Title: Written On The Body
Author's note: kink meme: open request involving tattoos. Notes at the end (they're almost as long as the fic itself, heh.) The title is a reference to the amazing book by Winterson of the same name.
Greece lay on his back, his shirt off. Greece was always so casual about nakedness. If Japan hadn't already somewhat gotten used to such things by spending so much time with Italy and Germany (but mostly Italy – to say nothing of his dealings with France) he might have been surprised, or taken aback. But as it was, at points he felt almost desensitized to random acts of nudity westerners seemed so capable of.
Of course, one was supposed to get used to their lover being in states of undress. Though Greece's casualness extended to the point where Japan had on numerous occasions had to remind him to put on pants before they went out.
"You didn't tell me," Japan said. He climbed onto the bed and traced his finger over the lines of the character. Ai. Love. Fluid and black, ink under his skin. It was on his chest, right over his heart.
"I was at America's house a few weeks ago.. they're popular over there."
"Tattoos of Kanji...It's some sort of fad."
"Ah...that happens," Japan said.
"Do you like it?" Greece said, almost shyly.
Japan traced over it, finding the hidden strokes for kokoro, heart. How fitting a place. He wondered if Greece even knew all the connotations.
"Do you know what it means?"
Greece smiled sleepily. "Yes."
"Yes, I like it..." Japan said.
And then Greece's mouth found his, and he did not say anything more.
The moment he saw the kanji inked under his skin the thought had come to his mind. He had pushed it aside many times, dismissed it as foolish and yet weeks later, it was still there.
When he went to visit America's house on business, he excused himself and went out after dark. It wasn't hard to do with America, who had the attention span of a gnat. Japan was thankful for this, otherwise he might have offended his host, for it was rather a rude gesture.
As it was, he tried to keep his absence as short as possible, even if America probably wouldn't even notice it. He searched in the directory, and found a place. Had he more time, he would have meticulously searched through and tried to find the place with the highest standards. However, as it was, this was something akin to an impulse. Or to be more precise, it was him willingly taking leave of his senses to do something rash. Wasn't that the definition of love itself?
Really, he was too old for such things.
Nations couldn't get diseases like this, and the stinging sensation, the pain would be nothing compared to the feel of war, of being attacked, or being bombed.
He bought a pair of dark glasses and ducked his head when he came into the place, as if they would recognize him for anything but an Asian man of indeterminate age coming in on a late night. Another customer, barely worth a notice.
They did not have the particular character he was looking for, so he drew it as clearly as he could on a bit of scrap paper with a borrowed pen. It was almost sensual, the drawing of each stroke one by one to make up the whole. He thought about Greece as he did. Perhaps he'd even gotten his tattoo from this place as well. It was certainly possible, given the proximity to America's apartment.
The person in question (what was the polite term – tattoo artist? Tattooist?) had a toothpick held between his teeth at the side of his mouth. He was covered in tattoos of dragons and fire and skulls all over his thin arms. His face was obscured by dark hair which resembled Grecce's in texture, but not color. He seemed sullen, and impatient to be through with this.
"I am sorry to have kept you waiting," Japan said.
He got on his stomach where he was ordered and pointed out the place to be inked on permanently.
And when the pain came, he did not think of the negative: of bombs falling and flames burning, of massacres and wars, no. It was of hot summers, breathless kisses and the silent lines of black ink on Greece's chest that spoke so clearly to him.
It was Greece who had managed to visit him first this time, though mutual duties had kept them apart for almost two months. For once, he did not bother much with pleasantries, given the amount of time he'd spent having only his hand for company. He undid his yukata and let it fall to the floor. He laid on his stomach on his bed. At this angle he couldn't see Greece's reaction.
"That definitely wasn't here before..." Greece said.
He traced across the character inked on his lower back.
"America called them something...I can't remember..." Greece mused.
"Tramp stamps," Japan supplied. He looked away, a little embarrassed.
"That name doesn't fit at all..." Greece bent down. His breath felt warm against the small of Japan's back. Japan shivered in pleasure at the feel of it.
"I don't recognize this one..." Greece murmured. "I've been studying, but there's a lot to remember still..."
"It's...koi," Japan said.
"The fish?" Greece asked. "I remember you mentioning a creation story with a giant koi.."
"No...it means 'love'," Japan said.
"I thought 'ai' meant love?"
"They both do. Different kinds of love," Japan replied.
"You mean platonic, erotic and agape? The threefold love of friendship, romantic and spiritual?" Greece said.
"No, not quite so clear cut...it is difficult to explain," Japan said.
"Difficult like Plato's theory of forms...?" Greece prompted.
Of course, implying that something would take a long time in philosophical discussion would dissuade America, but it certainly not Greece. He began to lapse into a monologue about non-material forms, and how they affected reality. He had just begun to go on in detail about the allegory of the cave when he dozed off, mid-sentence.
He was wont to do that, especially after long spells of sleeplessness. Greece hadn't said much, but Japan thought the flight there must have been a very long, rough one if even Greece couldn't sleep on it.
"Greece..." He shook Greece softly. Usually he would just let him sleep, but two months had left him ah, more eager than usual.
"Nghh?...what was I saying again?" Greece said.
"You were explaining something about Plato. And no, it isn't complicated like that. 'Ai'...can be used in a more general sense. Koi is always romantic.'"
"The tattoo, Greece," Japan prompted.
"Oh yes...the tattoo. So it's like suki..." Greece said.
"Yes, you could say 'I like this cat' or 'I like this food.' Ai can be used in that form. But it could also be meant for 'I like you.'"
"I like you," Greece said.
Japan flushed and murmured a thank you, which sounded awkward and inappropriate. He didn't respond with II like you/I back, but then, Greece did not seem to be looking for an answer. He was fascinated with the tattoo. He placed a kiss there and Japan felt a tingle up his spine.
"It looks like rain," Greece said.
"I've never thought it resembled 'ame'," Japan said. "However perhaps if you look at it just right..."
He thought on it and still did not see the resemblance. Still, it was Japan's way to disagree without disagreeing. To conversationally point out that he did not see something, yet that did not mean it was wrong, only that he had failed to notice this fact as of yet, and that you were surely more astute than him in that respect. He was, as ever, the epitome of politeness.
"No, the strokes...they look like rain falling down from one of your temples."
"Ah...I suppose you're right; It does resemble rain."
"'Ai' looks like a rainstorm. 'Koi' is afterwards, when the water is still sluicing off.."
Japan remembered to walking in the rain under the umbrella Greece was holding. His feet were wet, and occasionally a side wind would blow the chilly droplets onto his skin. Greece had been strangely distant that day.
A repeating thought of ai ai gasa went through his mind. He could see the katakana to represent Greece's name, and his own kanji side by side under a drawing of the love umbrella.
And yet, Greece's distance had only been embarrassment, and none of the myriad of possibilities that had run through his mind at first.
"I've always loved when it rains..." Greece said dreamily. He nuzzled Japan's back and began to lick over the lines of the kanji. "The cats don't like it, but the feel is good against my skin...it's nice and cool...wonderful on a hot day."
"Yes...rainy days are very good. The gardens appreciate them. It's a lovely sight," Japan agreed.
"Have you ever written about it? Like Bashō?" Greece asked.
"No, I don't write haiku much these days," Japan replied.
"You should...I've always loved your poetry..." He trailed off.
"I'll try, for your sake," Japan said, his voice barely above a whisper.
Greece returned to laving attention on the tattoo. His tongue explored every stroke. The feel of it was utter bliss. Japan buried his face in the pillows as he felt Greece lick up his back.
Hadn't it been a confession without words? It was fitting for Greece to choose 'ai'. He was as unselfish as the word implied. Ai was always giving; koi was always wanting.
Greece had never pushed him to say the words, nor had he pressured him with endearments he couldn't comfortable return, and yet, he'd chosen a way permanently to express it. And Japan had, in his own way, returned the gesture, confession and feelings all in one.
The words had found a way to be said even unspoken, written in ink as they were. It was under his skin, so deep that water or time would not erode it. He thought, cynical as he could be, that the feelings that inspired it would follow much in the same manner.
Notes (originally it had links, but ffnet eats links so um, summarization time!)
In Greece's profile, it mentions that he's naked a lot and this 'makes him a bit of a lech'. I'm assuming this might refer to the ancient habits (naked olympics, though that would probably more be Mama Greece's thing. Maybe it rubbed off on him.) This actually hasn't come up in canon (that I can remember, at least) when France wasn't involved, but I couldn't resist having Japan have a nudist boyfriend. Because apparently Japan befriends all the people who get naked at the drop of a hat. I think that's murphy's law.
ai ai gasa (and no, not the band.): it's like the Japanese equivalent of carving your names in a tree together, or writing your names together in a heart. It's a drawn umbrella with each person's name drawn under it, and thus standing under an umbrella together in scenes also contains the same sense as an ai ai gasa here.
Giant koi myth: while the creation story of Izanagi and Izanami making the islands of Japan with a jeweled spear is more commonly known, I've also come across mentions of a variation where it was a giant carp who made a tidal wave which caused the islands to form.
Bashō: Edo era haiku poet.