fandom: Prince of Tennis
characters: Yanagi, Inui
disclaimer: Prince of Tennis belongs to T. Konomi.
notes: n/v/a challenge, 75 mins, annoyingly abstract, always late.
The tide had gone out and all the boats were forlorn high up on shore, beneath the heavy shadow of a hundred whispering casuarinas with cats and an occasional boy fallen asleep in them. Further away, along the clear sandy stretch of beach, there were girls colourful as flowers and boys bursting with vigour chasing volleyballs into the sea, all noise and light and laughter. But when Renji left them and started walking towards the shaded boats, Inui stopped messing about with the contents of the drinks cooler and caught up with him. He was reading a book and if you did not know him it was amazing how he managed to avoid stepping on careless feet or tripping over tree-roots as he went.
Across the strip of beach and into the trees, and then Renji asked, “Finished?”
“Should be good,” Inui said, and smiled.
“You don’t want to stay and see?”
“Kaidoh will take pictures.”
“Kaidoh’s at the boats. I saw him leave half an hour ago.”
Inui reached forward and nicked Renji’s book, and Renji let him take it without too much fuss. They both stopped, and Renji held his hand out, his eyes shut but looking at Inui. He was very tall, and the straightness of his back and long fine neck drew your eye even higher up the vertical.
“Kirihara was with him?” Inui guessed aloud.
“There hasn’t been any noise from that direction. I guess they haven’t killed each other yet. And Kirihara seems to like cats too.”
“Summering should be done out in the sun,” Inui said. “Not choked in the trees playing with cats.”
“You don’t sound too unhappy, you know,” Renji said. “My book, please.”
Inui looked at the cover. “Summering,” he said, “is also not for reading Dante.” But he gave the book back anyway, and watched Renji flip it back to the page he’d left off at. They started back along the thin path underneath the fringe-edge of trees, pressing fallen leaf-needles underfoot further into the sand. Once, Inui looked back over his shoulder, and Renji caught a wink of light off his glasses, a commotion of activity in the distance.
“Someone finally drank it?”
“You’ll never get tired of doing that,” Renji said, flatly, and Inui just said, “Some things,” and went on walking, ahead of him to where the coast flattened out and there was a curve of sand where all the boats were parked, the trees leaning out over them. No boys in sight, but a dozen cats stiffened and stared at him as he came near, scattered frightened and angry as leaves in a breeze as he kept on walking. There were footprints of bare feet all around, and Inui looked at those, rocking one of the boats absently with a toe.
“Hawaii,” he said.
“You almost drowned,” Renji replied, as though it was the automatic answer to Inui’s query, and Inui snorted at it and said, “I did not. You made such a fuss about it, of course everyone thought I did.”
Renji laughed, soundless but with a shaking of shoulders, and Inui said, “Now it’s been a long time since that happened,” which only made Renji laugh harder, until he had to sit down. Inui got into one of the boats and wriggled himself into lying down flat along the bottom, kicking his sandals off and ignoring the hard edges of the planks. He said, slowly, “It was a good summer,” and waved his hand around, so that Renji could see it over the edge of the boat.
“It was the last summer, wasn’t it,” Renji said.
“No, our last summer.”
Inui opened his mouth, but shut it without speaking. He had to dangle his feet out of the boat or else they wouldn’t fit, and his shoulders were wedged uncomfortably against both sides of the boat, and, he thought, I need a new pair of glasses, and Renji’s voice had finally done cracking and was all stable flat news-reader now, no way you’d mistake him for a girl like people used to. At the tournament in Hawaii the standard joke had been ‘hey, this isn’t mixed doubles’ and Inui remembered that had really pissed Renji off, he could tell, although Renji had just shut his eyes and said nothing. They’d had a theory, maybe they could read each other’s brainwaves or something, and it had been such a good theory, backed up with so much elementary-school science that the memory made him cringe a little.
“Let’s go diving for sea anemones,” he said.
“There aren’t any here.”
“We could try.”
“It was childish even when we were doing it, you didn’t complain.”
“Omnia mutantur,” Renji said, and he sounded more distant now, more absent; when Inui sat up he could see Renji looking across the boats very keenly at the one furthest from them. It was rocking very gently and had a few brave cats peering into it. Renji got up, leaving his book behind, and joined the cats, and then he said, “Haru, it’s yours,” and there was Kaidoh’s sleepy voice hissing something, making Inui jump a little as he recognised the voice and his eyes crinkled, smiling, behind his glasses.
He lay down in his boat again, heard Renji asking, “Have you seen Kirihara?” and Kaidoh saying something about stupid boy gone down to the sea to catch fish. There was a murmur of pleasantries he didn’t quite pick up, then the sound of feet padding along the sand, fading away. From the sound of creaking wood, he knew Kaidoh would be sitting up watching Renji’s back recede over the beach, oceanward, and then Kaidoh look around and catch sight of his feet dangling over the edge of his boat, and they’d probably sit around in the boats for a while more and talk about cats. And he thought, well that’s a good way to spend the afternoon, just as good as any summer afternoon you had in Hawaii even though it’s a memory you’re making with someone else now. Omnia mutantur, Renji had said, but he had left the rest of the sentence, nihil interit, for Inui to realise on his own; that everything changes, and nothing is ever truly lost.
Kaidoh leaned over him and gave the boat a wary push. “Someone’s having a nice dream,” he said.