Title: Smile: Try Me
Genre: Angstish, bit of drama… um… yeah
Pairing: None really, heavy Fuji/Tez friendship
Chapter: Technically Chapter three… but I still insist it’s a one shot!
Summary: Just why does Fuji smile the way he does?
Warning: This chapter ends up sticking rather close to events in episode three. If you haven’t seen that episode yet, it’ll spoil it for you… but then you also wouldn’t have a clue who the hell Fuji and Tezuka are either.
Oh and yeah... this chapter is a little longer than the others...
With a match the following day it would have been rather silly to stay awake for long, but somehow that sort of thing never seems to cross a teenager’s mind. It wasn’t like it was going to be a hard match anyway. Just a warm up, against a school that Fuji knew didn’t have a hope in hell of beating them. Even though Momoshiro Takeshi had to take the day off due to injury, there wasn’t even the possibility of it being a problem.
Besides, sometimes relaxation was a thousand times better than sleep.
They sat on the floor of Fuji’s room, with tea and raspberry cake. The tea, because it was just what Fuji liked to drink, and the cake because he felt out of sorts that his sister had baked and Yuuta hadn’t even shown his face. Some random movie was playing on the TV as they shared their silence.
Which Fuji felt the need to break. “Homework?”
Tezuka shrugged. “Some.” He reached back to get a couple of books out of his school bag. Fuji’s eyes followed his movements, seeking to know, to understand more.
His eyes fell on a carefully folded tennis uniform in the midst of the order that was Tezuka’s bag, and another genuine smile crossed Fuji’s face. It seemed his friend had more foresight than the prodigy. “Ahhh,” It was the only sound he let pass his lips; recognition and consent rolled into one.
The slight tension visible in Tezuka’s shoulders, vanished, and he cleared his throat. “World history assignment was given today.”
Fuji smiled, blues and greens danced thoughtfully in his eyes before he answered. “Sure.” He stood up and stretched, eyes closed, knowing that Tezuka was moving to the computer. From the soft whirr he had already switched it on. It made Fuji smile wistfully. Always the studious one, was Tezuka. Sometimes the prodigy wished he could be more like that, sometimes he wished he could find something to give a shit about.
A slight sigh escaped Fuji’s lips before he could suppress it, and he knew that his friend knew exactly what was going through his mind. He could feel Tezuka’s gaze on him from the side. Slowly, Fuji turned to face the brown-eyed boy, a rueful smile on his face.
Tezuka continued to look at him for so long, that Fuji finally thought his captain had changed his mind about wanting to know him, about caring enough to. Just when Fuji was about to slam his smile back into place, Tezuka’s expression softened…just a little bit that probably wouldn’t have been visible to anyone else, but to Fuji it was blatant. “Don’t underestimate who you are.” He looked at Fuji for a full second longer before turning back to the computer.
Fuji smiled at the back of the captain’s head, and then headed into the bathroom. As he closed the door a thought occurred to him; that he just might have found something to give a shit about. Maybe friendship was something worth putting in an effort for.
Showers are uneventful things, and Fuji’s was no exception, despite the fact that he had taken an inordinate amount of time. He emerged from the bathroom slightly apathetic, towel dried hair falling in his eyes despite his best efforts to keep it out. Walking into his room, he started when he realised the computer chair was empty. Widening his search, his eyes fell on the figure sprawled on his bed. Fuji smiled, more genuinely than he ever had, because no one, not even Tezuka could see it.
Fuji leaned against the wall, watching the chest of his visitor rise and fall methodically. Just like Tezuka really, everything so precise, everything done just right… on time, in time…rhythmic. One arm trailed slender fingers, which still partially clutched a book, along the floor, and his glasses rested skewed on his nose. His school shirt had come untucked from the pants, and his hair was in more than the artful confusion it usually was.
In short, Tezuka looked decidedly unkempt. Fuji fought against the urge to take a picture…and lost. What was the use of a friend who couldn’t blackmail another friend after all? The soft click of the camera didn’t wake the slumbering student, for which Fuji was eternally grateful.
With a soft sigh he padded over to the bed and gently removed the glasses from Tezuka’s nose and the book from his hands. Suppressing a chuckle, and thankful that Tezuka had thought to bring a spare uniform with him since there was no way he would fit into anything of Fuji’s, the prodigy drew a light sheet up to cover his friend before walking back to the doorway.
It wasn’t often that he got to see Tezuka without any barriers, without the partially self-imposed responsibility that he carried on a day-to-day basis. Fuji took a moment to just memorise the way Tezuka’s face could look when his expression wasn’t stern. So far their friendship had been decidedly one sided in letting the other in, but that was going to change, because Fuji had made up his mind that it would. Besides, he reasoned, it wasn’t healthy for Tezuka to be so old at such a young age. It was high time someone made him enjoy life a little more, and although it seemed like a mountainous task, Fuji was determined to manage it.
Closing the door gently behind him and heading to a guest room, he reflected that it wasn’t really that late and that Tezuka was lucky to have a much larger bed than he did. His overactive brain threw him curve balls about how difficult letting someone in was going to make his life. But Fuji had already caught a glimpse of how much of a subtle difference having a true friend could make, and despite himself… he found he wanted more. It would be a challenge, an effort, a way to alleviate the boredom…but most of all, a way to give something back to the only person who’d ever reached out to him.
Fuji had already set breakfast out, and was packing lunch for them both when Tezuka entered the kitchen fully dressed. Cerulean eyes sparkled with mirth as Fuji nodded an absent-minded good morning, noticing the captain seat himself out of the corner of his eye. Fuji turned around and placed a plate in front of Tezuka, seating himself opposite his teammate.
He could feel those hazel eyes watching him, but continued to eat with an open eyed slight smile. “Blink, Tezuka.” Fuji raised his eyes to meet his friend’s, all the time consciously fighting the urge to conceal himself behind those walls again.
Tezuka blinked. “Why?” And Fuji knew he wasn’t referring to blinking.
The prodigy finished off his breakfast, eyes never leaving Tezuka’s, issuing something that wasn’t quite a demand, but more of a challenge. Standing, Fuji smiled again. “Sometimes you should just accept things, you know. Stop questioning everything around you.” He waited a second, eyes still locked to the other Seigaku senior’s, making sure that he’d gotten the message across.
Tezuka broke the stare first, standing too and making his way to the sink to put his plate in it. Fuji wasn’t sure, but he could have sworn he saw the other boy’s mouth twitch at the edges as he answered. “As you wish.”
Fuji chuckled and handed over one of the lunches to his friend before speaking. “We don’t want to be late.” He didn’t wait, knowing that Tezuka would fall into step beside him once they left the house.
Fuji watched Tezuka’s match with detachment, his own mind slightly irritated at the fact that his own match could have been won with one hand tied behind his back. But there was something about the way his friend moved that caught his eye and made Fuji frown, forgetting the thoughts that had occupied his mind but seconds earlier.
If he wasn’t delusional, which Fuji was fairy certain he wasn’t, Tezuka was favouring his left elbow. Not clearly, and not even because it hurt, but because he was obviously not sure if he should push it. The match ended with the expected result: a 6:0 win for the captain, but still.
They took the bus home. As usual they were two of the last to get out. Fuji didn’t know if Tezuka welcomed the fact that he was accompanying him home, but since the captain didn’t say anything to the contrary, Fuji simply remained in silent step beside him. Not a word passed between them before they got to Tezuka’s room.
“Stop it.” Tezuka’s voice was low, and weary if one knew how to listen, as if he’d just had too much for one day.
His habitual reply on the tip of his tongue, Fuji decided against it. “No.”
Tezuka blinked and looked at him, small frown lines furrowing his face, as if he was asking ‘why the hell not?’
Fuji chose to answer…verbally. “Because, if I stop…who else is going to continue?”
Tezuka scowled briefly, before the expression melted away as if never having existed. Had he blinked, Fuji would have missed it. “I can continue, I always do.”
The prodigy smiled, slightly tinged with sadness. He let a little more of himself show, hoping…just hoping that Tezuka would see it and realise what he was doing. “But you don’t…you just pretend to.” And although Fuji could see the obstinacy in the captain’s eyes, and although he could hear the silent warning to quit while he was ahead… he persisted. “Just pretending… won’t lead you to Rome.”
The wall shot up, and it pained Fuji to see Tezuka distance himself so quickly. For once though, he took the hint. Smile once more in place, he hid the eyes he’d so foolishly bared, knowing that he’d overstepped his mark…probably irrevocably, and bowed slightly, before backing away and leaving without saying another word. The heat of Tezuka’s gaze weighed heavily on Fuji’s back, but he didn’t turn around…because he didn’t think he would be able to keep the smile on his face, and he wouldn’t afford himself the luxury of letting Tezuka see just how he felt.
The prodigy pondered friendship on the way home, and he couldn’t quite grasp it. Weren’t you supposed to care about your friends? Weren’t you supposed to be the one who told a friend when they were being pigheaded and stupid? Fuji decided that maybe he just wasn’t cut out for friendship, maybe they weren’t worth the effort after all.
Now, if only he could convince himself of that.
Fuji didn’t really pay much attention to anything as he got ready for school the next morning. His thoughts centered on the phone call he’d received from Momoshiro the evening before. It seemed there was a new freshman…a very talented new freshman. Fuji smiled; he needed a distraction.
His school day passed in a blurr, and it was one of those times he was thankful that he found school work so easy.
That days practice was going to be interesting. As they entered the courts, Fuji glanced around, and picked out the freshman Momo had been talking about straight away. He was hiding under a cap, black hair tufting out from under it. The boy was the only one not looking at the regulars with reverence, and he was the only one who held his racket with the knowledge of someone who knew how to play.
It was enough to keep Fuji’s mind off the fact that this was the first morning in a couple of weeks that he had arrived at school alone. Without needing to look, he knew Tezuka was watching from the classroom up above, and he felt an urge… but just for what… he couldn’t say.
So he watched the freshman out of the corner of his eye, making him half a step late for one of Oishi’s lobs, but still, Fuji’s smile never budged. And then he watched as the freshman hit a stray lob was perfectly returned from across court, hitting the same basket the regulars were aiming for…
One of the juniors, Arai, if Fuji remembered correctly, started picking on the new boy. Oishi was moving to intercept, but Fuji knew that he didn’t need to. If his intuition was right…
Tezuka’s clear, deep voice boomed across the court. “What are you arguing about on the court?”
There was a brief but deafening silence, and Fuji fought the urge to laugh. Tezuka just looked so damn serious… so damn old. Suddenly, while the other students cried out: ‘Captain!’ and some cheers, Fuji didn’t feel so much like laughing anymore. Instead, he felt rather…melancholy.
And yet, his smile remained as he watched the rest of the exchange.
Tezuka’s unimpressed voice continued. “Penalty for causing a disturbance: run 10 laps around the courts, both of you!”
Arai, stupidly, interjected. “ W…wait, it was he…”
Fuji almost cringed, Tezuka was very obviously in a really bad mood. Idly the prodigy wondered if it had been his own doing. In some ways… that made him smile more.
“When they’re done, juniors and seniors will enter the courts. Freshmen, prepare for ball fetching.” Tezuka continued in that voice of command that slipped so easily from his lips.
Syusuke watched as Oishi and Tezuka headed back to the classroom, probably to discuss the team’s rosters. Fuji didn’t feel jealousy, he didn’t feel sadness, in fact, he felt nothing at all…except blank…as if something was missing, that he never realised he’d possessed.
Most of the practice passed in a daze for him. He played as well as usual, but of course, he rarely ever needed his entire attention focused on the game. It was just the way he played…to pass the time, and occasionally if he was lucky…provide a challenge.
Once again his attention was riveted by the new freshman. He was searching for his racket bag that seemed to have disappeared. And again, it was Arai who seemed to be instigating some sort of altercation. Yet again… rather interesting. The second year handed the black haired freshman a well-worn racket, taunting the boy to play with that.
“Hmmm.” Fuji couldn’t help himself…this was going to be good. He vaguely registered that as a senior and a regular, he should probably stop what was about to happen. It was obvious from the determination in the freshman’s eyes that there was going to be a match. Tezuka would be annoyed.
And suddenly, Fuji didn’t care. It would be fun to watch the new one put Arai in his place, since it was obvious to Fuji who would win, and who wouldn’t. Sometimes people needed to fall flat on their faces in order to gain a modicum of respect for others abilities. Since Fuji couldn’t really do it himself in this instance, he would settle on someone else accomplishing it for him. In fact, he was beginning to like the freshman more and more.
Besides, annoying Tezuka…seemed like a fun and just thing to do at that point in time.
He even voiced his thoughts vocally. “Hmmm… I want to see more of this.” He almost laughed at Eiji’s mumbled response.
“I knew you were going to say that.”
Although Fuji rarely admitted to anything getting to him, he was seriously annoyed with the other youth. But just annoyed…no…he would never admit that anyone could hurt him. He always bounced back. In essence, that was part of what the smile was all about.
As they watched the match, Fuji continued to smile. It grew wider when the boy managed an excellent comeback shot with the ruined racket.
Eiji kept a soft running commentary. “Oh, he put a spin on it by rotating his body.”
“He’s good.” Fuji responded.
So they kept watching, and for a few minutes Fuji managed to forget about the other thoughts flitting around in his head. His eyes narrowed before opening, when he saw the freshman’s talent shine through a couple of times. Maybe Fuji just needed a challenging opponent, someone who would be challenged and demand the same of him.
“A great calligrapher doesn’t need to chose his pens.” And he realised that he’d spoken out loud. But that didn’t really matter. If he concentrated really hard on the match, he could dispel that feeling in his chest… the empty one he didn’t want to admit to.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Oishi approach, and sighed. He knew what was coming before it came, and glanced up at the classroom window. Not sure if Tezuka was there, Fuji couldn’t be bothered wasting a perfectly good glare, and so he began running the twenty-five laps, without so much as a protest.
Twenty-five laps pounded at him, as he concentrated on each footfall, on each step and the beat of his speed. His mind free to roam within its own hectic thoughts, he couldn’t avoid thinking for much longer. He thought of the ease he shared with Tezuka, and he wanted it back. For a boy that had never held close friendships for fear of being forced out of hiding, the loss of the one person he’d begun to trust was staggering.
It hurt, and it made Fuji want to hurt back, to strike a blow that the other wouldn’t recover from, to crush, to reduce to a shadow of their former self. But that was the side Fuji reserved for people he really disliked. And try as he might, he couldn’t really bring himself to dislike Tezuka. Maybe he’d just expected far too much from the friendship, maybe he’d just deluded himself into thinking it was friendship.
Fuji sighed, bringing his head up to look around him, and realised that he’d probably far exceeded the twenty five laps, since even the ball boys seemed to have cleared the court. Slowing to a walk, he chuckled ruefully, the smile slipping that little bit because he was alone. He walked back towards the locker rooms to cool off. It was getting late, and if he was pretty sure he was going to miss his bus.
A voice stopped him as he walked passed the edge of the courts. “”That was more than twenty-five laps.”
Fuji shrugged, smile fixed once more in place, and kept walking. “I felt like running.” Footsteps followed him and he suppressed a sigh. He really didn’t feel like talking to Tezuka right then.
They reached the locker room, and Fuji began to get changed, trying to ignore the captain’s presence.
That low voice spoke again, giving Fuji pause. The tone was that slightly tired one…yet again. “You did it deliberately.” The emphasis had nothing to do with running, and they both knew it.
“I was bored.” And the match distracted me, Fuji thought, but didn’t add.
“You should have stopped it.”
“And you should take your own advice.”
Silence descended between them, not awkward…just seeking. Fuji continued to dress, aware that if anything would be said, it was up to Tezuka to do so.
It was so softly spoken that Fuji almost thought he didn’t hear it.
“You’re right.” Something akin to a sigh escaped from Tezuka’s lips. “I’ve never been good at that.”
“First time for everything. You should try it, sometimes it works.” Fuji turned to face the captain, smile in place like the thorns on his cacti, protecting him.
Tezuka was looking at him with a small frown… a face that was as open as Fuji had ever seen it. The prodigy was taken aback, and moreso when the captain reached out a hand and placed it on his half clothed shoulder. He didn’t know how to react…touching was something he never dealt well with. But as if he could sense it, the contact was brief, and Tezuka withdrew the hand.
“Maybe we both should.”
Fuji laughed despite himself, and looked up at Tezuka, eyes open, his expression revealing just that fraction he felt he could afford right then. “Maybe.”
The tension eased, and Fuji finished getting dressed, aware that Tezuka was waiting for him. It was funny if he thought about it. Both of them had their secrets, and neither of them was want to share them with anyone freely. How they’d gotten to where they were right then, Fuji wasn’t sure…but he did think he liked it.
Fuji decided that friendship was a lot more complicated than he’d realised, but it seemed to be worth the effort of overcoming the little hiccups that were obviously going to arise along the way. Because that feeling… that empty ache… miraculously disappeared when you had someone to share it with.
The prodigy smiled apologetically. “Sorry…I spaced out.”
Tezuka raised an eyebrow. “If you say so…”
Fuji knew that Tezuka was aware that Fuji never spaced out. He also knew that Tezuka had probably discerned what it was that Fuji was thinking about. The best part was… it didn’t need to be said.
And that was just the way Fuji liked it… comfortable.
Well.. I'm not too sure... does it end nicely there? I mean... I can continue it because well...it's not like I havent left enough of the series uncovered... hehe
But yeah... should I?
crosspoted to tenipuri_yaoi and potfics
Well yeah... comments, complaints etc etc?
*edit* edited because I fudged the timeline hehe oops
Oh and have another story to post soon too... just gotta beta it... sheesh... ideas abound! damn bunnies
Oh and *hugs* moffit for the beta