get back to the couch, though. Maybe he could call up Hiro and go out for a few drinks.

After their day in the studio Shuichi didn't think Hiro would want to drink. He was never the kind to drown his sorrows. Shuichi tried to cheer himself up as he waited for the cab. He didn't need to drink. He'd go home and shower, then try to get something concrete down to take into the office in the morning. He wasn't going to think about Yuki all night and feel sorry for himself for the situation he'd gotten into.

However, a part of him was already tired of being a mature adult about the situation. He only hoped that soon that last vestige of his immature self would go away.

I'm sorry, I don't know how I reach the end of a chapter and nothing earth shattering has happened. For all you readers, I'm updating more frequently than I normally would, so I hope you're not bored to death at the pace the story is moving at. This story is much more about what goes on inside the characters' heads, and complicated things like relationships and identity always take a long time to figure out. Hang in there.