A/N: This is a tad different than my usual fare, but I hope you'll stick around. It's listed under Suguru and Shuichi because they are the main characters, and the story focuses on their friendship, but Yuki will eventually come back into the picture.

Shuichi sat up, a wave of nausea and dizziness causing him to lie back immediately. Squinting painfully against even the dim sunlight that threatened beyond the dark curtains of the room, he began the all too familiar ritual of trying to figure out just where the hell he was.

It was ironic really, he thought, more than a little disgusted with himself as he saw the complete stranger passed out beside him, that he lived more like a stereotypical rock star now that he really couldn't claim to be one. Oh, he was still a celebrity, to go by the tabloids, an infamous train wreck followed by the morbidly curious in grocery store lines, but his failures were his claim to fame these days.

The stranger stirred, as Shuichi managed to find most of his clothes scattered throughout the dingy one room apartment, looking up at blankly for a moment, his long, sloppy hair hanging in his eyes.

"Holy shit," he mused, scratching at his goatee and staring at him. "I was so drunk I thought I'd just brought home some kid who was a dead ringer. But you're the real thing, aren't you?"

Shuichi said nothing, pulling his tee shirt over his head and then sitting on the floor to wrestle with the knee high black leather boot he hadn't yet found the mate for.

"Holy shit," he repeated, his head falling back on the pillow, then turning to look at him with a slightly leering grin. "I gotta say though, I totally remember the sex. Good God."

Shuichi spotted his other boot just under the bed, and pushed a few stray bottles out of the way as he crawled over to retrieve it. He reluctantly looked up at the man as he reached under the bed frame as far as he could.

"I hope you don't mind, consider it flattery or whatever, but to have an ass like yours on tap and give it up, that Yuki guy --" the man began with a laugh.

"Shut up," Shuichi ground out between clenched teeth, as he finally got a grip on the boot. "You've got a good story for your friends, maybe even one to sell to the papers, but I don't want to hear it, so just shut up."

"Touchy little slut, aren't ya?" the man said, shaking his head. "Jeez, I was just trying to let you know you're still good at something. It's not my fault you're all washed up."

Shuichi flinched, hunching his shoulders and stumbling out of the apartment, waiting until he got into the hallway to finish buckling his boots.

Forgoing a rather dubious looking elevator, he took the stairs down to the lobby, where the clock told him it was just past noon. The sunny street outside held just a bit more clarity than he would have liked, and thinking clearly always brought back things that he tried to avoid dwelling on.

"Hey Aki-san," Shuichi muttered irritably at the man who was currently snapping his picture. He used to absently count the flashbulbs as he left the nightclubs, trying to keep his temper. The news that Shindou Shuichi's life of drinking and partying had spiraled out of control must be getting stale. There only seemed to be one now. Aki was still flogging this dead horse for his income, and Shuichi had just given up caring, even going so far as to be civil to his professional stalker.

"Hey there, Shindou," Aki said. "Late night?" Shuichi nodded, looking at the street signs and trying to figure out where the nearest train station was.

"Want to tell me where you'll be tonight and save me some driving around?" Aki asked amiably.

"Your guess is as good as mine," Shuichi said with a shrug.

Shuichi realized to his amazement that he was only a few blocks from his own apartment, as he turned a corner where things were more familiar. A few people glanced at him curiously, seeing him being pursued by the cameraman, and Shuichi held his breath, hoping no one would recognize him or care if they did.

OoOoO

Shuichi stocked up on various junk foods, cheap wine and aspirin at the corner shop on the way home, the man behind the counter always friendly despite always seeing Shuichi looking worse for wear and in last night's clubbing attire.

"You do not eat good. You should get you a nice girl that cooks for you," the man said with a broad smile as he rung up his purchases. Shuichi gave him a bland smile in return, his eyes drawn to the tabloid on the newsstand beside the counter.

Is Yuki Eiri's latest novel of love and loss inspired by former lover? asked a small byline at the bottom corner of the page, beside a publicity still of Yuki taken for the inside of the book's dust jacket. Shuichi rolled his eyes. All of Yuki's books were about love and loss. They had run the same story for the last book Yuki had written since their break-up as well. He noticed that they didn't even bother to use his name or Bad Luck's to get attention anymore.

There was a respectable music magazine beside it on the rack, picturing the familiar face of Fujisaki Suguru. He looked into the camera with an ironic smirk, pushing up the brim of the unmistakably symbolic purple fedora hat he wore. Brilliant producer Fujisaki Suguru speaks with us of the stumbling blocks to fame and on stepping out of his famous cousin's shadow, read the headline. Well, at least one of us made it, Shuichi thought to himself. There was a blurb on Ryuichi's latest film overseas as well, he noted, adding the magazine to his purchases.

"Oh, so you are a music fan, I see," the man said, ringing up the magazine.

"Yeah, something like that," Shuichi said, thanking the man and paying him.

He walked across the street and climbed the steps to his apartment, balancing the heavy, clinking shopping bag on his hip as he fished out his key.

Inside, he sat the bag on a low table in front the futon that served as both sofa and bed, stripping down to his boxers and tee shirt before sitting on the floor between them. His cell phone laid nearby, charging at the wall outlet, and he reluctantly unplugged it to check his messages. He almost never took it with him when he went out anymore.

There was one call from Maiko, and one from Hiro that he'd never gotten around to erasing that was nearly a month old. He played it again, listening to Hiro ask if he wanted to come out to Kyoto and see the house he and his wife Ayaka had moved into. He'd never returned the call.

He pulled out the contents of the bag and spread them on the table, unscrewing one of the wine bottles and pouring himself a drink in his favorite mug, which was still left out from yesterday, before opening the magazine he'd bought.

Ryuichi's new movie had wrapped, the article said, and there was already buzz about how well he'd done as a cynical anti-hero in the gritty, dystopian sci-fi thriller. Shuichi tried to wrap his head around the thought of Ryuichi playing such a role convincingly, when he saw that the article also mentioned that the former Nittle Grasper vocalist was returning to Tokyo to do promotional work. Well, that ruled out one of his comfort zones. Ryuichi tended to favor the clubs in Roppongi these days when he was back in town, and Shuichi didn't want to run into him. The last time had been humiliating enough.

Shuichi had tried to avoid the corner of Gaspanic where Ryuichi was playing court to his mostly American entourage, when he'd been spotted and asked to join them. The party moved on to several other hotspots before winding down in Ryuichi's suite in one of the nicest hotels in the city. Reiji and Ryuichi had fawned upon him, and it had been great. He'd truly felt like he were somebody again for a few hours.

High on his newfound confidence and more than a few drinks, he'd been more than receptive to Ryuichi's advances once the others had left. The evening had left him starry-eyed and hopeful in a way he had never felt with anyone else but Yuki, and he found himself awake long before Ryuichi in the morning, watching his lover sleep and wondering if XMR had any interest in drawing up another contract. He'd been scribbling the lyrics for the first song he'd written in over a year, when Ryuichi woke and looked at him a little sadly before telling him it was time for him to go back to America.

It could have been worse, Shuichi thought to himself, as he poured another drink, and flipped the page so quickly that he almost ripped it. He'd come very close to revealing his pathetically naive little daydream of following him back to Los Angeles, when he realized the sad look in Ryuichi's eyes had been disappointment. He hadn't lived up to the expectations of being the heir to Sakuma's legacy. He'd blown it.

He looked at the large glossy photos of Suguru which framed his cover story, which were more shots from the front's photo session. He looked a little older, of course, but his face had lost some the solemn edge that he remembered from the studious young keyboardist. He scanned the article, which talked about Suguru's recent success in producing several of the hottest albums on the charts. He read more closely when he saw Bad Luck mentioned.

"CT: Do you miss the camaraderie of working with a band, like you did with the wildly successful Bad Luck?

FS: (laughs) Not really. I've always been a bit of a loner, I suppose. I certainly don't miss touring. I enjoy working with new artists on their albums, don't get me wrong, but being in a band is like a marriage, you know? There's just too much drama, too much personal involvement.

CT: There has been a lot of speculation on what caused the group's downfall after such a promising start. Was it Nakano Hiroshi's early retirement and marriage? The breakup of Shindou Shuichi and Yuki Eiri? What is your take?

FS: See, that's just the sort of thing I was talking about. All these personal things interfere with the music. I've avoided talking about Bad Luck's break-up with the press, but since it's been a few years, and the wounds aren't as fresh, I'll indulge you.

I never enjoyed working with Shindou. He was unreliable, and his mood in the studio was always dictated by whatever was going on with Yuki-san. It was very unprofessional, and the way everyone around us would coddle and indulge him used to infuriate me. But he is incredibly talented. That's why I stuck around even when I wanted to get out of it. Well, that, and my cousin (Seguchi Tohma) had given me the job as a favor. (laughs)

But, I was really surprised with his behavior when they split up. In fact, I was even impressed. For the first time, Shindou really put on a brave face and came into the studio to work. I think that last album would have been our best, if things had happened differently after that.

CT: You mean Nakano leaving the band.

FS: Exactly. (nods) Honestly? I don't like to speculate about the feelings of others as a rule, but -- Well, let's just say that I think Hiroshi leaving hurt him (Shindou) more than whatever happened with him and Yuki-san. Because by that point the was just barely hanging on, you know? It was really like someone pulling the rug from under him. He just sort of wandered away, lost interest after that. He got back together with Yuki-san for a little while, and even that didn't seem to help, and of course, they officially broke up shortly after that. The album got completed, so our contract was fulfilled, but it got shelved. His heart just wasn't in it anymore.

CT: Have you kept in touch with either of them?

FS: No.

CT: The tabloids have been reporting for some time that Shindou has given himself over to a life of drinking and partying. Do you think he's on a path to self-destruction?

FS: That's really none of my business.( pauses) I hope not."

Shuichi reread the interview, then closed the magazine. The phone rang, startling him. He plucked it up from the table and answered.

"Hey," Yuki said.

"Yuki?" Shuichi whispered. His heart thudded heavily in his chest.

"Yeah, it's me. Look, I -- I just wanted to know how you are," Yuki said, his voice slightly slurred.

"You're drunk," Shuichi said. Yuki gave a joyless laugh and sighed.

"Yeah, I hear the same thing about you these days," Yuki said.

"What do you care?" Shuichi asked.

"I don't. Fuck you, then. Go drink yourself to death for all I care," Yuki muttered, then added more softly, "Thought you were the strong one."

"Well, I guess you were wrong," Shuichi said, his head beginning to swim. Shuichi heard voices in the background on Yuki's end.

"I've got to go. I just wanted to know how you're doing, moron," Yuki said, and hung up the phone.

Shuichi took a deep breath, and waited for the tears to come, but they didn't. He just felt numb.