Title: The More Things Change
Author: Hawk Clowd
Disclaimer: Gravitation is the creative property of one Maki Murakami, and she's welcome to it. All I ask is the opportunity to play around with 'em a little bit.
Blood Type: Coffee (black and sweet).
Warnings: Over-thinking and under-sexing.
Author's Notes: This story is my response to a prompt posted by Aira-chan. Aira, I hope this is everything you wanted it to be. Thank you for offering up such a delicious prompt! Also, I'd like to extend my thanks to DC and Ash, who both read the beginning of this over and gave me ideas for the end.
He didn't know what he'd expected, really, when he got up to answer the door, but it certainly wasn't this. He hesitated, not able to tear his eyes away, and stood there for a long while with the door half-open and mouth hanging agape before he found his voice.
Eiri - looking every bit as gorgeous and sex god-esque as he had when they'd broken up six years ago - nodded his head. "Hello," he answered, and let himself into Shuichi's hotel room.
It was everything he remembered, give or take a few breathless moans and the improvement of his own stamina. Eiri was just as handsy, just as insistent as he'd always been, and when they were finally through they both had to pant, side by side, for a long while before either had breath to speak.
Eventually, Shuichi turned his head to look at him. "You can't just waltz in here and expect me to open my legs for you any time you want, you know."
He was already reaching for a cigarette. "Could have fooled me."
"Asshole." He shut his eyes. "How did you know I was here?"
Eiri ignored the question and took his sweet time lighting his cigarette. "How long are you in Japan?"
"Just a month."
He nodded. "Okay."
They met for coffee the next day. Or, rather, Shuichi was out to get coffee when Eiri suddenly showed up behind him and paid for both orders before he could protest.
"You didn't have to do that," Shuichi insisted as Eiri steered him toward a table. "I can get my own drinks."
He shrugged. "I did it anyway."
Shuichi sighed, but he let it go and took his seat.
"How's your latest book coming?"
It was their third coffee "date" this week, and the third time Eiri had picked up the tab even in spite of Shuichi's protests. Still, he found himself at the cafe at the same time every morning, already looking for Eiri the moment he stepped through the door. And, sure enough, Eiri always showed, oftentimes just moments later and with his wallet open.
Shuichi wasn't sure if it was creepy or sweet.
Eiri frowned and set down his coffee. "I'm between books at the moment."
"Oh." He nodded his understanding. "Writer's block, huh?"
"No." The look he shot Shuichi was one of exasperation, not annoyance. "I don't get writer's block."
Shuichi opened his mouth to argue, and Eiri hurried to clarify.
Another week went by, punctuated by "chance" meetings and coffee, and though Shuichi protested each time Eiri paid the bill, he found himself settling into the routine. It was a dangerous road, and on one particularly hot, sticky day it led to his inviting Eiri to his hotel room. Just to escape the heat, he said, but they both knew better, really, and by the time they were through it was just as hot and sticky inside as out.
Shuichi rolled to his side to face Eiri, careful not to get so close that they could touch skin to skin. Maybe it was a ridiculous precaution, but it peaked with every bead of sweat and heightened nerve ending along his body.
"Have you been seeing anyone?"
Eiri didn't even look at him. "What sort of question is that?"
He shrugged. "A good one," he offered. "I want to know just how grateful I should be that you still carry around emergency condoms."
"So are you seeing someone?"
"Like, six someones though, right?"
He knew the writer's annoyed look altogether too well. "Yes. Like, six someones."
Shuichi nodded. "Yeah," he said. "Me, too."
Another three days.
"We shouldn't do this."
"We broke up. Years ago."
"We aren't the same people we used to be."
Eiri, his hands already under Shuichi's shirt, paused for just a moment. "We'll see."
They weren't, either. Almost two and a half weeks of coffee and sporadic sex proved that. Shuichi found himself more willing to let Eiri's eccentricities pass without comment. Eiri was almost eerily patient, and even when Shuichi caught himself blathering about nothing in particular - a habit that even at thirty-four he hadn't been able to break - Eiri didn't so much as roll his eyes. He just... listened.
"Pop quiz," Shuichi said, immediately after finishing a long ramble about California's influence on music and movies and, indirectly, his own career.
Eiri arched an eyebrow.
"What was I just talking about?"
The corner of Eiri's mouth quirked up, but the man hid what might have been a smile by raising his coffee cup to his lips. "I've no idea."
All right, so maybe Eiri hadn't changed that much.
"I didn't know you liked museums."
Shuichi shrugged, leading the way toward the Heiseikan exhibit. "You never asked me, either." Though, in truth, Shichi hadn't realized he'd liked museums until he visited the ones in New York City. The Whitney, the Guggenheim, the Met... It wasn't long before he was completely hooked, and Ryuichi - thrilled that his protege had taken him up on his offer to reinvent Shuichi and make him an overseas sensation - had been more than willing to indulge him.
Shuichi's first movie had featured exhibits from the National Gallery of Art. He doubted Eiri knew that, or that he cared.
Eiri nodded thoughtfully. "What else do you like?"
For the next three hours, Shuichi told him.
Instead of keeping track of how long he'd been there, Shuichi found himself counting the days he had left in Japan. Twelve days left. Eleven days. Ten.
On day nine, Shuichi had his coffee alone. He waited all day - or at least as long as the cafe would let him sit there, which turned out to be five and a half hours. The cafe didn't mind his being there, really; in those five plus hours, old fans and new ones spied Shuichi through the window and came inside. Some of them were subtle about it: they bought their drinks and sat down close by. Others were more obvious and rushed up to Shuichi to beg for autographs and pictures.
He put up with it, smiling indulgently the whole time. For five and a half hours, he quoted lines from his movies, offered up harmless celebrity gossip, and let them fawn. He must have met a hundred people, and Eiri never showed.
With only four days left, Eiri showed.
"Where were you?" Shuichi demanded. The lines were long today, and he didn't miss the queue of now-familiar faces in front of him, all turning to steal glimpses and then quickly look away.
Eiri frowned, scrutinizing the menu. Shuichi didn't know why he bothered; the man always ordered the same thing: coffee, black, sweet. "I was busy."
"Yeah, well, my time is important, too, you know. Did you think of that?"
"No one asked you to wait around."
They'd had almost exactly this fight before, at least twice. The last such fight had ended a nearly ten-year relationship; Shuichi had walked out and flown to the United States the very next morning. But, then, his pop-star career had been in the toilet and Eiri was still riding an all-time high. Between that and almost ten years of having to fight one another just to hold things together, it was no wonder they'd fallen apart.
Things were different now, but for all that they were still very much the same.
"You're such an asshole," he snapped. "What were you trying to do, punish me? Because I'm not going to take that shit from you, you know. I didn't before and I'm sure not going to do it now. I don't need you."
"Apparently." He ordered their drinks - both of them - and took out his wallet.
Shuichi snatched it away. "And stop paying for me all the time!" He slapped down his own money, waiting until the wide-eyed barista took it and started to make change before giving the wallet back to its owner. "I'm not a little kid and I'm not in the poorhouse and you're not doing me any favors, so stop it."
Eiri frowned. "It's only coffee."
"It's not just that and you know it." Shuichi took his drink the second the cup hit the counter, stepping away from Eiri. "You can't do this to me again."
"I'm not doing anything. You're blowing this out of proportion."
He was, maybe, but it was hard to stop. He'd spent most of their relationship bottling up his frustration, too concerned with Eiri's psyche and Eiri's feelings and Eiri Eiri Eiri, and now, all of a sudden, he found himself right back where he'd started.
Shuichi looked away. "You should never have knocked on my door."
He wasn't sure how he'd thought Eiri would respond to that. In the earlier stages of their relationship, the man would have kissed him. That had always been Eiri's catch-all solution: it kept Shuichi quiet and it kept Eiri from getting too mad. Closer to the end, Eiri would have said something scathing, continuing and exacerbating the fight. But all that was six years ago. Now...
Now, Eiri nodded. "I shouldn't have," he agreed. Without another word, he turned and left, leaving Shuichi in the middle of the cafe with a spare cup of coffee (black, sweet) and nothing to say.
Somehow, that was worse than his not showing up at all.
He'd been happy. Nearly a month ago, when Eiri had knocked, he'd been happy. Confused as anything, sure, but he'd been thrilled to see his ex-lover, to talk to him again, to feel his body against his own. He'd entertained ideas of their becoming friends. They were more like equals now than they had been as a couple, and the time they'd spent apart had surely just made them more interesting.
He hadn't expected them to fall right back into their old routines. He hadn't expected that he'd once again be playing the role of the love-sick lover, waiting alone in the cafe. He'd outgrown all that. He'd been in - he'd flourished in - stable, happy relationships. That Eiri could just show up and all but undo six years of his life... It was sick. It was sick and it was depressing, and with three days and four hours left to him in Japan, he tried to convince himself that that was why the hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach wouldn't go away.
This was a bad idea. It was a horrible idea. He dragged his feet with every step he took down the longer-than-he-remembered-it hallway toward Eiri's apartment door. He wasn't sure what he planned to say: after spending most of two days locked in a hotel room, he wasn't even sure he knew his own thoughts anymore. He couldn't leave things unresolved like this, though. Not again. That was what had caused all this trouble in the first place.
He'd gone over the various scenarios in his head dozens of times. Eiri would open the door and either Shuichi's regrets or his anger would get the best of him. He'd cry or he'd scream, and Eiri, not wanting to air their grievances in such a public setting, would invite him in. The apartment would be exactly the same as before, since Eiri was loathe even to replace broken appliances or worn-out furniture when it needed it, and it would only be moments before they fell into bed together and start this whole mess over again.
He hadn't even knocked yet, and Shuichi could already feel resentment start to roil in his gut. He'd always hated the hold Eiri had on him. One look, one touch, one word, and Shuichi had always run right back to him. Leaving the first time had been the hardest thing he'd ever done, harder even than getting the writer to let him in in the first place. He'd never had an easy time refusing Eiri. That was a part of him he wasn't sure would ever change.
The man who answered the door was not Eiri. He'd never even heard of Eiri, and he'd lived in that apartment for over two years. He was sorry, but he wasn't sure how to reach the previous tenant, or who the tenant even was. He wished Shuichi the best of luck, though, and shut the door on him.
As Shuichi walked away, the knot in his stomach unraveled and he couldn't help but be a little bit relieved.
His plane was scheduled to leave at six-thirty in the morning so that he could be back home in time for a magazine interview that night, and he arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Biting back a yawn, he sought out the nearest coffee kiosk and ordered a drink.
He felt rather than saw eyes boring into his back, and he sighed. "Seguchi somehow got a copy of my itinerary and gave it to you, didn't he? This is way too much to be just a coincidence."
Eiri stepped up to order a coffee of his own. "I don't know what you mean."
"Of course you do." Shuichi frowned. "Look, if you have something to say, just get it over with. I have to be on a plane in a minute."
"Back to New York?"
The question didn't warrant an answer, and he didn't offer one. "What do you want?"
"Nothing." Eiri paused, almost imperceptibly. "Just to see you again."
He spread his arms. "Well, here I am. Are you enjoying the view?"
When the writer answered, he just sounded tired. "It's one I've rather missed."
It was the closest Eiri would come - had ever come - to admitting to missing him, and Shuichi nodded his understanding. "Can I ask you something?"
Shuichi ran a hand through his hair. "Why did you let me leave?"
"Six years ago, you mean." When Shuichi nodded, Eiri shrugged. "At the time, I believe I thought it was a good idea."
"I still think it was a good idea."
"Jerk." But Eiri was right, maybe: he'd needed those years. He'd spent so much time existing just for Eiri's sake that he'd forgotten he needed space to grow. That they'd both needed it. And in the six years since, he'd clawed and scratched his way back to where he'd needed to be.
The barista called up their coffee orders, but neither moved to take them.
"I'm going to go back home, you know. To New York."
"I think... I think maybe we outgrew each other."
Shuichi hesitated, but nodded. "I kind of do."
"I'm not sure I agree."
He frowned and picked up his coffee. "What?"
"We grew. I don't know if we outgrew each other."
Shuichi hesitated for a long while, not sure what to say, and then made a show of checking his watch. He still had nearly half an hour, but... "I need to go. My flight is going to start boarding any minute now."
He gaped at him, searching his face for any hint - any clue - as to what he should do. Eventually, though, he shook his head. "No," he answered. He stepped forward and pressed a light kiss to Eiri's cheek. The writer didn't move away.
"Goodbye," Shuichi murmured, and left.
It wasn't until his plane had actually taken off that Shuichi realized he'd grabbed Eiri's coffee by mistake. He didn't even like his coffee black and sweet, and he'd drunk over half the cup without even noticing.
He drank the rest just because it was there, and he idly wondered how Eiri had liked his coffee with caramel and extra cream.
He wasn't sure what he'd expected to see when he opened his apartment door, but he knew it wasn't this. Trying not to look surprised, he cleared his throat.
"Hi," Shuichi answered, offering up a sheepish, uncertain smile.
Eiri considered him for a very long while, making note of the suitcase at his feet and his rumpled, travel-worn clothing, and then stepped aside. "You're welcome to come in, if you'd like."
And Shuichi did.