Dedication: Razzy Rain—I’m finally getting into the parts that you really helped me with. Thanks again for the help, Official Advisor! ^o^
Beautiful: Part Seven - Away From Here
"What if I missed you
You got caught in the sun?
What if I did something
Never to be undone?”
"Caught in the Sun", by Course of Nature
It was after half an hour had passed that Shinya began to worry.
It was not an uncommon occurrence for the varying members of Dir en Grey to be late, to practice or otherwise—although it was more common for some members than for others, such as Kyo, who had a habit of oversleeping. All things considered, however, Shinya had not expected to have to worry about it today. The single person he was worried about showing up at all was already there, and he figured that Die’s presence should be the limited end of his anxiety.
Shinya let his eyes fall briefly on Die, who sat across the table from him. The redhead’s eyes were fixed on nothing, a brooding shadow was obscuring him, and he had said no more than two words since entering. Those two words had not been directed at any members of Dir en Grey.
When Die had entered the conference room—right on time—he had been greeted by the ones present other than Kaoru, Shinya, and Kyo, by the producers and other extraneous people who knew nothing of what was broiling beneath the surface. He had given them a simple “good morning” and then moved to sit down in the seat that was habitually his.
The most any member of Dir en Grey had gotten out of him was a short look, and that had been to Shinya. Die’s eyes had met his briefly as he sat down, and Shinya did not know to what end. Perhaps searching for relief at him being there, curious to see Shinya’s reaction because he had actually come; perhaps searching for any traces of anger. But he said nothing, and there was nothing Shinya could say back.
Shinya also could not rationalize offering even a small smile. He was doing what he could to hold things together, but that did not mean he could reconcile the things he felt. He was still upset about what Die had done, mourning the way the other man had changed, wondering if it was temporary or permanent. A smile was not something he could muster, not for Die.
Shinya looked away from the guitarist before the other man could notice him, glancing around the room in a nervous gesture. It was strange: everything this day was different from other conferences, and yet, it all looked the same. They were in their accepted seating. Kaoru always sat next to Shinya; Die always sat next to Toshiya, and Kyo sat anywhere he pleased. Die across from Shinya, Toshiya across from Kaoru. That was the way it had always been.
< Because, > Shinya thought with a bitter sting of pain, < that’s the way it used to be. When things were normal... We were happy. When I was with Kaoru. >
< When I was beautiful to him... >
That thought was fleeting and wistful, there were two reasons he did not dwell on it. One, he tried not to think such things, did not like to think of the past and the way things had been because it hurt as much now as it had the first day. And two, he had other, more immediate, concerns.
He saw that Kyo and Kaoru also expressed a particular anxiety. Not only that, but everyone else was there, had been there for a while. The table was filled, people were shifting uncomfortably, glancing at watches.
The seat across from Kaoru and next to Die was starkly empty.
Kaoru caught Shinya’s eyes passing over him, and he looked back. Frank worry was reflected in his expressive gaze, worry and a certain amount of dread, of fright.
Their gaze broke when someone suddenly spoke.
Kaoru turned around, facing the man in the suit who stood at the head of the table and who had spoken. “Hai?”
“Is—is Toshiya-san coming? Does he know about the meeting?”
< Yes, > Shinya thought distantly. < He knows. I know he wouldn’t have forgotten. >
“Ah... Hai, he knows,” Kaoru confirmed. He carefully ignored the first question, turned back to Shinya in prelude to speaking. But then he hesitated, eyes darting around the room.
Shinya spoke up. “Kaoru, can I see you in the hall?”
The guitarist nodded, eyes expressing his thanks, and they both rose. Shinya cast a glance at Kyo—who had, for the first fifteen minutes, been sitting with his head on the table, but was now sitting up, sharing their anxiety—and arched his eyebrows slightly. The vocalist rose without hesitation.
Murmurs swept the table, but neither of the three men cared. All were careful to avoid looking at Die. They turned and filed out of the room. Shinya was the last to leave, and he shut the heavy, wooden door securely behind them.
“Something’s wrong,” Kaoru said immediately, the worry overtaking his weary features.
“You can’t be sure of that,” Shinya replied immediately, although he had a sinking feeling that simple tardiness or neglect was not the cause of Toshiya’s absence.
The guitarist turned toward Kyo. “Kyo. You took him home... And you’re sure he knows about the meeting?”
Kyo nodded. “When I was dropping him off, I reminded him of what time it was and where it was.” His voice was quiet, anxious.
Kaoru bit his lip. “Maybe—should I call him?”
Shinya nodded. “It’s worth a try,” he whispered. As Kaoru pulled out his cellular phone Shinya looked to the side, down the hall. He could see out the window at the corridors’ end, see the palely blue sky and the scattering of pearled clouds. The sun was a wan shimmer, was a white, loveless light.
He kept his gaze locked there, outside at the free, uncaring world, thoughts somewhere with the clouds. Distantly he listened to the soft noises next to him as Kaoru punched in the number, the rustling of his clothes as he lifted the phone to his ear.
Then silence. Somewhat breathless, somewhat endless. Shinya waited to hear Kaoru begin to speak. But there was nothing. Nothing.
He tore his gaze from the window when he heard the distinct noise of Kaoru clicking the phone’s lid shut and ending the call.
“He didn’t answer,” Kaoru said softly, distress reflecting in every feature and action.
“What about his answering machine?” Kyo demanded.
Kaoru shook his head. “That’s the thing... It didn’t pick up. I got through eight or nine rings, and—nothing.”
“He must have... unplugged it...?” Shinya offered softly.
< But why? Why would Toshiya do that? If he didn’t want to be reached, he just wouldn’t have to return the calls or pick up. >
He bit his lip. What he thought was all true, but...
< This is a greater form of isolation. He can’t be contacted at all this way, can’t even get a message. >
“What—what should we do?” he finally asked, voice faint.
“Maybe you’re both jumping to conclusions,” Kyo slid in, perhaps in an effort to be calming or soothing. He did not succeed entirely—his voice was too uncertain itself to truly convince them of much. “I mean—this is Toshiya. You know him... He’s late a lot.”
“But not to meetings,” Kaoru replied, shaking his head. “Very rarely is he late for a meeting because he knows these are important, and he’s not just wasting our time, but that of others as well.”
“And all things considered... Why would he be late? He wasn’t out last night... And his answering machine?”
“I know,” Kyo said, attempting to be a voice of reason, “but—I think we should avoid any drastic action right now. Give it a while longer, at least another half hour.”
Shinya wasn’t sure if the vocalist intended to continue, but he cut off his words at the distinct noise of the latch of the door opening. Three pairs of eyes turned to the door, Shinya shifting so that he could see it. He tried to keep the open surprise from his face when it was Die who slipped out of the conference room and closed the door behind him.
The three men standing in the hall did not seem to know what to say. Himself, Shinya could not think of even a single, appropriate word to murmur.
Die’s gaze was unreadable. “Did you call him?”
There was no question as to who he referenced. Shinya glanced at Kaoru, saw the other man nod. The pink-head’s jaw was clenched tightly. Die’s gaze remained on him for a moment that Shinya thought was becoming too long. They could not have a repeat of yesterday.
He cut in, voice quiet. “He didn’t answer; neither did his answering machine. Does he have a mobile?”
Die nodded. Shinya looked at Kaoru, and to his surprise, the guitarist handed him his cell phone. Shinya swallowed his startlement, took the phone in his delicate hands, and flipped open the lid.
Die told him the number and Shinya dialed accordingly, bringing the phone anxiously to his ear to wait. The rings were hollow, distant. He was impatient, was waiting for Toshiya to pick up. The bassist had to pick up.
But—there was nothing. The only voice he heard was the metallic, recorded voice of someone telling him the user of the cell phone was not available. There was, however, the voicemail option, and he pressed the button for it anxiously.
His message was short and anxious, he asked Toshiya where he was and said that they were worried about him because he wasn’t at the meeting and because they couldn’t reach him at home. He asked him to call any of them when he got the message and then hung up in defeat.
He didn’t have to say anything as he mutely handed the phone back to Kaoru. His message meant only one thing.
Die was the first to break the shimmering silence. “They’re getting restless in there,” Die told them, voice still cool and unreadable. “That’s why I came out here, to let you know.”
Shinya felt a flare of anger. < That’s why you came out here? Just to tell us that? Aren’t you even worried about him...? >
He knew that Die was—he had to be, on some level. Perhaps not as much as the others, which was just wrong in itself, but he had to be worried. It was cruel that he would not show it. But Shinya carefully swallowed that flame of anger.
Kaoru seemed afraid to speak, perhaps his thoughts were as flammable as Shinya’s and he had a more difficult time restraining himself. God knew he had the right.
Shinya took the initiative because Kyo seemed disinclined to comment and content to let others lead, and Kaoru didn’t seem to trust himself. “Alright. Let’s go back in and tell them Toshiya is sick, that we just called and contacted him. But we can’t cancel this meeting. We’re just going to have to do it without Toshiya.”
Slow nods agreed with his plan, Kaoru’s the last. Shiny knew it was because the last thing the other man wanted to do was to sit through a meeting when Toshiya was mysteriously absent and unreachable. Shinya understood the sentiment, but they had to keep moving forward.
Die and Kyo went inside first, Shinya standing back to be the last to enter. As Kaoru passed him he laid a gentle hand on Kaoru’s arm, earning a soft glance from the other man. The look Shinya gave him was of understanding sympathy, was a sharing of worry; his hand on Kaoru’s arm was a show of silent support. Kaoru gave him a very slight nod in response, his features never altering and his eyes never relinquishing that frustrated despair, and then he, too, went back inside.
Upon entering Shinya saw all eyes curiously watching the varying members of Dir en Grey retake their seats. When Shinya paused behind his chair and remained standing, all pairs of eyes returned to him except those of his fellow band mates.
“Please excuse this delay,” he began, bowing slightly to them all. “We just managed to contact Toshiya, and he has taken ill. He will not be able to make it to the meeting today. Now that this is settled, however, and we know for a fact he shall not be here, we would like to begin, if everyone is ready.”
There were nods all around the table. Shinya held back a sigh as he sat down, slumping into his chair. A voice began talking; it did not matter who it belonged to. Shinya stared at the wall and against his better judgment, contradicting his thoughts of ‘moving forward’, he heard nothing of what was said.
It was too much. Sitting there, listening. Doing nothing that mattered, that couldn’t matter when other things were considered. He couldn’t take it anymore.
Muscles tense, wanting to fidget with his anxiety, Kaoru finally leaned over toward Shinya. He murmured the drummer’s name very softly, and eyes turned inquiringly to him.
Shinya’s eyes widened in alarm. “Kaoru-”
“It’s been another hour, now,” he whispered fiercely. “Something’s not right. Something happened. I have to go.”
Shinya bit his lip, seemed ready to speak. Kaoru didn’t wait.
He stood up, and his movements were abrupt. The person currently speaking to them cut off, droning voice trailing off in surprise. There were a few murmurs.
“Sumimasen,” Kaoru told those around the table. “I have to go.”
Die’s gaze fixed upon him and was hard. Kyo’s gaze was considering. The other gazes were curious; questions were about to be asked. Questions that he didn’t have time for. Not waiting for another word to be spoken, he turned and strode out of the room. As he did so, he heard a chair scrape back behind him, but again, he did not wait.
As Kaoru passed through the door with a determined stride, as he was shutting it behind him, it did not fully close. A hand closed over his arm, stopping him, turning him around. He found himself faced with Shinya’s expressive gaze and worried face.
“I can’t stay here, not like this,” he said, cutting Shinya off. “Not when Toshiya is out there, somewhere, and I don’t know where he is because he’s not where he’s supposed to be. I don’t know if something has happened. I have to go. I have to go to his house, look for him.”
“I know,” Shinya soothed, voice quiet. “Kaoru, I’m not here to try to stop you,” he said in response to the rapid way in which Kaoru spoke. Kaoru relaxed slightly.
“I just wanted to make sure you would check his house first—that you would keep me updated.”
Kaoru nodded. “Are you staying here? Will the meeting continue?”
Shinya shrugged uncertainly. “I’m not sure... I’ll see what happens when I go back in there.”
“Do you think they know that something is wrong?” Kaoru asked softly. The worst that could happen now, on top of everything else, would be if the trouble in the band became public knowledge.
“Well... I don’t know. I think, perhaps, they have an idea. What with our little meeting our here earlier, and now you running out and me after you... But I imagine they won’t think much of it. I’ll do what I can to placate them.”
Kaoru gave him a grateful look. “Arigato.”
“Anyway... Whether I’ll still be here or not, I’ll turn my cell phone on. Call me after you go to his house, okay? Let me know what’s going on.”
“I will,” the guitarist promised.
Shinya nodded. “Now go,” he whispered, squeezing Kaoru’s arm and then giving him a gentle shove.
Nodding, offering a forced smile, but the effort not being lost on Shinya, who understood and managed a weakly-encouraging smile in return, Kaoru turned and strode away, one thought in his mind. He had to find out if something had happened to Toshiya.
When Kaoru reached Toshiya’s house, he very nearly ran up the walk to the door. He paid no attention to the shimmering, coolly warm day around him. The scenery had a pale hue, as if he saw it through a filter, and he noticed nothing around him.
Toshiya’s car was still there, but that meant very little. He could very easily have taken the subway or train anywhere he wanted to go. Kaoru wished the presence of Toshiya’s car was indicative of something, but he had a dreadful feeling that it didn’t mean a thing.
Reaching the door, he pounded against it, knocking forcefully. He listened carefully, heard nothing inside. After a few moments passed, echoing and silent, he knocked again.
“Toshiya!” he called, pounding harder this time. “Totchi, it’s Kaoru. Let me in.”
< Are you in there? >
Nothing, still nothing.
Kaoru had no more patience with which to wait, he was dreadfully certain that Toshiya was not inside. At least, that he would not be opening the door.
Resigned to drastic measures, hardly caring because of his anxious concern, Kaoru tried the door, but it was locked, as he expected. Actions sure and swift, he stepped back, took a deep breath, and kicked the door with flat, rough force. It sprung open.
“Toshiya!” he called again, stepping inside, unmindful of the shock of impact that he knew would fade soon from his knee.
He received no response, and he hurried through the foyer, eyes scanning his surroundings. Nothing was amiss. He didn’t know what kind of clue he was searching for, but whatever it was, he didn’t find it.
He reached the kitchen, his steps rang on the tiled floor. He looked around, eyes still searching; the first thing they noted was the cellular phone sitting on the table.
Eyebrows drawing down, he approached the table and picked it up. The delicate, harmless phone was on, and in the upper, left corner of the screen he saw the message icon flashing. One message; it would be Shinya’s.
< So he didn’t take his phone... >
A cold thought rose within him. < What if he’s still here, then...? >
Suddenly more alarmed, feeling a distinct swirling of panic, he cast about the kitchen once more. He saw the answering machine against the counter wall, saw that it was unplugged. That was nothing new. The kitchen was empty, and the attached living room was just as empty. The entrance, too, had been starkly without life.
Kaoru walked down the hall with rapid steps, stopping to peer in each door, even in the linen closet. When he reached the end of the hall, he knew that that last door, the closed one, was the one that led to Toshiya’s room.
“Toshiya,” he called again, through the door. He barely waited for the answer that he knew would not come before he grabbed the knob and turned it. Slowly, with a soft creak, the door opened.
The room was dim, the drapes were mostly drawn. A blue-grey light crawled across the walls and over the bed, illuminating dim colors and casting most objects into heavy shadow. His eyes seared the room, traveled across everything. His heart was pounding.
He saw nothing.
But as he released that sigh from deep within him, he knew his anxiety was not yet comforted. There was another door left, the one to the bathroom that was against the right wall. It, too, was closed securely.
He didn’t waste time in calling inside as he approached with dread slowness. Worry gripped him, overwhelmed him. For Toshiya, perhaps more for him than anyone else, everything was going wrong. Not only was there that illicit emotion between him and Kaoru and did it have to be denied, not only was that an aching pain that Kaoru shared, but there was Die. Die who had hurt Toshiya, hit him. Die who seemed to be telling Toshiya he owed him, who was, perhaps, blaming him.
Kaoru had visions in his mind of Toshiya giving in to this depression, thoughts of suicide flickered in his mind. What did Toshiya have to wait for, to live for? What if this was an end, an end that Kaoru was only thinking of when it might be too late...?
He burst through the door, his mind conjuring the worst.
To his immense relief, almost painful in its intensity, the bathroom was as starkly empty as the rest of the house.
< There wasn’t a note, > he reasoned in his head while his heart calmed.
But the situation wasn’t any better. In some ways, it had worsened. Toshiya was not here. That meant he was somewhere, somewhere they did not know, and there was no way to contact him.
< Is he trying to leave Dir en Grey? > he thought dismally, with an ache. < Die wanted to leave yesterday... Did that give Toshiya the idea? Is he trying to abandon us, because it has become too much, because he is being continually hurt, abused...? >
He couldn’t stand the thought. It couldn’t end here. He had to find the bassist.
As Kaoru left Toshiya’s bathroom and empty bedroom he pulled out his mobile phone, dialing Shinya’s number. The other man picked up midway through the second ring.
“Hello?” came the quiet, controlled voice.
“It’s me,” Kaoru said. “I’m at Toshiya’s. Where are you?”
“We just ended the meeting, I’m out in the hall.” He quickly brushed the matter away. “So what happened?” he demanded anxiously.
“He’s not here,” Kaoru reported quietly, eyes trailing across the objects in Toshiya’s house, thinking of the other man, the way he smiled, laughed, cried. The things he had been put through, that he didn’t deserve. He tried to focus on the conversation, bit back a sigh. Quickly he related the events.
“His car is still here. The door was locked, and he didn’t answer when I knocked so I kicked in the door. Everything’s empty, he’s not here. His mobile is on the table and the answering machine unplugged. There’s no note.”
“Did you check everywhere?” Shinya asked quietly.
“I did. I thought—I thought he might have...” He didn’t want to say the words, didn’t want to utter the word ‘suicide’. He trailed off momentarily and then continued. “There wasn’t a note, but I looked around anyway. But... it was empty.”
Shinya’s low, ghosted sigh reached him through the phone. “So—so what are you going to do?”
“What can I do? I’m going to look for him.”
A whisper. “Where?”
Kaoru shrugged helplessly to the empty room, now standing in the foyer near the front door, paused there. “I don’t know. Anywhere—I have to look. I guess I’ll check some places I know he likes... Shops and bars...” He trailed off.
“Okay,” Shinya said. “I’ll search too. There are a lot of places we can look... Too many. I’ll see if Kyo wants to go with me.”
“Alright,” Kaoru said softly. “My phone will be on.”
“Mine too,” Shinya echoed.
Their conversation ended.
Kaoru passed through Toshiya’s door once again, wincing slightly at the way it would not close correctly. He had to pause and really work at it to get it to close in a semi-decent manner. He would have to apologize if—when—he found Toshiya.
He began to drive around, scouring his mind for the things he remembered, the places Toshiya might be. He had no concept of time as he passed through the city, searching in a consistently irregular pattern.
At one point, his phone rang. He didn’t get his hopes up. They rose only a small amount, and immediately plummeted when he heard Shinya’s voice on the other line.
“Die... just called me,” Shinya informed Kaoru softly in a puzzled manner.
Kaoru frowned darkly at the road, absently focusing on the street he was driving. Lucky for him, and perhaps for any other cars on the road, it was not very crowded. Caution was not his strongest suit at the moment.
“What did he say?” he demanded.
“Well... he’s out looking for Toshiya now, too.”
< That doesn’t redeem him in any way in my eyes, > was his immediate thought, something he was unable and unwilling to douse. < But... The more people looking, the better. >
In spite of everything, Kaoru could not make himself believe Die felt nothing for the bassist. It was obviously the contrary, although his feelings were twisted almost beyond recognition. But if Die was out there looking, at least their chances of finding him were greater.
“Is Kyo with you?” he asked, pulling out of his thoughts.
Kaoru shrugged to the empty car. “No reason... Well, I’m gonna get off the phone. If I’m not careful, I’ll run someone over.” Not even a drop of dark mirth made it into his tone.
“Alright. Kaoru...” Shinya trailed off, his hesitancy was clear through the phone.
“What is it?” he asked softly, prompting the drummer when Shinya did not continue.
“Just—take care of yourself, Kaoru,” he whispered. “Don’t let this... overwhelm you. I know you’re upset, and all you want to do is find him, but—be careful. Don’t neglect yourself, remember that—that we’re here for you. I’m... here for you.”
The guitarist’s anxious, hard expression softened. “I know, Shin-chan,” he replied softly, immediately. “And—thank you. I will remember that, I almost always do... And same to you. Take care of yourself. I think you’re the one who’s managed to hold us together this long...”
< You’re the strongest. In being so, you’ve accepted the most pressure... Maybe because you feel obligated, maybe it is somehow because of me. >
< I don’t want to see you break. >
“Arigato, Kaoru...” Shinya’s voice was barely audible.
“I’ve gotta go now,” he said gently.
“Aa,” Shinya agreed. “Good luck, and goodbye.”
“Same to you.”
They both hung up. Kaoru drove on into the wan, lonely day.
Die stared at the counter, seeing his dim reflection in the glossy surface. He let his eyes remain there for only a moment before quickly sliding them away: he didn’t like the way he looked.
It was evening, he was weary. He had been searching for Toshiya for hours; he did not know for how many, but his time spent was less than that of his band mates. His lip lifted slightly in a snarl at the way Kaoru had run out of the conference room, how he was the first to look for the bassist and how quickly the others followed.
Toshiya was his. Toshiya was his responsibility. Why did they have to care so much—why did *he* have to care so much? Kaoru...
Die made his grip on the glass of beer in front of him loosen slightly, drawing a deep breath.
The others had overreacted. They should have given Toshiya more time, like Die had. It was stupid to think within just an hour and a half something awful had happened, they were over-concerned. Die had waited until he felt it was necessary to become curious, to begin looking. Toshiya was probably out shopping or something menial like that.
Die had, in truth, become worried to a certain extent when Toshiya truly hadn’t turned up easily and when he learned from Shinya—with some probing; the drummer had seemed reluctant to tell him—that Kaoru had checked Toshiya’s house and that his cell phone was left there but the bassist was nowhere to be found.
But it was getting late—it was dark by now, the stars were glimmering from a velvety black sky—and there was no use looking at night. So Die had found his way to a bar near his home and was brooding in silence.
< Damn them all, > he thought savagely, thoughts altering to alight on events of the previous day. < They’ve all become involved now, all of them. They blame me for everything, I see the way they look at me. What goes on between Toshiya and me is none of their Goddamn business. >
He felt a bubble of angry pain rise. < Now that they all know, though... Toshiya wouldn’t come with me. After Kaoru and I fought, he wouldn’t come, would barely look at me. What have they done? >
Deeper, fainter, a thought he refused to acknowledge: < what have I done? >
< Have I lost him...? >
His first clenched tightly once more. He wouldn’t accept that.
His thoughts were poised to follow this downward spiral when he was forced out of them, when his attention was lifted out of darkness. He heard a voice, he heard his name.
His name was softly spoken by a familiar voice. Lifting his head, Die slowly turned around.
to be continued
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