aozu & kyappu to bin
live tour in usa
Kawamura has the other drumstick, and he's yelling and waving it in the air with one hand, and swinging a balled-up tablecloth in the other like a club. "HORA HORA!" he shouts. "IT'S BURNING! SUPER HOT COFFEE, BABY! BREAKFAST TIME!"
Oishi has Kikumaru around his neck and three breakfast plates in his hands, one full of his breakfast and two full of Kikumaru's. He looks on the verge of tears. "Taka-san... oi..." he stammers. The tablecloth in Kawamura's hand knocks a basket of bagels and bread off a nearby table and Fuji's smile brightens.
Typically, no one else seems to have noticed the wreckage of the coffee table - well, there are some other guests huddled against the wall and a dismayed looking desk clerk, but at least, none of the team except Oishi seems to have noticed. Inui is crouched at the other end of the table, only the top of his head visible through the pitchers of juice and milk he's examining. Kikumaru has moved from Oishi's neck back to the buffet and is busily mixing Rice Krispies Treats cereal, Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms in one bowl. Momoshiro and Kaidoh are off to the side with their hands in each others' shirts, already nose to nose, and it's not yet nine am. And the only one missing is...
Tezuka drops his suitcase and says loudly, "Where's Echizen?"
There is a chorus from everyone: "Huh?" "Hoi?" "Hm?" Kawamura drops the tablecloth, releasing a flood of plastic silverware and condiment packets which cascade into the puddle of still-steaming coffee. "--HORA? ECHIZEN, NO MORE NIGHT-NIGHT! WAKE UP, BABY!"
Fuji takes a step sideways and the drumstick vanishes from Kawamura's hand just as Echizen's head of tousled black hair appears from behind a pile of suitcases on a bench. "Hai?" says Echizen sleepily.
Tezuka goes to put his suitcase on the pile. "We have to be ready to leave in an hour," he reminds everyone.
Breakfast is relatively uneventful, after Kikumaru drags Oishi and Momoshiro out to eat on the terrace. Oishi has to pry Momoshiro's fingers out of the neck of Kaidoh's shirt, first, but his shout of "Momo! Kaidoh! Stop it!" is louder, and more genuinely distressed, than all the words they have exchanged so far this morning.
Sometimes when they fight, now, they murmur instead of shouting. The timbre of Momoshiro's voice when he says "Mamushi" today is completely different than it was a few months ago before the joint concert with Atobe and the rest of Sakaki's boys. It is a puzzling fact that Oishi has yet to notice this. Tezuka wonders how long before "Do you wanna go at it?" turns to "Do you want to go somewhere and settle this?", and how long before the room assignments change again.
It's not unusual for Echizen to sleep half the day away in a tour bus or on a plane, but since the start of this American tour he has been doing a lot more of it. He's been coughing occasionally for a week, sleeping through meals (which is hardly like Echizen), and he's started having trouble at the upper end of his range - Tezuka has overheard him doing extra warm-ups and his voice has still broken on stage during run-throughs twice.
It is just like Echizen to keep a cold at arm's length for weeks at a time. Tezuka is just worried about when he's going to succumb. He's been eating the cough drops Tezuka keeps buying, as long as he can find grape flavoured, but there's only so much cough drops can do.
It would be better if their room assignments change sooner, rather than later, Tezuka thinks. He makes Echizen a cup of tea with a wedge of lemon and a packet of honey in it. Echizen doesn't question or protest, not even when he sees it's that cheap American black tea that tastes like dirty paper. "Hai, arigato," he says sleepily, and takes it from Tezuka's hands, his small fingers tangling with Tezuka's as he wraps them around the styrofoam. His hands are cold. He blinks up at Tezuka, then turns his gaze into the cup and takes a sip.
Then Karupin jumps onto the buffet table and lands in the fruit salad and they get thrown out of the hotel.
"But he was in the cat carrier, nya, Oishi," Kikumaru is saying when Ryuzaki-san finally pulls the van around.
"You're supposed to close the carrier," Oishi explains.
"Oishi! That would be cruel!" says Kikumaru. "What if he needed to get out?"
"Yeah," says Momoshiro, looking hopefully at Kaidoh from the corner of his eye.
They're standing shoulder-to-shoulder again, and Kaidoh doesn't miss the look. "Baka," he grunts, "that's the point. They don't want the cats to get out."
"What did you say?" says Momoshiro.
Tezuka opens the passenger door next to Ryuzaki-san. "Echizen," he says, pointedly. Echizen looks at him for a moment, then climbs into the front seat without comment. Tezuka reaches out and plucks Karupin from between Momoshiro and Kaidoh - the cat starts purring when his hands close around its ribs - and deposits him in Echizen's lap. Oishi's opened the back door, and Inui, muttering to himself, has already climbed into the front row of seats.
"The van's here, you idiot," Kaidoh hisses, and Momoshiro's hands tighten in the shoulders of his shirt. They're rather endearing, Tezuka thinks.
Oishi thinks otherwise. "Hey, you two," he snaps, and they turn their heads, although they don't let go. "That's enough. We haven't even gotten on the road yet, and you're already fighting! Fuji, I have to sit in the front - could you sit in the middle, between Momoshiro and Kaidoh, please?"
Fuji turns around quickly, looking surprised. Kawamura belatedly takes his hand away from Fuji's shoulder and rubs awkwardly at the back of his head.
"Fuji-senpai - " Momoshiro protests.
Fuji smiles sunnily. "That sounds like fun," he says.
Kaidoh hisses and Momoshiro growls, and they stare at each other intently before backing apart and getting into the van. Tezuka watches Fuji settle in between them without comment. They're already shifting restlessly before the van doors are closed. The room reassignments will probably be happening a little sooner, this way.
Fuji-senpai leaves Kaidoh alone at first and just takes away Momoshiro's manga, but he reads the whole issue quickly and then decides he prefers Kaidoh's magazine and takes it away instead. Kaidoh puts his earbuds in and determinedly turns on his mp3 player. He doesn't mind, he tells himself, he doesn't mind.
He knows that it's pointless to fight back against Fuji-senpai, and anyway, sometimes if you sit back and watch him for long enough he becomes funny. Inui-senpai never talks about it, but Kaidoh knows that Fuji-senpai is one of his best friends, in his own completely weird Fuji-senpai way, of course. And if Inui-senpai likes someone that much, then Kaidoh knows they deserve it.
It's hard to completely ignore his magazine, though, when he can't avoid seeing it from the corner of his eye, spread out over Fuji-senpai's lap. And of course he also can't help seeing that idiot, Momoshiro, every time he turns his head away from the window. He's wearing one of the stupidest shirts Kaidoh has ever seen today, red with a giant sparkly star. Kaidoh wants to tear it off of him.
Every now and then his thoughts drift that way before he can help it - maybe picking a fight and dragging Momoshiro off someplace where they'd have enough room, throwing him down on the ground, tearing that stupid shirt off and maybe Momoshiro would get his arm around Kaidoh's neck again and - he catches himself starting to breathe a little faster, and has to jerk his attention back to the music.
There's a quiet little chuckle from next to him that Kaidoh pretends not to hear. "Do you have any more issues of this, Kaidoh?" says Fuji-senpai. "It's very entertaining." Kaidoh looks over. He's reading an article about endurance training. It doesn't look very entertaining to Kaidoh.
"Uh, in my suitcases, senpai," Kaidoh mutters. "Inui-senpai gave it to me. He might have more."
Fuji-senpai smiles. "Hnn." He turns the page, then stops and makes a confused noise, tilting his head back to look at the ceiling of the van. Kaidoh looks up too, but there's nothing there. He meets Momoshiro's eyes over Fuji-senpai's head and almost jumps in his seat at the little shock that goes through him. He bites his tongue instead and twists his mouth, and Momoshiro makes that face, halfway a smile and halfway a scowl, that makes Kaidoh's stomach twist up. I can't take very much more of this, he thinks in a moment of weakness. He barely stops himself from lunging across Fuji-senpai to grab Momoshiro's shoulders.
No, to grab his shirt. His shirt.
Then Fuji-senpai twists around in his seat. "Oh, Taka-san," he says, in that soft voice he uses for Kawamura-senpai, "I think I have an eyelash in my eye. Could you have a look for me, please?"
"Fuji!" says Kikumaru-senpai indignantly, "I can look for you! My eyes are the best and I'm closer!"
"It's fine, Eiji," says Fuji-senpai, while Kawamura-senpai hurries to unbuckle his seatbelt and puts both his hands on Fuji-senpai's face. His hands are big and Fuji-senpai's face is small and delicate, but Kawamura-senpai has such a gentle touch that he would probably be the best person to pick an eyelash out of Fuji-senpai's eye anyway. If there really were one, that is, and Fuji-senpai weren't just trying to drive Kaidoh and Momoshiro crazy.
Kaidoh can't look away at first, even though he should, and he sees Kawamura-senpai's thumb move on Fuji-senpai's cheek and Kawamura-senpai saying quietly, "Are you okay, Fujiko?" and "I don't see anything." Kaidoh glances up and sees Momoshiro looking at him. He feels like he is blushing. He hisses and Momoshiro opens and closes his mouth, looks away and then looks back at him quickly.
"It's fine, it just itches, Taka-san," Fuji-senpai is smiling, and Kawamura-senpai has leaned so close his nose almost touches Fuji-senpai's cheek. Kaidoh looks away again, embarrassed, and his eyes land on Momoshiro, so he turns and looks at the back of Inui-senpai's head. This is going to be a very long day, he thinks.
The next time he glances sideways, Momoshiro's head is against the window, his eyes closed, his mouth open. He looks stupid. And his neck looks soft and white. Kaidoh wants to put his hands on it, but not tightly, not to shake, just to touch. He's felt the skin there, he knows what it feels like, but he's never touched it with his mouth -
Kaidoh jerks his eyes away again. "Oh well, Taka-san," Fuji-senpai is saying, "thank you." He has his hand on Kawamura-senpai's shoulder. Kaidoh clenches his teeth and turns to look out the window, but behind his own reflection he can see Fuji-senpai turning back around and behind that, a faint reflection of Momoshiro. He closes his eyes.
When Ryuzaki stops the tour van for lunch, Tezuka sits down across from Ryoma again at the picnic tables outside the restaurant. "Did you sleep?" He asks.
Ryoma shrugs. "Yeah, I'm used to sleeping in cars." He was tired, too, which made it easier, even though he couldn't get comfortable. He kept waking up and hearing snatches of conversations like Oishi-senpai saying "Hold it a minute, is that such a good idea?" and Inui-senpai saying "Probability eighty percent", and Tezuka saying "His range is still increasing," which made Ryoma feel warm all over, because he knew Tezuka was talking about him.
He's felt slightly sore and a little grumpy all day, starting yesterday, actually, which he knows is a bad sign. He can't get sick in the middle of the tour, Ryoma tells himself stubbornly, and orders three glasses of milk and a glass of orange juice. He can't let Tezuka and the others down.
He eats twelve biscuits, two chicken pot pies, two chicken breasts and two drumsticks, two helpings of mashed potatoes, and then two more drumsticks when Tezuka takes away his macaroni and cheese to substitute them. Then he stops eating, because he isn't very hungry. Tezuka silently hands him a cup of water and a paper package of Halls' cough drops that looks, from the outside, like candy. They say "grape menthol", but Ryoma figures it's better than no grape at all. He pops two in his mouth, and Tezuka gets up and leaves. Nobody seems to notice, because Fuji isn't there and everyone else is busy with their food.
In fact, nobody notices at all until Momo-senpai turns to Ryoma and says loudly, "Oi, Echizen, you're not eating!"
"I already finished," says Ryoma irritably, wishing Momo-senpai wouldn't shout quite so loud.
But it's too late. Eiji-senpai has already removed himself from Inui-senpai's shoulder, where he was whispering something, and launched himself over the table. He lands in Tezuka's empty seat and leans over so far that Oishi-senpai, on the other side of the table, clutches anxiously at the edge of it in case it tips over. "Ochibi!" Eiji-senpai wails, "You're not eating? What's the matter?"
"Nothing," says Ryoma, "I'm full. And I'm tired."
"Hey," says Oishi-senpai, standing up. If he'd really been keeping the table from falling over, it would have fallen. Luckily the table is made of cement. "Where's Tezuka?"
Everyone is distracted by this question except Eiji-senpai, who jumps over the table again and grabs Ryoma in a headlock. "Ow," Ryoma grunts. He is too tired to put up much of a fight. At least this time he can breathe.
"You're tired? Didn't you get a good night's sleep? Echizen, you know, you're supposed to sleep really well!" sings Eiji-senpai cheerfully. "You even got to bring your cat with you! Did Momo's snoring keep you up? Momo? Eh?"
Thankfully, noticing that Momo-senpai is no longer next to them distracts Eiji-senpai, and he lets go. Ryoma ducks away, rubbing his neck, and backs into Fuji-senpai.
"Oh, sorry, Echizen," Fuji-senpai says. Ryoma was the one moving, but he squints at Fuji-senpai and decides not to say anything. He's wondering why Fuji-senpai was standing halfway behind a bush and smiling until Fuji senpai turns a little sideways and Ryoma follows his gaze and sees Momo-senpai and Kaidoh-senpai on the other side of the bush.
On the ground, actually, rolling around. And panting. They're still completely dressed, which they have been every time Ryoma has seen them so far, but this time it doesn't look like that is going to last very long. Kaidoh-senpai's hands are on Momo-senpai's hips and Momo-senpai is making a weird rumbly noise halfway to a growl. At least they aren't kissing this time.
"Ch'," Ryoma mutters.
"Saa," Fuji agrees. He sounds on the verge of laughter. "You two realise you're out in public, right?"
There's actually nobody but them in the immediate vicinity, but there are cars in the parking lot and people inside the KFC staring out the window. At least it's not Japan, where they would be recognised.
Of course, as usual, it takes about ten seconds for the fact that someone has spoken to them to penetrate to Momo-senpai's and Kaidoh-senpai's brains. Then Momo-senpai says, "What?" He doesn't let go of Kaidoh-senpai. One of his hands is in a fist, but he's not doing anything with it, just holding it under Kaidoh-senpai's chin.
Kaidoh-senpai just hisses.
Ryoma can never stand to look at them looking at each other with that look for very long. It makes him squirm, and he really doesn't want to think about being turned on and Momo-senpai at the same time. It's hard to avoid when they're twisted around each other this way, though.
Then Fuji-senpai clears his throat and Eiji-senpai drags Oishi-senpai over to them. It isn't that he's trying to point out to him that Kaidoh-senpai is rubbing Momo-senpai's hair in the dirt and Momo-senpai is twisting furiously in his arms, apparently trying to kick him. Eiji-senpai hasn't noticed that. It looks more like he has forgotten he is holding onto Oishi-senpai, or he didn't want to let go of him while he bounded over to say something to Fuji-senpai.
Oishi-senpai is used to having Eiji-senpai drag him around by the wrist, so he's actually smiling, even though at the same time he's saying, "She can't have gone in the restaurant, because the van is gone!"
"Tezuka-senpai took the van," Ryoma tells him, but Oishi-senpai isn't listening. He's seen the fight on the ground, and he panics and throws himself forward, onto the ground, and starts trying to pry Momo-senpai's fingers out of the neck of Kaidoh-senpai's shirt.
"Stop it, you two! I said stop it! Momo, let go! Kaidoh, hold still!" Kawamura-senpai gets down and helps him, and they drag the senpais to opposite sides of the bush.
Kaidoh-senpai's mouth is bleeding from the corner and Momo-senpai is staring at him with his eyes glazed. Ryoma knows from experience that it will be impossible to talk to him at all for probably half an hour. He sighs and wishes Tezuka would come back with the van.
Oishi drags Momo into the furthest back seat of the van and rides there with him the entire afternoon. By the time Momo stops thinking about the blood on Kaidoh's mouth - the fact that he put it there, whether it would still be there or not the next time he could get Kaidoh alone to lick it off - he's already in the van and it's too late to argue. He knows Oishi-senpai probably wouldn't listen to him anyway.
The only person who might listen is probably Fuji-senpai, and Momo hasn't seen him as happy as he is today in a couple of weeks, not since they had to replace Taka-san's snare drum and Inui-senpai gave him a new pair of drumsticks. There's no way he's going to help. Momo isn't sure he wants help from someone who thinks preventing other people from making out is almost as much fun as having sex, anyway.
On the other hand, when Momo stops sulking and looks up from his manga, he notices Kaidoh is in the seat right in front of him. Momo stops paying any attention to his manga and starts watching every move Kaidoh makes. There's a smear of dirt on the back of his neck he hasn't wiped away completely. When Momo pretends to fall asleep and slumps forward against the window, he gets close enough that he thinks he can smell Kaidoh's sweat.
Then he has to pretend to wake up, because he can't watch Oishi-senpai with his eyes closed, and he has to monitor him to see how closely he's being watched. Fortunately, around four Oishi-senpai falls asleep himself. By scooting all the way forward in his seat, Momo is able to slide his hand between the side of the van and the back of Kaidoh's seat. It isn't very comfortable, but it's worth it when Kaidoh jerks in surprise and turns around to look at him.
"Sh!" Momo mouths.
Kaidoh turns back around most of the way, but he looks at Momo for a second out of the corner of his eye. Momo can feel his face getting hot but he doesn't move his hand away from Kaidoh's... hip? Arm? He's not exactly certain what he's touching, but it doesn't really matter. He wants to touch every part of Kaidoh, anyway. For now he's willing to take what he can get.
He sees Kaidoh shift around in his seat, and then Kaidoh elbows Momo in the wrist, pushing his arm against the side of the van. Momo hunches forward, trying not to yelp, and is just gritting his teeth and getting ready to lunge forward and yell - well, whisper, anyway - some choice insults in Kaidoh's ear when he feels fingers on his hand and freezes in shock.
Kaidoh's fingers are warm and slightly sweaty, and when Momo closes his hand around Kaidoh's, they get hot pretty quickly and start to stick together, but he couldn't care less. The heat from their hands isn't just the heat of Momo's hand and Kaidoh's hand added together. It's like it's multiplied it instead, and it is trickling slowly down his arm to the rest of his body. It goes up to his head and down into his stomach at the same time.
They stay like that for as long as they dare, and it's really probably only a few minutes, but Momo has no sense of how much time has actually passed because he can't focus his attention on anything but Kaidoh, his hand, the longest pieces of his hair hanging at the back of his neck and almost touching the collar of his shirt, that smudge of dirt on his pale skin, the blood from the corner of his mouth. Kaidoh's wiped it away but it's still there, a tiny dark crusted spot on the edge of his lower lip.
Eventually the seatbelt starts to dig into the side of Momo's neck, and Kaidoh probably isn't very comfortable either, because he has to sit very oddly to get his hand in Momo's. Kaidoh shifts first, and then Momo pulls back. When he sits up, he can still reach just past the back of the seat, as long as he stays on the edge of the seat.
Kaidoh leans back and starts reading one of his stupid fitness magazines or something and Momo leans over against the window and closes his eyes with his fingers just brushing Kaidoh's elbow. The inside of his elbow is unexpectedly soft.
Momo wonders if it's bad that just touching Kaidoh's elbow is turning him on, but he feels like he's been half-hard all day. The last time they kissed was last night, in the hall at the hotel next to the ice machine, and the last time they made out was days ago, which is basically forever when you're sixteen years old, Momo reasons.
So it's probably okay that Kaidoh's elbow is turning him on, even if it is a bit weird - how it feels like all the nerves he usually uses for feeling things in his whole arm, maybe the whole side of his body, have all moved into his right hand so he can feel Kaidoh, his sleeve and the warmth of his skin and the tiny little movements he makes when he turns the page. Momo feels like he's going crazy. If he had scary mental powers like Fuji-senpai, the bench in between him and Kaidoh would probably have vanished by now.
He thinks he's never going to make it through the day, let alone the concert tonight.
It is time to do something.
When they get their room keys at the new hotel, Momo makes straight for Echizen. He's got to talk to him about it first of course. He's a little put out to see Echizen is talking to Tezuka-senpai. Nobody would even think of interrupting Tezuka-senpai when he looks that serious.
Well, Momo amends, nobody except Echizen. And he would wait for Tezuka-senpai to finish talking first.
"What was that about?" Momo demands, when he's dragged Echizen into their room.
Echizen flops down on one of the beds. "What?" He sounds unconcerned.
Momo thinks about asking, but then he realises he has more important things to talk about. He can tease Echizen about his crush on Tezuka-senpai after the important business is out of the way. "Look, nevermind about that," says Momo. "It's like this. Uh. You know."
Echizen takes a roll of candy out of his pocket and pops two pieces into his mouth, then puts it back without offering one to Momo. "What are you talking about?" he says, boredly.
Momo shuffles past the hotel dresser with the mirror. He sits down on the other bed, facing Echizen. "Well, Echizen, you know how when you start getting a little older, you can have start having certain feelings. I mean, start realising that... at a certain time you have to start growing up, and things change, and you might feel differently about things that you thought you really hated, because you just get so... mad... and you feel like..."
Echizen is watching him like he can't be bothered to keep his eyes all the way open. Momo stands up and walks to the window to adjust the air conditioner. It's too hot in the room. "Momo-senpai, you're not really making any sense," Echizen points out.
"I know!" says Momo, spinning around to glare at him.
Echizen shrugs. "Okay."
"Look, Echizen, you know Mamushi and I aren't just rivals. We..." he trips up there, because what is he supposed to say, 'friends'?
"You like him," says Echizen.
"What!" Momo exclaims. "That's not it! Well - I mean - " Actually, though, besides liking Kaidoh, Momo does, well, like him. Even when he only wanted to beat him up and not have sex with him, he still liked him at least some of the time. "What do you mean?"
Echizen sits up on the bed, tipping his cat off his chest. "You like each other," he says, with an air of impatience. "You keep sneaking away to make out. Why don't you just switch rooms already?"
Momo just stares at him. "How did you know that?" he demands. That stupid Mamushi must have told him. Momo is going to slam his face into the wall when he sees him. Right before he throws him up against it and rips his pants open. Or maybe right after.
... Oh. Echizen is talking. "I walked in on you kissing in the dressing room last week," he reminds Momo.
That's true, but as soon as they heard the door they jumped apart, and even if Momo hadn't got his pants buttoned up again, he was sure the chair was covering that. "I told you we were fighting," says Momo. "Just fighting." Echizen just stares at him until he deflates. "You knew?" he asks.
Then there's a knock on the door.
Momo gets up to answer it. It's Kaidoh, cutting his eyes to the side and looking uncomfortable. "Momoshiro," he mumbles. His voice is gruff and low. He's changed clothes, but he hasn't showered. He has on one of those tank tops now, the ones he wears just to show off his biceps. It's working. Momo steps back hastily, out of reach, before his body takes over from his brain and grabs Kaidoh.
"Mamushi," he says, and chuckles nervously.
"Hi, Kaidoh-senpai," says Echizen.
"I tried to talk to Echizen," Momo begins, "but he already knew."
Kaidoh snorts, "Idiot," and bends over to pet Echizen's cat. "Of course he did."
Momo doesn't think it's very fair to call him 'idiot' at a time like this, and he starts to say so. He only gets as far as "Hey - " before Echizen interrupts him, though.
"Kaidoh-senpai," he says, "do you want to switch rooms with me?"
Kaidoh smiles, and Echizen smiles back. It gives Momo chills for a second because it is almost exactly the same as the looks he sees Fuji-senpai and Inui-senpai give each other sometimes. "Yeah," says Kaidoh.
"Okay," says Echizen, "I'll get my things later," and before Momo has a chance to say anything else, he leaves.
"What..." Momo mutters. "That guy..."
"Yeah," says Kaidoh, no longer out of reach, but close enough that Momo feels the yeah on his mouth. Right before he grabs Kaidoh by the front of the shirt and Kaidoh grabs his shoulders and they lean forward at the same time to kiss, mouths open. Kaidoh tastes like toothpaste, but when Momo licks the corner of his mouth there's still a little bit of blood. It makes Momo whimper. He doesn't get to rip off Kaidoh's shirt, because Kaidoh rips his off first.
"This is a stupid shirt," Kaidoh growls. He might be talking about what it looks like, Momo figures, or about the fact that it gets stuck on his head and takes a little longer to come off than it should.
"You'd better not rip my shirt," Momo growls back, and shoves his hands up under Kaidoh's tank top, around his waist, over the smooth skin of his back. Then his hands seem to drift down under the waistband of Kaidoh's pants by themselves, onto the firm muscled curve of his ass.
"Idiot," Kaidoh gasps, and kisses the corner of Momo's jaw and sucks on the skin under his ear.
Momo drags Kaidoh to the nearest bed. "Loser," he says, shoving his knee between Kaidoh's legs.
Kaidoh can tell that Momo says it with affection. "Shut up," he retorts breathlessly, smiling a little, and grabs Momo's face in both hands to jerk him down into another kiss.
Tezuka has just cut a piece off of the ginger he bought at lunchtime when there's a short knock at his door. When he opens it, Echizen is standing outside. It's cool enough in the hotel that Tezuka is wearing a sweater, but Echizen stands there pale and bare-armed, looking up at Tezuka with wide, calm eyes.
"Can I come in?" he asks.
Tezuka moves out of his way. "Echizen. Is everything alright?"
"Yeah." He sounds mostly unconcerned, but perhaps a little hesitant.
Tezuka sometimes wishes Echizen would overcome that hint of shyness when he talks to Tezuka. He watches Echizen with the others, Momoshiro and Kikumaru - his casual friendliness. Even with Kaidoh or Inui, he is reserved, but never shy. Tezuka doesn't know how to tell him not to be, except by showing him he doesn't have to. On the other hand, sometimes when he thinks about that hint of shyness, and the fact that Echizen never shows it to anyone but him, Tezuka is almost fiercely glad for it.
"What is it?" he says.
Echizen shrugs. He glances at the end of Tezuka's bed, but he doesn't sit on it. There's another chair by the window, an armchair with a little table next to it, but he doesn't even look in that direction. "It's going to be time to switch the rooms around again. I said I would trade with Kaidoh-senpai."
"Ah." Tezuka nods, and returns to the desk where he has laid out the ginger. "Good."
Echizen follows Tezuka to the desk, watching curiously as he drops two little pieces of ginger into an open thermos. "Good?" he says. He leans on the end of the desk.
Tezuka takes a lemon out of the paper bag and cuts a neat wedge from it. "It's good that Momoshiro and Kaidoh have made up their minds to speak to Ryuzaki-san," he explains calmly. "Of their own volition."
Echizen chuckles. "It's about time."
Tezuka doesn't say anything to that. He just pours some honey into the thermos from the squeeze bottle he bought.
Echizen still doesn't ask him what he's doing. Instead he remarks, "I was getting tired of walking in on them kissing."
Tezuka glances at him, amused. If Momoshiro hasn't been sneaking in and out of the room in the middle of the night, Echizen is luckier than he realises. Tezuka has slept much better since the last rearrangement, when Fuji started to room with Kawamura. "You should put on another shirt," says Tezuka.
"I'm not cold," Echizen says.
"No," says Tezuka, and pours the boiling water from the coffeepot into the thermos. "But you are getting sick."
Echizen's brow creases. "You don't have to worry," he says. It's hard to tell if he is sullen or embarrassed. "I won't get sick. I don't get colds."
Tezuka raises an eyebrow. "Don't be careless," he says severely. "You could damage your voice."
Echizen's chin comes up and he stares at Tezuka, surprised and then a little sheepish. "I'm sorry," he finally says. "But I don't have my suitcase."
Tezuka looks seriously at him. "You can have one of mine," he says. "There's a few hours. You should lie down in the bed and rest."
"I need to warm up," Echizen temporises, glancing at the bed and then quickly back at Tezuka.
Tezuka shakes his head and takes Echizen's arm to lead him to the edge of the bed. Echizen goes immediately, with no further protest, and climbs under the covers himself. Tezuka's fingertips tingle with the urge to tuck the blanket under Echizen's chin himself, to smooth the artfully tousled bangs back from Echizen's face. Echizen only seems very slightly surprised, but he watches Tezuka even more carefully than usual.
Tezuka turns the armchair to face the bed and sits in it. "I know you've been practising more," he tells Echizen. "Your range is still increasing. Besides that, I suspect you've improved your vibrato a great deal while I was in Germany."
At that, Echizen's eyes widen, and he blinks and looks down at his lap, cheeks reddening.
"But," Tezuka continues, "your voice broke twice yesterday anyway. The cold is already taking its toll. Soon you're going to be coughing more often. If you want to be able to sing the whole tour, you're going to have to take better care of your vocal cords."
"Shouldn't I warm up more slowly then?" Echizen asks.
"Later," Tezuka says. "I've made you some tea that should be good for your throat. You'll need to drink a lot of it." At Echizen's expression, he adds, "Don't worry - there's no juice involved."
Echizen's mouth quirks up on one side in that lopsided half-smile that makes his eyes glow and Tezuka forgets what he was going to say. "So that's where you went at lunchtime," Echizen says, and his smile very slowly grows. It's a confident smile, but it's not predatory - well, not exactly. It unsettles Tezuka anyway, stirs up tension and anxiety and arousal and tenderness in him, reminds him that Echizen is nestled in his bed.
"Will it be okay to talk to Ryuzaki-san after the concert?" Echizen asks. "I don't think it can wait for tomorrow."
"I'll talk to her," says Tezuka. "And to Inui."
Echizen blinks at him. "You mean you'll have me room with you, instead of with Inui-senpai?" he asks, after a moment.
And Echizen's look of surprise melts suddenly into a smile. Tezuka had worked out over several days that it was really the only option. He needs to listen to Echizen's singing, needs to make sure he sleeps sufficiently and drinks enough tea. Now, with Echizen smirking at him, he feels his grip on all that reasoning loosen. The expression in Echizen's eyes is all too clear and calculating, and the uncomfortable sensation that he is being seen through makes Tezuka take another look at himself.
His conclusion was right, but his reasoning - that is what seems shaky. All he can think, now, is that it will bring Echizen closer to him, and the other reasons pale in comparison. The way Echizen is smiling at him, leaning back against the pillow and looking into Tezuka's eyes and still smiling... Tezuka thinks he never needed another reason at all. Echizen moves a little on the pillow, shrugging his shoulders, turning his head. His dark hair fans across the white hotel pillowcase. "All right," he says. "Can I have some of that tea then?"
Kaidoh wakes up with Momoshiro drooling on his shoulder and stares at the ceiling for several minutes, listening to himself and the idiot breathe, unwilling to disturb the quiet even by moving his head. He's never woken up with Momoshiro before. They've made out on beds exactly twice, but they've always been in a hurry before; there's never enough time to fall asleep, or even to stop and take off their pants.
Finally he looks down. Momoshiro is still halfway wearing his pants, but it's not because they didn't have time, it's because they didn't take the time. Kaidoh is naked, with come smeared on his belly and Momoshiro's arm draped around his waist, a hand lying next to his hip. Looking down at it makes Kaidoh blush again - the come, the crumpled hotel blankets under them, the pants tugged down around Momoshiro's thighs. Kaidoh puts his hand carefully where the waistband of Momoshiro's underwear meets the bare skin of his back. The skin is warm and firm, solid with muscle.
Momoshiro stirs sleepily and whispers, "Kaidoh?"
Kaidoh opens his mouth to speak, but all that comes out is a hiss. His hand has slid up Momoshiro's spine, and he settles it on the back of Momoshiro's neck.
He lifts his head and looks up at Kaidoh, blinking and squinting. "Time'sit?"
Kaidoh hisses again. "I don't know, moron," he starts to say. Then Momoshiro stretches, and Kaidoh uses his hand on Momoshiro's neck to pull him in for a kiss instead.
Momoshiro tries to talk without taking his head away, like the idiot he is. All that comes out are some muffled grunts and "mm" sounds, but he doesn't even try to stop kissing. In fact, he pays more careful attention to the kissing than he ever has before. Eventually he gives up on talking, but it's almost like he is saying something anyway with the way he kisses slower and slower, even when Kaidoh makes fists and pulls on his hair.
Momoshiro is stubborn, though, and he seems to be kissing even slower in response. He gets up on his knees and crawls on top of Kaidoh, and by the time he lies down on top of him Kaidoh has given up on controlling the kiss.
He guesses it is a good thing if Momoshiro is trying to learn some technique, anyway. Even when he is being careful he still kisses messily and wetly. He's always eager and puts his tongue in every part of Kaidoh's mouth, like he is trying to taste all of them. In fact, he kisses a lot like he eats, Kaidoh has always thought. Up till now Momoshiro has always kissed Kaidoh the way he eats hamburgers or sushi: like it will taste better the more he can fit in his mouth. It's greedy and kind of disgusting, but Kaidoh likes it anyway. But a few times Kaidoh has seen him eat slowly, too.
The first time they came back to Japan after a short tour abroad, they went to a traditional restaurant and Momoshiro babbled incessantly about how he had missed Japanese food, moaning with pleasure at the first several bites of each dish: oh, miso! Oh, tempura! Oh, rice! He ate his udon soup slowly then, lingering over every bite the way he is lingering now over every kiss.
Even if he enjoys it Kaidoh can't let the idiot stay in control forever. Eventually he shoves the heavy weight off him and rolls onto his side. Momoshiro grabs hastily at him, like it makes him anxious to let go for a moment, and slings a leg over Kaidoh's hip.
They kiss until Kaidoh has to get up to go to the bathroom, and then he takes a shower. While Momoshiro showers Kaidoh sits in the tangle of mussed sheets, a little away from the wet spot, reading one of Momoshiro's stupid manga.
When he comes out of the bathroom, wrapped in a tiny American hotel towel, with rivulets of water tracing lazy paths over the muscles of his chest, the first thing Momoshiro does is exclaim, "Wow, I'm so hungry!"
Kaidoh rolls his eyes. "You're always hungry," he says, but he figures he could probably eat too. Orgasms always make him hungry. He gets out of the bed, picks his bandana up off the floor, and stuffs it in his pocket.
Momoshiro doesn't put on the stupid shirt from before. Kaidoh wishes that were because he ripped it, but unfortunately it's just that Momoshiro used it to wipe away come. He gets dressed and then stands at the mirror, spiking his hair up with enough gel to hold together a popsicle-stick model of the Eiffel Tower.
"There's only forty-five minutes left," Kaidoh tells him pointedly. "Do you want to go get something to eat or not?"
"Hey, Mamushi! You're the one lounging around half-naked in bed," Momoshiro snaps, dragging a gelled hand agitatedly through his hair.
Since Kaidoh is standing up and fully dressed, this seems to be more stupidity than usual even for Momoshiro. Kaidoh steps into his personal space and hisses, "Moron, you're the one who's half naked."
Momoshiro turns around to glare at him directly. He drops the hair gel and it squirts a gluey glob onto the top of the hotel dresser, but he doesn't seem to notice. Luckily he doesn't grab Kaidoh's shirt, because his hands are still gross. "I just got out of the shower!" he yells. "At least my shirt isn't full of holes!"
Surprised, Kaidoh glances down reflexively even though he knows he's not wearing his ripped shirt. "What the hell are you raving about?" he demands. Then, since Momoshiro's hands are still dirty, Kaidoh grabs him and hauls them together chest-to-chest without any help.
"You're the stupid one," says Momoshiro, and finally dives in and kisses him. Kaidoh was starting to think he'd never get around to it. After a minute Momoshiro grabs Kaidoh's head in both hands and gets gel in his hair, but Kaidoh doesn't care.
When they pull apart, both of them breathing a little fast, Momoshiro says awkwardly, "So, do you want that bed or... I mean, just now, you were lying in it, and before..."
Kaidoh halfway smiles. Sometimes Momoshiro really is a moron. "We can use the other one later," he says, and Momoshiro stares at him, eyes widening. "Are you still hungry? Let's go downstairs."
By the time he goes onstage Ryoma has drunk three thermoses full of Tezuka's tea. It doesn't taste great, but it feels good and by the time he gets to the honey dregs of the first thermos he has started to like it, sort of.
It seems to make warming up easier, anyway, or maybe that is just Tezuka. He listens until Ryoma hits the top of his first scale. Then he says, "You can go higher than that."
It's true. Though Ryoma didn't lose too much range when his voice changed, his control of the upper part has been weaker since then. But the past several months' practise while Tezuka was away have improved it a lot, so he can almost sing Aozu's whole repertoire an octave up.
Now with Tezuka quietly harmonising two octaves below, Ryoma sings past the highest he usually manages and enjoys it more. Just the scales are a little thrilling - watching Tezuka sitting with his perfect posture in the chair, breathing at the same time as him, seeing the peaceful ecstatic look that sometimes comes over his face at the peak of the arpeggios.
Ryoma holds a high C with vibrato because it's his best one, and then Tezuka climbs to a G and sings it with the low, slow vibrato he so rarely uses. The perfect fourth they make throbs in the air so powerfully that it fills the room and his ears till it drowns out his own heartbeat. The notes open up a space in his chest and pour music and Tezuka's voice into it. Ryoma almost thinks he can feel it on his skin.
And then their eyes meet and he really can, because he shivers from the crown of his head, down his throat and chest and the back of his neck, through his belly, all the way to his toes. He sings until he unexpectedly runs out of air and then he stops, takes a deep breath, and shivers again.
Really he wants to sing more, but Tezuka is already out of his chair, putting the thermos back in Ryoma's hands. "Are you all right?" he says.
Ryoma blinks and takes the thermos. "Fine," he says, his voice low from embarrassment, but he takes a drink anyway. Tezuka watches him drink and Ryoma doesn't drop his eyes away the whole time - he doesn't have to anymore. If the tea weren't so hot, he might shiver again from the look in Tezuka's eyes. But then, the look is rather heated, too.
"Should I drink it all?" he asks Tezuka.
Tezuka nods, "That would be good." He turns to rummage in his suitcase. Ryoma sees his hands moving swiftly, sorting through what must be a stack of shirts, because he can recognise two of Tezuka's favourite lavender ones. Tezuka must be discarding the shirts because they aren't long-sleeved - or, knowing Tezuka, possibly because they would clash with Ryoma's pants. There is no chance of any of them fitting.
Ryoma caught a hint of smile when Tezuka turned away, so he teases, "Should I drink it so fast? Are you sure you bought enough ginger and lemon?"
Tezuka quirks one eyebrow infinitesimally. "Plenty," he says dryly.
As he expected, when Ryoma puts on the shirt Tezuka gives him the sleeves completely cover his hands. Tezuka takes the empty thermos while Ryoma rolls back the cuffs. The shirt is freshly laundered, but it still smells faintly of Tezuka, Ryoma notices.
"Will you be all right eating downstairs?" Tezuka asks him.
"Of course," Ryoma grins. He can't remember the last time he wasn't all right to eat.
It's a little chilly in the restaurant they go to - Ryuzaki-san insists they don't eat at the hotel for fear of getting thrown out - so Ryoma appreciates the shirt for its own sake and not just for the faces everyone makes when they see him dressed in it. No one says anything, though, except Eiji-senpai, and all he says is "Wai, ochibi-chan is so cute!" and then when they are all sitting down, he whispers in Ryoma's ear, "Zya, Echizen, lavender is really your colour, ne?" And Tezuka doesn't hear that.
Besides being chilly the restaurant is loud, even though it isn't crowded, and Ryoma can smell the beer from the bar even though they aren't sitting that close to it. The smell is gross, and it reminds him of his dad at his absolutely most annoying, which he always is when he drinks. Ryoma will never forget that time he sang so loudly in the garden that the neighbours called the police, or the time he put paperclips on Karupin's ears and a rubber band around his tail, or the time he snuck out and bought the bar down the street and paid the owner in cash.
He slouches down in his chair, and a little more of the smell of Tezuka drifts to his nose from the lavender shirt. That is when Eiji-senpai says something to Inui-senpai that makes him drop his data notebook right into a dish of butter, and then snatches it away while Inui-senpai is scrambling on the floor after his napkin.
"Kikumaru, don't open - " Inui-senpai says, reaching up for it, and Eiji-senpai leaps into his chair.
"Eiji-senpai, here!" says Momo-senpai, and Eiji-senpai throws the notebook across the table at him with a cheerful Hoi! that carries over all the noise in the restaurant.
Everyone near them is starting to turn around and stare at Eiji-senpai, since he is still standing in his chair, and before Oishi-senpai has even said anything more than "Uh - Eiji - ", a waiter runs out of the kitchen and grabs Eiji-senpai's arm, incidentally getting in between Inui-senpai and Momo-senpai. Inui-senpai tries to dodge and lean around him, and when he can't, his face starts to turn purple.
Momo-senpai takes this opportunity to open the notebook and start reading it out loud. "G, one point five seconds... A flat, one point seven five seconds... B flat, one point seven two seconds... C, one point four seconds... D flat, one point five one seconds... geez, this is boring, Inui-senpai, is that all that's in here?"
Ryoma looks to his side. Tezuka is sitting at his right - he hasn't let Ryoma out of his sight since they left the hotel room. He is slowly setting down his glass of water, and there's a little fold beside his mouth, a sort of "This is entertaining, but I'm going to be annoyed if I have to tell Kikumaru not to stand in that chair" crease.
"Hoi, Fuji, what's he saying?" says Eiji-senpai right before Tezuka opens his mouth, and the waiter blinks and stops talking.
"He wants you to sit down, Eiji."
"Ah, hoi-hoi! Sorry, nya! I forgot I was still standing up there," he giggles, bouncing down into his seat.
"Is everything all right?" says the waiter, worried.
"It's fine now," Fuji-senpai tells him. "Just a little joke." Inui-senpai's face, behind the waiter's shoulder, is purpler than ever. His glasses glint at Fuji-senpai, but Fuji-senpai just raises his eyebrows at him.
"All right," says the waiter uncertainly, "if that's really all, then - "
"Thank you," Fuji-senpai interrupts. The waiter thanks him back and walks away, looking considerably confused.
"Everything always happens while Ryuzaki-san is gone," says Ryoma. "She can't still be in the bathroom."
Tezuka looks down at him and his mouth twitches a little in agreement. Then Inui-senpai makes it around the table to Momo-senpai, and Kaidoh-senpai shouts, "Just give him the book, you idiot!", sounding more worried than angry for once. Momo-senpai throws the notebook back across the table, but Eiji-senpai doesn't notice, and it lands in the butter again.
"Well," mutters Ryoma, "no wonder she never eats with us."
Tezuka turns towards him so Ryoma can see his whole face, and his eyes are full of amusement. "Do you want something else to drink?" he says.
Ryoma looks down and takes a drink of his orange juice to hide his smile. "No, this is fine," he says.
Unfortunately, after his sixth or seventh piece of appetizer bread, he slowly starts to realise that he is not, in fact, fine. Eiji-senpai distracted him for a while, and he forgot that he was cold and the crowds and the smell were overwhelming him; but he now realises that he isn't hungry, and he mostly wants to go back to the hotel and crawl into a bed and hide under the covers.
Tezuka's bed, he thinks. He's glad Tezuka is sitting beside him. Usually that makes him nervous, or at least a little excited and turned on. Now, somehow, it's kind of soothing. It doesn't help him find anything on the menu that he wants to eat, though.
That part is worse because Ryuzaki-san has taken them to a steakhouse that is pretending to be Australian, and almost everyone is having a hard time reading the menu. Ryoma can decipher the fake-Australianese, but it's irritating him. He likes grilled shrimp, but there's no way he would order something called "shrimp on the barbie" even if the thought of shrimp right now didn't turn his stomach a little.
Meanwhile, half of the people at the table can't decipher the menu. Even after Fuji-senpai tells Momo-senpai that it explains what everything is in more regular English under the name, Momo-senpai is still frowning and mumbling to himself. Kaidoh-senpai is preoccupied and completely bypasses the opportunity to call Momo-senpai stupid. Inui-senpai is writing in his notebook again, muttering things like "Hooley-dooley" and "bonzer".
"I'm totally starving!" says Momo-senpai. "Maybe I'll just order the whole menu!"
"You can't be starving, idiot. Do you just say that out of habit or something?" says Kaidoh-senpai. "You just ate before we came here."
Momo-senpai is indignant. "I can too!" he says. "What do you know anyway, stupid mamushi? I can be hungry all day long sometimes! Tell him, Echizen! I can eat twenty McDonald's hamburgers and still want more!"
"They have hamburgers here," Ryoma cuts in, before they drag each other out of their chairs and end up rolling around on the floor again. They're already close enough to getting thrown out of the restaurant, and he also already knows way more than he wants to about Momo-senpai's sex life. "You can order twenty of that instead of the whole menu."
"Maybe just ten to start with," Tezuka says, calmly. "They seem to be big ones."
The waiter sets another loaf of bread by Ryoma's elbow. He looks at it, trying to feel hungry, for ten seconds or so before he gives up and takes a drink from the thermos of tea Tezuka brought instead. He sees Tezuka glance at him when he does that, and he wonders if he is drinking wrong or something until he realises that Tezuka is just worrying about him more.
Ryoma tilts his head a little and slants a look up at Tezuka under his eyelashes. When Tezuka meets his eyes, he smiles again a little, and even though Tezuka's mouth doesn't really move, Ryoma can see from the corners of his eyes that he's smiling too.
By drinking a lot of water and tea in between, Ryoma manages to eat his whole hamburger. The number of hamburger plates on the table probably prevents anyone else from noticing that he hasn't eaten more of them, because Momo-senpai actually does order ten and Eiji-senpai only steals one of them. Tezuka doesn't say anything about it, and as far as Ryoma can tell, he isn't watching too closely, so he figures that it's probably all right.
At least, it's not good that he's barely managed to eat a quarter or an eighth as much food as he normally would, but he figures he can eat something else later, after the show. All that sweating and jumping around should work up his appetite again, and he will make sure he gets a good night's sleep. Of course he's thought about rooming with Tezuka for a long time, and in other circumstances he might worry about being able to relax the first time he gets to, but he's already tired now and the show hasn't even started, and he's actually sitting down, so he doesn't think that's going to be a problem.
In fact, his problem is going to be the opposite. Sometime after finishing his hamburger, when he's picking desultorily at his french fries and surreptitiously sliding them onto the edge of Kawamura-senpai's plate when nobody is looking, Ryoma's stomach gives a sudden and unexpected heave, like the kind of thing you feel when you fall off a high wall, or ride in a fast elevator. It's not good at all and it makes him freeze for a second.
Ryoma takes a drink of water. It doesn't help, so he takes a drink of tea. His stomach still doesn't feel great, maybe a little off-balance, but it's not doing anything weird anymore, so he relaxes again, at least as much as he can in the hard-backed wooden chair. He's really glad he is wearing Tezuka's shirt.
But then a minute later it does it again. He starts to reach for his water, but even thinking about drinking it makes his stomach do it again, a fierce little twist that he is beginning to intensely dislike. Ryoma stands up hurriedly and rushes to the bathroom. He's in such a hurry that he barely notices the smoke and how crowded the restaurant is, or the waiter he almost knocks over ducking into the door marked "Bruces". ("Bruces"? What the hell?)
The bathroom, at least, is clean and empty. It doesn't even smell bad, or look bad, except for the cheesy wooden alligator plaque above the mirror. It's warmer than the restaurant, too. Ryoma leans against the wall for a while, and even though his stomach still feels funny - kind of turned upside-down - it doesn't actually hurt anymore and it's stopped moving around independently of him. Eventually he realises he isn't going to throw up, so he gets up and washes his face again with cold water from the sink.
When he leaves, he walks right into Kaidoh-senpai outside the door. "Fss - Echizen," says Kaidoh-senpai quietly.
Ryoma looks up at him. "Kaidoh-senpai," he says.
"Are you okay?" says Kaidoh-senpai, with a critical look.
Ryoma nods, slowly. He and Kaidoh-senpai always understand each other. He has been watching Kaidoh-senpai and Momo-senpai watching each other for a long time now, but Kaidoh-senpai is the one who always looks back at him. Ryoma smiles just a little. "How are you liking your new room?"
Kaidoh-senpai laughs and shakes his head. "Go sit down, bastard."
"All right," smirks Ryoma, "but are you hot, Kaidoh-senpai? You're blushing."
Kaidoh-senpai hisses at him, but he says, "You'd better hurry, Echizen. Tezuka-senpai is looking for you."
If that was intended to make Ryoma blush too, it doesn't. He doesn't pause to blush, just turns without a word and walks quickly back to the table, in case Kaidoh-senpai is telling the truth.
When he comes around the corner and looks towards their table, the first thing he sees is Tezuka, and Tezuka meets his eyes instantly - so maybe it was the truth. Tezuka watches him until he's sitting down again, but when Ryoma does that without keeling over, he turns back to the table again, and quietly nudges the thermos over towards Ryoma.
"Thanks," Ryoma tells him, pitching his voice so no one but Tezuka will hear, and Tezuka glances down at him and nods just a little. Something about just having Tezuka close beside him while he drinks feels really good. Ryoma wants to lean over until Tezuka really is shielding him from the rest of the room, like it kind of already feels like he is. He wants to find out the difference between the way Tezuka's shirts smell fresh from the laundry and the way they smell on Tezuka. And he really wants to go back to bed.
"It amounts to one point five times the amount of icecream Kikumaru usually eats at one sitting," Inui-senpai is saying on the other side of the table.
"I eat more icecream than that all the time!" Momo-senpai interrupts.
"Momo!" yells Eiji-senpai, "that's not fair! You never pay for the icecream!"
"Couldn't you guys just divide it in half?" says Kawamura-senpai nervously.
"No!" say Eiji-senpai and Momo-senpai together.
"I'm hungry!" says Eiji-senpai.
"I'm hungry too!" says Momo-senpai.
"Well, if I'd known it would be such a problem I wouldn't have ordered dessert at all," says Fuji-senpai. He sounds amused, unlike everyone else at the table. "That waiter probably won't come back here now. Every time I catch his eye he runs back in the kitchen again." Now he sounds even more amused. Ryoma closes his eyes and wishes he weren't listening to this. He is starting to have a headache.
Then he hears Tezuka speak beside him. "Finish your desserts," Tezuka tells everyone. "We're leaving."
Ryoma hears the scrape of Tezuka's chair legs and doesn't open his eyes. Then he feels his chair move slightly and a whisper of sensation at his spine makes his head jerk up out of his hand. When he sits up, he bumps into - Ryoma turns around quickly - that was Tezuka's hand on the back of his chair. He blinks, and Tezuka looks down at him, apparently impassive. If you know what to look for in Tezuka's face, though (and Ryoma does - he's a master of Tezuka observation; he should get a diploma, or a black belt), that expression is saying a number of things. There's a tiny hint of an affectionate smile, a suggestion of enquiry, an attitude of patience to indicate he's waiting for Ryoma to get out of the chair and come with him.
Ryoma does. He stumbles a little, but Tezuka catches his arm and steadies him. He keeps his hand there, warm on Ryoma's arm, until they're out on the restaurant's wraparound porch, away from the smells and the air-conditioning.
Ryoma relaxes a little as soon as they get outside. Tezuka lets go of his arm slowly but he doesn't move away, much, and Ryoma is glad for that. He sticks his hands in his pockets and leans against one of the columns holding up the roof, mainly because he feels a little funny still, but hopefully he just looks bored.
He has the feeling Tezuka isn't deceived.
"Maybe we should do a duet," Ryoma says abruptly, trying to sound casual. He knows he doesn't have to feel nervous about bringing it up, really. By not just inviting, but practically ordering Ryoma to share a room with him, and by giving him his shirt to wear in front of the whole team, Tezuka has given him as much permission as Ryoma needs. He is a black belt at reading Tezuka, after all, and he knows that those two things together say more than Tezuka usually says about anything. Still, he doesn't feel quite ready to tell Tezuka about the duet* he has been writing for them for the past several weeks.
Tezuka looks steadily at him and for a second Ryoma doesn't have any idea what the look on his face means, but it makes Ryoma's breath catch. "Do you want to sing a duet with me?" Tezuka asks him.
Ryoma has to make himself look back up at Tezuka's face. He hopes he's not blushing; his cheeks feel warm. When he opens his mouth, at first he is afraid he is going to blurt out "I want to touch you until you can't speak" or "I want to do everything with you" or one of the other highly inappropriate answers he is thinking. Fortunately, all that comes out is "Yes."
Tezuka nods slightly. "Well, the harmony sounded good today, as I expected," he admits. "We can practise together."
Ryoma smiles at Tezuka and tells his heart to stop beating so hard. "Okay," he says. Then Tezuka smiles back at him, and he gives up on getting his heart to behave.
It took Momo at least a couple of weeks after the first time he and Kaidoh made out before he decided that he really would rather share a room with Kaidoh than with Echizen. It wasn't that Kaidoh was hot but he didn't like him the rest of the time, or that he was embarrassed or anything like that. Okay, Momo was embarrassed if he thought about talking about it, but sex would win over embarrassment every time. The main thing was that Echizen was a lot better at video games than Kaidoh was, and Momo just knew that rooming with Kaidoh would involve a lot more quiet studying and stretching exercises and things, even if it would also involve a lot more fighting and sex.
Well, so far it hasn't involved anything at all except sex, which is great as far as Momo is concerned, but since they haven't even spent one whole night together - Momo's train of thought derails there for a while, overwhelmed by thoughts like bed and no clothes and all night and even little snatches of thoughts, like remembering to set his alarm (probably wouldn't need to, because Kaidoh is always on time) and luggage (Kaidoh's luggage at the foot of Momo's bed), make his stomach twist up with excitement.
It isn't until Inui-senpai stands in front of him, saying "Momoshiro. Momo!" that Momo's daze is broken.
"What? Oh, sorry," Momo says. Kaidoh and Eiji-senpai and Taka-san are staring at him with gritted teeth, a knowing smirk and a curious frown, respectively. They are all ready for their soundcheck. Momo picks up his guitar and starts to tune it.
He has plenty of opportunity to resume his former train of thought, though, because Kaidoh is right there in front of Momo to remind him, playing the bass in that stupid black t-shirt where the sleeves have been ripped right off and the jagged edges hang over his shoulders. It's hot, not that any of Kaidoh's shirts that Momo can think of aren't hot. Except, maybe, that suit he showed up to practise in after his great-uncle's funeral, but even if the suit was stupid that time Kaidoh was still hot.
What Momo has been thinking about for a few hours now is sex. Namely, that even though they just spent an hour having it before dinner, he already wants to again. It's not that he didn't think he'd want to have sex this often. He is used to thinking about sex almost all of the time, especially since he started making out with Kaidoh. It's just that he used to assume if he actually got to have some, it would get a little better, that he'd feel satisfied.
Instead, it is harder to think about other things than ever. The whole time they are tuning up, checking the instruments, walking backstage into the little room where Echizen and the rest of Aozu are waiting, Momo is thinking about him and Kaidoh and that clean, neatly-made bed.
Echizen is stretched out along the biggest couch in the room, typically, with a baseball cap covering his face. What isn't typical is that he's covered in a blanket. Momo is puzzled until he looks up at the senpais, who are all standing next to the arm of the couch - Fuji-senpai and Oishi-senpai are actually having a conversation, or at least they are until Eiji-senpai comes up and buries his face in Oishi-senpai's neck, but Tezuka-senpai is just standing with his arms crossed and frowning. He's got an eye on Echizen, and Momo realises he must have put the blanket there.
Momo bites the corner of his mouth to keep from laughing. If you just hang around Echizen all the time it's easy to forget that sometimes Tezuka-senpai is as quietly obsessed with Echizen as Echizen is with him. Tezuka-senpai is so quiet and reserved and, well, Tezuka-ish, that Momo finds it hard to believe how he gets over Echizen even though he's seen it himself.
Though he looked like he was asleep, Echizen sits up promptly and pushes the blanket off, yawning and grumbling and rubbing his eyes, and the senpais follow him out of the room for their soundcheck - Oishi-senpai looking worried, Fuji-senpai smiling to himself and Tezuka-senpai hovering over Echizen's shoulder with a big silver thermos that Momo thinks he's seen somewhere else recently.
When Kyappu to Bin does a soundcheck, the loudest sound is the guitars, but when Aozu does a soundcheck, the loudest sound is the voices, especially Echizen's voice. It's possible to hear all of them, sometimes all four at once, when they run through the warm-ups for their little harmonies, and Momo's always impressed. It's not like he can't sing or anything, but he knows how hard it is to do what Echizen and Tezuka-senpai and Fuji-senpai and Oishi-senpai make sound so easy. They're all good, and Tezuka-senpai's voice is at least as strong as Echizen's; either one of them could probably fill a whole stadium without a microphone. It's just that Echizen can sing so much higher, and without being harsh or irritating his voice is so carrying when he sings high that for a few minutes the five of them in the back room can make out every syllable.
"New song," Inui-senpai mutters, whips out a notebook from somewhere and starts writing, so Momo tunes in to the words. He didn't realise it was a new one at first because, he realises, he's heard Echizen humming it and singing it in the shower, but he's never heard Aozu play it or really heard the lyrics before.
Not even the keyboard is accompanying Echizen's voice, not really, just some chords and things, which is what Fuji-senpai plays when he doesn't know the melody, and still Echizen is singing, something about "I always want to be by your side" and "Words can't express how very much I feel about you", and at that point it becomes clear the song is about Tezuka-senpai, since nothing else can make Echizen that disgustingly mushy*.
And then Kaidoh sits down next to Momo on the couch, so close their legs are touching, and Momo stops listening.
Kaidoh is close enough that Momo can smell his bodywash on Kaidoh's skin from when Kaidoh showered after they had sex, and Kaidoh's hand is touching Momo's knee, and he sneaks a look at Momo and then looks away really quickly and Momo is absolutely sure he is blushing, even though he can't see his face.
He wonders how much touching they can get away with before someone starts asking awkward questions. Oishi-senpai isn't here so no one is going to pry them apart, but that doesn't mean he can put his hand right on Kaidoh's thigh like he's thinking about. Putting his hand on Kaidoh's thigh would be a bad idea, Momo thinks, definitely a bad idea. Of course that doesn't mean it's easy to quit thinking about it. He's pretty sure they don't have time to sneak off and make out in the dressing room.
By the time Momo is relaxed enough to listen again Echizen has switched songs and is singing something at the low end of his range. "Huh, showing his new song during soundcheck, that's not cool, Echizen," Momo says, for something to say. "Not cool at all."
"Ch'," Kaidoh grunts. "He's just warming up his voice. He can warm up how he wants."
"I liked Ochibi's new song," Eiji-senpai announces, with a little glare for Momo. "It's great! I had no idea Ochibi could write such a sophisticated adult love song! Oishi will be jealous, nya, he always gets embarrassed about the love songs he tries to write!"
"I knew Echizen was working on song-writing by himself and the probability was 97 percent that he had finished at least one song," Inui-senpai murmurs, "but I admit I was curious about it as well. This is good data."
"Hm, well, it's nice Echizen is finally ready to share his song with the rest of us, I guess," Momo starts to say, only then Kaidoh leans back into the sofa next to him, crossing his arms over his chest, and his shoulders and his stupid hot biceps are pushing against Momo's arm, trying to short-circuit his brain. Momo decides the rest of what he wanted to say really wasn't important anyway, and relaxes into the couch too.
If he chooses to stretch his arms a little while he's listening, nobody could really blame him, since you can't sit still all the time, and he's going to need his arms limbered up to play the guitar on stage. And if when he crosses his hands behind his head, his arm goes behind Kaidoh's head too, well, that's really an accident. And it's an accident that his shifting makes the couch shift too and settles Kaidoh a little closer to Momo, fitting neatly against the side of Momo's body the way he did on the bed this afternoon.
It's probably not an accident when Kaidoh's head tips back and rests on Momo's shoulder, but if no one else is complaining, Momo isn't going to either.
By the time Echizen and the senpais come back Momo is almost 100 percent sure that Inui-senpai knows about him and Kaidoh, because he's been looking at them for at least three or four minutes and writing in his notebook, and once he smirked, but Momo didn't want to move away and Kaidoh wasn't moving - at least, he crossed his legs so his foot brushed Momo's knee, but he wasn't moving away.
Inui-senpai doesn't look surprised at all, and for a moment Momo wonders if he already knew about them. But no, sometimes it may seem like Inui-senpai knows everything, but even he isn't that scary. He can't know. Momo shifts uneasily and wonders if he should take his arm out from under Kaidoh's head - but Kaidoh seems comfortable, so he leaves it there. He doesn't want to disturb him. It's probably important for Kaidoh to get as much rest as he can, so he will have more energy after the show tonight for sex.
Kaidoh gets up on his own anyway when Echizen comes towards the couch, and Echizen flops into his spot like a rag doll. Tezuka-senpai catches Momo's eye and frowns, and Momo feels a little nervous and wonders if he should push Echizen's head off his shoulder. Then Tezuka-senpai glances pointedly at the blanket still lying on the arm of the couch and says calmly, "Echizen. Are you thirsty?", and Momo understands.
"Yeah, thanks," Echizen drawls. He sounds half-asleep already, but he's picked up his head and he's staring straight at Tezuka-senpai. Well, at least they aren't all awkward together after that song.
Actually, Momo is kind of surprised Tezuka-senpai hasn't taken Echizen off to have some kind of private talk, but that's Tezuka-senpai and Echizen. They don't talk much, and they're weird. Echizen may be Momo's best friend, but Momo doesn't understand him. Even Inui-senpai, Momo realises, probably doesn't understand Echizen. Even - and this is a scary thought - even Fuji-senpai might not understand him. Tezuka-senpai might really be the only person in the whole world who does.
Momo shakes that thought off with a frown. He extracts the blanket from under his arm and puts it on top of Echizen, who mumbles a sleepy, sullen "thanks" without even opening his eyes. Echizen doesn't feel like he needs the blanket; he feels hot, in fact, but Momo isn't going to argue with Tezuka-senpai's meaningful looks.
Even though Echizen is hotter than Kaidoh was, Momo feels a little cold, and his arm feels too light where Kaidoh's head was. He watches Kaidoh standing casually beside Inui-senpai's chair for a few minutes. Mostly, Kaidoh won't look at him, but he turns his head and looks Momo in the eye every now and then, just often enough that Momo knows he is paying attention.
When Tezuka-senpai comes back with the silver thermos open and steaming in his hand, Echizen sits up and the blanket falls away. "Thank you," he says, still low, but not sullen at all. Momo doesn't mind. He gets off the couch and follows Kaidoh out of the room and doesn't even wait to see if Tezuka-senpai will sit in his place.
Echizen sleeps on the couch for almost all the time they have before the show. Tezuka has noticed and marvelled at his ability to fall asleep instantly before. Now that Echizen obviously needs as much rest as possible, Tezuka can only be grateful that this is one of Echizen's many talents.
Once Kikumaru and Oishi slip out the side door, murmuring in each other's ears, the room is quiet enough that Tezuka is confident he can leave Echizen briefly. Kawamura is sitting in the armchair next to the couch, going over his sheet music silently, his lips moving and fingers twitching. Fuji has pushed the curtains back from the window and is sitting on the sill, watching Kawamura steadily. His face is serious until he notices Tezuka's gaze on him; then his mouth curves up into a smile of mild amusement. Tezuka catches his eye and raises an eyebrow, and Fuji just smiles more broadly and nods, so Tezuka says quietly, "I'll be back shortly," and goes to find Inui.
Inui is standing backstage with a notebook open in his hands. The crew are busy setting up; they rush back and forth around him, used to his presence. When Tezuka comes close, Inui closes the notebook. This is the only notebook he has had the entire time Tezuka has known him. It is marked "TOP-SECRET VOLUME" and "Yanagi Notebook", and Inui reads it frequently, though he rarely writes in it. In three years, Tezuka has never caught so much as a glimpse of the inside.
"Tezuka," Inui says smoothly. "You want to speak to me about the room assignments."
"Echizen and Kaidoh wanted to trade," says Tezuka.
Inui nods, "As expected. Kaidoh and Momoshiro were sixty percent less restrained in their displays of affection when alone with the members of Kyappu to Bin today."
Tezuka wonders whether Inui means that they were physically wrestling with less restraint than usual, or that they were touching each other in other ways. With Momoshiro and Kaidoh, it could easily be either one. He doesn't respond to the statistic out loud, though. He can hardly ask Inui. "However, Echizen will be sharing a room with me instead," he continues.
"Of course," Inui says, with a smile that reminds Tezuka faintly of Fuji. "The probability of everyone eventually coming to this arrangement was always 100 percent."
While Kyappu to Bin rush around in the last hectic minutes before they go onstage, making, as usual, a lot of noise, Echizen sleeps on. Kikumaru takes Kawamura's drumsticks from Fuji, presumably to hand them to him onstage; Momoshiro runs around the room thinking he has lost his guitar, until he remembers it is onstage already; Kaidoh ties a bandana on over hair that has already been completely disarranged again; Inui produces a pitcher of his homemade vegetable juice from somewhere and announces loudly that they will all drink it if they don't rock the house; Kikumaru shrieks and clings to Fuji in terror, smearing the faint dusting of glitter from his arms and cheeks on Fuji's shirt.
They all gather around Tezuka in a circle and put their hands in the centre, and suddenly Echizen is there by Tezuka's side, so close his ear brushes Tezuka's shoulder, his small hand right on top of Tezuka's in the pile. Inui touches his headset so the microphone is on and says the words: "Seigaku boys - fight-o!" and Kyappu to Bin runs out on the stage to the sound of the crowd's roaring cheer.
Echizen's weight presses briefly against Tezuka's arm for a moment and Tezuka looks down, alarmed - is he losing his balance? - but Echizen is already gone, back into the dressing rooms. "Echizen?" says Oishi, "Oi - Echizen!"
"He's just going to change, ne, Oishi," says Fuji, almost drowned out by the loud crash of drums and guitar as Kyappu to Bin start their first song. Tezuka crosses his arms over his chest to alleviate the vague feeling that they should be wrapped around someone else.
Nobody else dresses as fast as Echizen; he's gone and come back in the five minutes before the show before. He takes longer today, though, and doesn't come back for a full fifteen minutes, until it's almost time for them to go onstage. He's left off Tezuka's shirt in favour of his favourite sleeveless white one, and his arms and shoulders shimmer with the same iridescent powder Kikumaru was wearing, his eyes when he blinks slowly at Tezuka outlined in smudges of black. Tezuka wonders if it is his imagination, or if Echizen really looks unusually pale under the makeup.
Then Kyappu to Bin's third song ends and it's time for them to go. Echizen is the first onstage, going straight for the centre microphone, his skin and the silver cross on his shirt lighting up under the spotlight, and Tezuka takes a breath and pushes everything but music to the back of his mind.
They play "Birthday" first and the crowd goes wild. Echizen's voice is as strong as ever on the lead of "Don't Look Back", and it pierces effortlessly through their harmony in "Freedom". But it isn't just Tezuka's imagination that he's moving less. Echizen usually dances with the microphone on stage, lunges at it like he's attacking it. He's usually full of what looks like more energy than his small frame can hold. Not tonight. By the time they get to "Gather"*, Echizen has to stop between songs, leaning his hands on his knees and panting a little.
Tezuka feels guilty for staring at his flushed face, his open mouth, when Echizen is obviously sick. They probably aren't going to be able to play tomorrow, he thinks; this cold has been hanging around too long for the hard part to be over in one night.
Echizen's so pale and graceful, his hands and wrists are so small flashing in the light as he moves; he's glowing white and silver, only his hair dark and shining with coloured reflections from the stage lights. His body looks fragile when he's asleep and at rest, but usually when he moves he comes alive, full of power, banishing any idea of fragility. Tonight that isn't true; he's slower and Tezuka sees his wrist tremble, sees him pause to catch his breath and notices the line he doesn't sing in "Rock 54". Once, near the end of the song, Echizen turns and looks right at him, and Tezuka sees his eyes are wet and feverish. His hair is plastered to his face and neck with sweat, too. He probably is feverish. Tezuka wants to hold him, smooth his hair, touch the tense line of his back and his long thin arms and legs.
And then they start into "Kaze no Tabibito"*, and before they've played three bars, Echizen sways and falls to his knees, his guitar clattering to the floor.
Tezuka doesn't even remember how he gets to Echizen, doesn't notice who has reached him first as he shoulders them away and wraps an arm around Echizen to lift him to his feet.
Echizen has already raised his head, but his eyes are still closed and he doesn't struggle at all at being gathered into Tezuka's arms, only relaxes against him in trusting relief. That makes the tightness in Tezuka's chest ease a little. A little, but not much. The guitar, still around Echizen's neck, is an awkward burden, banging against Tezuka's thigh as he helps Echizen offstage.
"I'm okay," Echizen tells him when they're in the wings, "I didn't faint, I just felt dizzy."
That's when Ryuzaki-san reaches them, at a run. "Do you need to go to the hospital?" she demands.
Tezuka isn't sure if she's asking him or Echizen, but he answers, "He says he was just dizzy."
Ryuzaki-san scowls, "What am I going to do with you guys, huh? All of you so stubborn! Echizen, how could you let yourself collapse on the stage? You're not supposed to play when you're this sick! It won't do me any good if you die!"
Echizen winces, but he seems to be too tired to even make an assumption of embarrassment. "Sorry," he mumbles, head down.
"Well then, do you just want to take him back to the hotel?" Ryuzaki-san asks.
"Hai," says Tezuka.
"I want to talk to you later, Tezuka. I need to know about tomorrow's show."
Tezuka can't bow without dropping Echizen, so he just says "Hai" again. Then he adds, "Please tell Inui that we can switch rooms tomorrow. There's going to be a rearrangement of rooming assignments again. I was going to speak to you about that. Inui has the details."
"All right. You can have one of the crew drive you to the hotel," Ryuzaki-san says, but she's talking to Tezuka's back; he's already turning away, walking carefully with his arm around Echizen's waist.
"It's not that bad," says Echizen as Tezuka tries to help him into the van. "See?" he climbs in normally, not shaking or wobbling, though he's still alarmingly pale and a little slow.
But then Tezuka climbs in after him, and he immediately leans against Tezuka and puts his head on Tezuka's shoulder. Tezuka feels his chest constrict again. He stays absolutely still.
"I left your shirt at the concert hall," Echizen murmurs after a while, shifting his head but not picking it up, just making a little nuzzling motion.
Tezuka has to force himself not to clear his throat before he talks, because it feels like it has filled up with a knot of emotion. "That's okay," he says.
"Mmm," Echizen replies, and yawns. "Why? Are you going to give me another one, senpai?" he teases.
Tezuka shifts the arm that Echizen is leaning on a little, just to make Echizen more comfortable. He fits more easily against Tezuka's side with the arm around his shoulders. "You won't need one," Tezuka says. "You're going to bed. The others will bring your suitcase up later."
"Aa," says Echizen, as coolly as ever, but Tezuka can hear the contentment in his voice.
Because the drums are at the back of the stage and Echizen stands in front of Tezuka when they perform, Tezuka couldn't watch Echizen's face while he sang that new song during the soundcheck. Echizen glanced back at him several times, though, and when he stopped singing he turned around completely and stared right at Tezuka. Echizen is very good at talking with his eyes.
Tezuka would have known the song was about him anyway, though. There is something about the way Echizen talks to him that is different from the way he talks to anyone else; Tezuka can always hear it, and that song was full of it, like a whole glass full of brandy if he recognised the taste only from flavoured chocolates. If not for the promises Echizen has been making with his eyes all afternoon, Tezuka would have been completely unprepared. As it was, it felt as though his heart had stopped.
I've always been waiting for you. Tezuka is still shaken. He still feels the way he did in those first shocked moments of hearing the song - as though his soul has woken up and it's restless, moving and straining inside of him. He feels battered as if by a taste so sweet it cuts sharply into his tongue. He feels that he wants to hold Echizen all night.
It doesn't seem like Echizen would mind. He walks through the lobby with his eyes mostly closed, but he's suspiciously steady on his feet, just leaning heavily into Tezuka. The stage manager who drove them there is fooled. He asks Tezuka if he should phone Ryuzaki-san or get him something or take them to the hospital instead, but Tezuka just thanks him and holds out his hand for the keys.
Echizen stumbles a little stepping into the elevator, and Tezuka's throat tenses in anxiety as he catches him. "Thanks, senpai," says Echizen, and turns his face into Tezuka's shirt. He makes no move to pull away.
"Echizen," Tezuka murmurs, and stops there.
"What?" says Echizen, against Tezuka's chest. His cheek is hot even through Tezuka's shirt. He definitely has a fever.
Tezuka still doesn't know what he wants to say to him - how can he speak a feeling? This feeling? He has been writing songs about Echizen for years, and he's never managed to say it yet. "The song you sang today," he says.
"Yeah," says Echizen, although it's more like "Mm" the way he pronounces it, but almost all of his weight is on Tezuka, not on his own feet; Tezuka feels the hint of tension enter his body.
But the elevator stops there and the doors open, and Echizen shifts out of the way so that Tezuka can walk just in the split-second before Tezuka would have picked him up. Tezuka waits until he closes the hotel room door behind them to speak.
He doesn't have to encourage Echizen to go to bed; when he sees the bed Echizen slips out of Tezuka's embrace and crosses the room himself, drooping tiredly, to flop heavily onto the mattress, fully clothed. The bedclothes are still pulled back from his nap before dinner, and Echizen gropes to drag them over him without looking. "It was very good," says Tezuka. "It suits your voice well."
Echizen rolls over onto his back and blinks at Tezuka, and before Tezuka knows it, he is standing beside the bed and Echizen is looking up at him, sleepy, pale, dishevelled, in pain, beautiful. There's a hint of surprised vulnerability in his eyes, changing slowly as Tezuka watches into satisfaction.
"I've never heard you sing with such emotional expression before," Tezuka adds, hardly knowing what he is saying. They both know that Echizen sings very expressively, but what he heard this afternoon went beyond that.
"Aa," says Echizen simply, looking intently into Tezuka's face, and Tezuka is so absorbed in his eyes that he is surprised when Echizen reaches up and grasps his hand.
For a moment, as he turns his hand in Echizen's grip, Tezuka feels awkward. But then as their palms meet and Echizen's sweaty fingers wrap gently around his hand, fitting perfectly into place, he realises that the last thing he should worry about is how Echizen feels about him: it's all there, in that song, in Echizen's voice, in his face, in the way he's gently tugging at Tezuka's hand.
"Lie down," Echizen tells him, flatly commanding, without a hint of entreaty.
Tezuka hesitates. "You need to sleep."
"I know," Echizen responds with deliberate patience. "I can't, like this. Besides, you need to, too."
"All right," Tezuka accedes. "In just a moment. Let me get you a drink."
Echizen looks sulky for a moment, but then he nods grudgingly. Tezuka squeezes his hand before he goes to get him water in one of the little plastic cups that came with the hotel room. While Echizen drinks it, Tezuka changes quickly out of his concert clothes into pyjama pants and - considering how much heat Echizen is probably radiating - a t-shirt.
Tezuka tries not to think too lingeringly about what he is doing, about Echizen sleepy and welcoming in Tezuka's bed. Tezuka is well acquainted with his own possessive feelings about Echizen, his helpless physical response to him. There is no need to encourage it.
When Echizen sets the empty cup on the bedside table and turns his expectant gaze on Tezuka, Tezuka is ready. He gives Echizen a little nod and crawls around him onto the bed, ignoring the way his stomach leaps and flutters as he stretches out carefully next to the rumpled lump in the covers that is Echizen.
"Che," Echizen interrupts him, "do you have to lie on top of the blankets?"
Tezuka pauses and shoots him an amused look, then obediently lifts the covers up and crawls underneath. Before he has even finished pushing the second pillow up behind his shoulders, Echizen has turned over and inserted himself between Tezuka's arm and his body. Tezuka leans back carefully and tries to make himself relax. Echizen shifts a little fitfully, then puts his head on Tezuka's chest and his arm around Tezuka's waist. His tiny, voiceless sigh as his body finally goes limp sets off another wave of dizzy fluttering in Tezuka's abdomen.
"How do you feel?" says Tezuka.
He feels it against his chest when Echizen smiles, his lips and breath warm through the fabric of Tezuka's shirt, and Tezuka has to fight the urge to gather Echizen up in his arms, hold him tightly and kiss the sly curve off his mouth. "Glad," Echizen says, and tips his head to look up at Tezuka from one lazily half-open eye.
Tezuka's heart leaps again. He wonders if he will ever be able to control what Echizen does to him. While he tries to summon an appropriate response, Tezuka uses his free hand, the one not resting on Echizen's back, to brush still-damp hair carefully back from Echizen's face. "How sick do you feel?" he amends the question.
"Tired and weak, sweaty, cold, and achy," Echizen recites dutifully, and then adds before Tezuka can say anything, "Senpai?"
Tezuka lets his fingers linger on the edge of Echizen's ear. "Yes?"
Echizen hesitates a little, choosing his words carefully. "Do you have any - other songs like mine? That you're writing - that you haven't shown us, I mean?"
Tezuka is silent for a moment, thinking. He's sure that Echizen knows most of the songs Tezuka has written to him. He probably doesn't know that almost all of Tezuka's songs are for him, somehow or other, simply because Tezuka can't write a whole song without thinking about what Echizen will think of it; but if he doesn't, he will realise sooner or later. Aozu has performed "Shinkokyuu" live at least ten or twenty times, now, though it hasn't been recorded, and Tezuka always takes the microphone and dedicates it to "E". He's been certain since he first passed around the sheet music at practise that Echizen got the message.
It's clear that Echizen means something more than those songs. It fills Tezuka with satisfaction that Echizen would somehow know about the songs he labours over late at night, that he hasn't shared with anyone at all.
"I do," Tezuka says finally. He stops again there, though, looking down at Echizen nestled against his side.
Under the blankets, Echizen moves one foot slightly and his toes trace a tiny arc on Tezuka's shin. Tezuka is full of warmth, not just from Echizen's feverish heat sealed against him by the blankets, but from within, as though his bones are liquid, his chest soft and tender from the burning of a steady flame deep inside him.
There's a delicate silence, one or two long moments, and then Echizen lifts his head to meet Tezuka's eyes, his hair brushing against Tezuka's jaw. "Will you sing for me?" he asks.
Tezuka swallows the lump of emotion in his throat. "Aa," he says. He sings the four verses of an unfinished love song that he is calling "Eien no Hi"*, and Echizen stays motionless the whole time, eyes fixed on Tezuka's face.
When Tezuka stops singing, Echizen lets out his breath in a rush and breathes in again with an abrupt gasp, his ribs heaving under Tezuka's hand. He closes his eyes suddenly and turns his face a little to the side, blinking, and Tezuka's breath catches in his throat almost painfully. He lets himself tighten his embrace then and pull Echizen closer, as close as he wants to. He sinks down into the bed, under the blankets, under Echizen, until he's lying flat on his back with Echizen stretched out on top of him, wrapped in Tezuka's arms and looking down at him, his eyes widening as Tezuka lifts his head and slowly, gently brings their mouths together.
The kiss is feather-light, both of them holding themselves still for a long exquisite moment. Then Echizen sighs, shakily, his breath misting against Tezuka's lips, and pulls back. His smile makes Tezuka's breath stop again. Unfortunately, there's no way to pull him closer at this point, so instead Tezuka tells him, "I've been writing a duet."*
"Really?" says Echizen, wriggling down until he can tuck his head under Tezuka's chin.
"Yes," Tezuka says, resting his hand under the edge of Echizen's shirt on the silky heated skin of his back. He doesn't think he's felt this contented before in his life. He doesn't want to ever move. He's not sure he can.
"Hnnnnn," Echizen hums approvingly. "So have I."
When Ryuzaki-san is done talking to him about the room assignments and how sick Echizen actually is (Inui doesn't have very complete data on it, because Echizen always tries to avoid allowing Inui to observe him; Inui's estimates are annoyingly uncertain), Inui goes back up to his room and puts away his data notebooks first thing. (His live concert notebook, his Aozu notebook and his Kyappu to Bin notebook in his suitcase, on top; his Renji notebook in its special pocket; his personal notebook on the bedside table, to allow for more note-taking before bed.)
His watch tells him it has only been seventeen minutes and twenty-three seconds since everyone else retired to their rooms, so he waits an additional twenty minutes to maximise the probability that Kaidoh and Momoshiro will be fully clothed, or at least not actively engaged in sexual activities, when he knocks on their door.
It takes a full thirty seconds before Momoshiro answers Inui's knock, bare-chested and wearing Kaidoh's pants. However, Inui judges by his respiration rate (normal) and relatively calm demeanour that they weren't actually interrupted in the midst of anything more strenuous than unclothed body-contact, or possibly light caresses. (Renji insists that both of these fall under the category of "cuddling", but Inui prefers more precise terms.)
"Inui-senpai!" says Momoshiro.
"I apologise for the interruption," says Inui, adjusting his glasses. "Ryuzaki-san has asked me to take Echizen his suitcase."
"Oh, yeah, of course." Momoshiro turns to yell over his shoulder, "Kaidoh!" Inui should have brought his notebook after all. It's rare that he hears Momoshiro address Kaidoh as anything other than "Mamushi".
"Stop shouting, dumbass," says Kaidoh, who is standing just behind Momoshiro now, holding Echizen's suitcase in one hand and his backpack in the other. He has taken the time to put on his shirt along with Momoshiro's pants. "Here, senpai," he adds, holding out the luggage to Inui.
"Thank you," says Inui. Echizen's backpack is unexpectedly heavy. He briefly considers stopping to unpack it and investigate its contents, but reluctantly discards the thought. "Goodnight, Momo, Kaidoh." Momoshiro waves. Kaidoh thanks Inui, then reaches around Momoshiro and pushes the door shut.
Unexpectedly, it is Echizen who answers Tezuka's door. Inui would have estimated the probability of that at less than ten percent, given Echizen's symptoms and Inui's own observations of Tezuka's habits.
"Echizen," Inui greets him, "How are you feeling?"
"Sick," Echizen replies expressionlessly.
"Where is Tezuka?"
"Sleeping," says Echizen, not quite as expressionlessly. Inui has tried and failed before to accurately quantify - or, indeed, qualify - the particular expression Tezuka produces in Echizen. He simply refers to it as "Tezuka-related expression" now, with a percentage to indicate intensity. This one was moderate, perhaps a 40 percent.
"Ah. Would you like me to set the bags inside the door?" Inui asks.
Echizen hesitates, then shrugs. "Sure, just no spying on Tezuka-senpai," he warns.
"Data on Tezuka's sleeping habits would be of no practical use," Inui assures him, raising his eyebrows a little. He doesn't mention that, especially in these circumstances - the recent room switch, the song sung in soundcheck today and the fact that Echizen is still dressed in his concert clothes - it would serve to satisfy his considerable curiosity.
"Ch'," Echizen huffs, but he steps back to let Inui put the bags in the little entryway, next to the bathroom door. Inui can't see anything from there, but he takes his time setting down the suitcase and backpack, and just as he is turning to leave again, he sees a shadow on the opposite wall move, as of someone sitting up in bed.
Echizen turns, looking over his shoulder, and for a moment his face softens into what Inui can only describe as Tezuka-related expression, strength: 100 percent. He is still smiling when he turns back to Inui. "Inui-senpai, thanks," he says.
"You're welcome," says Inui.
Echizen's smile turns slightly mischievous. "It's called 'Futari'," he adds, just as Inui is about to walk away, and Inui stops, blinking in surprise. "The song," Echizen elaborates.
Ah. "Is that so?"
"You'll hear the rest of it soon," Echizen promises, still smiling so happily his eyes are lit up. Then he closes the door without saying goodnight.
As Inui walks back to his room, he finds he is smiling to himself as well. And somehow, his curiosity is satisfied.
thanks to aja for beta! and here's a pictorial reference for you.
thanks to aja for beta! and here's a pictorial reference for you.