Backstage – Part Three

Tezuka and Atobe meet while out fishing, in the Spring of their third year of high school. Conversation, verbal jousting, poetry, philosophy, angst, dramatics and humor ensue. Drama with Budding Romance, I-3

Spring was starting to warm into summer, and the fish were getting smarter.

Or, at any rate, pickier about what they’d bite. Thursday afternoons had acquired a slower pace. Keigo basked in the mild sun, storing up pleasure in anticipation of the crushing heat to come later in the year. Practices would become downright grueling, then, he knew.

“A little hard to believe this is the last year we’ll be training with our teams,” he murmured, eyes closed.


Keigo opened his eyes. He was becoming increasingly fluent in Tezuka-speak, which was a very tonal language. That particular tone was more terse than he would have thought the comment warranted. He examined Tezuka’s hands on his pole. He was definitely thinking of something besides the fish. It looked like today would be another challenge to get something out of his companion; that was always good for an entertaining hour or two.

“Too bad the competition will be so poor for the Nationals this year,” he suggested. “With Rikkai still in such disarray after losing a doubles pair and Sanada, both, the only real challenge, besides you, is Fudoumine.”

Tezuka’s mouth tightened for a moment. Ah, getting warmer, then. Something about one of the other teams, perhaps?

“I never expected Sanada to drop out of tennis unless Yukimura did.” Keigo drew a breath to continue, and then let it out silently as Tezuka’s eyebrows dove down. He smiled with great smugness. Got it in one. Now, then, something about Sanada himself, or about his captain?

Of course, judging by the edge to Tezuka’s expression, if Keigo pushed this he might just start returning, and that could get… uncomfortable. Tezuka saw him far more clearly than Keigo was used to. But that had never stopped him before.

“I hear Sanada’s studying the sword, instead,” he mentioned casually.

“Yes. I’ve been told.” Tezuka’s voice was hard and cold, and Keigo sat up to look at him. There were harmonics in that statement that he would have recognized at five hundred meters. The frustration, especially.

Pieces fell together.

“You’re related to that Tezuka family, then?” he asked.

“Through my grandfather,” Tezuka answered flatly. He didn’t mention his father, Keigo noticed, as though his father didn’t enter into the matter. Maybe he didn’t. Too bad they couldn’t trade, he thought, a bit sourly. He might pay money to watch his own father blunt his bluff attitude on Tezuka.

He didn’t suggest that there must be other cousins and such to take up the tradition; in cases of family tradition, especially as famous a tradition as the Tezuka school of kendo, that didn’t usually make a difference. Tezuka stirred.

“I doubt my team will suffer such confusion when the seniors leave,” he said. “Yours, on the other hand…”

Keigo chuckled, accepting the change of topic. Entertainment was one thing, but if he did press Tezuka further on this subject the return was likely to go beyond painful and into deadly. He didn’t want to push Tezuka that far. Not here.

“Unlike your merry band, Hyoutei is used to reforming dramatically each year. Hiyoshi has the experience to hold the new players together.” Keigo pursed his lips thoughtfully. “He might even follow on professionally.”

“I doubt any from my years except Echizen will become professionals,” Tezuka noted, unusually forthcoming with what Keigo rather thought was relief.

“Not even that bouncy power-player of yours?” he asked, a little surprised. “What was his name… Momoshiro. An annoying loudmouth, but he has the talent.” Tezuka gave him a distinct People who live in glass houses sort of look before replying. Keigo smiled.

“For a few years, perhaps, but I doubt he wants to bother with something that cutthroat in the long term. Momoshiro is invested in his team. I won’t be surprised if he becomes the Seigaku coach when Ryuuzaki-sensei retires.”

“What about your socially maladjusted data specialist?” Keigo prodded. “Hiyoshi has been quietly enamored of his determination for years; surely you aren’t telling me he lacks the focus.”

Usually Keigo’s insulting epithets for Tezuka’s team garnered at least a sharp look, promising retribution, but this time Tezuka’s face was a bit distant as he watched the water.

“There was a time I thought he would,” Tezuka spoke at length, tone as distant as his expression. “But I’m not so sure any longer.” He seemed to return to himself and finished, more briskly. “He may choose to become a trainer; he certainly has a knack for it.”

“Hm. I suppose Jirou might take that path, too,” Keigo mused, reeling in his line for another cast. Tezuka quirked a brow, and Keigo was in an good enough mood not to make him ask out loud.

“Shishido and Ohtori will probably go on, too, as doubles specialists,” he speculated. “Oshitari and Mukahi will probably go settle down somewhere and be scandalous.” He shuddered, delicately. He would never admit it, but he envied Tezuka his star doubles pair. They seemed so… calm and undramatic. Hyoutei only needed one dramatic personality, and that was him. “I don’t think I’m going to miss it that much,” he concluded.

Tezuka was still for a moment. “You won’t miss the attention? Being the center of that circus?” he asked, mildly. A crack of black laughter escaped Keigo.

“What a good comparison. Not really, no.” He had become a little… attached to this particular team, but that was no ones business but his. And, perforce, Sakaki-sensei’s. “Being the focus of two hundred little minds with less talent? Being their talisman, so they’ll all focus on one goal?” He bared his teeth. “The annoyance value of acting like an idol is pleasant, but it would have limited utility, professionally. I think I’ll choose something else after this year. Hell, I’ll act like anything that’s called for, including humble, if the sponsors can just break me loose from…” He bit off the end of the sentence. Damn Tezuka’s silence, that invited him to talk without thinking. Relaxation or no, he’d gotten too careless here.

“From your family?” Tezuka finished for him, and Keigo quashed a wince. Wasn’t he supposed to be the one with the marvelous insight? Not, he supposed, that it was such a large leap from some of the other things they’d said in this place.

He thought about that for a minute.

“You… were planning in that direction, too?” he hazarded, not looking at Tezuka. If Tezuka felt trapped by the question he’d never answer it.

“Somewhat.” The deep voice was barely audible, and when Keigo glanced over Tezuka was looking down at his own hands folded on his knees. It looked like a harder thought for Tezuka than it was for him.

On impulse, Keigo leaned over and laid his fingers on Tezuka’s wrist. Tezuka’s head turned toward him, sharply.

“Great minds think alike,” Keigo offered, in English, with a lazy smile.

A corner of Tezuka’s mouth actually twitched, and the bittersweet-brown eyes lightened.

“Ah. In that case I shall look forward to Tachibana’s company as I go about choosing a sponsor,” he said, smoothly.

Keigo gave in at last, and fell back, laughing freely.


A/N: The idea of Momo becoming the Seigaku coach came from Familiarity by Monnie. It stuck in my head and wouldn’t leave.

I ran across an actual Tezuka school of kendo while out browsing the web. The coincidence of names was too good to pass up, despite the fact that, canonically, Tezuka’s grandfather teaches Judo.

Last Modified: May 08, 12
Posted: Apr 24, 04
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  1. flamesword

    oops…I actually read this like a week ago, and I thought I had commented already…apparently I didn’t because I followed that link to Familiarity and got thoroughly sidetracked. Hee…I don’t usually like future fics, I rarely see them done well, but that….that rocked. Thanks for the rec/reference/link/thing! ^_^

    And this….I swear to god woman, I don’t know how you do it. I do believe you just wrote IC AtoTez fluff. o.o Because for them, that is fluff. yes. oi. There are so. many. little things I just adore, about your writing in general and this in particular…the Tezuka-speak, the relative smartness of the fish (XD!), the way he narrows down the possibilities in his thoughts before making a comment…the ‘center of the circus’ question (how apt! XD) and I positively love the phrase, ‘crack of black laughter’. *shivers* Such a vivid evocation of the sound…I know exactly what you mean, and I can so hear him laughing like that.

    And the reference to Momoshiro as bouncy….lmao. XD He so is, really….or rather, Keigo would see him so. The bit about him being in a good enough mood not to make him ask out loud, was so…mmm, no words, lol, I just loved it…and this, perfect: Entertainment was one thing, but if he did press Tezuka further on this subject the return was likely to go beyond painful and into deadly.

    *happy sigh* Oh, I ♥ you for so many things, in so many ways. That’s just gah…the way you said it as much as what you said, I just lurve. You’re one of the few people that–completely aside from the story, which is fantastic to begin with–I simply enjoy and admire the way you use the language itself, how you makes the words and images work; the way you phrase things.

    Finally, that last part with Keigo speaking English and Tezuka’s response, so just exactly right and eeeee! bittersweet-brown eyes! <3 ^____^ Never mind love, can I worship you? *_*

    1. branchandroot Post author

      *grins* If you haven’t before, you should read some Lois McMaster Bujold books; I absorbed several turns of phrase from her, and that laugh was one of them. Sometimes it surprises me when I read back through and realize how much I got from her. I think it shows most with Keigo; her style of humor fits him.

      Heee, fluff! They do loosen up, once I get them away from their teams.

      *happy bouncing* I’m so glad you liked it!

      1. flamesword

        Ahh, I see…I’ve heard of her, of course, but never read any of her work, I don’t think. I’ll have to do something about that. ^_^

        It was fluff. *nods* I would never have believed it, but it was fluff. ^^ You’re probably right, about the only way this could happen was if they meet off the courts and away from their teams and ‘official’ roles. It’s yummy though…mmm…

  2. Kata

    Hmm, there was a nice mood going there. I always forget (or more like ignore) that they’re in junior high. It feels just wrong.

    1. Icon for BranchBranch Post author

      Thank you!

      And I know! I mean, most manga or anime characters don’t really act their ages, but the tenipuri boys take it to extremes.