Title: Recorded Memories
30_kisses theme: #14, "radio-cassette player"
Note: Another fic written at 5 or 6 AM! The premise of this one is a little creepy, but it turned out surprisingly cute, in my opinion at least. XD
The cassette player was an old one, outdated since the age of CDs and MP3 players. It devoured batteries as though there was no tomorrow, and had once had soda spilled all over it. It had once functioned as a radio, too, although that part of it no longer worked. It had been his mother’s when she had been younger, and was probably close to the end of its electronic life. But it still played the crackling, low-quality cassettes, and that was all Inui could ask.
He sorted through his box of formerly blank, now full tapes. They were all labeled in some way, some less neatly than others, some of the newer ones on proper cassette labels, and some on peeling strips of masking tape. They were filed in no particular order, but it hardly mattered. Inui knew which one was which.
Inui’s old tape recorder, which had created most of these cassettes, had long since broken. He smiled, cross-legged on his bed with the box on his lap. That tape recorder had served him faithfully for a long time before it had finally given out and he’d been forced to buy a new one. He could hardly complain, of course; the new one was less conspicuous and easier to hide in a pocket. But sometimes he had bouts of nostalgia and missed it, nevertheless.
He knew most people would think he was strange if they knew about these tapes. They were one way he had collected data, taping the words of his teammates and rivals alike. He typed or wrote out the pertinent information later as an easier way to store it, but somehow he’d never felt comfortable erasing what he’d recorded. He kept buying new tapes, even when he was younger and it cost him his entire allowance. At that time he’d assumed it was just his packrat mentality, the same thing that stopped him from erasing the notes on the walls of his room and wouldn’t let him get rid of anything interesting, no matter how small or irrelevant.
Now he knew better. He knew that these tapes that contained statements and questions and conversations from his junior high days were his way of preserving those memories. He had photographs too, and all the data written down, but the tapes...the tapes kept the history alive, in a way. He could listen to them, and the people he’d known as children sounded exactly as they had back then.
He took a particular, graying tape out of the box. It was one of the ones labeled with masking tape. “Tezuka,” he laughed, barely glancing at the label. “You know, when I was aiming to beat him in the beginning, I recorded every word he ever said. On this one, he says ‘aa’ about a hundred times.”
Kaidoh watched Inui with his chin resting on his hands, sitting backwards in the desk chair of Inui’s college dorm. He’d been silent the entire time as Inui pulled the box and the cassette player from beneath the bed. Now he laughed a little too, less formal and collected than he had once been. “Can I hear it?”
“Of course.” Inui clicked the tape into place and pressed the play button. Through the old, battered speakers, a younger Tezuka’s voice spoke in short sentences, often consisting only of a single syllable. Inui chuckled, and Kaidoh hid a smile. “Buchou was always like that, wasn’t he.”
“He was, yes,” Inui agreed, shaking his head. He rummaged through the box again, searching for another tape. “And this one is Fuji...I think he always knew when I was taping him. Whenever I hit record he’d say the most outrageous things, even up through high school.”
They listened to all of the tapes together, first the ones from the old Seigaku team and then those from their opponents. Shinji’s made both of them laugh again at all of his mumbling, which was barely audible on the cassette player. Atobe’s was funny too, because he still sounded exactly the same. He’d been interviewed on television after winning a tournament a month ago, and even then he’d called himself “ore-sama.”
Kaidoh leaned his head down on his arms for some of the more serious ones. Oishi, with his excessive mother-henning, for example. They’d all thought it was silly back then, but now that things were no longer the same, it seemed so sweet a memory. Kikumaru’s antics, Ryoma’s snarky comments, Kawamura’s shouts, even Momoshiro’s cocky laugh; they were things that they didn’t hear every day anymore.
When the last tape wound to a close, Kaidoh looked at Inui expectantly. “Are there more?”
“Of course there are,” Inui said, holding up several tapes in a fan-shape. “Yours, if you want to hear them.”
“I think I do,” Kaidoh said, raising an eyebrow. “But first...what’s on those, exactly?”
“Nothing too terrible,” Inui laughed. “To begin with, just your comments on tennis and training, your questions about stamina, things like that. Later, though...” Inui looked a little bit sheepish. “Some of the later tapes have other things you said on them. I started...well, I’m sure you can guess when I started taping almost every word you said.”
“Your third year,” Kaidoh guessed shrewdly. It was that year when Inui had finally admitted to himself and to Kaidoh that he liked him as more than a doubles partner. Kaidoh had accepted the offer of a real date with a surprising lack of hesitation, probably because he’d already braced himself for something of the sort after Inui’s “date” phone call.
“Mm-hmm,” Inui said, turning that tape, one of the newer ones, over and over in his hands. He hadn’t stopped taping everyone else, but there was a definite favoritism shown towards Kaidoh after a certain point. “I actually have some of our first serious conversations- the ones that weren’t about tennis- on this one.” It was one of Inui’s favorites, and when he’d been in high school and unable to see Kaidoh every day, he’d listened to the tape almost every night after doing his homework.
“I want to hear that one,” Kaidoh said with a startling certainty. Inui switched tapes again and pressed the button that would play their old memories.
Some of the other tapes had no private information on them. Anyone could have listened to them without feeling as though they were intruding on someone’s privacy. This one, though, had a much more intimate feel to it. Inui listened to the tape with his ears, but his eyes were fixed on Kaidoh, waiting for Kaidoh’s reactions. Their first real talk had been about family. Kaidoh spoke quietly about his younger brother, his mother, his father, their family life, with Inui adding a question, prodding him to go further, but not too far.
Inui saw Kaidoh laugh to himself at one talk when Kaidoh had pleaded sincerely for Inui to stop making Inui Juice. Kaidoh started to look thoughtful when they started to talk about more real issues. Some of these conversations had taken place during homework, and some of the later ones had taken place in bed. Inui wondered, as he always did, at the way Kaidoh had gradually opened up to him more and more, until Kaidoh was comfortable talking about anything at all. By that time, it hadn’t been just Inui asking the questions; Kaidoh had more than enough of his own.
When the tape clicked to a stop, Inui let out a short laugh. “I never realized until now how much I might seem like a stalker with all of these cassettes.” It was why he’d told Kaidoh about the tapes, really. He wasn’t sure if Kaidoh would understand why he’d kept them all, and why he’d made them all to begin with. It was a strange pastime, but in some way it had been essential for Inui. He didn’t make a scrapbook, didn’t keep a collection of photo albums; he made tapes.
“You don’t, really,” Kaidoh said, biting his lip. He pushed the wheeled desk chair closer to the bed and Inui and said seriously, “They were beautiful, all of them.”
Inui set the box of tapes to the side and Kaidoh leaned in to give him a quick, gentle kiss, then pulled back, but not too far. “And I want a copy of that last one, if you’re willing to make one.”
“Of course I am,” Inui told him with a smile. “It’s your tape, as much as it’s mine.” Inui traced a finger lightly across the outline of Kaidoh’s lips. Kaidoh reached up for a fistful of Inui’s shirt, pulling him in again for another, longer kiss that almost tilted the desk chair over. They had to break apart, both laughing, as Kaidoh almost fell over the back of the chair.
And on the desk, Inui’s new tape recorder hummed quietly.