Title: Summer Outing
Pairings: Kenren/Tenpou implied
Rating: PG-13 (considering Sponge Bob seems to be PG, this is a step up from that)
Warnings: Mild language. Yaoi relationship inferred.
Summary: Emotional Repression has a picnic with Total Denial. Snacks to follow.
Disclaimer: Standard disclaimer thingee. Not mine, hers.
Notes: This was originally written as part of the whole series I've been writing, but could just as easily be read as a one-shot. If you're reading it as a series piece, it takes place years after the currently written pieces.
I have to say I've been immensely stressed about having a follow-up to Rules of Engagement that would live up to what felt like major expectations. But after I beat myself up over it for a month I thought, "What am I doing? This is a friggin' hobby! It's supposed to be fun! Stop stressing over it!" So, instead I did a 180 on this one and made what I think of as a "little fic," something not quite as long or complex and probably not quite as popular either, since it is entirely 100% sex-free. What did you expect? Konzen came along.
Not to say it wasn't challenging: the main characters are Tenpou and Konzen, and tackling the two of them for the first time was challenge enough. Well, here's my first attempt at these two. Hope you enjoy!
Part 7 of the Dream of the Butterfly Series.
"I have something to ask you about. Something important."
That certainly came out of nowhere. Konzen invariably spent his time on these picnics either in a stony silence or in a constant litany of complaints centered on Goku's destructive tendencies. Up until this little out-of-character blurt this had been one of his quiet days. Tenpou closed the book he had been balancing upright on the blanket and put it to the side. He had to admit his curiosity was piqued. Perhaps Konzen was finally interested in the recent war rumors and wanted some insider information on it. He'd seemed much more aware of his surroundings as of late, so he supposed anything was possible.
"I'm all ears."
Konzen was propped against the tree, watching the roughhousing in the field below. Tenpou stretched his legs out and glanced up towards him; partly to reinforce his statement, partly to gauge Konzen's mood. Decidedly nervous, he would say. Things were getting even more interesting; Konzen didn't do nervous. He did bored, angry, frustrated, disdainful, yes… even irritated; but never nervous. As Tenpou tapped his cigarette out into the dust a small grass stain at the bottom edge of Konzen's robe caught his attention. A smile passed his lips ever so briefly before his face returned to a pleasantly attentive neutral. He smoked nonchalantly and committed to memory its position on the otherwise immaculate garment while he began to work out the possible ways of bringing Kenren's attention to it later on without arousing Konzen's suspicion. Otherwise, he'd never be able to collect on the bet.
The two in the meadow below seemed to be engaged in some loose form of tag. Goku was shrieking in that way small children often did when overwhelmed with happiness. Konzen's silence stretched out for longer than was entirely comfortable while he continued to watch them play. Tenpou propped his head up on his hand and watched as well; conversations with Konzen were rarely eye-to-eye affairs. A good minute passed before anything more was said between them. When Konzen did finally speak Tenpou was surprised it was about something totally unremarkable. Quite a build up for such a non-event.
"Last week, I took Goku to the royal wedding. It was at the bitch's suggestion; she said it would shut him up for awhile. I was on the guest list anyway so I took him along. I think she was hoping he'd cause some trouble for her own twisted amusement, but for once he actually behaved."
"Well, miracles do sometimes happen."
"Yeah, I guess."
Things again fell silent. Tenpou pretended to watch the game but by this time his attention was directed entirely towards Konzen. There was something odd about his tone, a strain to his voice that wasn't normally there. He let his eyes go soft and opened up his senses to better assess the situation. There was an enormous amount of tension in the man's body that he was attempting to hide but was doing a poor job of it. All and all, Konzen seemed very on edge. Funny; usually the gritty details of court intrigues would have reached him by this point, but he hadn't heard of anything of note that had happened at the wedding.
"Anyway, when we got back home he started bugging me about weddings. What they were about, that kind of shit." Konzen sighed in frustration. It sounded like he might be picking at his fingers. "I didn't really want to get into it but he wouldn't stop bugging me. I mean, I tried to explain, but he just wasn't getting it. How the hell can you… whatever. Doesn't matter. What he finally ended up getting out of it was that two people who love each other very much and want to live together forever have a party with their friends to celebrate it, and that's a wedding."
"An accurate if overly simplistic definition."
"Yeah, well. It's all that little monkey brains could handle."
Konzen paused again. Tenpou waited again. The snail's pace of the conversation was beginning to be rather irritating. Still, the way Konzen was acting was incredibly strange. He seemed intent on trickling out the particulars, as if he were hoping the blanks would be filled in and he wouldn't need to finish. Really for the most part he enjoyed puzzles, but only ones that were actually interesting. Other than Konzen's uncharacteristic nervousness this didn't seem interesting in the least. If not the wedding, then perhaps the wedding night? The only assumption he could make at this point was that if this wasn't about court intrigue then Konzen was having trouble explaining some key concept of adult sexual relationships to Goku, and was looking for some suggestions and guidance on how to proceed. Whatever it was that Goku had asked it was obviously something which Konzen found immensely embarrassing to talk about, or this whole preamble would have been a lot less stilted. Yet it simply wasn't adding up logically. He couldn't imagine a simple Birds and Bees conversation would bother Konzen to this level.
"Then the monkey asked me if we could get married so we could have a party."
"Ah. I can see the problem."
Now this made a bit more sense. It was the undercurrent of pedophilia that was distressing him. The tension that had slowly been building between Tenpou's shoulders eased as he took a final drag and flicked his cigarette butt out into the grass. That speculation on his "tastes" was the current number one topic of court gossip had most likely reached Konzen's ears by this point and here Goku was, reinforcing the rumors. It had to be driving Lord High Sexual Inhibitions absolutely crazy that people were insinuating he had any sort of a libido at all, let alone one which involved little boys.
"So I told him only grownups could get married."
"And hopefully that resolved the issue." Obviously it hadn't. They wouldn't be sitting here in this intensely uncomfortable and meandering pseudo-conversation if it had.
They were both momentarily sidetracked by a surprised shout and the thud of a large man hitting the ground somewhere out in the meadow. It was followed by a few more happy shrieks. Tenpou scanned the field and located their position through a small cloud of angry displaced butterflies and the top of a tousled head peeking up over the grasses. Goku seemed to be bouncing on the General at this point. Hopefully the boy wouldn't rupture anything of importance.
"After that he asked me if it was you or Kenren who wore the funny hat at your wedding."
So that's what this was about.
It really shouldn't have been so unexpected, but it still hit him like a cold shock to the system. All those years of waiting for a moment which never happened had lulled him into a false sense of security, so he'd been careless and hadn't noticed this dangerous potential thread hidden in the subtext. His stomach began to turn over as he continued to placidly watch the meadow. The pause in his response had extended far too long and had likely given Konzen all the answers he needed at this point. Still, there was the slimmest possibility he hadn't caught the breach. Tenpou tried sounding casual in his response, but found he couldn't stop the waver in his voice. His insides were screaming. It was a miracle anything came out at all.
"I imagine you told him only girls get to wear the funny hats."
"What I told him was boys couldn't marry other boys."
"Ah, hah. Well, I'm sure that helped immensely in furthering his understanding of weddings."
The shrieking in the field had turned into a mad giggling; the tables turned by what was quite likely a tummy-tickling. Although the particulars of it registered somewhere in his brain Tenpou was only dimly aware of the world outside of himself. He had known this day to be inevitable, at least in some manifestation. Konzen might be self-absorbed and unaware but he wasn't stupid. Yet the scenarios he had planned for, how they could play out and possible courses of action related to each, were found to be of minimal value now that the dreaded moment had finally arrived. All planning aside, he had failed to take into account the severity of his own emotional response. He had never once considered that he would actually panic. He found he was still floundering when the second inevitability came.
"Did you ever plan on telling me?"
Tenpou closed his eyes against the pain of it. He understood the anger; in all likelihood he would have reacted exactly the same had their roles been reversed. Konzen was his oldest friend, a relationship which admittedly carried some obligations that he had purposely ignored when it came to the subject at hand. But to name a thing is to give it power over you. It already held far too much power over him as it was.
"To be honest, probably not." He was surprised at his own voice. It seemed tinny and far off, foreign to his ears.
They both remained in silence for quite some time. The noises had stopped in the field below. Occasionally Goku's face could be seen poking up over the grasses, looking in their direction. It seemed as if something clandestine was being planned. Tenpou stared past the point where they lay plotting while his mind worked. Though the panic from the original shock had eased somewhat, this day was far from over and he was quite aware he had not given Konzen anything close to a satisfactory answer. At least a token of something more should be offered; their long friendship deserved as much. Still, to say anything more to him he would first need to say it to himself, to solidify something he wasn't quite willing to give form. He hadn't the courage to take that final step, not yet.
Tenpou smoothed out the blanket's edge where he had somehow managed to pick apart a section of the weave. Hopefully Konzen was still watching the meadow, and not his wayward fingers. He sat up and pulled out his pack of cigarettes. His hands were actually shaking. He couldn't remember that ever having happened before.
"We could both be discharged from our positions. It's not something talked about."
He lit up and stared into space, somewhat comforted by the ritual of the nicotine. He guessed it wasn't all that surprising Goku figured things out in his own way. They both had the unfortunate tendency to drop their guard around the child, assuming his innocence and blind acceptance to be a safety zone of sorts. A reckless error in judgment which he now regretted, but nothing could be done about it at this point; the damage was done. This was the sole chink in his armor which he found he could not eliminate and for the most part it had been hidden rather well. But Goku… Goku saw things which others did not. It was quite possible the two of them could not have hidden this from him had they tried.
Tenpou's fingers wandered back to the blanket's frayed edge. Next to him Konzen shifted his weight forward and folded his legs up to relieve some of the tension in his back, resting his chin on his knees. He continued to stare out at the flowers waving at them from the meadow. Flowers which Tenpou was quite sure Konzen hadn't even noticed existed.
"Well, you don't have to hide it anymore. Not like Goku doesn't know about it already."
It took a moment or two for the implications in that deceptively mild statement to fully sink in. Tenpou turned it over again in his head to study it, not at all sure he had understood it correctly. When he was finally satisfied Konzen had truly meant what he hadn't said an uncomfortably intense feeling of gratitude washed over him. He waited for it to sink away to manageable levels while he joined Konzen in not watching the meadow flowers, side by side under the tree in an awkward but not unfriendly silence. Things felt a bit wrong, like the universe had tilted ever so slightly on its edge. From his vantage point he supposed it had, and it would take some time before things felt normal between them again. He could accept that. On the whole this day had turned out better than anticipated. He had been expecting to mourn a loss, but instead, he wasn't quite sure where this was heading. It seemed to be heading in generally the right direction.
"Anyway, it's time we ate this stuff."
Yet another unremarkable moment among so many marked the end of it. Tenpou took in a long-needed breath, immensely relieved that the third inevitability hadn't materialized. He should really light some incense to the Compassionate Auntie later on for that small mercy. Kanzeon… it had been at her suggestion that Goku had been brought to the wedding in the first place, hadn't it? Tenpou took a drag off his cigarette and pondered that for a bit, frowning at the dim suspicions beginning to form. Perhaps Konzen was right; she was a bitch after all. He dusted some ashes off his pants and made to stand up.
"I'll go. My turn to retrieve the children."
Tenpou was glad to finally stretch his legs. He picked his way slowly through the tall grass, looking for obvious traps. He had worked with the General long enough to know his preference for frontal assaults.
Konzen quietly watched Tenpou's back as he walked down the hill. Three-quarters of the way down a ferocious monkey leapt out of the grass with a battle cry and made for his legs. Tenpou easily evaded its attack with a feint to the side as his foe tumbled back into the flowers. A brief verbal exchange followed, at the end of which the creature gave a whoop and came bouncing up the hill towards the food. Tenpou continued on his way downward. Konzen watched him until the monkey was only a few yards away. He winced at the volume of those lungs. He still couldn't believe he had to deal with this kind of crap every single day.
"KONZEN! Tenchan says we can eat now! Eat eat eat!"
"Tone it down, monkey. I'm not deaf."
Tenpou had finally stopped near the bottom of the hill and stood for a moment, staring at the ground. A hand eventually came up out of the grass, asking for aid.
"Why don't you set out the places for everyone. See if you can remember something I taught you for once."
"I get the food out! Yay oh yay oh yay!"
"And no eating until we're all sat down. Hear me?"
"OK, Konzen! A-OK, Konzen!"
"Try not to break anything for a change. Break it and I break you."
Goku snapped a salute, jumped across one of the blankets and marched to the nearest set of boxes. Tenpou took the hand in the field and pulled, producing from the grass another, much bigger monkey. It began to brush off the bits of the meadow sticking to its uniform. Goku was talking to himself in a sing-song way while he chose spots on the blankets for the place settings.
"This one is for Kon-zen. And this one is Ken-ni-chan's."
Ken-nichan had suddenly stopped dead in the middle of his uniform cleaning, staring at Tenpou. He stood up a bit straighter.
"This one is for Ten-chan! And this one for Go-ku!"
Konzen was now being stared at from the meadow. He stared back while Tenpou picked a piece of straw out of Kenren's hair. The General alternated looking at Tenpou and then back up the hill. Konzen was somewhat curious as to what Tenpou was choosing to say to him. The more he watched them talk, the more he was amazed at himself for not having seen it all this time. He couldn't believe how obvious it was.
"Oni-gi-ri! Onigiri! One for me, and two for me! Pink one for Kon-zen…"
Kenren was shifting his weight, occasionally glancing off into the field, occasionally at his feet. Then back up the hill. He cracked his neck and rubbed it as he talked. Tenpou's back was still to him; all Konzen could see was hair and lab coat. Goku changed to singing something about fruit in a melody that sounded suspiciously like a military march and so help him, if that idiot taught the monkey any dirty drinking tunes he was going to find out the true meaning of pain. The march got louder with a verse about bananas that didn't rhyme and he was seriously considering telling the kid to stuff a sock in it when it happened. Tenpou raised his hand and touched the General's face. A small caress of admission down the cheek and then the head followed suit. Kenren was staring into Tenpou's face, shocked by the blatant act. Konzen figured the man had no way of knowing this wasn't about him.
"Konzen! The food's all done! Time to eat!"
The monkey bounced over to the tree and landed halfway on top of him. Konzen's eyes hadn't moved.
"Watch it, you idiot."
"Hey, Konzen. Time to eat."
"I heard you the first time, monkey."
Konzen glanced in irritation at the face now hovering expectantly mere inches from his own before looking back to the meadow. The two were already parting, pulling away from each other. Tenpou began slowly walking back up the hill. After a few moments Kenren followed.
"Hey, Konzen. Look. The food's all done. Can't we eat?"
Konzen finally relented and turned his attention to Goku. He did a quick assessment of the picnic to make sure things weren't set out on the dirt like the last time. It looked like nothing was stepped on, that was an improvement. Goku was beaming at him the way he always did when food was around.
"Didn't I do a good job?"
Konzen gave Goku not-quite-a-smile before he turned his attention back to the two walking slowly together up the hill.
"You did fine, Goku. Just great. Why don't you go down and tell those two to hurry up, so we can eat. Tell them we're starving."