STORIES by Moon71
SUMMARY: Two years after Eiri confronted his past in New York, Tohma gives him an unexpected – and unwanted – gift...
TIMELINE: Two years after the end of the anime storyline
RATING: K – nothing to worry about
DISCLAIMER: I take no credit for Gravitation – or for Tohma's parenting skills.
FURTHER DISCLAIMER: This is NOT, I repeat NOT Tohma / Eiri. Anyone who thinks they make a "cute couple" needs to visit Eiri's psychiatrist.
NOTES: Thank you once again to everyone who reviewed "Eighth Day." I'm in a hurry and on a borrowed computer, but I promise I will absorb all comments on part 2 when I have a little more time. Meanwhile, as I have this little gap, I decided to go mad and post something else.
This story is another of those odd "born whole" ones with little or no notes. I held up on posting it because I was considering writing a companion piece from Tohma or Mika's POV. I have no idea if that will ever happen so here is the original. I hardly ever "do" Tohma, for want of a better word, because though I have nothing against him and don't see him as The Evil One, I don't find him as fascinating (or as easy to write for) as some of the others! I suppose he does come across as a bit of a psycho-dad here, but I can't help but think that's the sort of father he would be!
"Good morning, Eiri-san… may we come in?"
"Well, actually, I…"
"Oh I know," Seguchi smiled sweetly, "always busy, always busy… but we won't take up too much of your time… and as we're here now…"
Eiri gave a soft sigh and stepped back from the doorway as his brother in law made his way into the flat, pushing the ever-present baby buggy ahead of him.
"Kimi-chan and I were on the way to the park to look at the ducks, and we thought we'd come and see Uncle Eiri, didn't we, my darling…?"
At the sound of her father's voice, Kimiko squealed and clapped her small, chubby hands, giggling as Seguchi bent to lift her out of the buggy and place her on the thick sheepskin rug Shuichi had bought for her to play on when she visited, protesting that she couldn't be expected to crawl on the hardwood floor.
Eiri frowned down at his niece for a moment. It was a strange thing – in the last two years he had made so much progress, had overcome so much of the trauma left behind by his involvement with Kitazawa Yuki. His return to the scene of the crime some six years later had accelerated a healing process already unwittingly begun by Shindou Shuichi the moment he had exploded into Eiri's life; after his return to Japan, the weekly visits to his psychiatrist finally began to produce real, tangible results.
It would surely have been natural for such progress to have brought him closer to his sister Mika and her husband. Eiri had loved them both equally once – he remembered that quite clearly now, and without any real embarrassment. But in a strange way it seemed to have pushed them further apart.
"Shall I make some coffee, Eiri-san?" Tohma prompted politely, disturbing his muse.
"No – no, I'll do it," Eiri murmured, heading towards Shuichi's music room, where there was a small box of toys reserved for Kimiko's visits.
Part of this new distance, Eiri considered as he returned to hand the box to Tohma, was simply that he really was that much better and everyone could see it. And little Kimiko was another contributing factor – that could not be denied. She had been born some ten months after Eiri's second return from New York. Her entrance into the world had finally diverted a good deal of Tohma's obsessively protective paternal instincts away from Eiri – he doted on his daughter, insisting she should want for nothing. He had even granted himself paternity leave from NG and cut his hours once he returned to work. Without Mika's steadying influence Kimiko would be set to become the most spoilt little brat in Tokyo.
But most of all, it was perhaps that Tohma and Mika had finally accepted, as Eiri himself had had to do, that his relationship with Shuichi was far more positive than negative and his presence in Eiri's life had become necessary as well as inevitable. The pestering and cajoling, the endless unannounced visits, even the nagging for Eiri to reconcile with his father, had more or less faded away.
Mika might never be happy with Eiri's flouting of tradition and family duty; she might still worry about Eiri's vulnerability and Shuichi's demands but she had accepted that this was as good as things were going to get.
Tohma, slower than Mika to take exception to Shuichi, was also slower to back off, but after Eiri's resolute return to his young lover with no consequential ill effects even Tohma could not keep up the fight.
Nowadays, if Eiri and Shuichi had a falling out, Tohma was more likely to fight the corner of NG's chart-topping vocalist; if false gossip appeared in the music magazines romantically linking Shuichi to Nakano, Sakuma or a hundred other celebrities, male or female, it was Shuichi Tohma usually acted to protect.
There was a time, Eiri reflected as he watched the coffee brew, when he would have cut off his right foot to be left alone by every member of his family forever. Now it seemed a little… strange.
Eiri poured out two cups of coffee; after a thought, he also retrieved two slices of fresh strawberry shortcake from the refrigerator and loaded them onto a tray. When he returned to the lounge, Tohma was kneeling beside Kimiko, stacking up brightly coloured beakers – yet another gift from "Uncle" Shuichi – which Kimiko immediately knocked down with much giggling and clapping of hands by both father and daughter.
Eiri watched thoughtfully as Tohma rebuilt the tower, only for Kimiko to knock it down once more, and wondered if he'd ever get to the stage of joining in. It was usually Shuichi who got down on his hands and knees, rolling around on the floor with the baby and giggling as wildly as she did, confirming Eiri's private belief they shared a similar mental age.
Eiri did love Kimiko, he was quite certain of that, but he simply did not have the grounding in family life Shuichi did. While Shuichi told joyful stories of Maiko as a toddler, Eiri's own childhood recollections were of loneliness, of alienation growing into a deep mistrust of other children. He had never much cared before. After New York he had pushed ideas of marriage and children far out of his mind, and nothing was likely to change now – he could hardly be expected to start a family with Shuichi.
Maybe when Kimiko was a little older, Eiri could be a better uncle to her – he could read to her and help her with her homework and pick out presents by himself instead of relying on Shuichi's childish imagination to make the right choices…
"How's Mika?" Eiri asked as he placed the tray on the coffee table.
Tohma gave one of those dangerously sweet smiles. "Oh… if you were to ask her, she'd no doubt tell you she was fat, ugly and worn out. For my part, I would say that she's glowing. But the doctors assure us all is going to schedule and both she and the little one are in good health…"
Suddenly Tohma's smile faded. He gave Eiri a quick glance, then drew himself up, leaving Kimiko to play with her beakers and blocks. "I've… brought you a gift, Eiri-san," he said carefully, "I thought the time was finally right."
Nonplussed by this enigmatic statement, Eiri watched silently as Tohma retrieved a plain brown envelope from a bag hooked to Kimiko's buggy. For a moment his brother-in-law seemed to hesitate, his turquoise eyes lowered, his deceptively boyish face suddenly very still. Then he took something from the envelope and handed it to Eiri, sitting down demurely to drink his coffee.
Eiri stared down at the dog-eared notebook Tohma had given him. There was a time when he simply would not have remembered it. Now it caused an instant jolt of recollection which momentarily robbed him of both speech and reason.
"It's stories, Eiri-san," he heard Tohma say quietly, "only stories."
Eiri swallowed hard. Only stories. Meaning no journal entries. No musings or reflections on a teenaged boy's feelings for Kitazawa Yuki… or Seguchi Tohma.
"I… thought… I threw them all away," Eiri finally managed in a thin voice. Damn, he needed a cigarette, baby or no baby, passive smoking or no passive smoking.
Tohma sipped his coffee, keeping his eyes down. "You did. Or at least…" he actually looked a little sheepish. "You threw away all the ones you had with you at the time." His gaze shifted slowly to Kimiko, who was now arranging wooden picture blocks with a look of the gravest attention which reminded Eiri uncannily of Shuichi when he was composing his lyrics. But then again there were many times when Eiri's niece and his lover reminded him of one another – in their sudden, dramatic mood swings; in their total fascination with simplest, stupidest things; most of all in their propensity to begin giggling hysterically for no discernible reason. "You were so shy about reading anyone reading your stories, so when I finally persuaded you to let me read a few of them, I…" Tohma gave a small shrug, "…neglected to give them back. I intended to have them typed up and bound for you to give to Mika-san. It was to be a surprise for you both. I never did get round to it…" he added irrelevantly.
Eiri could not answer. Reluctantly he shifted his gaze to the notebook. He could remember being given it. Thank gods it was Tohma who had bought it for him… and not Yuki. Eiri didn't think he could have coped with the memory of that. But Seguchi Tohma was not that much of a fool. If this had been a gift from Yuki it would never have seen the light of day again.
The clink of Tohma's cup on the coffee table made Eiri jump. Numbly he watched Tohma lift Kimiko from the floor and place her back in her buggy before loading the scattered toys back into their box. "Come on, Kimi-chan," he cooed as the baby protested and tried to escape her confinement, "we're off to see the duckies!"
"Tohma…" Eiri whispered, glancing towards the notebook as if it was a poisonous snake. He wanted to tell him to take it with him, not to leave it here – not to leave Eiri here alone with it. He was half tempted so say he would accompany them to the park, just to get away from it.
"It belongs to you, Eiri-kun," Tohma said gently, pushing the buggy towards the door and pausing to slip on his shoes, "do whatever you think best with it." Favouring him with one of the most natural smiles Eiri had ever seen Tohma produce, his brother in law closed the door behind him.
The first thing Eiri did was stumble out onto the balcony for a cigarette. He had cut down a good deal, mainly due to Shuichi's nagging, but this was no time to be worrying about either his lungs or Shuichi's sensitive vocal cords. When the cigarette was finished, he sat down and ate both pieces of the strawberry shortcake Tohma had declined. Fortified with both nicotine and sugar, he picked up the book once more.
He made a quick decision. Clutching it in a hard, unloving grip, he headed for his study, bending it open to feed it straight into the paper shredder.
Then he stopped. Shredded was shredded. Gone was gone.
With unsteady hands, he lifted up the book once more and looked down at the first page, recognising his own calligraphy only too well. Would he remember what the story was about just by reading the title? Would he recognise his own style? Would he even vaguely recall what was going through his mind when he wrote those stories, where the ideas had come from back then?
Yuki had told him his stories were good. But Yuki, it had to be admitted, probably had ulterior motives, not least the slow, cruel mind-game Eiri's psychiatrist seemed to think he had been playing with an unworldly pubescent boy. Had there been any sincerity in Yuki's praise?
If he destroyed the book now, he would never know.
Eiri slammed the book shut once more and headed out of the study, down the hall into Shuichi's music room. There, hanging on the wall above a table cluttered with electrical cables, music sheets, CDs, writing pads and loose papers covered in scribbled notes, was that picture. Himself at fifteen. When Mika had sent it over, Eiri had refused to let Shuichi hang it anywhere else but here. Now he looked at the shyly smiling boy in the photograph and wondered about what his psychiatrist had said about learning to love the boy he had been.
When she had first started on that, he had been scornful, thinking it was some New Age crap about embracing his inner child. But eventually he had understood what she was getting at. She was right – he didn't love the boy he had been. For a long time he had hated him for killing Yuki. He had blamed him for everything; insisted it had been all the fault of that boy, Uesugi Eiri, that Yuki had felt provoked enough to do what he had done. He had been ashamed of that boy's weakness and naïveté.
Shuichi had changed that, at least to an extent, because Shuichi had quite instinctively made contact with that boy. For Shuichi there was no Uesugi Eiri or Yuki Eiri, there was only the man he loved. And grudgingly, Eiri had been forced to accept that Shuichi was right - that he had never really become a new person. He was still Eiri, still the boy in the picture, whether he liked it or not.
He pressed a hand into his aching eyes. Shuichi. Maybe he could read the stories tonight with Shuichi. They would be crap, of course, but Shuichi would no doubt think they were Nobel Prize material. Maybe with Shuichi cuddling up to him, it wouldn't be so bad.
No… he wasn't ready for that. Not yet.
Better, Eiri decided, to leave it here, on this messy table. Perhaps it would be subducted under all the other junk and forgotten until Shuichi finally got round to clearing up, assuming that ever happened. Maybe it would accidentally be thrown away.
Or maybe Shuichi would read it, and would be able to finally see if Eiri's literary efforts at sixteen had been any better than his own at nineteen.
Eiri moved quietly out of the room, pulling the door shut behind him.