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Fanfiction > Angst > Pianissimo Butterfly > Author: Angrybee Hits: 8014
DISCLAIMER: Gravitation and it's characters are the intellectual property
of Maki Murakami. This story means no offense to the creator, and is
merely a work of fandom, attempting to further endorse interest and
appreciation of the Gravitation manga and anime.

GRAVITATION is a story of shonen-ai. Many of the characters depicted in
Gravitation are homosexual or bisexual. If this is not to your liking,
please do not read the story, as I would not wish to offend.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ Pianissimo Butterfly ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Chapter One: Critical Sunshine

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Sakuma-san, please do get out of bed."

"Ungh?"

"No, do not 'ungh' me. And take that pillow off your head. And, oh
goodness, what is this, Sakuma-san? Are these bits of crackers in your
bed? And poor Kumagoro is on the floor. Here. You take Kumagoro and go
shower, hm? Wash whatever naughty things you did last night off and..."

This is Molly. Molly is my "Personal Assistant". Well, that is her
title, anyway. Her job description is more like "Making sure that Sakuma
Ryuichi doesn't end up dead in a puddle of his own drool". K hired her a
few years ago when I was having some problems. Problems like remembering
to eat, figuring out how to get my clothes dry-cleaned, wandering into
large malls to buy bracelets and ending up in the hospital after being
attacked by fans, and accidentally setting my house on fire when Kumagoro
wanted to get cozy by the fireplace. You know, -problems-.

The penthouse of the Osakaji International Tower, where I live, actually
has three separate apartments. Mine. A smaller one for Molly, and then
a studio for my driver and bodyguard Ten. No. I do not know why he is
called Ten. But, considering that he is one of K's best
friends...well...you get the picture.

I find Kumagoro tucked into my arm as I finally sit up and blink into the
daylight. Molly is running the dust-vac over the bed-ruffle, scowling
lightly. She's from Wisconsin, I think, which makes the accent on her
English very pretty to my ears. And, she never curses, ever.

Yes. I am 33 years old, and I need a babysitter. Pathetic, ne?

I drag myself out of bed and head for my rather posh bathroom. Completely
naked. Kumagoro is also naked. Molly comments on neither of us. She's
seen me naked more times than I can count. I'm not particularly worried
about it. Molly just rolls her eyes.

She knows I'm grumpy until I've had a shower and coffee. I'm in a
particularly fowl mood this morning, due to how sleepy and run-down I
feel. I'm not certain why. I must have been up really late. Or, maybe
Kumagoro got us both into trouble again. Though, if the crackers in my
bed are from last night, then I was probably just working on lyrics in
bed. So, that will be okay.

I put Kumagoro in his bathroom chair, which is really just a ledge in the
bathroom that Molly had them put in for me so I could see Kumagoro when I
am in the shower. Sometimes I have bad panic attacks before I take my
pills in the morning, so I need Kumagoro to be on the lookout for anything
strange.

Showering is good. I like the soap best. Molly got me some soaps in the
shape of cartoon characters from the United States. They are really cool,
but sometimes I throw them out before I use them all up. I don't like it
when they stop looking like they are supposed to look. It's creepy. I
had some special soap with glitter inside, which I really liked, but Molly
stopped buying it because it made my skin turn bumpy.

When I get out, I turn Kumagoro so I can see his face in the mirror.
Molly has a list of things laminated and taped beside the medicine
cabinet. Brush teeth! Sparkle sparkle! Moisturize! Rubrub! Eye cream.
Dab dab! It goes on like that. Tohma-kun told me once that my face is
very important, because people identify it with my voice. He said that
if I did not take care of it, people would feel how I felt when one of
Kumagoro's eyes fell off. Same Kumagoro, but very frightening to look at.

If I did not have people to remind me of this stuff, my face probably
would have fallen off long ago.

After I dry my hair, I walk back into my room. I guess you could say that
my room is big, but I've seen bigger ones. Especially in America.
K brought me to meet some of my -favorite- musicians while I was there.
They have -really- big houses. I guess it is because there is more land
in America.

From his perch on my head, Kumagoro agrees. I'd like to go back to
America sometime. But, I'm not ready yet. When I'm old, perhaps. Plus,
all my best friends live in Japan. Maybe if I bought a big enough house,
some of my friends cold live there, too. I'll have to ask Tohma-kun what
he thinks.

Molly has all my clothes arranged by color, which makes it look like a
rainbow. I used to have more orange and yellow shirts, but I threw them
all out because they are Shu-chan's favorite colors to wear, and I didn't
want it to look like I was trying to be like him. Hehehe.

Kumagoro suggests the silver shirt today. Very shiny and slinky, and it
feels so good when you wear it. Some black pants that ride low on my
hips. Oh. And a belt so they don't fall down. You can see my tummy a
bit, but that's okay. Tummies need to get air sometimes.
And...hm...cowboy hat, Kumagoro? Yes. Kumagoro is a style expert.

I wander into the kitchen. Molly has breakfast set. Big breakfast.
She's supposed to make sure I eat at least one good meal a day. By the
plate is a little Hello Kitty cup with my pills in it. Yuck. Also, this
week's copy of "Music Splash!". There's a little article on Noriko this
week, and I'm in one of the pictures of people who went to the Hakodate
Music Festival. Kumagoro, too! In a black tie. So stylish.

Molly crosses her arms and watches me like a hawk until I take my pills.
I do it, because I know she won't let me out of the house unless I do.
She'll call everyone, and I mean -everyone-, one by one until I take them.

So, I take my pills. Kumagoro takes his pills. And, I drink some coffee,
na no da. After I eat some, then Molly goes through my schedule while she
puts my things in Kumagoro. He's only half-bunny. He's also half
kangaroo, na no da. That is why he speaks English, you know. Because of
Australia!

And he has secret pockets!

She puts in the almost the same things every day. My sunglasses, a
plastic poncho that fits in a case smaller than a cigarette box, my
little cell-phone, and 10k yen. But, sometimes Molly also puts in a piece
of candy, or some crayons too.

"Ryu-chan will sing today!"

"Yes, Sakuma-san. Ten will take you to the studio. You have a recording
in the morning, then some interviews after lunch. Seguchi-san has those
arranged and will take you." She goes on and on about some other stuff.
It doesn't matter so much. It doesn't matter what I do today...or
tomorrow or...ever. I'll never be good enough...ever...ever...

"Now, now, we go now? Vrooom, Kumagoro!"

Molly seems to consider how much I've eaten. She shrugs, hands me
Kumagoro, and nods. "You call Molly, Sakuma-san, if you forget anything!"

They have my whole life planned out, pretty much. I suppose it is good.
I tend to hurt people and get hurt when left to my own devices.

I wish I could say it was just one incident. I could get over one thing.
But, it isn't. There's a laundry list of sins for which I plunge myself
into self-recrimination daily.

Just thinking about it...

I'm such a bad person.

Wow. For once, I hope the pills kick in soon. I want to sing today. I
want to shine. I need it, or I am pretty sure I will go find something
else to make me feel nice.

Ten is in the living room, sitting on the sofa, reading the newspaper.
He's an interesting person. Great at trivia, but terrifying in a debate.
For instance, if you ask Ten 'How can I get from here to Washington D.C?'
he can tell you which flights to take, how much they will cost, which
airports to go through, how long your layover will be, and the name of
the best waitress at the airport bar. But, if you ask Ten, "What do you
think of Washington D.C', he'll go into this long rant about aliens and
conspiracies and the FBI and global warming and media conglomerates.

That's the kind of guy he is.

Like I said, Ten is my bodyguard and driver. He also runs some sort of
online business or something, which is a good thing for him to do with his
time while waiting around for me, I guess.

"Vroom, Ten? Vroom, vroom? Kumagoro wants to go -fast-."

"Yare, yare. Don't be in such a rush, Sakuma-san, you'll get there before
the NG building even opens."

"Then, I'll break in and Kumagoro will keep lookout!"

Ten puts down his newspaper and leans back to fish his keys out of his
pocket. "Hm? No, Sakuma-san. Kumagoro is too pretty to go to jail."

The drive to NG doesn't take long. Actually, it takes a lot less time
than it did this morning, because I somehow convince Ten to stop and let
me get a manga I wanted. Ok. Well, I might have told him I needed an
English thesaurus for some lyrics I've been working on. Hehehehe. I
really was going to get it, I mean...

The checkout woman smells of peanuts. She does not recognize me. Good.
Her voice is screechy. Bad. I pay in cash. Always cash.

Once back in my car, I attempt to read my manga, but I fall asleep. Ten
wakes me up with a loud "YO!" sometime later, and escorts me into the
building.

NG is a pretty big building, and there is a lot of stuff that goes on
there that you wouldn't believe! There's even a recording studio in the
basement where they edit those "relaxation" CDs. You know the ones,
"Sounds of Light", "Relaxing Rainforest", and "Wind and Birds". That sort
of thing.

But, I know my way around, so it's okay, na no da.

Ten and I go to my office. Did you know that I have an office at NG? I
do. It isn't as big as Tohma's, of course. But, it has a great sofa for
taking naps, and a huge dry-erase board and...oh...the best part...

It is right by the vending machines on the second floor. Hehehehe.

And, it is on the same floor as the Bad Luck offices, so sometimes, when
no one is looking, I go into the bathroom that is next door to their
studio and listen to Shu-chan and just completely fuzz out. Shu-chan has
-the- prettiest voice, ever. Some people tell me that my voice is also
very nice, and it did make me famous. But, I always think my voice just
sounds a little morose, even when I sing my happiest songs. Shu-chan's is
fully light and gentle and windy. You can close your eyes, and you become
like a butterfly, gliding over a field, rubbing your butterfly-nose
against the flowers.

Ten and I head up to my office. I have about a half hour before recording
time,

This is also a butterfly feeling, but a -bad- butterfly feeling. This one
is trapped in my stomach. I'm doing a duet with Tsunami Puppets for their
next album "Punch Punch Rag Doll". I want it to be really good, because I
like Tsunami Puppets, and I'm really glad they chose me. They have such a
jazzy low-key feel. I don't mind, really. I like doing new stuff,
especially with an older, established band like them.

"Calm down, Sakuma-san," Ten says, plugging his laptop into the wall.
"Try reading your book, maybe?"

Oh, I guess I am annoying Ten by tapping some old drum sticks against my
desk. But, I don't think I could read my book, not now. Instead, I try
to jot down some lyrics.

Time is of the essence. Go faster. Go slower. Leave me behind, charisma
and cruelty. Go faster. Go slower...

Not really a song. Just words. They just pour out. Afterwards, I'll
stuff the paper into my desk. Maybe I'll use them later, maybe not.

I wonder if David Bowie ever gets butterflies.

I wonder if Shu-chan gets butterflies.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"That was -so- good. Thank you ever-so-much, Sakuma-san."

The lead singer of Tsunami Puppets touches my hand and smiles at me. I
don't remember his name, but I think they call him "Red" because he always
wears bright red lipstick. Well, I call him "Red", anyway, and he doesn't
seem to mind.

They never do.

We're sitting together on the old couch outside of the recording room,
watching as their drummer (real drummer, not a keyboard or sound machine)
sets down the beat to the track.

"Kumagoro thinks we should maybe try it one more time. That last time
wasn't so good. Ryu-chan sounded too breathy, na no da."

I definitely sounded breathy. You can hear me suck in air right before
the chorus. It is good of Kumagoro to notice these things and point them
out before we make a mistake.

"I think it sounded sexy," Red replies. He's running his crimson
fingernail over the back of my hand, tracing my fingers while he stares at
me. "Everything about you is sexy, Sakuma-san. The way you breathe, the
way your voice imprisons notes and then sets them free, the way you look
in those leather pants. You know, if you wanted, we could..."

"We could sing the song again?" It would definitely be good to sing the
song again. I'm sure I could do it better. I know I could.

Red looks sad. He turns away from me and lets out of a snort of a laugh.
"Yeah. Of course, Sakuma-san. Whatever makes you happy, man."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Red has me up against the bathroom wall. He's whispering to me, saying
impossible things about beauty and life and how wonderful it is that we
can be together, if only for right now. That lipstick of his is smeared
across my collarbone. I'm pressed. Squeezed. A pancake between glamboy
and this cold, lifeless, white tile wall. His hands are warm, and they
slither between my shirt and my chest, into my pants, over my face.
Everywhere. Everywhere. His hands are everywhere.

The only thing I can feel is Kumagoro's ear. I rub it between my thumb
and forefinger, just to make sure. Just to make sure I haven't
disappeared completely.

I touch Red's face, softly coaxing it towards mine. It feels like wax.
It's not real. It's a sculpture animated by evil forces just to taunt
me.

"You're perfect, Sakuma-san. Perfect."

Perfectly numb. Completely removed from what's going on with my body. I
want to be somewhere else. I want to -be- someone else.

If I listen. If I strain... I can just hear Shu-chan's voice. Right
beyond this wall. Shu-chan's shiny songs pull me towards the green-green
fields with yellow butterflies. With wind bending the flowers, like they
are bowing. Yes. Hello Flower-san, I would say. Pleasant here, isn't
it? Nice and warm? Everything here is really real.

"Oh, Sakuma-san, I want you...I've never wanted anything more than I want
you... You make me feel so...."

Harsh fluorescent bathroom lights. No. Sunlight. Yes. Sunlight and
clouds, and Shu-chan singing just for me. Just Shu-chan, and Ryu-chan,
and laughter. Oh, and maybe a picnic, too. And there aren't any fans or
appointments or people telling us what to do.

Cold linoleum. I'm being lifted. My head hurts. Hands stroking my skin.
Breath assaulting exposed flesh. So much...too much...

Shu-chan. Why? Why? Why is your song so sad today? You're hurting me.
You hurt, I hurt. That's always the way it is, isn't it. I wish I
could... But, you love him so much, don't you? Yes. It's not my right
to interfere. I could never take care of you. I can't even take care of
myself.

I taste blood.

"You fucking asshole!" Red yells.

He stumbles backwards, clutching his ear. Droplets of blood appear
between his fingers and fall to the floor. I hope he plans on cleaning
that up. Not nice to leave a mess in public restrooms.

I button my shirt correctly and tuck Kumagoro under my arm.

"You bit my ear, you little shit. Fuck! You tore a piece off..."

"You wanted a piece of me. So I get to take a piece of you, too." Was
that my voice? I think it was. I sound very severe.

"Oh shit. I'm going to need stitches." Red turns on the sink and wails
miserably. He might have a better singing career if he could hit those
notes in the studio.

What? Why are you giving me -that- look, Kumagoro? Are you hungry, too?
Should we have lunch now, or what?

"Okay buh-bye! I haveta go now, na no da. Good songs today, Red! Buh
bye, buh bye!"

"YOU FREAK! YOU MOTHER..."

Well, I don't know what else he said, because I'm not listening. I'm
hungry. I wonder if I can go to lunch with Bad Luck. Shu-chan's sure to
be hungry, too. Singing like that can really work up an appetite.

"Didja have to bite his ear, Sakuma-san? Seriously." Ten looks a bit
cross as I leave the bathroom. I wonder if he gets bored just leaning
against the wall like that, waiting for me to finish doing whatever.
Well, I've been naughty, apparently, and will be getting no sodas before
my interviews.

"Kumagoro did it."

"Mmmhm." He sighs only slightly as we head down the hall towards the Bad
Luck recording studio. "Kumagoro should be more careful, or he's going
to get sued."

"Yeah, Kumagoro," I reply, putting my roo-bunny on my head, "Quit being
such a troublemaker. No sodas for you, either, Kumagoro."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It's been about two years since the release of Bad Luck's first album. It
was a great one, you know. Very big. Nice, peppy, easy to listen to
happy-songs.

But, the second album, "Critical Sunshine". My god. Nothing. Nothing
can compare. The first time I heard it, I experienced sensations this
old body hasn't known in a decade. It was lyrical, like a sonnet
celebrating love itself, a man rejoicing in perfection, a gift to the
very concept of sound.

I was ecstatic. And I was heart-broken.

How can you feel so wonderful, and so horrible at the same time?

I listened to it for sixteen hours straight.

And then, when I could finally move, I melted the CD in the microwave.

I've yet to purchase a replacement copy. Well, I know Shuichi would give
me one, if I asked.

It doesn't matter, I know all the songs, every note, by heart. I'd never
forget. No matter how much I want to forget that the passion, the
purity, the raw emotion in that voice, I can't.

Anyway, the second album was -gigantic-. They even ended up with a single
on the dance charts in England. Pretty cool, huh?

Yeah. I don't think the third album is going very well, though. They've
been working on it for a -long- time.

And Shu-chan looks tired. He has dark circles under his eyes. I should
get Molly to send him some of my eye cream. Remember to remind her, okay
Kumagoro?

Don't want Shu-chan's face to fall off.

Anyway, Hiroshi-kun is telling this great story right now about this time
when he tried to go surfing. And everyone is laughing, so I don't want to
interrupt. Instead, I just smile at Shu-chan, who is eating some vanilla
Pocky instead of the apple which K told him to eat.

They don't seem to mind that I come down to the NG cafe to eat lunch with
them when I can. Tohma-kun usually has meetings, and he doesn't eat real
food anyway. Not anymore. He's on a health kick now.

And Noriko doesn't usually come to NG when Nittle Grasper isn't recording.

Sometimes, I think, I live for lunch.

We all laugh as Hiroshi-kun stands up and does an impression of his
wipe-out. We laugh, but Shu-chan's laugh sounds so hollow.

I know that laugh.

"Can Kumagoro have a Pocky stick, too?"

Shu-chan nods and holds out the box to me. All the motion in the entire
cafe grinds to a halt. Mannequin people are locked into place.
Shu-chan's so giving. I hope he doesn't give everything. I hope he saves
some of himself for later. For when he needs himself again.

"Thanks, na no da!"

"Hey, I heard you had a duet with Tsunami Puppets today. How did that
go?"

I shrug. "Sing, sing, shiny, shiny." I smile at him, hoping he will
smile back at me. "Bought a new manga. Lend it to you when I'm finished
if you'll trade me one of yours. You know which one I want!" I flutter
my eyelashes at him with impossible hope. He's my friend, so I can ask to
trade with him and not worry about taking advantage.

"Sure. Uh..." Shuichi's eyes roll upward, as if he's considering his
bangs, "Uh, maybe. I don't know."

In two years, Shuichi's grown a little. He's 21 now. His face is a
little leaner, a bit harder looking. There's two blue streaks dyed into
his hair, like wilted antennae caressing his cheeks on either side. And
he has an eyebrow piercing, which I think really suits him. The circlet
is purple with a silver bead. Shuichi is such a splash of color. Like
someone took all my crayons and melted them in the microwave.

With his CD. The CD I can't listen to...because...

God, he's so skinny. His shirt is falling off at the shoulder. I have to
restrain myself from pulling it up.

He's changed. Yes, I think he has definitely changed some over the past
two years. Not quite as hyper. Not as free with his emotions anymore.
Which isn't to say he's become a block of ice, or anything. He's still
gold-hearted, kind, wonderful Shuichi. Even if he does exercise a bit
more caution these days.

"How's your album coming?"

"It's okay." Okay? Just okay? Oh, Shuichi, what could possibly be
wrong with what I heard today? I wish I could ask you. I don't know
how. "I go back to the hotel at night and listen to the tapes, and it's
just -off-. I don't think we'll ever make an album as good as 'Critical
Sunshine' again."

Hotel? Kumagoro, did he say -hotel-?

"You and Yuki-san moved into a hotel? Oh, I lived in a great hotel for a
while after our third album came out. Real American hamburgers brought
right up by room service -every- night. Hamburgers are really good, like
with mustard and sprouts and pickles and olives and..."

"No, Yuki isn't..." Shuichi's hand shakes a bit as he pulls up the box of
Pocky to find another stick. "Yuki is...not at the hotel with me."

"Oh?" Where's Yuki-san? I hope he didn't kick Shu-chan out again. But,
maybe he did. I'm not always fond of that guy. But, when he is nice and
makes Shu-chan happy, then I don't mind him so much.

But, that guy is perhaps the MOST unshiny person I've ever met.

"Yeah." As Shuichi pulls out his Pocky, the sleeve of his long orange
shirt falls down on his forearm, revealing a bandaged wrist.

I'm staring at Shuichi's arm, and Shuichi is staring at me with the utmost
embarrassment. He looks shocked for a moment, and then he calmly puts his
arm under the table and pulls his sleeve back down. "It's nothing," he
whispers.

I can't help myself. I catch his injured wrist in my left hand and watch
him wince. "It's something. People don't make that face when it's
nothing."

"Yeah, well, it's nothing important. Really." He sounds more like he's
trying to convince himself rather than convince me.

I want to ask him more questions, but he's already wiggled out of my grasp
due to K pointing a magnum at his head and demanding that he eat his
apple.

Oh, Kumagoro.

I have a feeling that the next time I see Yuki-san, I'm going to want to
do more than bite a sliver out of his ear.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"You can't do this," Ten says, leaning against my limo. We're both
staring up at the glassy windows which decorate the Crystal Harbor Plaza.
Not quite as intimidating of a building as the Osakaji International, but
still very classy.

"Why not? Shuichi is my friend. I can go and see him if I want, na no
DA!"

Ten sighs. He thinks I don't know what a friend is, that I call everyone
my friend, but I know the difference between what they are and what
Shuichi is.

"No, Sakuma-san. I mean..." Ten's hair blows in his face, the dark locks
obscuring his eyes, "You know you do this sort of thing, and you just end
up getting hurt. This won't turn out good for you."

"But..."

"What about Kelly, that English drummer from Ku Ku Clock?"

"Now, you know that..."

"What about Akino, the front man for Ipso Facto Dilemma?"

"That was different and..."

"And Yukiro the saxophonist from Corinth Overdrive?"

"Kumagoro was taking SAX LESSONS!"

"What about Tomi?"

My heart skips a beat. Tomi. Tomi wasn't... Tomi was... Tomi was Tomi.
That was a different situation, altogether. Tomi was before. Way
before.

I still miss him.

So does Kumagoro. Kumagoro probably misses Tomi more than I do.

My plush friend slips off my head, but I catch him before he can fall onto
the pavement. Kumagoro whispers that it's alright, it wasn't my fault.
Sometimes things just fall down. Sometimes you just can't defy the laws
of nature.

"I'm sorry, Sakuma-san. That was way out of line." Ten pats me on the
shoulder. "I just don't want to see you get hurt."

Kumagoro smiles at me, and I smile at him. Silly, silly. Ryu-chan and
Kuma-chan just want to take the hurt away. Only Sakuma Ryuichi, famous
singer, could hurt someone. Ryu-chan would never...ever... Ryu-chan
wants to make sure everyone feels good again.

I can't help but hear Tomi's voice in the back of my mind. His scared,
tired, trembling voice. "Take the pain away Ryuichi, one more time, for
me..."

"I'm just going to make sure Shu-chan is okay, Ten. That's all."

"Alright. I'll be waiting. Give me a call if you need anything."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The elevator to the tenth floor of Crystal Harbor Plaza is playing a musak
version of a Nittle Grasper song. Really, it's cracking me up. Someone,
somehow, translated Noriko's part into harp! I wonder if I can get a tape
of this.

The nice woman at the front desk did recognize me. Bad. But, she didn't
scream. Good. She had a funky accent. Amusing. I gave her an autograph
which said, "Sparkle dream croissant bunny. -Ryuichi" I've found, in
time, that autographs don't really have to make sense. So, I just put
down whatever words are rattling around in my head.

The metal doors open, revealing a deserted hallway that smells lemony
fresh. There's a mirror right across from the elevator, and I check my
face for the effects of gravity. Nope. Still all in place, smile and
all. I push my cowboy hat off to let it hang by the cord at the back of
my neck, and remove my sunglasses. No need for disguises with Shu-chan.

There are only four suites on this floor. I wonder why Shu-chan isn't
staying in the penthouse. He could afford it now, if he wanted. Well,
maybe he is not used to having that much room.

1004. Here it is!

"Knock knock, clock clock, open up silly sesame!"

There's a dull thump against the door, and then a groggy voice. "Go
away."

"Awwww. But, Shu-chan, Kumagoro wants to see your hotel room! Do you
have hamburgers in there? I want hamburgers, too! No fair!"

There's another thump, one I probably couldn't have heard if I didn't have
my ear pressed up against the door. "Ryuichi?"

"Surprise, it's me!"

The door lock clicks, and it opens a few inches, revealing only darkness.
The pungent scent of spilled alcohol wafts out, burning Kumagoro's nose.
Yeah. Liquor and something that smells a lot like burnt hair.

With one finger, I push the heavy door open enough to step inside. The
draft from the hallway sucks it closed behind me as if the hotel itself
was gasping at the scene revealed within. There's only one source of
light, a crack between the sheaths of heavy drapery on the floor to
ceiling window at the far side of the room. As Shuichi sits back down in
a plush chair, the line of light cuts across his left shoulder,
illuminating only the very tips of his longest bits of pink hair.

From what I can make out in this shadowy room, everything else in here,
besides the chair and the small table next to it, has been tossed from
it's original spot. Paintings hang at scandalous angles. Vases have been
smashed, leaving their bouquets in pools of stagnant water. The broken
television, ripped from the wall and half-covered with a bed sheet, looks
like a definite fire hazard.

"Shuichi..." I whisper.

"Yuki called me. He calls me every night. Every single night, you know
that? The man who never could be bothered to call me before, now calls me
all the time." Shuichi emits the most pathetic sounding laugh I've ever
heard. "Funny, isn't it?"

"Have you been drinking?"

Shuichi's head droops down so far I'm surprised his nose doesn't hit his
chest. "I smashed all the liquor. So, if you wanted some...I'm really
sorry."

I try to walk forward a bit, but with every step I crunch something
underfoot. Kumagoro advises immense care. I don't like this at all.
This is extremely unhappy and decidedly un-un-unshiny. I'm scared
of... Shuichi is... This is just like I was after Tomi... I can't
handle this. I just can't...

So much pain. Too much pain. Numbness. Please, someone just take away
my pain, too. I can't hold anymore. I'll let someone else make the
decisions.

"Shuichi, where is Yuki-san?" That's it. I can hear my voice, completely
in control of everything. I'll just hold onto Kumagoro and wait. "Tell me
what happened, Shuichi."

"Yuki..." That's not the way Shuichi usually says that word. Not with
venom. He says it with unbridled joy. "Yuki is wherever Yuki is.

I finally make it to where Shuichi is sitting. Carefully, so as not to
startle him, I kneel down in front of the chair. His right arm hangs
limply off to one side. With unwavering confidence, I take his hand, curl
my fingers around his, and squeeze. "Tell me, Shuichi."

"It...it started as a silly little fight. But, he'd been drinking and
it...he'd always been cold, but he's never been vicious, Ryuichi. He
pinned me against the wall, and... How could he? Of all people, how
could -he-? And all the while, he was saying such awful things. Cruel
things. About how many others he'd had while we were living together.
Names. Dates. Like he'd stored it all up, memorized it, just to hurt me.
Like he'd planned to break me and toss me aside all along. That hurt the
most. Much more than the pain of what he did to my body. It hurt...so
much more." He says all this, and not a single tear falls. His voice is
hollow. So empty and far away. Where is Shuichi? Who took away Shuichi?

Yuki Eiri did, that's who.

May I interject here that Yuki Eiri is a complete, total, and unforgivable
asshole? I wonder where K gets those guns.

"Gods, Shuichi," I pull his hand up and place it on his knee. If I could
somehow will every happy thought I've ever had into Shuichi's body through
our clasped hands, I would. "What about Hiroshi? Why didn't you go..."

"He's busy with wedding plans. I don't want to stomp on his or Ayaka's
happiness. Suguru-kun's oblivious to everything besides his keyboard.
I didn't want them to know, anyway. So K put me here until he can help
me find a decent apartment." Shuichi looks up suddenly. "Don't tell
them. Please, Ryuichi? I don't think I could... If they pitied me, it
would only remind me."

"Alright."

Shuichi sighs. As he exhales, he practically pours out of the chair,
ending up as a heap, quivering in my lap. "Things are so fucked up.
Everything is so confusing and so...lonely. It's like, sometimes, I try
so hard to make the pain go away, with anger, with crying, with pills,
with more pain. But, when it does go away, I get so numb. I can't even
remember if I'm really Shindou Shuichi anymore, or just sitting in a
corner, watching someone else pretend to be Shindou Shuichi."

"I know." His hair is really soft. I know I probably shouldn't be
touching it. I shouldn't even be here. Because I know what's going to
happen next. I'll want to take care of him. I'll bring him home, put him
into my life, try to fix this broken Shuichi. But, I can never fix
anyone. It's just like Ten said.

How can a broken person fix another broken person? It never works.

Never.

But, what can I do? I can't leave him here. If Shuichi gets much lower,
he might try something drastic.

Then there really would be no Shuichi.

What do you think, Kumagoro? How do I get into situations like this?

"Shuichi," I say as I pull him up by his bony shoulders, "You're going to
come with Ryu-chan now." His lips part as if he is going to say
something, but I don't give him the chance. "You're going to come with
Kumagoro and me. I don't know if... I can't make the pain go away,
Shuichi. But, I can promise that you won't have to be alone. Okay?"

Shuichi nods his agreement into my chest. "I'm so tired, Ryuichi. I'm so
very...very tired now."

"Alright. You sleep." As Shuichi nuzzles against my filmy silver shirt,
his eyes closing with exhaustion, I pick up Kumagoro and rummage around
in his pouch until I find my cellphone.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Ring.

"Ten here."

"Come up to room 1004. I need you to carry Shuichi downstairs..."

Ten sighs, exasperated beyond belief. "This is no good at all,
Sakuma-san."

"I know."

I know.

But, I have to do it. Don't I, Kumagoro?

Ah, don't look at me like that.

This is half your fault, too.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Oh my goodness," Molly declares. Ten's carrying a rag-doll Shuichi as we
enter my penthouse. "Has there been an accident?"

Ten grumbles something unintelligible as he bends over to place Shuichi on
my couch. With the lighting in here, I can finally get a better view of
the sleeping singer. How did I not notice how really, really bad he looks
earlier today? Or earlier this week? Even in his sleep, the circles
under his eyes seem immense, and his arms are like sticks of bone. You
can see his hip bones poking into the sides of his jeans. He obviously
hasn't been eating, except when K forces him.

He seems half-dead, and laying on the couch like that, he looks like a
discarded confection. Someone took a rainbow popsicle out of the freezer,
got tired of it after only one lick, and threw it on the sidewalk to let
it melt.

"Say, that's the little fella from Bad Luck, isn't it?" Molly asks,
bending down next to the couch. She puts her fingers against Shuichi's
forehead, I suppose to discern if he is ill. Deciding Shuichi isn't
plague-ridden, Molly looks up at me, her lips pursed. "Sakuma-san, you
can't do this sort of thing, dontcha know. We've talked about this..."

"Don't bother," Ten replies with a huff, "He's not listening."

"Deary me. At least the other ones you bring home are conscious."

"Sometimes," Ten adds with a quirked eyebrow. I suppose that... Well,
usually Molly doesn't find out who has been in my apartment until she
discovers the mess the next morning.

"Molly, will you get a blanket for Shu-chan? I've got to..."

As I pull out my cellphone, Ten catches my wrist. "I'm warning you
Sakuma-san. Don't do this. I'm not afraid to knock you out. You know I
can."

Ten's touch on my wrist causes me to flinch. He wouldn't hurt me,
really. But...

I think of what that Yuki did to Shu-chan. Just beyond those bandages on
his impossibly tiny wrists are the bruises left by such devastating
cruelty it makes my heart pound with anger. I yank my wrist away from
Ten with so much force I end up hitting myself in the shoulder.

"You're dismissed for the evening, Ten-san," I say through clenched teeth.

Ten turns on his heel, cool as you please, and heads toward the door.
Before he exits, he mutters one last thing. "I'm not cleaning it up this
time, Sakuma-san."

I clench my fist and look over at Molly and Shu-chan. She's tucking the
corners of the blanket around his shoulders, patting his hair just like a
mother might do. "He's just looking out for you, dontcha know,
Sakuma-san."

"I have Kumagoro for that."

"Yes, of course." Molly stands up and bushes her hands against her long
black skirt. "I'll be back in the morning. If either of you get hungry,
there are snacks in the fridge, hm?"

"Thanks, Molly, na no da. Shu-chan and Ryu-chan will be alright,
donchaknow?" Molly laughs. She thinks it's funny when I try to imitate
her Wisconsin accent.

"Alright, alright, Ryuichi." Hm. She only calls me that when she's being
my friend rather my employee. Molly smiles and reaches up to touch my
shoulder as she looks back at the pink-haired punk sleeping on my couch.
"He reminds me of you, you know?"

I know.

That's what worries me.

Molly shuts the door gently on the way out, leaving me alone in my
penthouse apartment with Shuichi. I slump down on the floor next to the
couch and place Kumagoro on the glass coffee table. Behind me, I can hear
Shuichi's tiny half-snores, soothing me with the fact that he obviously
isn't as dead as he looks. I unfold my cellphone and press in the code.

"Dial, dial, ring, ring, sing, sing, telephone song."

Kumagoro picks up the chorus and hums the rest of the telephone song for
me.

On the other end, I hear a click. "Hello?"

"Tohma-kun! Guess who!"

"What's up, Ryuichi?"

I lean back, settling against the couch. "I need a flavor-favor to
savor."

"Ryuichi..." (Tomha gets suspicious -really- quick. That's why he's NG's
president, na no da. He can tell what people are up to, even if -they-
don't know -themselves-. It's creepy...a bit.)

"Bad Luck is on break," I say, my voice deepening a bit, "For the next
week."

"What are you talking about? They have a CD to finish."

"I have Shuichi. He's in bad shape."

"How bad?" That's Tohma for you. If it isn't near-death, you shouldn't
be skipping work.

"Post-Tomi bad."

A deep sigh comes from my friend's end of the phone. "Alright."

The next part...I don't really want to say. "Tohma, did you know?"

There's a long pause. "Yeah."

"Why, Tohma?" Why didn't you do something? Why didn't you tell me? Why
didn't you find someone to take care of Shuichi?

"It's complicated, Ryuichi. You shouldn't have gotten involved. This
isn't the sort of thing you can deal with. I'll send K over tomorrow to
pick up Shuichi."

My head hurts. Too much strain from trying to keep focused on something
other than being shiny shiny. Can't let Tohma know, though. "No.
Shuichi is going to stay with me a while."

"Ryuichi..." The annoyance Tohma hides behind his professional demeanor
is slipping faster than an ASK song from the charts. "Alright. I'll
smooth things over with your schedules. But promise me -one- thing,
Ryuichi. I will only do this for you if you make this promise."

"What?"

"Promise me you will -not- go confront Yuki Eiri."

"Tohma..."

"Promise me, Ryuichi. And make Kumagoro promise, too."

I cross my fingers. "We promise."

"Now uncross your fingers and promise again."

Damn.

How does he -do- that?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

In The Next Chapters: The horrible misadventures of Ryuichi and Shuichi
continue. Can two completely broken people somehow help each other to
become whole again? Why would Yuki, of all people, do such a horrible
thing to Shuichi? Will the ear-biting episode come back to haunt Ryuichi?
And what, exactly, happened with Tomi? Will Ten pound Ryuichi into
hamburger for being such an idiot? Will Kumagoro stop being such a
troublemaker? All this and more, in the upcoming chapters of Pianissimo
Butterfly.

Author Notes: Well, this is my first Gravitation story. Needed a bit of a
break from Rurouni Kenshin stuff.

As you can tell, this takes place two years after the Gravitation anime.
In this chapter, Shuichi is, for understandable reasons, I hope, a bit
different. He'll be more Shuichi-like in upcoming chapters, but not
-exactly- like he is in the anime/manga. Two years would mature him a
bit, I think.

I don't subscribe to the idea that Ryuichi has split personalities,
exactly. Nor do I think he's exactly schizophrenic. I do, however, think
that fame (among other things) has made him necessarily a bit -off-. I
think he -does- have problems concentrating sometimes, as well as definite
difficulty interacting with and relating to other people. Intense or
strange situations seem to cause him to flip out a bit, which is why NG
(in this story) orders his life so precisely.

I also think that, under normal conditions, Yuki would NEVER EVER EVER
EVER hurt physically hurt Shuichi to any discernable extent on purpose.
(Might bop him on the head, but never -hurt- him severely.) So, before
you get up-in-arms about the OOCness of Yuki doing such a horrible thing
to his beloved, please wait and read the rest of the story. For, I
believe that when certain actions and motivations unfold, it will make
much more sense.

Well, hope you liked it so far. I'd appreciate it if you let me know what
you think. Your reviews will help me steer the story. :D

(I have been asked to repost this here from ff.net. Some of the future
comments are in reply to comments from ff.net, if there is any confusion.)
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