Part One - Regrets
Kaoru stepped outside in silence, and the evening blanket of air surrounded him. The temperature was comfortable bordering on cold, and the stars gleamed sullen and distant in the indigo sky. The moon was a pale, cold thing scudded with clouds.
‘ Shinya will be waiting for you... ’
“Shinya,” he murmured as he walked to his car, oblivious to his surroundings. As he spoke he could still taste Toshiya on his lips.
Out of habit, if not out of want, he tried to force the taste from his senses and the warmth from his memory.
‘ We can’t do this to them... ’
Maybe they couldn’t. But – God, how he wished they could. He wanted more then mere, stolen moments, although it might have been easier to do nothing at all. But he wasn’t strong enough to do that, being around Toshiya made him lose his resolve. When they were alone together – he just couldn’t resist the other man, he *couldn’t*.
The best he could do was avoid Toshiya, try to stay out of any situation which would put them together. Obviously, he had not made that effort a few moments ago, but in most situations, he did what he could, what his conscience demanded.
Forgetting about Toshiya, however, was verily impossible. As much as they made a mutual effort to avoid each other off-stage, the luxury of fan services was more or less forced upon them. It’s not that Kaoru disliked the fact that he and Toshiya were an accepted pairing when it came to fan servicing – it was just that it made it so much harder. He had a *reason* to approach Toshiya on stage, to flirt with him, touch him, even kiss him. They could steal a moment and no one suspected.
Kaoru wasn’t sure how it all even happened, really. This undeniable attraction to Toshiya. It’s not that he was unhappy with Shinya – quite the contrary, in fact. Once one got beyond the aloof exterior and the cool shyness, Shinya was emotional, warm – and lonely, until Kaoru came along. And things had been going well between them.
But now – things had changed. Not so much between Kaoru and Shinya as only between Kaoru and Toshiya. Kaoru wasn’t sure how to react to it – and, like he and Toshiya had mutually decided, perhaps it was better not to react at all.
After all, they each had someone – he had Shinya, Toshiya had Die, and as far as Kaoru knew, they were all doing well – or, at least, as well could be expected considering his and Toshiya’s recently developed situation. And if they acted on this attraction – what then? What would happen to Dir en Grey?
No. It was safer to leave things as they were. No matter how much it hurt.
Thinking pained thoughts and idealizing wistful dreams, he left the studio parking lot in silence, taking little note of the cars still left in the parking lot.
“... Kaoru?” came the somewhat timid response to his semi-coherent mutter.
The guitarist blinked to clear his vision and reasserted his grip on the phone, struggling to a sitting position. He was sprawled on his couch and the t.v. was still on, flashing blue-grey, meaningless pictures into the silent room. Having drifted off an indefinite period of time ago, he was drawn from slumber by the harsh ringing of the phone.
He reached up to rake his hair back with one hand while coaxing his mind to full wakefulness. “Shinchan? What time is it?”
There was a pause. Then: “Eleven o’clock. Gomen... Did I wake you...?”
Kaoru frowned at his hesitant tone. “Iie, don’t worry. I just drifted off. Is everything okay?”
Kaoru was completely awake now, and his consternation increased as Shinya spoke half-heartedly before trailing off.
“Shinya-koi... What’s wrong?”
“Betsuni...” Again, a half-hearted answer.
Kaoru’s eyebrows drew down. “Do you want me to come over?” Kaoru knew from experience that when something was bothering Shinya, he wouldn’t say it using such an impersonal means as the phone. In fact, he didn’t relish the phone at all; that was an aspect of his shy, personal nature.
“I... no, but – can I come over there?”
“Hai, of course,” he replied immediately.
There was another strange pause where the silence of the phone stretched between them. “Are you sure you don’t mind?”
“Of course not,” Kaoru rejoined at once, gently. “When have you ever had to ask?”
“Aa... Then I’ll be there soon.”
“I’ll be here. Ja,” Kaoru replied.
A click was the only response, and soon he was holding a dead line.
Kaoru stared at the phone for a long moment, holding it listlessly in one hand. Something was obviously wrong – he had known that even in his half-coherent state upon first hearing Shinya’s voice. The drummer didn’t sound angry or ill. He sounded – hurt? Upset?
Kaoru’s thoughts ran rampant as he hung the phone back up and sat up to stretch. He was fully awake after that interesting conversation, and wished he knew what to expect upon Shinya’s arrival. He could think of nothing, however, and so, turning off the television and flipping on a light to bathe the room in a soft, yellow glow, he sat in silence and wondered.
Even his knock was timid.
When Shinya finally arrived, about ten minutes after his phone call, he knocked only twice, softly. Had Kaoru not been expecting him, he might not have even heard. Kaoru was, however, waiting on him, and so hurried to the door to open it, relieved that he’d finally know what was wrong and hopefully be able to fix it.
The door opened to reveal Shinya standing on his doorstep. He was dressed casually, in dark pants and a plain, button-up shirt, and his long, auburn hair was pulled back simply. He wore no eye make-up; around his eyes there was the faintest hint of smudges, as if make-up that had run had been washed away.
< He’s been... crying? >
“What’s wrong?” Kaoru immediately demanded, concerned. He took Shinya’s hand, coaxing him inside.
The redhead seemed to – flinch? – at his touch, but allowed himself to be pulled inside. Kaoru shut the door gently behind him, then turned to face him.
“What’s going on?” he asked again, peering into Shinya’s reddened eyes.
Shinya kept his silence for a few moments longer, meeting his gaze for a moment only, and then pulling away. He took his hand from Kaoru’s grip, and then turned around, stepped a few steps away. Kaoru stared at his turned back.
“Shinchan...?” he said softly, uncertain whether he should approach or stay where he was.
The drummer finally turned around, after Kaoru heard him draw a breath that sounded shaky.
“I – saw you,” he finally told Kaoru, voice quiet.
Kaoru gazed at him with incomprehension. “Saw me?” he repeated. “Where? Shinya, what are you-”
“After practice,” Shinya said, cutting him off. He folded his arms in front of him, clutching himself as if he were cold. “With – with Toshiya.”
Kaoru’s mouth went dry. Shinya’s eyes stayed on him a moment longer, and then skittered away.
“I saw you – touch him, kiss him. Ask why – why it had to be this way.” Shinya’s voice caught; his eyes shimmered.
The guitarist was speechless. He couldn’t think of anything to say that could make the situation any better.
“You used to call me beautiful, Kaoru,” Shinya whispered brokenly, eyes finally seeking Kaoru’s again, in anguish. His gaze was large, dark, and pleading. “But now... It’s just him, isn’t it...?”
< God... Shinya was... there? >
“I – I didn’t...” He trailed off.
Shinya’s eyes, in spite of his tears, flashed. “You didn’t mean for me to find out?” he demanded bitterly, harshly.
“No!” Kaoru took a step forward, lifting a hand. Shinya didn’t move, only stood there rigidly, trembling. His eyes were accusatory and two crystal tears escaped. “No, I – I didn’t mean to hurt you,” he amended, knowing the lameness of his response but unable to find better words.
< I’ve just been worrying about Toshiya, about me and him and the ramifications it could have on Dir en Grey. I didn’t think of Shinya... Of how much it would hurt him... >
“Isn’t that how it always goes?” Shinya whispered.
Kaoru could only gaze at the drummer helplessly, damning himself for everything.
“Kaoru... How – how long...?” Shinya murmured, teary gaze imploring.
Kaoru wasn’t going to lie to him now, wasn’t going to betray whatever shreds of confidence might remain. “A – a couple months,” he said. “Two, I guess...”
“Two months?” Shinya whispered, gazing at him. Kaoru could see him shaking. “Two months... you’ve been – been unhappy with me?” He choked on his words.
“No!” Kaoru said immediately, fervently. “Shinya, I – I’ve never been unhappy with you. Never,” he swore.
“But you could be happier,” Shinya whispered brokenly. “Kaoru – doushite...? ...Doushite...?” His voice disappeared into a choked sob, and Kaoru was immediately there, folding his arms around him.
“I trusted you,” Shinya whispered, face hidden in Kaoru’s shirt. “I’ve never – let someone... And now – you-”
“Shh,” Kaoru soothed, as Shinya’s fingers tightened, gripping the material of his shirt. He stroked Shinya’s hair vainly, uncertain of what to do, knowing there was nothing he could do. Nothing could be undone.
They stayed in their embrace only a moment; Shinya only permitted it for that brief interlude. Then he pushed Kaoru away, and reached up to wipe the traces of tears from his face.
The things he couldn’t say reflected blatantly in his eyes, burning Kaoru’s heart.
< ‘I’ve never let someone this close to me.’ Until me... And now I betrayed you... >
“Shinya...” He didn’t have the right to call him Shinchan anymore. “What – what happens now?” he asked softly. Apologies could never be enough. He wouldn’t scar Shinya by trying. He couldn’t bear to see more tears.
“Now?” Shinya whispered, drawing in a shaky breath, releasing it as a long sigh. “I... don’t know. I didn’t think ‘us’ would become just you and me so – so soon.”
< ... For whatever it’s worth, neither did I, Shinchan, > he thought, heart aching. < Things happen, people change, but... >
“Can there be any reconciliation?” he asked softly. “Shinya, I – I don’t want... to lose you.”
Shinya looked away. “You won’t,” he whispered. “Because – I still love you.”
< God... This would be easier if he hated me... >
“Kaoru,” Shinya continued, voice slowly becoming steadier. “I don’t want the band to suffer. Because now it’s all I have.” Kaoru watched him with anguish, condemning himself for hurting someone so completely. For hurting Shinya at all. “So... don’t let this affect Dir en Grey.”
“Hai,” he agreed immediately.
Shinya shifted slightly, fidgeting as an awkward moment of silence followed. Then he steeled himself. “I should go,” he told Kaoru, eyes dark with his sorrow. He started to the door without waiting for Kaoru’s reluctant, helpless “aa” in response.
When he stood on the threshold, poised to walk out of Kaoru’s house as Shinchan for the last time, the guitarist made him stop. “Shinya,” he said suddenly, “I – I didn’t ever think things would end this way.” < At first I didn’t think they’d end at all... > “I’m sorry...”
Shinya gazed at him, expression lost and eyes pleading, and then he embraced Kaoru again, putting his arms around him desperately.
“You used to call me beautiful,” he repeated, tone aching and wistful. “Kaoru...”
“Shh,” Kaoru hushed him again, hearing his voice waver, knowing tears threatened. “I’m sorry,” he said again, weakly.
They stood together for a long moment then, in silence. Kaoru’s door stood open, let the light of the pale stars and wan moon flood in. They both knew it would be their last embrace as lovers, and they cherished it in spite of the sorrow and pain, the irrevocable change between them.
Shinya finally pushed away, met Kaoru’s gaze briefly through his lashes, and then stepped back and turned away.
“Oyasumi,” he said quietly over his shoulder.
“Oyasumi,” Kaoru murmured, watching the slender drummer walk away, posture carefully straight. Then he stopped him a second time. “Shinya,” he said suddenly, unwilling to leave anything unsaid. Shinya froze, and didn’t turn around. But he waited.
“I – In those two months, just because I...” He couldn’t find the words. “It... doesn’t mean that I stopped loving you,” he finally offered, wanting Shinya to hear the truth in his words, the regret.
He knew Shinya heard. The other man stood there for another moment, hesitating, unmoving. Then he resumed his walk in silence.
He didn’t look back as he got in his car, nor did he hesitate as he drove away.
Kaoru stood on his own doorstep for a long moment, staring into the night, overwhelmed at the way everything could change in one night, wondering what would be in the future, hating himself for hurting Shinya so utterly.
Later, after he returned inside while the stars continued their sad vigil without, he knew sleep was out of the question. The very velvet of the night was oppressive, hovering to keep him awake, dreams far away.
Picking up the phone, repressing a sigh, he dialed a familiar number.
The phone rang three times, and he began to think that perhaps Toshiya was asleep, and was either sleeping through the rings, or ignoring them. But on the fourth ring, midway through, someone picked up.
Kaoru almost dropped the phone. Fumbling for his voice, covering up his startlment as quickly as he could, he said: “Die?”
A pause. “Kaoru?” Die asked, sounding puzzled. “Yeah, it’s me. Is something wrong?”
“No,” he responded, vainly searching for an excuse to have called. While his mind raced for a reason, he heard Toshiya’s voice distantly.
“Die? Who’s on the phone?” he was asking.
“Kaoru,” Die told him. Then, to Kaoru: “well? What’s going on?” he prompted, sounding slightly irritated – not that Kaoru could blame him, although the knowledge that they were together made his heart ache.
“No, I – just wanted to ask Toshiya something,” he said, striving to sound normal. “I think he left something at the studio,” he continued, stumbling over the quickly-formed lie.
“Really? What?” Die inquired.
Kaoru looked frantically around his apartment. “Some sheet music,” he proclaimed, as soon as his eyes fell on his own disheveled pile of music.
“Okay, well, hold on,” Die said, as Kaoru silently prayed that he’d put the bassist on instead of simply asking himself.
To Kaoru’s immense relief, he heard the phone being set down, missed whatever Die said to Toshiya, and then, a moment later, the rustling as Toshiya picked the phone back up.
“Kaoru?” he asked, voice carefully neutral. “Die said something about sheet music?” He seemed slightly puzzled.
“I told him I was calling because I thought you left your sheet music at the studio. Listen, I – I didn’t think he’d be there and...” He trailed off then, hesitating. He had called to tell him than he and Shinya were no longer together. Should he just say it without preamble? Should he have called just to say that anyway, all things considered?
“We just got home,” Toshiya told him, to fill the silence, and to make the conversation seem normal, harmless.
Kaoru hesitated only a moment longer, and then, wanting Toshiya to know, but not knowing why, he finally said: “you don’t have to say anything, but – today, this evening, Shinya and I – we broke up.” He paused for a minute, but heard only the crackling of the phone’s silence. Toshiya controlled whatever emotion or exclamation he might have entertained.
Kaoru continued. “He saw us, tonight... After practice, when we... He saw,” he said again, “and tonight he – confronted me, and... It’s over.” His words were faltering, hesitant. Speaking of their parting only recalled his pain and, more potently, his regret. Too many regrets.
“You’re wrong,” Toshiya finally replied, after a silence that threatened to become too long. “That’s not my music.”
Kaoru bit his lip. “I just... I wanted to tell you, because things are different now, and I don’t know what’s going to happen next, and...”
“What’s taking so long?” It was Die’s voice now, drifting through the receiver.
“Nothing.” This to Die, from the bassist. Some rustling followed, and then: “Die, not right now...” Toshiya’s murmur; then a throaty laugh from Die.
“Hang up the phone,” he coaxed. Kaoru felt nauseous, his stomach was tight.
“Goodbye, Kaoru,” Toshiya said obediently; it sounded as if he spoke only half into the receiver, and without waiting for a response, he hung up. The line went dead, and Kaoru was left in isolation.
Once he hung up the phone, Kaoru sat in silence for a long time, thoughts lost in a maze of possibilities that seemed only to lead to a pale, crying sky.
He wished he hadn’t called. Then he wouldn’t know that Toshiya and Die were together that night. Then he wouldn’t feel so alone.
to be continued
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