Title: Jazz (part I)
Series: Prince of Tennis
Summary: Fourteen years have passed since the glory days of Seigaku. Tezuka returns to lay to rest the dead, and face the ghosts of his life.
A/N: springkink- TeniPuri, Tezuka/Fuji: Crossdressing - "Little one, don't be a fool. I'm a wreck when I look mighty. In euphoria, I'm bruised." This has been a project that has been put on the backburner for years, and this prompt was the perfect jump start to finish it.
However, pacing reasons dictated that I had to break it into pieces. Also the song? I wrote it specifically for this, and the full version will be posted at the end. To be specific, this has one more part.
Tezuka took the first redeye flight out. It was approximately five days after he got the news; he couldn't leave any sooner. There'd been a snow storm in Berlin which had grounded all planes in the process. No matter how many years he spent in Germany, it had never become more than an ersatz home, merely a place to reside. He'd gotten used to the nuances of the rough, thick language and now could speak it with barely any traceable accent.
His mind had been little but nostalgia. His grandfather, his teammates, everyone who he had left behind. He thought of the first time he had picked up a tennis racket, and his grandfather's pride at his first win. That, in turn, brought his mind to Seigaku. His mind went to fourteen years ago, call it nostalgia, call it restless curiosity. They had always been in the recesses of his mind, soft images that wait and assail his senses for stolen moments, then go back into the neat shelves he locks them in to collect dust. They've appeared to him often. In fleeting hushed whispers, when he closed his eyes he can picture his team, can clearly see them winning the nationals and the short lived years of his pro career.
Tezuka never promised to keep in touch, for he hated to make promises he couldn't keep. Even then he was too literal, too terse with even his feelings.
Fuji teased him about it, a hand to his chest you're so tense.
He could remember the exact look on Fuji's face then. The sun in his hair, their youth and relative innocence before all the harshness had come down. They hadn't talked, they hadn't called. There was a reason he hadn't made that promise, for it was a knowledge beyond his years.
This is what remained in Tezuka's mind through the plane flight in. He never read on planes as a personal habit, and usually spent them sleeping. This time, however, there was no rest to be had. As the lights and the bustle of the Tokyo airport came to sight, it was a bunch of boys with hopes and dreams that he remembered, especially lingering on a boy with blue eyes, who could never be figured out, never be tamed.
Although he hadn't talked to or about him, that didn't mean that he ever forgot. Fuji was not someone who allowed himself to be forgotten. He haunted, and stuck around in every woman who his family thought he should marry and every trainer or bellhop or reporter.
The details laid fresh in his mind. (That last talk together, the way Fuji's neck and shoulders looked in the summer light, the wind in his hair.) But he shelved it, for later when he would mull over it with his nightly glass of wine. (Half full, dark and bitter, only upon his doctor's recommendation.)
His family awaited. Tezuka had forgotten the walls of crowds, or why he hated the lonely feeling of airports. He always forgot because it was a willing forgetfulness, a thing he doesn't wish to remember.
His mother smoothed out her skirts. Her hair was tied away in a white kerchief, as if she had forgotten the time and run from the kitchen. He wondered if he'd find her apron on under the coat as well.
"Kunimitsu," she said, her eyes red-rimmed and puffy.
"I'm here," he said
She didn't hug him because she knew her son well and knew that he didn't like gratuitous touching, even when it was not necessarily gratuitous. She looked so much smaller than he remembered.
Tezuka had come too late for the wake. His grandfather had long been turned to ashes. It felt like a broken promise, even if it had been his grandfather who had encouraged him to go on to German and pursue his career there, and who had been most proud of his achievements, in his own unstated ways.
He thought back to every funeral he had attended. The stark, condolence envelopes in white and black, the sound of the loosely held juzu beads that rattled with each step, the dark, somber atmosphere. He remembered his first bone-picking ceremony, where at twelve, he'd watched uncles, his father and grandfather take each bone, piece by piece and place them into the urn. They started with the bones of the feet –though Tezuka was too young at that point to realize – and then moved on up until they reached the bones of the head.
He hadn't asked, though his mother had whispered to him later. It is to keep them from leaping head-first into their grave. Who wants to spend the rest of their death upside down?
He remembered what had happened when his grandmother had died. He had been only ten at the time.
First Matsugo-no-mizu – Water of the last moment was placed on her lips by a priest, and the household shrine was covered in white paper. A small table heady with incense and the scent of flowers was placed at the side of the bed.
("Is this a celebration?" he had asked later. "We are celebrating the life she lived and helping her enjoy her death," his mother said.)
Tezuka had stayed at the edges, quietly watching everything around him. His mother stayed close, explaining things as they came along.
Grandmother looked like a ghost, in her white kimono. Surrounded in a casket filled with dry ice and wearing unfamiliar makeup, she seemed like someone else's relative. Six coins were in the casket with her, (for the River of Three Crossings, his mother explained) and paper shapes of origami. She had been very fond of origami as a girl, but the arthritis in later years had stopped her. At times, his mother and he would bend and fold the paper just for her and make cranes and all other shapes to fill her room.
His grandfather must have followed a similar pattern. The last funeral he'd attended had been a Western kind, to one of his German colleagues. There'd been no incense or kimonos, and they had seemed horrified when he mentioned the bone-picking ceremony in passing.
The family haka was sturdy, a towering stone with the kanji of their family etched into it. In the world, this was all that was left of his grandfather who had shaped him so. There hadn't even been any last words or correspondences, for they were too alike in their tacit ways.
There was a place to put business cards, as reminders to the family of who had visited it. He put up his own, Tezuka Kunimitsu, M.D. there, amongst the others.
In death, as in life, he had little to say to his grandfather. After the enquiries of his studies, and game scores, his grandfather would usually invite him for a game of Go or Shougi, or simply nod and return to his oolong tea. They were in many ways, alike. His mother had joked more than once that if Kunikazu wasn't still alive, she'd assume Tezuka was his reincarnation.
So it was that Tezuka said nothing and left the haka as silent as he had come.
Two days later came a written message from one F. S.
My condolences on your loss.
It has been a long time. Did you miss me?
Meet me at the Spicy Apple tomorrow at 9. We should catch up.
Tezuka reread the short message several times, and then brought the paper to closer, to catch the scent that was there, subtle, but persistent. Was this the new cologne Fuji had chosen to represent himself? If so, it was fitting, for it was light, an aroma that drew one in and captivated. Faintly citrusy, with a hint of something rougher. He wondered if it was one Fuji had made himself, just for his purpose. It seemed like something he'd do. It smelled like summer, like a musky after sex smell, and like life.
There were directions included with a hand drawn map. Tezuka studied the lines. With that, he tucked it in his pocket and closed the door behind him.
The Spicy Apple had a smoky atmosphere, classy, but with a seductive tinge. There was an eclectic crowd, most in their early-to-late-twenties, with a large percentage of them gay, considering the number of making out couples. It doesn't however, seem to be an exclusively gay club at the very least.
"It's a bisexual club. Everyone's allowed, as long as they're nice to the other patrons," the bartender said.
The bartender is silver haired, despite being young. He had a mischievous, playful air as he openly flirted with a few patrons of both genders. He seemed somewhat familiar, though Tezuka couldn't place him. He obviously recognized Tezuka, though, as he grinned and said "How's it hanging, buchou?"
Tezuka stared back at him, stony and silent.
"I'll take that as a 'I'm fine, you handsome man. Please give me something for I am famished'."
"Water," Tezuka said.
"Water? You really are straightlaced. You sure you don't want some fruit juice or something in it? That sounds pretty bland."
Tezuka stared back at him. "Water," he said again, more slowly.
"Ok, ok, I'm right on it."
"So are you here to hear Spicy Apple's special singer, Tsubame?"
"You don't seem like the type to pick someone up from bars...though it would do you some good. Meeting someone, I presume?"
"Aahh. I see. Well I hope he hasn't ditched you for more pleasant company."
An announcement sounded and the singer took the stage. Tsubame was petite, with a thin, fragile body wrapped in something black and slinky. A cheer so We should catch up sounded, and Tsubame smiled at them in a slow, seductive way.
Of course the name should have given it away immediately, and the sheer fact that considering it was Fuji, him becoming a okama singer almost made sense.
"Huh, nice outfit. He usually dresses like an eighties reject," the bartender said conversationally.
"I have this theory that he does it so people will be sorely tempted to rip the clothes off him."
Tezuka didn't say anything. His eyes were riveted to Tsubame, who on stage had a charisma that left everyone in the palm of his soft hands.
"Let me guess, from your face I guess that he was who you were meeting? He loves catching people off guard like that. But you already know this."
He must have been perceptive to read that from Tezuka's blank expression.
iThere's a sunlight filter in all these grey, grey, rooms /I
Tsubame's voice was husky. The beat was that of old Jazz, the kinds that was played on LPs in eras long gone. Fuji had more than once put an LP of Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday when they'd spent time in his room. Fuji maintained that the scratchy sound only added to the enjoyment of it all.
He'd even put on slow jazz while they kissed, the bed covers coming tangled and undone beneath them. Jazz was something that was now indelibly twined with Fuji with his mind. Catching a Louie Armstrong song made him think of a summer long past, Fuji's hands to his back, leaving deep marks that would sting in the shower before he left, cementing the smell and feel and taste of the event to a memory so vivid as if it was enshrined.
(Fuji's motives could be very transparent at times. He never needed study help. He never had.)
Pictures of wilting flowers half in bloom
There's a memory I tried to lose
I took a cup of coffee in the finest cafes
And failed to focus on the scenery my mind was in a daze
I took a dozen jobs or more
And couldn't care about a thing,
Just you and only you---
Just you and only you....
Tezuka lost himself in the sound of Fuji's voice. It made him remember every stolen kiss, the sound of his breath slowly rising to crescendo during sex, and the sheen of sweat that covered him when they played tennis. The other stanzas fell away, as he focused only on the sound, the moving of Fuji's lips. Fuji hadn't changed all that much. He wasn't much taller, only a bit sharper since then. Fuji was a person who twenty, thirty years could pass and he would still be entirely recognizable, for he was as unchanging as a photograph captured in time.
The song ended, the people cheered. There was an call for an encore, but Tsubame cheerfully cited meeting long lost company.
Tsubame gave the bartender a pointed look, as if there was a telepathic conversation going on between them. Given the bartender's personality, he wouldn't be surprised if they were.
"Go on backstage. If anyone gives you trouble, tell them that you're Tsubame's guest."
When he arrived Fuji, or Tsubame was at the vanity. He didn't use the big, dramatic wigs that a lot of the drag culture hair was silky and only slightly longer than it had been during their younger years, and was the same burnt honey color. Their gaze met through the mirror.
"Tezuka. ...It's been a long time," he said.
"It has. I see you are keeping yourself occupied."
Fuji chuckled. "Did you enjoy my performance?"
"...when it comes to you, a profession like this almost makes sense," Tezuka said.
"Does that mean you were too traumatized by my dress to like my singing?"
"No, I enjoyed it," Tezuka said.
"Good. You know, I own this place. Didn't the title give it away? Singing is just another hobby I partake in."
"I run things and then pretend to be a mere worker. The look on people's faces when they ask to see the manager and I point to myself...it's priceless. That happened the other day at my camera shop."
"And your Sushi bar?" Tezuka said drily.
Fuji tapped his lips. "You know, I've never gotten into Sushi. Wouldn't want to put Takasan's out of business. Besides, no one makes Sushi the way I like it better than him, so unless I bought out Kawamura Sushi itself, it'd hardly be worth it."
"Did you like my song, Tezuka?"
"It seemed familiar.....Who did you write that for?"
"You know who I wrote it for," Fuji said. He got up from the vanity and stepped out of his heels. Each step was now silent on the floor, as Fuji came closer, until he was leaning into a space he had once claimed before.
"Do you like me like this?" Fuji said. His voice was low, husky and undeniably seductive.
"Dressed like a woman...does this turn you on?"
"I still know your body. I remember it."
Fuji traced over Tezuka's jacket. He loosened Tezuka's tie and undid the buttons on his white shirt. Fuji brought the tie to his mouth playfully, and pulled it off the rest of the way with his teeth. Then he let it drop to the ground, unnoticed.
"Did you miss me, Tezuka?" Fuji said. Every word reeked of desire and sex.
"I did," he replied.
And then, there was just Fuji. Fuji peeling off the rest of his clothes, Fuji's dress slipping off of him like water, and then the blissful friction of bare skin. It had been so very long. Everything fell away until there was no one, nothing else.