CHAPTER 19: MUSIC At last Eiri and Shuichi are together again… but there is still the future to consider…

NOTE: Thank you to all of you who have stuck through the delays – I really hope you've enjoyed this story. I write them because I like writing them, but I post them because (I hope…!) they entertain others! Have a truly brilliant, happy, healthy and peaceful New Year!

It was still barely light. The relative quietness of a city usually echoing deafeningly with the combined noise of its inhabitants was almost eerie. Eiri lit his cigarette and looked down at the street below, where what looked like a large marmalade cat was padding silently across the deserted road. At such moments, one could have the strangest fancies – could begin to imagine that he and that orange cat were the only two creatures alive.

But then Shuichi appeared beside him and the spell was broken. The young musician had wrapped himself in a simple black kimono of what appeared to be fine wool – it looked smart on him, but Eiri rather missed the vests and boxer shorts Shuichi had used to sleep in when he was living with him; they showed a great deal more.

Shuichi held out a steaming cup of black coffee, which Eiri gratefully accepted. He was still sleepy – after all, they had reached here in the early hours and spent a good while getting reacquainted though Shuichi had slept afterwards, Eiri had gone straight for the shower, driven not so much by habit as by a sudden diffidence; the sense of vulnerability in being in someone else's home persisted even after he and Shuichi had slept together. Shuichi looked up and smiled at him before leaning on the balcony rail gazing outwards.

"Nice view," Eiri commented.

Shuichi made a non-committal gesture. "I always liked the view from your old place," he murmured, taking a sip of coffee.

"We could probably move back there if you like it that much..." Eiri spoke without thinking; it was only when Shuichi gave him an odd look that he noticed the presumption his words implied.

Shuichi appeared to consider this for a moment; then he sighed and shook his head. "No... we can't go back."

Eiri looked away in embarrassment, infuriated to feel his cheeks growing hot. He hadn't asked what Shuichi intended to do next – during the tour or after. In point of fact, he had positively been avoiding the subject, not sure if he wanted to hear Shuichi's response. So much remained undecided, and the time suddenly seemed so short. He took a large gulp of hot coffee and a deep drag on his cigarette and tried to steady his nerves before he said something else completely stupid. "No, I guess not."

Shuichi's hand closed over Eiri's on the balcony rail. "But that doesn't mean we can't go forward... together..."

Eiri felt the pain in his chest ease away. Finding himself lost for words, he returned Shuichi's grip in silence.

"Anyway," Shuichi continued suddenly, "I like this place... and there's a spare room... it might… you know… make a good office..."

"What do you need an office for?" Eiri gave Shuichi a crooked smile. "Are you starting a business or something...?"

"Eiri!" Shuichi kicked him. "You jerk – you know perfectly well what I mean!"

"Well... I suppose I could house-sit for you while you're on tour..."

"You... could come with us, you know..."

Eiri glanced at his companion, but Shuichi was now staring fixedly into his coffee cup. Frowning, the writer crushed out his cigarette and put his own cup down on the concrete floor. "No," he said, softly but firmly, "it's too public. That's not the sort of publicity you need right now. My divorce isn't even through yet, and you don't need to be labelled a gay home-wrecker; it'd be a juicy scandal even without the connection to Seguchi... or the little matter of your Nakano's tender friendship with my soon-to-be ex-wife..."

Shuichi gave a soft chuckle. "When you put it like that, it does sound like a bit of a soap-opera, doesn't it? All the same, K-san would say no publicity is bad publicity..."

"I'm not talking about Bad Luck. I'm talking about you. Us," he added awkwardly.

Shuichi gave the heavy sigh of a disappointed child. But when he spoke, his voice held resignation. "Yeah... I guess you're right... it's just... I've missed you so much... and it seems like... you know... just when I've got you back..."

Eiri hesitated. After a moment's thought he moved up to Shuichi and slipped his arms around him from behind, placing a lingering kiss at the base of his neck. He felt, rather than heard, Shuichi's gasp of surprise turning to pleasure as the younger man relaxed against him and rested his head back against his shoulder.

Shuichi had always loved such gestures – Eiri had always been reticent in making them. A kiss or an embrace most often signified a preamble to sex; otherwise he had had a tendency to behave as if Shuichi was more of a roommate than a lover. It wasn't as if they had never shared such casual gestures of affection – only that Shuichi was usually the one to initiate them. It was about time, Eiri reflected, he learned to initiate a few more of his own.

With an urgent tenderness Eiri kissed Shuichi's cheek before beginning to rub his own against it, pressing as close as he could.

To his surprise, the gesture was greeted not with a sigh of passion but with a soft chuckle. Eiri frowned. "Something amusing you…?" he asked.

Shuichi shrugged. "I was just thinking… the last time you did that was outside your place, in front of Mika-san! D'you remember? Man, I thought I'd die…"

"From what? Embarrassment or ecstasy?"

"Both, I guess… I mean I knew it was a joke or something, but I… I kind of wished it wasn't." He gave a soft, reflective sigh. "You really were a bastard, Eiri – I can't believe I was actually jealous of your sister! And then we had another argument, remember? And then… you kissed me. I never did figure out why you did that – you were being so mean just before that I thought you totally hated me…"

"So did I," Eiri admitted honestly. "Believe me, that kiss shocked me as much as you."

"But – why - ?"

"I don't know. I just looked at you and thought… I want to kiss him. So I did. If you'd been a woman I wouldn't even have thought that far… but you… you always made me do stupid things."

"I felt like my life began all over again after that kiss," Shuichi said quietly, "until then I… I don't think I knew why I did anything… I knew I wanted something… but until that kiss I didn't know what it was… But even then it was only my body waking up. I'd've let you do anything you liked to me just then but I wouldn't've known why. It wasn't until I asked you about your family and I thought I'd totally blown it that I knew I was in love with you. I knew because I'd never hurt like that before…"

"Hey…" Eiri trailed a hand down over Shuichi's shoulder, slipping it into his robe to stroke his bare chest. "Forget all of that. It's in the past."

"I know," Shuichi sighed, "it's just… you know… we've been apart for over a year, but after one night like this I think I'm going to miss you more than ever…"

For a moment Eiri did not answer. He understood only too well what Shuichi was saying. They had been closer; they had been more at ease; in short, they had enjoyed each other more absolutely and on so many more levels on this night then they ever had before. "You know," he whispered into Shuichi's ear, "there's no reason I can't go to a few of your concerts... or that we can't meet up... once or twice... now that my new book's nearly finished, I might just fancy doing a little touring of my own around... say... southern Japan..."

"Oh Eiri...! Do you really mean that…?" Shuichi slid around to look at him, his eyes bright with happiness as he threw his arms about Eiri's neck and leant up to kiss him.

It did not take long for the kiss to grow passionate. Eiri could feel the heat of Shuichi's body penetrating through the thin fabric covering it; his hands slipped down automatically to that firm bottom and squeezed. "It's too damn cold out here," he panted, "let's get back into bed..."

"Wh-what about breakfast...?" Shuichi gasped breathlessly, leaning into him as they stepped back through the balcony doors.

"Sod breakfast," Eiri grunted.

"Lunch, then...?"

"Supper, maybe... but only if you make it a takeaway... we've got plenty of catching up to do..."

The second time was less charged, and yet somehow more satisfying than the first. All traces of lingering awkwardness had been melted away by the fire of passion as they rediscovered one another's bodies once again. When, in addition, Eiri did not immediately dive into the shower – or out onto the balcony for another cigarette - it created a new intimacy which gave Shuichi courage to voice worries which had slowly begun to penetrate the euphoric cloud he had been enveloped in for most of the evening.

This evening – this night - had been like a dream. But the sun was already rising... and there was still the rest of their lives to live.

With gentle, reverent touches Shuichi traced the curve of Eiri's shoulder, trailing upward over the back of his neck. "Eiri," he murmured softly, combing his fingers through that distinctive golden-yellow hair.

Eiri lifted his head from where it had been resting upon Shuichi's breast. One thing had not changed – he still seemed to hate lying on his back. "Hmm…?"

"D'you think we'll be okay this time…?"

With a soft exhalation, Eiri shifted onto his side and looked deep into Shuichi's eyes. "I… don't know…" he said quietly, "But… I hope so…."

Shuichi could not help gazing back at him in wonder. He knew what he had expected Eiri to say - that there were no guarantees; that romantic love was a delusion; that there would great pressure on a same-sex couple even without the fact that they were both already in the public eye... That, to summarise, life in general was a thoroughgoing, unpredictable, backstabbing bitch. To receive, instead, this simple but astonishingly frank response came as something of a shock.

"I hope so too," Shuichi breathed, cuddling closer. "This feels so good… I don't think I could ever feel like this with anyone else…"

Eiri did not reply to that. He even averted his gaze. But then he startled Shuichi even further by raising his hand to his lips and kissing it.

"I suppose people will find out about us, sooner or later…" Shuichi continued ruefully, "I bet that'll be rough… I saw what they did to Aizawa…"

"Aizawa was a talent-free prick who got everything he deserved." Even now that Shuichi knew the truth of his past, the cold malice in Eiri's tone was a little frightening to hear.

"Well… yeah, but…"

"Hey." Eiri stroked his large hand down Shuichi's back. "You're thinking too much, as usual. Try living in the here and now a little more…"

"Like you do, you mean…?" Shuichi sighed. "I tried being more like you… like I said before, I wasn't very good at it."

"I'm not saying you want to be like that," Eiri responded with a small smile, "when it comes down to it I wasn't that hot at it either. I thought I was doing it well, but when it came down to it I think I was only denying the past and avoiding the future… that's not the same thing as just enjoying the present. Like now…" he added, leaning close to nuzzle Shuichi's neck, "worrying about things that might never happen when we should just be… enjoying ourselves…"

"Yeah, I guess... you're... oh...!" Shuichi moaned softly as Eiri's lips tickled his skin. "Oh... yeah... that's... that's really..." Suddenly he found it difficult to remember what he had been talking about a moment before. "Uh... Eiri...?"

Eiri pillowed his cheek upon Shuichi's shoulder. "Hmm….?"

"About… enjoying ourselves…"


"I don't suppose you fancy a bit more... enjoyment... right now…?"

There was no answer to that. Surprised, Shuichi shifted to look down at his companion. Eiri's eyes were closed; his expression was relaxed – almost angelic in its pale perfection. His breathing was slow and regular. Shuichi nudged him gingerly, just to make sure. But no… Eiri was definitely out for the count.

Shuichi grinned, curling his arms about the other man and drawing him close. Eiri stirred briefly then, murmuring Shuichi's name softly in his sleep, and burrowed in. That settled it. No shower; no cigarette; no laptop; no exit line. So there really was hope for Yuki Eiri and Shindou Shuichi after all!

Shuichi knew he himself wouldn't sleep for some time. In spite of the concert, the emotional turmoil of his reunion with Eiri and – of course – the sex, he felt quite wide awake. More so in fact than he had felt in a very long time.

It didn't matter. Sleep was not important – if anything, it would be a nuisance at this moment when Shuichi could have happily lain there, sleepless, for the rest of his life. He had far more important things to concentrate upon.

With a blissful sigh, Shuichi closed his eyes… and heard music.