by Jennifer A. Wand

a Gravitation fan fiction

VIII. Shining Collection

"The Way of the Samurai is found in death."

- from the pages of the HAGAKURE, the handbook of the samurai

Eiri had expected to wake long before Shuichi and steal away while the boy still slumbered. It would be easier to part with him thus -- no last looks into each other's eyes, no awkward letting go for the last time. He could simply roll over, gaze at the boy's sleeping face, roll his eyes at the drool that'd undoubtedly be slipping from his lips, and run one hand gently over the ruffled tuft of dark hair. Shuichi would sigh and mumble in his sleep, and for an instant Eiri would be afraid he'd wake up. But another mumbled endearment later, Shuichi's snores would return in full force and Eiri would be as relieved as he was annoyed at them. At that moment he'd whisper his small, sacred goodbyes and be gone.

Warmed by the vision, Eiri's eyes opened gradually but steadily, without hesitation. Slowly, but again without hesitation, he rolled over onto his side to gaze at an empty spot where a lover had once lain. And still slowly, Eiri came to the realization that he was alone in the room.

He bolted upright with a start. "Damn kid!" he cursed, punching the pillow beside him with such vigor that it split and sent rice pouring everywhere. Unsatisfied, Eiri grabbed at handfuls of the stuff and threw it about wildly. It made a satisfying clatter against the paper panels of the wall. "Stupid brat!"

Eiri continued to curse and rage until his anger had gone and he began to realize the absurdity of it all. What was he doing, anyway? Blaming Shuichi for stealing a moment that he'd planned to steal himself? And what good would such a moment do anyway? Romances were best severed cleanly, not subjected to endless rituals that left ties dangling in the air like streaks of blood. He ought to feel grateful that Shuichi acted as kaishaku -- the executioner designated to chop off the head of a condemned man should he lack the resolve to commit seppuku.

Besides, Eiri had an army to lead today. His mind needed to be full of strategies, tactics, calculations -- everything that required a cool head. Foolish words spoken by moonlight and raging feelings spinning out of control -- those were useless trivialities, things that encouraged a man to be absent-minded, to lose track of details. And as a man of war, Eiri needed to be level-headed and mindful of everything.

And being a man who never overlooked a single detail, Eiri was careful to wipe every last tear from his eyes before leaving his room to join Tatsuha in the stables.


Not a detail was lost to Eiri's eyes on the journey north, either. He was determined to see everything, note everything in his mind about the terrain he crossed, so as to have an advantage should the enemy press forward. But a man who looks at everything never sees anything, Eiri would have done well to remember. He concentrated so hard on each turn, each broken branch and fallen leaf, that the one before it vanished instantly from his mind. And then, every so often Tatsuha would stumble, and Eiri would be jolted back to reality. He'd remember then what he was trying so hard not to think about, and he'd be lost to a reverie of melancholy until Tatsuha's clumsy feet shook him awake again.

The cycle continued for endless minutes as the sun climbed high into the sky and Eiri trudged on toward the waiting battle camp. It was only when Tatsuha gave what seemed very close to a human cry of panic, and nearly launched Eiri forward off his saddle, that he bothered to take a look at the territory he'd been traversing. Gazing over his shoulder, Eiri felt his bones chill with dread. This was no ordinary rough-and-tumble forest trail. They were mountains he'd been crossing, with sheer cliffs and passes so narrow a single man on horseback could hardly travel comfortably through. How Eiri had made it through without noticing was a testament to his skill - or his distraction.

He patted Tatsuha absently on the mane. "You're a scatterbrain, but at least you're good for something," he murmured in as close to an approximation of fondness as he could manage. Was that hoarse, hollow tone the best he could muster? Eiri wondered, frowning. Is that how he'd spoken to Shuichi all this time? Were those half-insult compliments all he'd managed to convey? He wanted to stop asking such questions, wanted to pretend he didn't know the answers, wanted to forget he'd never have another chance to change them.

Then he turned his eyes forward and abruptly forgot.

If death had a sound, these plains would be howling with it. There was no battle to be planned here - the battle was raging already, and the sickening array of corpses, some with no heads and some half-eaten by wild beasts, indicated it had been raging for days. The clash of swords and the stampeding of hooves resounded. A mixture of shiny and weathered helmets dotted the view like perverse Go stones, surrounding each other and occasionally dropping out of sight. Some of these men had been in battle for days, Eiri realized, and some of them had moved out just this morning. Seguchi had doubtless been sending out soldiers every day, the newest handful leaving just a few hours before Eiri himself did.

What to do first in such a fray? Surely there must be someone in command here, Eiri thought, though the line between battle leader and foot soldier tended to disappear when the heat of a fight raged too intensely. Like metal that turned liquid before too searing a flame, the soldiers melted into each other, becoming just men, moving molecules in an organism too wild to control. Still, the shape and size of a man's helmet often gave a clue as to his rank, and Eiri spurred on a reluctant Tatsuha toward the sight of some finer-looking headpieces.

Tatsuha plunged down the slope toward the river of men, and when horse and rider reached the plain, they were immediately enveloped in the swarm. The first swinging sword, slashing its way toward Eiri's neck, submerged him in the battle. The distant helmets he'd been seeking faded from sight and mind, and like a man suddenly thrown into the sea, Eiri floundered. Destinations and purposes took a back seat to the instinctive, bloody business of staying alive. It was all he could do to stay seated atop Tatsuha, dodging and meeting the rain of frenzied blows with his own steel. His mind fought to regain his footing.

And then, the gears eased into motion. Eiri's battle senses had been dulled from too many days where the worst attacker was a boy's flesh and the greatest tension was the taut string of sexuality. But now they shook off their rust and snapped into place. Even a man tossed overboard finds his stride after a minute of panicked thrashing, and so it was for Eiri. Each blur of motion, each sound and whisper of wind, became a potential threat, and as quickly as he registered them he responded to them, dodging and countering with the skill that had made him famous. As though Tatsuha were his own flesh and blood, Eiri reared him up, urged him down, maneuvered him as though his horse, too, were obeying his reflexes. As he fought, Eiri became a separate being from his body; instincts and training alone held him on the battlefield, and his mind was free to roam.

He couldn't understand Seguchi's thinking. Why send forces out to defend an area whose own natural barriers were nearly impenetrable? Only the sureness of his steed had gotten Eiri alone through those mountains. An enemy would have to be foolhardy to attack from this direction. A few well-placed assassins could pick off the entire army as they passed single file along the line of the cliffs.

Why, indeed, hadn't the enemy employed that very tactic? It was a simple and often-used one. First, send in a handful of assassins along the route the defending army will take. By the time they reach the battlefield, their morale will have dwindled along with their numbers. Such a plan should have occurred to these attackers without a moment's hesitation. And yet they were fighting as though they had no plan, fighting as though they had been taken by surprise...

The revelation sounded inside Eiri's head with a resounding clatter. These soldiers weren't trying to move forward - they were only trying to stand their ground. Seguchi's army wasn't defending. They were pushing forward - Seguchi was on the offensive!

Facts began to rattle through Eiri's head like pebbles in a rainstorm. Seguchi was attacking - he'd been sending soldiers out here for days on end - this battle had been going on, out of control, for days. And yet he'd told Eiri he was sending him out to plan a line of defense, as though the fighting had yet to begin. Seguchi Tohma had lied to him, had deliberately sent him out into a raging battle he wouldn't be able to shape or control. Haphazard as they were, the facts were clear. Tohma had sent Eiri out here to die.

The only question was, why?

The answer probably occurred to Eiri immediately - it was too simple to miss. But something - perhaps survival instinct - kept him from realizing it. He knew he couldn't die without knowing the reason why. Until he figured it out, he'd manage to stay alive one way or another. So maybe, just maybe, the part of him that wanted to survive hid the truth behind a veil of thinly disguised questions. Had he committed some offense at court? Spoken to Seguchi in a way he shouldn't have? No - such an infraction would result in a direct order to commit seppuku. Seguchi had employed subtlety and deceit here. Perhaps he was trying to protect Eiri from something - a shame to come, perhaps? Would Seguchi rather see Eiri die than see him face some sort of scandal? But why not warn Eiri himself about such a scandal? It didn't make sense. Nothing made sense.

A long, sweeping blow came dangerously close to grazing Eiri's shoulder, and Tatsuha gave a shrill whinny of fear. Shaken back into the present, Eiri whirled around and cut the man down, audaciously, as though warning the others not to come any closer. It worked - the circle of soldiers fell back a few paces, and the victim himself screamed as he fell from his mount, his eyes widening with horror. Foolish man, Eiri though. What right did he have to fear death, when it should have been the very road he walked? He should be more than willing to die for his lord.

Yet, for the first time, Eiri felt the stirring of an uncomfortable thought. Did it hurt that much to die, he wondered (even as his sword slashed out again in its lethal duty)? Was the moment of death such that even a samurai might wish it otherwise? Might he someday find himself regretting the life he led, regretting that he hadn't lived for his own sake, gone where he'd wanted to go...

...been with the ones he loved...

...that was it, he realized, scowling. It was Shuichi's fault he even had the nerve to think this way for a second. The child's weakness was becoming his own. What had he said that night? "Who wants to go out and die just because some person you've never met your whole life says so?" Utter foolishness. He was quite right to tear himself away from the boy -

- to tear Eiri away from Shuichi -

Eiri's stomach gave a lurch, and he leaned forward for a nauseated moment. That had been Seguchi's motivation after all. It wasn't a scandal he could have warned him about, for this was a scandal only in Tohma's eyes. Eiri had tried, year after year, to let Seguchi know that he owed him loyalty as a lord and gratitude as the one who sustained him and took him in... but nothing more. Seguchi had wanted him as a lover - no - as a conquest - but Eiri had never felt the inclination to submit. Over the years, Tohma had eased away from overt approaches, and Eiri had foolishly thought his infatuation had subsided. But now, he realized, he hadn't let go at all. Seguchi Tohma was just as intent on conquering Eiri as he'd been at first. And he was just as conniving in his methods. The same man Eiri considered his benefactor was nothing but a greedy child smashing the toys he couldn't have to himself.

He'd betrayed him.

The top of the world came smashing down around Eiri's head, and he gasped for air, a man suddenly in space, a fish suddenly above the surface of the water. A new atmosphere whirled around him, one that suffocated him with its strangeness. But the new scenery was not without its wonders, and Eiri's eyes fell open, stunned. This was the world without unswerving loyalty, without complete annihilation of self. This was the world where he - Yuki Eiri - was more than just a shield made of power and pride. He was a human, a self, without any boundaries or barriers. Gravity dropped away. He could fly.

All the personal desires he'd submerged in his years of servitude came flooding back. Eiri was drowning in a sea of want. He wanted it all back. His life, his will, his own reasons to keep going.

And his thoughts flew to Shuichi. What had he thrown him away for? For Seguchi? The thought was laughable now. For his pride, his honor? What were they worth to him without a lord to protect? Now he had only himself, and all he wanted for himself was life. All he wanted were the things he'd scorned as unimportant and selfish - a lover's laugh, a smile, the feeling that beauty and sunshine might go on forever as long as he could wake up with warmth beside him - as long as he could indulge in the pettiest of arguments, the most selfish of complaints. Knowing that they masked the brightest and surest joy he'd ever allowed himself to feel.

He wanted it back. He wanted love back.

Eiri's hands fell slack on the reins. His whole body seemed to fill with water. Tears spilled from his eyes; the battlefield blurred. His whole soul ached, and before he could stop himself the name flew from his lips. "Shuichi..."

It was one moment. But one moment was enough.

The blow came in from the side - Eiri almost didn't see it. But he felt it like the rumble of thunder resonating off courtyard stones, and he heard the high, shrill wail of death flying through the air. It was the sound he'd known his whole life he'd hear one day, and as steely gray eclipsed his vision, he closed his eyes to embrace it.

Another half a moment and another thousand thoughts, as though time stood still. Yes, there was the sound of metal tearing flesh, there was the odor of blood and the cold splash of it on his flushed face. And the pain... no, it was curiously absent, although Eiri was sure a part of him (which part? he didn't know) had been ripped away. Perhaps the cut had killed him instantly - perhaps his soul had been torn from his body. He could, after all, see himself from behind, falling, in tortured slow motion - could see the blood flying from an exposed white shoulder - but the eyes that turned to face him weren't amber, they were bright, deep blue...

and all at once Eiri knew. It was his heart they'd cut, his heart that was falling before his eyes, smiling through eyes watering with pain. His heart, and the man he'd given it to.

Eiri sprang forward, flying off Tatsuha's back, and stretched out both arms to reach him. Shuichi's name flew from his lips as he willed his body forward - let his hands touch anything, anything at all, a finger, a strand of hair - but reach him! Then, finally, fingers curled around a wrist, and jerking Shuichi's body back, Eiri guided it to fall onto his own. Together they plunged, tasting mud and blood as their bodies collided with the grass of the battlefield.

Eiri scrambled to a sitting position and surveyed Shuichi's wound. It was a long, deep gash running along the line of his collarbone, and blood gushed forth deep and red, shining almost unnaturally in its slickness. Eiri pressed his hands to it, trying to stem the flow, and the liquid bubbled over his fingers obstinately. Shuichi's eyes were open, and they tried to settle their focus onto Eiri's face.

"Yuki... are you okay?" he managed, in a weak voice.

"Am I okay?" Eiri raged at him, still trying to calm the fury of Shuichi's stubborn wound. "Never mind that! What the hell are you doing in a place like this?"

"You seem okay. I'm glad," Shuichi smiled with pale lips, closing his eyes.

"Open your eyes, damn you!" Eiri called out in a panic. "What were you thinking!? This is no place for you! Why are you here?"

Shuichi's eyes fluttered open. A haze of confusion lay over them, and his brow furrowed. "But... you're the one who said so, Yuki!" he whispered, the protestation in his voice weakened by pain. A convulsion wracked his body, and Eiri leaned forward in despair. But Shuichi looked up at him again and continued.

"You're the one who asked me... wasn't there anything I'd die for? And you said you hoped... you'd be the one..."

If Eiri had raised his head, he might have noticed that a strange calm had fallen around them. The battle raged... no force on earth could stop that... but here on this small patch of ground that swelled upward like an offering to the gods, horses and riders turned away to allow this small, sacred scene to take place. Perhaps it was merely the chaotic tide of battle; perhaps, deep in the heart of even the most barbaric swordsman, no one could allow the connection between these two souls to be broken. But Eiri would never know to guess which. His whole concentration was focused here on this wound -- this man -- this life which was so close to being lost to him.

"You're a damn fool!" he wept. "Did you think that I wanted you to die?"

"But you were right," Shuichi said, in a voice so hollow and thick with pain that Eiri's bones felt brittle at the sound of it. "To you, loyalty is everything. And I've never been loyal to anything in my whole life. But I should have been. I should have been ready to die in an instant for you. I'm sorry I wasn't before."

"Fool!" Eiri broke in, his heart stinging as though a thousand needles were grazing its sides. How could this child change his mind now, when Eiri himself had just realized how wrong he'd always been? "You were the one who was right. Loyalty is nothing. It's a burden, and it betrays you. You were right all along... and I was the fool." His tears splashed onto Shuichi's pale face like bitter rain.

At the taste of them, Shuichi's blue eyes quavered, and then he smiled weakly, gently. "Yuki. It's okay," he said. "I've already decided."

Eiri shook his head in panicked fear. "No," was all he said.

"It's important to you... and you're important to me." Another shudder wracked Shuichi's body. Eiri leaned forward, terrified.

With visible effort, Shuichi raised a white hand to his chest and covered Eiri's fingers with it. Ivory on scarred tan on liquid red. "Yuki," he said, and his eyes fluttered closed. Eiri trembled.

There was a horrible, silent moment where Eiri thought he'd lost him. But the hand on his wavered slightly, and bleary eyes opened. "It's okay," Shuichi said simply. And he smiled.

That smile was like no other Eiri had ever seen. He couldn't even believe it was Shuichi's -- since when could he smile with such calm, such quiet wisdom, such enlightenment in the face of death? He knew Shuichi's other smiles, of course. The I did well in my performance smile, the I just wrote another terrible poem smile, the I got Yuki to kiss me smile, the I know something you don't know smile, the isn't it good to be alive smile...

...Eiri had memorized them all, he realized with a tiny gasp. He'd been collecting them, storing them like jewels in a secret locked box in his mind, to be opened only in times of despair. And now, in the moment he needed them most, his storehouse of memories had not only resurfaced, but grown -- this last, beautiful smile settling like one great, sparkling jewel to crown a shining collection.

Now he understood. Shuichi hadn't been right and Eiri wrong. The truth of it all lay somewhere between them, and it was in coming together that they'd been able to discover it. Loyalty came not from a cold obligation or a businesslike trading of strengths and weaknesses. The true core of it was deeper than any of that.

The deepest bonds, after all, were bonds of family. Mothers died protecting their children. Brothers labored to feed their sisters. And husbands went to war, fought and died on battlefields like this, for the wives they'd cherished more than any land or possession. Perhaps, long ago, two brothers swore to protect each other even when they married and moved away... and their families swore the same. And a generation later, a son who loved his father learned about the oath and pledged to protect it with his own life, his own family... until the generations and the families had obscured the past, and the reason for the bond was no longer to be questioned. Now retainers fought for lords, blindly, without knowing that they were at heart all brothers.

But Eiri knew now. His understanding was instant and absolute.

Any bond of loyalty... any bond worth protecting... was at its core a bond of love.

Like a man enlightened, Eiri moved without hesitation. The tears gone, his eyes were clear and sparkling. For the first time, he smiled back at the boy who lay below him. And when he spoke, his voice was pure and steady.

"I'm not going to let you die for me," he said.


The smile broke into a grin.

"I'll die for you first," he said.

Driving his sword into the earth beside him, Eiri grabbed hold of it and pulled himself up to full height. On the small hill, he stood just a head higher than the other soldiers, and his shadow fell long and striking along the earth. It was barely a moment before a head turned... a blank-faced foot soldier, probably more at ease barefoot in a rice field than armor-clad in battle. Eiri addressed him. "You there!" he bellowed, so impressively that other heads turned as well. "Do you want the head of Yuki Eiri, of the Uesugi clan?"

The man shook his head in fear. But unnoticing, Eiri made a sweeping motion with his shoulders and the gorgeous helmet fell into his hand. He tossed it to the man. "Take this helmet," he ordered. "Put it on a head and burn it until the face is unrecognizable. Any daimyo will know it-- and if he doubts, ask Seguchi Tohma. You'll be paid well for it."

There was a tug at his feet. Shuichi was grasping his ankle, concerned. "Yuki, what are you doing?" he croaked.

Eiri looked down at him, the smile still lighting his face. "Yuki is dead," he said, a soaring sensation of freedom filling him as he said it. "Yuki then and Yuki now. From today, I'm just Eiri."

Seeing the incoherent questions fill Shuichi's eyes, he bent down, raising his head briefly to give a shrill whistle. Tatsuha, who had been pacing anxiously just outside of the fray, began to race toward his master. Carefully, Eiri pulled Shuichi up and onto his back, whispering under his breath as he did, "We're getting out of here."

At the shock of being lifted, Shuichi winced loudly, his hand flying to Eiri's wrist and grasping tightly. "Why?..." he managed to whisper as the world gave a lurch and he was suddenly astride Tatsuha, his limp body lying across Eiri's broad back. His wound stained the magnificent armor.

Eiri spurred Tatsuha into a run. No battle could stop the horse from flying now... yet, nobody tried. They were still surrounded by the strange halo of quiet, like the eye of a hurricane. If Eiri noticed it this time, however, he gave it no thought. It was as natural as the movement of air to him. Of course time and space should bend, if need be, to give him these most important moments of his life. He was determined not to waste them.

"You haven't figured it out yet?" he said softly. One of his hands reached back to ruffle Shuichi's sweat-drenched hair. "Because I'm loyal to you."

Shuichi gave a gasp, then slumped over on Eiri's back. The pain in the wound had caught up with him, and he'd fainted. Eiri waited until the faint breaths in his ear became regular. "Damn kid you are," he murmured, "but I love you and you're not going to die." The promise fell into the shadows between Tatsuha's flying hooves as he carried the two far away from battles and bloodshed... far away from the world.


"I am going to die."

"Shut up."

"I mean it... I'm going to die!"

"Then hurry up and do it, you damned monkey child. You're hurting my head."

"Eiri... you're not listening!"

Eiri whirled. "How can I not be listening when you're shouting in my ear?" he roared. "You said you're going to die if you don't go see this guy Sakura..."

"SA-KU-MA," Shuichi pouted. "Sakuma Ryuichi. And he's not 'this guy.' He's a GOD. You have no idea what him inviting me to attend his theater class means for my career. The man's a genius."

"He sounds like a freak," Eiri grumbled, rubbing his forehead. He lumbered over to the closet and stuffed the futon inside, sliding the wooden door closed again. "Where did you say he lives again, on a rabbit farm? And if you want to go see him, go see him. I'm not stopping you."

"Yes, you are!" Shuichi stamped his foot.

"I've got to work too!" rejoined a flustered Eiri. "Believe it or not, a ronin for hire isn't the stablest job in the world. I have to take what I can get!"

Not satisfied with the spoiled child routine, Shuichi moved on to a different tactic. Wrapping his arms around Eiri, he blinked up at him with big, adoring eyes. "But without you there, I'll be so lonely... who'll keep me warm at night?" He nuzzled his neck. "Won't you miss me too, Eiri?" He let the sound of the name rumble, long and low, into his lover's skin. Without realizing it, Eiri allowed his hands to burrow into Shuichi's hair. He kissed the top of his head feverishly. Shuichi's hands moved downward. Eiri groaned.

The sound of his own voice shocked him into reality. "Shuichi... why do you do this to me?" he muttered, pushing him away. The sudden lack of contact was painful. But he couldn't quite bring himself to look away from Shuichi's sparkling eyes. They were too blue, too achingly beautiful, even as the simplicity of the stare frustrated him. Beneath Shuichi's collarbone, Eiri could see the very edge of the scar that was a reminder of a year ago, the scar that had sealed their life together when it healed. Vaguely, he regretted that he'd hurried to put the futon away for the morning. Still, the hut they shared was too small to leave it lying around all day just in case he had an amorous inclination. He leaned forward again, kissed the boy's lips, then bent down to touch the long, jagged mark with his own lips. "Why do you do this to me?" he repeated, this time breathing the words into soft, pink skin.

"Because I can," came the simple reply, which ended in a soft sigh.

Eiri couldn't resist that sound. He repeated what he'd done, trying to evoke it again, but the answer this time was just a giggle. "All right, all right," he groaned, throwing up his hands in acquiescence. "What the hell."

Shuichi's seduction vanished. "Yahoo!" he yelped, giving a little jump.

"But I'm not doing it for you," Eiri pointed a finger at the celebrating Shuichi and frowned. "It's for Tatsuha. For some reason, every time he hears that Takuma..."


Eiri ignored him. "...guy's name, he starts acting like an idiot. Who knows. Maybe they were lovers in a past life." He wasn't sure where that last sentence came from. Expecting Shuichi to laugh at the absurdity, he turned and forced a short laugh himself. But far from laughing, Shuichi was staring at him with a look of absolute admiration in his eyes.

"Eiri, that's beautiful!" he whispered, his hands clasped together as though pleading. "You... you should be a writer!"

He scoffed. "A writer? A frightening thought."

But Shuichi had moved on. "Do you think we were lovers in a past life?" he asked coyly.

Eiri paused. It wasn't that the question was important, but somehow the concept interested him. "If we were," he began slowly, "I wouldn't be so happy about it."

Shuichi's face fell. "Huh? Why not?"

Turning to face him, Eiri let a rueful smile play across his lips. "My past is full of bad things I don't like to talk about. I don't care to think about you anywhere near that. Anyway, a future life sounds a whole lot more romantic to me."

"Eiri..." Shuichi's eyes shone. "Are you trying to say you hope we'll be together forever?"

Eiri stared at him. The childlike grin was too close to melting into a fool's smirk, and now it was much easier to break away. "Hurry up and get your things," he said brusquely. "Before I change my mind."

Shuichi abandoned his question immediately and ran to the closet, beaming. "Okay!"

Eiri leaned against the wall casually, following the boy's progress with his eyes. He couldn't help but give a brief chuckle as Shuichi tripped over his own bag. Really, he knew, he should be in the yard, preparing Tatsuha for the journey. But somehow he couldn't quite tear himself away. What was this force, he wondered idly as Shuichi broke into a nonsense song, that drew people together in this way? He vaguely remembered, when he had first met Shuichi, feeling that he was a man in midair falling, helpless, to earth. It wasn't that he wanted to go that way -- he'd had no choice. And yet, like a man falling, he had been flooded with a sense of comfort when his feet finally touched the ground.

There had to be a name for that power. A name for the thing that kept man tied to the earth. Why was it that people couldn't float like the moon, isolated but luminous, unattached to anything? What was the power that brought them tumbling down?

Eiri knew he had tried. He'd wanted to be without ties, without responsibilities. He'd wanted merely to hang in the heavens, silently watching, thinking nothing, bound to nothing. What else could he call those years of sleepwalking servitude? He'd wanted nothing more than to annihilate himself. To destroy his substance and become nothing but air.

But the moon constantly turns its face toward the earth, like a staring eye that cannot blink. And Eiri found he, too, could not let himself go. As much as he'd fought to rise above it, the weight of his memories kept him locked in a painful dance with the past. He'd been unable to break away.

Then came Shuichi, like the arms of the earth itself, and suddenly Eiri had been pulled in by an attraction stronger than all the walls he'd put up. Something as strong as the power that drew a stone back to earth no matter how high or hard it was thrown. There was no escape from something so strong.

It wasn't merely love, wasn't merely loyalty. It was something that had existed since time itself began. A force that drew even the lightest birds to alight and even the bitterest of men to love. And yet it had no name.

But someday, perhaps in a hundred years, someone would discover and name it. And the love stories that name inspired would live long beyond him, long beyond the ideals he embraced, and become eternal.

And if there was a future life awaiting him, Eiri truly hoped he would be the one to write them.




Author's Notes

Okay. I hate this ending very much. But you guys deserve it. Thank you for waiting two years for this sucker. I'm so sorry for the delay.

Thank you to:

My family.

Shirakawa-sama, who introduced me to the Hagakure.

the #animetown family for being my support and introducing me to the world of Gravi.

And to the man who first inspired this fic, who brought me through it and read it despite not really liking Gravi. The love of my life, the man of my dreams. Rubio, thank you. You are my muse, my lover, my friend, my whole life. I love you.

Jennifer A. Wand