Title: a necessary autumn
Pairing: Tezuka/Fuji, of course.
Summary: Three years after the nationals and Tezuka's absence, Fuji finds himself first in the past, the present, and finally in the future he grasps for himself.
Warnings: Nothing but some male/male kissing and a bit of 'suggestive comments' made by Fuji. It's to be expected with him, after all.
Disclaimer: Prince of Tennis is Konami's madness, not mine.
A/N: The title comes from A Necessary Autumn Inside Each by Rumi Nikujaga is a beef and potato stew flavored with sweet soy. Also, there's end-of-series spoilers.
This was done for vierblith tefu at the second round of Christmas cacti at lj Much thanks to my beleaguered beta Saaski who told me just how hard this was to beta XD
This is an edited version from the original as some errors slipped into print (my fault, I think it was a coding error on my part
Merry Christmas (Cacti), Vierblith!
When Tezuka said he'd return, Fuji knew he'd stick to that promise. Everything about Tezuka was an unspoken promise; his loyalty was rigid and unfailing even if it meant serious injury or years of waiting. Fuji also knew that this absence, however long it would be, must be weathered with little contact.
Tezuka had always been monosyllabic, but Fuji could read between that, using gestures and the meanings underneath the words. With distance things grew...strained. Tezuka did not initiate conversations, and while Fuji enjoyed the sound of Tezuka's voice even over the phone, there was little to be said.
They'd had a match that day. Fuji had almost won; into the game, he had channeled the pent up anger and resentment he held at this leaving. He had pushed Tezuka to his limits, and were it not for a misstep on Fuji's part, he very well might have won.
After cleaning up, Tezuka had headed home. Fuji would have preferred to linger, perhaps over a steaming drink (the imported cider with cinnamon was delicious) but Tezuka had things to settle before his flight.
Fuji did not go to send Tezuka off at the airport the next day. That was the stuff of cliche romance; the hero or heroine chases their lover down and falls into their arms, weeping and declaring love. The trip is canceled, they live happily ever after.
Instead, Fuji stayed at home and drank bitter tea. He preferred coffee, but each taste seemed a reminder of what was passing him by, now three hours into a flight to Germany.
That autumn Fuji took life languidly. He'd quit tennis for his third year exams, or that was the excuse. Fuji always had a peculiar genius, and Tezuka's promptings for him to become serious did not fall into the more scholastic aspects of his life.
Fuji could sail through tests with little or no effort, something that did not endear him to Yuuta, who barely passed his exams even though he spent every spare second studying.
The truth was that the make up of the team had been altered, and nothing, nothing remained the same. New unfamiliar faces filled where old ones had been. Taka and Tezuka were gone. Only Ryoma, Momo, and Kaidoh still made up the fragments of the former year's team. Everyone else had either scattered, to their own towns and countries, or had been left behind with all the memories of what Seigaku had once been.
Without Tezuka, it wasn't the same to him. He still played against Eiji on weekends, as well as Saeki or other members of his family when time allowed, but it never reached the heights he'd once found so easily. There had been something intrinsic between them, a force that couldn't be equaled in his absence.
Fuji didn't immediately scan through colleges. While all his other classmates were preparing for their chosen places, studying for entrance exams, and collecting essay material, he was drifting.
A photo here, a photo there, games played at random...Fuji had no focus. Without tennis, everything else he put his hand to only kept his attention for short periods of time. He couldn't regain that spark that had once been kindled, late as that flame had come.
While others took and passed their exams Fuji watched, half amused, as the outsider.
When a chance to spend some time in America with some of his more distant family arose, he took it. It was family of his father's, people who he'd never had the chance to meet. In preparation, perhaps, he sifted through letters of years past, and felt almost akin to these people he'd never laid eyes on.
The plane ride took an entire day of flight, suspended over the ocean. It was an early morning takeoff, when the sky was still dark and stars were sprinkled in under the clouds. At first Fuji was entranced by the view outside the window. The waves below the colored clouds, the early, sleepy pastel hue of the skies. It lost its appeal around noon. He slept intermittently, occasionally leafing through the book Saeki had bought him. It was such a dull read that Fuji thought he'd have a prank to pay back when he returned from his trip.
Oregon was more lush than he had imagined. His Aunt and Uncle had moved move from the crowded cities to a place nearer the coastline. Waves and white foam crushed against the rocky shores, everything was so verdant, and all he could think was that it would be an excellent spot for walking trails and sleeping in the woods, under the stars.
A wry thought, that. And yet, somehow wistful.
Fuji immersed himself in the differences of this new country; the culture, the people, even the different language. His English was accented, but quite fluent, according to his relatives who had brushed up on their Japanese just before his arrival. (The Japanese for Dummies book still left on a coffee table; the pages showed much wear and had been marked and underlined.)
He sent out postcards knowing they wouldn't be returned. A part of Fuji wondered if maybe he'd send one from every state, city by city with scrawled notes on the back.
He started taking photos of everything around him. The sun when it hit the dewy leaves in the morning, the happiness in children, this unknown side of his family. He stored up all the scraps of papers and notes, assorted postcards, blank and written and gathered them together. He'd post them, one day. For now, his newfound family was waiting for him.
It had rained all of two days. The rain here seemed different, somehow. Less violent, more serene. It was quite a common occurrence, his family assured him. Plenty more was expected in this season. The constant downpour brought back memories that fluttered in, small seed pods that had buried deep and bloomed.
The stormy week that had driven them in from practice. Ryuzuki-sensei wouldn't risk them getting sick, though several of them, Fuji included had no reservations of playing during a storm. Let the winds and rain come. As focused as they were, it'd hardly be noticed.
They sat waiting for an hour and a half. Kikumaru twitched like a nervous child. Ryoma drank Ponta and bounced a tennis ball back and forth, back and forth against the wall while Momo bemoaned what the humidity would do to his hair.
Fuji watched, amused as Tezuka clenched his jaws and his lips thinned in anger. Fuji knew Tezuka wished nothing more than to give them enough laps to run to Hokkaido and back, but he also didn't want his entire team home sick.
It took another ten minutes before Tezuka snapped and sent everyone home, five whole minutes more than Fuji had counted on.
Unless there was some urgent matter, Tezuka was always last to leave. The go-down-with-the-ship mentality seemed burned into him. Nothing would be left unfinished by the time Tezuka finally left the courts.
Even Oishi had left early that day, Fuji mused.
Fuji had stayed because it suited him. He liked Tezuka's company, his utter lack of superficiality, his solidity. Perhaps Tezuka never had the juiciest gossip or the most interesting stories to tell, but Tezuka was someone who he could trust.
And that term was something Fuji never threw around lightly.
Tezuka had moved to remove his glasses, wiping condensation from the glass, revealing a teasing glimpse of bare stomach. It was one of Fuji's favorite things to watch. But that time, he'd leaned up and plucked them from Tezuka's hands.
"Fuji," Tezuka had said warningly.
"You're cold," Fuji had replied. "I can help."
He had needed to step on tiptop to reach Tezuka, to cup his chin. It had still been cold; wet and damp. Their breaths had intermingled before Fuji caught Tezuka's lips.
Fuji was gentle, that first time. Almost too gentle for his tastes, but he wanted to tease, to catch Tezuka and start off this game of tag. One kiss, two, three– Fuji gave pause between each kiss to let the shock set in.
Tezuka had gasped out, "F-Fuji."
"Are you feeling warmer now, Tezuka?"
Tezuka had flushed then; his cold skin had heated considerably. Fuji had never seen Tezuka blush before that instant, but it was like all of Tezuka's emotions: very subtle. He had traced a hand over the line of Tezuka's jaw until it intersected to chin and down the neck, and had smiled to himself. As long as he had those glasses, Tezuka might has well have been Fuji's prisoner.
Fuji's supposed sadism was far more rumor than truth, one he amused himself by perpetuating. He could be playful and even mischievous. He might bite a little, but never enough to draw blood. (Now leaving marks, that was one of his favorite pastimes.)
Fuji bit Tezuka's lower lip as they kissed again and heard a slight moan. It was a pleasant surprise, one Fuji wouldn't mind being surprised with again. He sucked on Tezuka's lip until he was absolutely sure that there'd be a bruise for tomorrow.
Fuji broke away then, the taste of warmth and skin still on his lips. "They're probably all waiting for us," he chuckled.
Tezuka didn't respond, and Fuji thought it was an attempt at composing himself again. He turned, and thought nothing of going through to gather his own clothes after having pressed his captain and friend to the wall in a tantalizing, teasing kiss.
What he hadn't expected was the feeling of being grabbed and pushed to the closet wall, and Tezuka's mouth covering his own. It all happened so fast that it took a second to realize that his game had been reversed, and that Tezuka had won the match with one quick move. It only took that second before Fuji was returning the kiss with just as much fervor. He ran his fingers through Tezuka's hair, arched himself up and pulled Tezuka down far enough to erase all distance between them.
"My, my, Tezuka. I never guessed you had a side like this," Fuji breathed.
Tezuka's shirt was askew, and his hair even more mussed than its usual state. Fuji noticed then that his hands no longer held the metal frames, and that Tezuka was slipping them back on. The kiss had been just enough distraction to steal them back.
"A nice play, Tezuka," Fuji said. He leaned in, the repay the favor (and possibly repay the second theft with some stealing back of his own). but was stopped mid-way when the loud slam of a door echoed beyond the lockers. Tezuka abruptly let go and disentangled from Fuji.
"Tezuka-buchou–! Ryuzaki-sensei sent me back to see what was keeping you!" Momo called. The door clanged behind him and footsteps sounded.
"Eh, Tezuka-buchou, you look all red. Are you getting sick from the rain?" Momo said.
"I'm fine," Tezuka growled.
All the while Fuji chuckled. His laughter was low enough that Momo couldn't hear him, but just loud enough for Tezuka to catch every sound.
Tezuka had glared at him, but Fuji thought even Tezuka might see the humor in this situation. Just maybe.
Fuji remembered that trip. On a break, Tezuka had asked Fuji to accompany him. It was all very sudden, though Fuji had been making suggestions for a long time that they should see the woods together.
He packed his clothes and some extra food. His camera was an afterthought, and he had decided to bring it along even with all the dangers of water catching and ruining the camera, of dirt and exposure.
Tezuka was unfettered in the wild. New aspects of him came to light of the shade of the trees. To talk would have destroyed the peace of the forest so, for the most part, they were silent. Putting up two tents would, of course, have been a bother, and Fuji had managed to leave his own behind in a moment of distraction anyway. He had smiled as he explained that they'd have to share tents. He had smiled a little too much for it to be an accident.
Rain fell on the top of the top of the tent, water streaming down the sides. It was octagonal and waterproof, or so it had been labeled. Still, drops of rain dripped in at the corners, and moisture seeped through. The cold seemed an ever present force encroaching upon them.
"We'll have to huddle close for warmth, Tezuka," Fuji said.
"If I didn't know better, I'd think you'd planned the rain," Tezuka replied drily.
Fuji chuckled. Of course the broadcast had been for a clear weekend. Tezuka wouldn't have planned it any other way.
"Maybe I did," Fuji said.
Fuji brushed his thumb over Tezuka's lips. They were softer than he thought they'd be with the hint of wetness. He felt the warmth of exhaled breaths against his thumb and the feeling of his name, whispered and sounded out against his skin.
"Maybe I did," Fuji whispered.
This side of his family was very different. It was as Yumiko liked to say; the side of the family that Yuuta most belonged to. His aunt was an aloof person while his uncle was a fussy worrier. His uncle made every attempt for Fuji to settle into his new, temporary lifestyle. Often he sent Fuji out for 'guided tours' by his daughter.
Which meant that his cousin often used this time to ditch her cousin and spend time with her boyfriend.
Fuji could find the way himself, but James, a friend of his cousin's sister, insisted on being the tour guide, even if Fuji was hardly the average willing tourist.
James was a tall man with a perchance for white fisherman's sweaters. Fuji wasn't sure if that was all he owned, or if perhaps it was the same one worn day to day due to some issue with the cold creeping in. Either way, he never saw the man without them.
James always pronounced his name wrong too; too much stress on the first syllable, the last not brief enough. It always sounded like he was speaking too slowly when he spoke Fuji's name. It never had the quick-breath cadence that Tezuka's pronunciation had.
But beside that, he wasn't particularly unpleasant company. Not as energetic as Eiji had been though, and not nearly as funny as Saeki.
Today it was the best restaurant around, The Clamshack. In truth, it was a mix of café and sports bar, with excellent spare ribs thrown in.
James talked so much that Fuji replying almost seemed superfluous. There were no spaces for him to fill, and silence never had a chance to gather unless James was momentarily stayed by a drink.
"As I was saying – Are you listening, Fuji?"
But Fuji's gaze was caught by the television in the top corner of the bar. For once, instead of playing football or basketball, it was tennis.
One serve passed, and it was powerful. It was one he'd seen and been on the receiving end many times. The tennis ball soared, so fast that all he could see was a yellow steak, like a falling star flying across the court.
"Oh, that's one of the biggest 'rising stars,' Tezuka Kunimitsu. They say he's been playing since he was really young. Gotta love prodigies, eh? Anyways, I don't really follow tennis, I only know because my uncle used to play in college and now watches it."
It hadn't been long. Half a year at most. But Fuji felt like he couldn't take his eyes off of the screen. Tezuka had presence. He had lost nothing and had gained so much more. His tennis was sublime. Fuji felt mesmerized, just as he had been the first time he had seen Tezuka play.
While Tezuka won the match at four-to-six, it hadn't been an easy battle. He had fought for every point; the victory had been a battle that tested every muscle, every ligament to their breaking point.
Wasn't that the place where Tezuka belonged? Beyond the playground games that had been the nationals, to his place amongst the stars?
The scene turned to another player, one that Fuji didn't bother to remember the name of. Fuji only half watched after that. The difference between the two had been staggering, like the difference between a spark and an inferno.
It took almost a year for Fuji to return. He spent the days beyond the walls of his family's home, in other states and houses unfamiliar. His English was almost completely unaccented now. He'd taken a few courses while in other states--enough to stave back the ennui that'd settled into everything as of late.
He sorted through the box of photos and put in one last note before finally putting it all in shipping box. Germany. The shipping would be extremely expensive. Tezuka would scold him for it.
Fuji smiled at the idea of Tezuka calling like a scolding wife over Fuji's wasting of finances. He'd gotten careless recently. He couldn't let himself fall into that again.
His family was happy to see him return and even happier to see him settle. Fuji came just as the leaves began to turn to gold again, in time for fall classes. He thought of picking the classes at random, a flip of a coin, a name out of a hat. Tezuka would hardly approve of such whimsy.
Instead Fuji took the basic classes, along with few stranger ones to lighten the monotony. (He wasn't sure what he'd ever have to use of a Victorian erotica class, but he certainly would enjoy it nonetheless.)
Fuji was being courted for the varsity tennis team by the end of the first day. It wasn't a surprise; he had guessed, even joked about it. He missed the feel of the racket in his hands, missed the feel of the nets under his idle fingers, the taste of victory. The thrill, the desire of it all, it never had really left him. It'd been hidden deep inside him all along.
Fuji had almost thought to refuse, thinking that some essential part of himself had shifted, but he relented. He was growing rusty from lack of practice, and he didn't want to forget this language. He would be fluent for when he challenged Tezuka to that rematch he'd been saving for. Last time they'd played, he'd come quite close to winning.
In his mind, Tezuka's hair was greying. Every photo he brought up to the red light of the darkroom, he saw it: two cups, two seats while the leaves swirl about them, golden and burning. Twenty years spent, twenty more, and then twenty more until they run out of days.
Fuji had always found a certain romanticism in this longevity and fidelity. Perhaps it was because this was different from himself, his state of mind. Just as Tezuka fascinated him with his solidity, Fuji craved stability through all his fleeting desires, water cast to the wind.
They had their whole lives ahead of them. Their youth was for building. Hadn't that been what Tezuka had said in not so many words? Fuji was good at reading between them, peeling back those words and finding every hidden secret.
Fuji couldn't help but wonder if he'd lost the keys to that code. Had it changed in his absence?
It had been chance, or perhaps, the fate of Yumiko's foretellings. He'd meant to catch Saeki at the airport only to find that he'd been delayed and, in the end, stopped at another airport due to the increasingly stormy weather. Yuuta had picked him up. But Fuji had only gotten that call after he'd already arrived, long after he'd settled down to wait for his friend. He'd taken the day off and canceled his appointments.
He'd almost left, back to a different take of the day he'd planned, (perhaps exploring this city or trying new restaurants), when he saw a glimpse of a someone he'd thought he'd once knew. He turned completely to see if it was a trick of the mind.
It was the first time he'd seen Tezuka in almost a year, a year and a half. Autumn had come and gone and come again. The leaves had just begun to turn when the plane touched down, bringing with it one rising tennis star who hadn't returned since the day he'd left over a year and a half ago.
Tezuka was taller than he had remembered. Manhood fit him, like it was tailored just for Tezuka.
Despite scrutiny, Tezuka had gotten good at avoiding the press; He had managed to keep a shred of his own privacy through his popularity. Even now, covered in a dark coat and black hat that obscured his identity, Fuji saw right through.
"It's been a long time, Tezuka," Fuji said.
"Fuji..." The black glasses made Tezuka even harder to read.
"You've done well, I see," Fuji said.
"And you?" Tezuka asked.
"I've been in America. I've almost lost my accent, now. I might've even gained a new one. I'll have to try harder so I can come home with a southern drawl."
Tezuka checked his watch. "I promised my mother I'd meet her within the hour."
"Ah.....Perfectly understandable. I won't keep you, then."
"...She's always asked about you. She said wants to meet you."
Fuji chuckled. "Saa, she wants you to 'bring your nice friend' to dinner?"
Tezuka didn't reply, but Fuji took the outstretched invitation. The drive there was peaceful; Fuji had forgotten how much he liked that understanding. Odd. He'd thought being around Tezuka would be much harder.
And yet after all this time, he still knew just the right things to say.
While Tezuka had come to Fuji's house many times, Tezuka had kept a barrier between his own family and friends. They knew of Ryuzaki-sensei and Oishi, but everyone else were mere names to them. The house was very traditional; rice paper screens in the foyer, bare floors, and the aroma of nikujaga wafting through the air.
Kunikazu was grizzled. He had aged many years in his grandson's absence. Like a wetted paper, his face had shrunk into itself and wrinkled. Fuji noticed grey hairs coming in Kuniharu's hair.
How cruel time had been to them.
Each welcomed him, in their own stoic way. Fuji noted that Tezuka had gotten many of his habits from his grandfather. A stoicness, a certain way he dealt with his irritations. The many likenesses were quite amusing.
After a thorough examination of his life in the past five years, Kunikazu, albeit grudgingly, deemed it satisfactory. Fuji was glad for skimming over some of the details and painting others in a far more favorable light. There weren't enough words in the language to explain that he'd been dealing with ennui from the loss of tennis and Kunikazu's grandson – both inexorably intertwined in his mind.
Ayana interrupted into their converging conversations, conversations that sounded more like war negotiations. "Kunikazu-san, you haven't even let Kunimitsu unpack yet," she scolded.
"Ah, you're right, there's no way he should have to carry all that alone."
And with that, he left. Kuniharu left as well, if only to attempt to stop his father from hurting his back yet again. Apparently overworking to the point of martyrdom also ran in the family, though it had appeared to skip a generation.
"Now that the boys are gone," she said airily. "We can talk."
"Come into the kitchen," she said, and as casual as it had meant to be, it seemed more a command.
Fuji complied and followed. The kitchen was filled with the scent of the nikujaga, the thick beef and spice smell hung in clouds over the steaming pot.
"It smells good," Fuji commented. "You must be a good cook."
Ayana chuckled. "Kuniharu can never take the spiciness, though Kunimitsu's grown more accustomed to it lately."
She smiled, but it was almost like looking into a mirrored version of his own smile. The carefree nature had disappeared easily, and it soon would return to that sunny, and perhaps false, smile.
"So I finally meet you, Fuji-san. It's taken long enough."
"A pleasure to meet you as well– Tezuka-san," Fuji replied. His tone was now just as strained and polite as hers had been.
"Hmm, I suppose it is," she said. "I'd wondered a long time. The joke around the house has been that one day Kunimitsu would marry tennis one day."
Fuji rather thought that the joke was one enjoyed by Ayana alone. If Tezuka took after his grandfather and father as Fuji guessed, she must have done the laughing for the entire family.
"And this is the final piece...." she said, her voice trailing off. Ayana shook her head as if to clear it. She never stopped smiling throughout this time, though the smile seemed strained at her eyes.
"If you break his heart, I'll never forgive you."
Fuji opened his mouth to speak, but she had already returned to the pot she was stirring.
"Dinner is ready," she said in that same even, unreadable voice. "You should go tell the men."
Fuji stepped out, his footsteps padding on the bare floors. He left behind the aromas and a woman far more alike him than he had ever thought.
During dinner Ayana showed no hint of her earlier remarks. She smiled and was unfailingly polite to Fuji. It was as if the talk had never happened. Two could play that game. Fuji pulled out every bit of charm he had and became as perfect a guest as was humanly possible.
Fuji felt only minor resentment at her warnings. After all, he mused, he'd have done the same for Yuuta. She was gentle by comparison.
However, he would never underestimate her again.
Afterwords, Tezuka took Fuji to his room. It like walking backwards through time, a misplaced scene of his fourteenth year that was only now appearing.
Tezuka's room was as he figured it would be: neat. Everything was in order, and there were no posters on the clean, white walls.
Fuji sat down on the bed, more firm than soft. The covers were a patternless dark green color. Tezuka had returned to his bags while Fuji had surveyed the room.
He pulled out a box, and then, after wiping the dust off of it, sat on the bed, close beside Fuji.
"Here," Tezuka said.
At first Fuji thought it had been his own box given back to him. He expected to find his own letters and scrawls returned unopened. But instead of postcards and photos, inside were letters, or the beginnings of them. All so very plain, like droll journal entries. Each had been set aside half-done with news or the details of his day. All were written in the driest, most uninteresting style of writing ever conceived.
"I'm not good at this," Tezuka said. And there it was, the hint of a smile over his lips.
The knowledge of the code had been there all along.
Fuji smiled then too. He touched Tezuka's hand, traced over his knuckles before covering it with his own hand. How many times had he been drawn in by the mystery of him? For every fact that seemed so plain about him, Fuji was compelled to look deeper.
"That's ok," Fuji said. "You'll learn, little by little,"
"I hate to ask what your teaching tactics would be," Tezuka said drily.
"You'll see," Fuji replied.
Fuji hung up another picture to dry. In the red light, he could still make out the details, his lips and Tezuka's pressed together, Tezuka's glasses askew. He had wanted to remember that instant, to press it under glass for even when his memory failed him, and it had taken some practice to ensure the timer would go off at exactly the right moment. It'd taken three tries to get the shot correctly, and Tezuka had endured it, patient, replaying their epic storybook ending for Fuji's whims. Their homecoming, and their life.
It was best to rely on stealth when it came to photographing Tezuka. Even though Tezuka would allow Fuji to photograph him, he would be walled, hidden off. Fuji found the best pictures were the unschooled ones. The ones taken spontaneously, without warning. That was the way you caught people unguarded. By surprise.
And Fuji had gotten quite good at surprises.
Two months after returning to Germany, Tezuka came home to his residence to find unfamiliar shoes and black luggage set in a corner. There was the scent of something cooking, something of cinnamon and apples and tea steeping. Tezuka removed his shoes and wet clothing, and padded into the kitchen to find Fuji at the stove. He looked at home there, his hands over the pots, reflected in the light above the stove.
"Welcome back, Tezuka."
"I didn't expect you," Tezuka replied.
"I wanted it to be a surprise. I explained and your landlady let me in." Fuji chuckled. "I'd have waited on the doorstep but it's cold here."
"It's a lot colder here in the winter. The frost hasn't even come yet," Tezuka said.
"Then it's a good thing I came to warm you up, eh Tezuka?" Fuji smiled.
On the counter there was a single book, bright green and white with thick binding. German for Beginners..
"They say you learn faster if you practice with a loved one. I wanted to test that claim," Fuji said casually.
"Is that so..." Tezuka said.
"We'll find out," Fuji replied.
"Now Tezuka, what did I say about learning?"
He touched Tezuka's lips, and felt Tezuka's arms enclose around him.
"Aren't you forgetting something?"
"I missed you," Tezuka said.
"That's better," Fuji said. "We'll just have to keep working on this. Wouldn't want you to slip on your lessons."
"Yes, Fuji-sensei," Tezuka said wryly.
Fuji chuckled and placed a finger to Tezuka's lips.
"Now be a good student, or I'll have to punish you."
This room had longed for Fuji's presence, and with that, the silence of the apartment was completed. It held a comfort that it once hadn't known.
Frost laced over the windows. The winters in Germany were brutal, far more so than he had ever been prepared for. But just like those dry unsent letters had said, it was a beautiful place.
A perfect place to spend one's spring or autumn alike.