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aesopian ([personal profile] aesopian) wrote2007-09-05 01:17 pm
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TYL: No Man's Land

Prompt: ten years later




The last pinks were fading from the twilight skies above the darkening city. The late summer heat rose like ghosts from the concrete and brick buildings, making the air shimmer slightly and softening the edges of the world. He moved like a ghost himself; people barely even catching the flicker of his passing, perhaps looking up to the place where he had been some moments before alerted too late to his movements by some betraying sound. He was out early, but still he was late. He had only realized it when the street lamps began flickering to life, and now he raced deeper and deeper into the city, riding his A-T on the Road he had carved here day after day and year after year.

Tall skyscrapers, concrete and glass monoliths, tributes to successful corporate men and women, slowly gave way to smaller buildings, six to seven stories high. Even these faded into the background again as he took to the walls, riding up the blank surface, letting the friction and the heated air sweep him up the side, impossibly as light as a feather. The four story brick building he stood atop of was older than many of the buildings in the area. The architecture was unremarkable mostly notable for the subtle European flare that first caught his eye. Settled quietly between two larger buildings, it was easy to ignore, unremarkable in just about every way.

Skating to the side of the rooftop patio that overlooked the street below, he smiled slightly at the press of people below. The street might not be the bustle of downtown, but it was far from deserted on this warm evening. No one in the crowded street below ever bothered to glance upwards, their attention was turned to the neon sign below and their companions in the night. He raised his head and looked at the surrounding buildings. It was from here that he would be noticed if he lingered too long out in the open. He could see them, small shadows flickering across the surfaces and flashing across the gaps and alleys between the buildings. They were out in force tonight. He could almost feel the thrum of their movements in his blood, and it made him eager to run again and lose himself in the night.

Finally, though, he turned away, moving quickly to the glassed door leading into the sunroom of the small apartment located on the top floor of the building. The keys jangled softly in the night as he unlocked the door and moved inside. Closing it, locking it, he finally allowed himself to relax, stretching lazily in the cool air circulated through the rooms by fans hanging from the high ceilings. He moved through the room without turning on the lights. He didn't need them in this place. Every piece of furniture, every wall, he knew them all by memory. He could feel them in the soft push of air currents, and it allowed him to move without fear or caution.

Reaching the doorway into the bedroom, he finally reached up and unsnapped the buttons of the soft leather jacket. He unzipped it and struggled out of it's comfortably warm folds. During the burning heat of summer, the thick material was brutal sometimes, but comfort was something he would willing sacrifice for the protection it offered him against the cutting winds as he ran. He tossed it carefully onto his bed before sitting down beside it to pull out of his A-T. His light cotton teeshirt was soaked with sweat, and when he pulled the tattered tobaggan from his head, perspiration rolled down from his temples. He ran his hand back through the dripping locks and looked at the material in his hands. He sighed heavily, long since having given up on keeping the things in one piece during practices. He had half a dozen that he kept for practice, each one getting more and more ragged as the days passed until he would finally have to get new ones. Luckily, they weren't expensive, and at least the leather protected his shirts from the damage now.

He stood, tossing the hat down on the jacket and moved towards the bathroom. Stripping his clothes off as he went, these he causally discarded into the basket in the corner. The bright light in the bathroom blinded him for a moment, and he stood blinking before turning on the water. He bathed hurriedly, letting the water wash away the night's sweat and grime, and then for a while, he just relaxed under the warm waters and let the heat soothe well worked muscles.

Shutting off the water, he tensed suddenly at the soft notes of piano music drifting in from the living room. His stomach clenched for a moment angrily and within a second it had faded. He shook his head and stepped out to dry off with a small smile on his lips. There was only one person in the world who would dare touch the piano in that room, and he had always felt it was more rightfully hers than his own. He hadn't even known about it for years after all. It and the high-rise flat had set in disuse, lovingly tended and cared for by her, while she watched over him and waited for him to come into his own. His throat tightened a little as he recalled the night she had handed him the keys. He had never forgotten the man and all that he had given him, but he also hadn't expected more. A trust, she had called it, left to him in a will he had never seen. He had only argued with her briefly, but she had a presence that was just as commanding as any King, even though she had passed on her title. Finally, he had backed down, investigating what had been given him, feeling lost in memories and emotions half a decade old.

In the end, she had respected his wish not to keep the property had assisted him in selling it. The money it brought still staggered him. It had taken him a year to figure out what he had wanted to do with it. Still more time to find just the right location and renovate it into something he could call home. She had watched over his movements, becoming a guiding voice in his decisions. He was grateful to her counsel, and even though he saw her only a few times a month, he always felt a warmth of affection move through his heart.

He was dressed again by the time he moved out into the apartment to greet her. A soft cotton shirt clung to his deceptively lean torso and a new pair of denim jeans hugged his hips and legs. As always, he had pulled out his old and beloved tobaggan now that he was in for the night. He tugged it on as he came into sight of her, and she shook her head with a small grin.

"He would have never forgiven you for that hat, Kazu-kun."

Her voice was low and warm, and he couldn't help the sheepish grin that he half hid as he adjusted the tobaggan over his slightly damp hair.

"Yeah, well..."

Rising from the piano bench, she walked over and leaned up to kiss him lightly. The blush that had been dying down burned back to life hotly, and he slid a hand over the back of his head with an embarrassed laugh. She offered him a cup of mulled wine, and leaned back against the piano to look him up and down. Compared to the dress and long jacket she wore, he was uncomfortably aware of how casual he looked, but finally, she nodded as he sipped the warm drink. Her smile was sad, but somehow it was filled with a contentedness he couldn't face for long, and he had to turn away.

"I lost track of time. I should have been here earlier. Sorry I made everyone wait, Ine."

"You're not that late, and your partner seems to be handling things downstairs well enough."

"I saw the crowd. Emiri will be able to handle them without any problem, and if she can't Buccha's here. It will be fine."

He finally grinned proudly, nodding almost to himself. It was opening night. The final debut of years of work. It had become an obsession and a dream for them. Emiri never would have taken no for an answer, and he hadn't been about to argue with her about it in the first place. It was more her venture after all this time than his own. He was the silent partner of the deal, and he enjoyed watching her take charge and throw things into order as long as she didn't end up throwing things at him in the process. It had only happened once or twice when he and the guys had been goofing off and upset something she was working on at the time. The whole project was something that made him happy, his friends and hanging out, and making a place for others to be happy as well. He just didn't want to be alone at the head of it.

"You should head down though, or she'll come looking for you."

He winced, setting down the warm drink on the table beside him. That was the last thing he needed at the moment. Emiri's ire was as hot as lightning and just as unexpectedly unleashed on unwary persons. Even having known her for as long as he had and as good friends as they were, he wasn't completely shielded from it when it came to their work, and she had been adamant about him being present tonight. Not that he would have stayed away, but sometimes you just didn't argue. He offered Ine his arm, and they walked out through the front door of the apartment. It was a short trip down to the bottom floor. Just as they reached the ground, the door burst open with a flood of music and noise from beyond.

"I'll be right back! I'm going to see if -- KAZU-SAMA!"

She launched herself at him in a quick ecstatic hug that was over almost before it began. Her cheeks were flushed with excitement, and she smiled at Ine, who walked past her into the crowded room beyond.

"Kazu-sama, you were late! I was worried. Everyone's been here for an hour. Did you just shower? Good! I'm going to go make sure our stock is still good. I can't believe how busy we are. We'll have to reorder in the morning!"

He grinned as she ran off into the back room. Her short skirt and blouse at odds with the high top sneakers she wore, but the outfit was her, and it made him happy to see her so excited by things. He grinned foxishly and brushed his fingers across his upper lip a moment, wondering if she'd accept an offer to stay at his apartment tonight. He would find a way to make it happen.

Turning away, he walked to the doorway and stopped. Laying a hand on the doorknob, he could feel the music throbbing into his bones. A sudden wave of nervousness swept over him, and he tugged his hat lower on his head falling into a familiar slouch as he opened the door and stepped through. Beyond was a world of movement. People filled every corner to the capacity, and they created a swirling flowing backdrop of color and movement. Each group of people, standing or sitting, talking or dancing, their voices and life seemed to swell the area, pressuring the very walls.

Blinking away from the crush of people, he let his eyes flicker over the room, and was pleased to note he wasn't the only one appreciating the hard work they had put into the decor. A-T paraphernalia covered the walls. From gears to diagrams of the motors, from A-T in all forms of repair and disrepair, every inch of the club and bar screamed that this was a place for Storm Riders to call their own. Behind the bar where he stood, there were also a number of what had become known as the artifacts of Air Treck. Many of these were his own personal belongings or donations from his friends and teammates. Hung prominently on one wall, a glassed in case contained a black fur lined jacket and a pair of old A-T. There were also the symbols from hundreds of teams amassed on another wall, new ones being added every week. This place was a no-man's land. Claimed directly by him and not a team and open to everyone.

His attention turned to the band stage that was up and in full swing. It had been the hardest piece of decoration to acquire, but the fighter jet that hung suspended on the corner wall had been worth every effort. His colors, his symbol, his namesake. It was his pride on display there and the sight of it in this room filled with people finally dropped his uncomfortable slouch and allowed him to beam around the room.

"STEALTH!"

"HEY KAZU!"

"BEANPOLE! FUCK! WHAT ARE YOU DOING GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE!"

A long arm was thrown suddenly over his shoulders, and he looked up at the tall, dark haired man as he was dragged across the room. As always the attention turned on them at his presence, and he wore it like a crown, unconsciously commanding and inspiring. He let himself be dragged along, laughing too hard to protest, towards the large table in the far corner where his friends were waiting. Everything... for this, everything had been worth it.



Originally posted: here

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