Disclaimer: If they were mine, the series wouldn’t just be implied shonen-ai in certain bits… trust me... not mine
Genre: Angstish, bit of drama… um… yeah
Pairing: None really, heavy Fuji/Tez friendship… imply all you want though…ok and I’m willing to admit shonen-ai hints too…*grumbles*
Summary: What’s behind a smile…?
Warning: okies… covers the time period of the prefecs… up until end of episode 35. A little different to previous chapters, but it kind of has to be, or else it wouldn’t fit in with the anime lol. Angry Fuji, annoyed Fuji, yummy understanding Tezuka, huggly implications… and I AM SO TIRED…
The Prefecturals began just the way that Fuji thought they would, predictable, boring and easy, but he watched them anyway, needing to keep his mind distracted. His eyes saw the faults and the weaknesses of the players, idly storing them away for ways they could be used against their owners. He watched his team-mates with a sense of pride, and yet he saw the mistakes they made as clear as day. Although aware that he himself was far from perfect, Fuji had always been able to find out what made others that little bit more vulnerable, and use it against them.
It was the way he was, a way he couldn’t help. He never really thought anything of it. It was a fact of life that the strong ate the weak, and Fuji refused to be weak. If no one saw something that couldn’t be seen, they’d never know him. He chuckled softly at the warped thought.
The only highlights were when he could watch Tezuka play. Echizen was good, but he didn’t have the fluidity that Tezuka did when he moved, didn’t have that same confidence, quiet arrogance and oozing charisma. When Fuji watched his friend play, he could feel the passion, feel that power… purely for the game. It almost made the prodigy sad, because it was a feeling that eluded him.
He knew it was going to come, he’d known it all along. Seigaku was good, infact, they were excellent, so there was never a doubt in Fuji’s mind as to whether or not they would make it to the best eight. He’d also been quite certain that his brother’s school, St. Rudolph, would make it too, which in fact, they did.
Fuji understood why his brother had chosen to attend another school, although it hurt that he’d chosen to be a boarder and stay away from home as much as possible. The prodigy didn’t think he’d like it himself if someone always compared him to someone else. Losing your identity because of another friend, or a sibling wasn’t something Fuji thought would be comfortable. He’d even toyed with the idea of stopping to play tennis purely because his relationship with his brother had deteriorated.
And it definitely had. They’d been so close as children. Barely a year separated them, and yet, with their father’s almost constant absence – that of their mother being only slightly less – Fuji felt that he needed to be there for Yuuta. Maybe he’d smothered his brother, maybe he’d been too caring, but Fuji couldn’t help it. He was the older brother; he was supposed to look out for Yuuta.
The gulf between them widened when Fuji entered Junior high, and, as usual, Fuji smiled. It almost tore him apart to watch his younger brother pulling away from him, from the family. Yet, at the same time, if it was what Yuuta wanted, and needed, then Fuji would never stand in his way.
“Need a drink?” The voice was soft and soothing, asking so much more than the words said, and offering so much more than could be conceived.
That shadow fell over him, welcomed him, and calmed him. Fuji looked up to see Tezuka’s stern face looking down at him. “Yeah…”
They fell into step beside each other, silence blanketing them once again. Fuji sometimes thought that the silence was wrong. They were supposed to be teenagers after all, but it was just so easy to be like that, that he really didn’t care if it wasn’t exactly normal. He’d never been normal anyway.
Fuji stopped and leaned against the brick wall of the hut where the soda machines were while Tezuka got himself a drink. The methodical way Tezuka put the coins in the machine, right down to the thunk of the can; it was all familiar, and somehow made Fuji feel better.
Hands bunched in his pockets, Fuji just smiled, staring straight ahead. He could feel Tezuka’s eyes on him, offering to listen, just letting him know that the older boy was there. And for every second of it, Fuji was grateful.
Cheers were erupting; making it apparent that Hyotei had won once again. Fuji stretched his arms, bringing them to cradle his head away from the wall, so his hair didn’t keep catching against the bricks. His voice was contemplative, yet firm; his resolve obvious. “As expected, Kantou Region Tournament’s usual participant has won.”
His reference was to Hyotei, and yet at the same time, he knew Tezuka could hear the underlying unease that Fuji felt. The cheering got louder, and Tezuka threw his head back to drink his drink. Fuji listened for a minute, turning briefly to look at Tezuka before facing back away from him and continuing to speak.
“Just once, I’d like to play in the middle of a cheering crowd like that.” His voice was wistful and needing. Not just tennis, but a thousand other things that he dreamed of. He knew Tezuka would hear him, and Fuji didn’t need a response. All he needed was that solid presence at his side, being there for him… like it seemed he always had.
And then it was time for them to play. When Tezuka stood up and walked past him, brushing against Fuji’s arm in the process, the prodigy smiled… actually finding comfort in that touch.
Second singles. It seemed Ryuzaki-sensai was serious about this opponent. As Fuji and Tezuka stood and watched, it was also too obvious that she was right. There was something about their play style, something that set Fuji’s blood on edge. It also seemed Inui had been right. The other team appeared to have their data.
It was hard enough to stand and watch Kaidoh and Momo play them. The other team were cocky, arrogant and had something up their sleeve. Fuji suppressed a chill. He didn’t like it when other people didn’t play fair.
Stopping the game in the middle of it was bad enough on its own. But that manager, had somehow…
“Calling time out when it’s bad for them, eh.” Tezuka’s question was rhetorical, but Fuji knew he wanted a response.
“He cleverly dampened Momo’s fighting spirit.”
“Yeah, but it seems like he has other intentions also.”
Fuji opened his eyes, having to agree with Tezuka as the St. Rudolph manager approached the side of the fence where Inui was standing. The prodigy would have given his right arm to be a fly on that fence right then… well maybe not really his arm, but he would liked to have known.
They watched the rest of the match, occasionally commenting, answering or just saying nothing in return. The boomerang snake made another appearance, and Fuji thought it was safe to say that he was fairly shocked. It seemed everyone was. After that it went downhill for the other team, literally. He wished he’d had his camera with him to record Yanagizawa getting smashed in the face, but he guessed he’d have to live with just having the memory to rely on.
It was the match between the other school and Seigaku’s Golden Pair that really got to Fuji. He watched as his friend wilted, concern blooming in him when Echizen pointed out that the ball was being hit in a specific way so as to cause the redhead some exhaustion. It made the prodigy angry.
It was stooping low, very low. Using a players special talents against them, and literally hurting them. Fuji admitted that Eiji needed to work on endurance, but stealing that endurance through an illusion… it was just plain wrong.
They rallied, they never gave up, just because that was who Eiji and Oishi were. Their strength of will was amazing, and it made Fuji proud. He was proud to know someone who had such amazing character, even in light of dirty tactics. Fuji’s eyes drifted briefly to the black haired manager, Mizuki. The Seigaku prodigy was fairly certain he knew where those tactics stemmed from. It made him almost look forward to his match.
When Eiji almost collapsed at the end, just not able to make it that smidgen further, Fuji had to stop himself from running to his side, knowing that Oishi would take care of the redhead. They were both so sorry for losing, when it hadn’t been any of their fault whatsoever. Fuji decided right then that there were two type of data tennis. The one that Inui used, which literally calculated possibilities, exploiting your weakness in a way that didn’t require underhanded tricks.
Then there was the one Mizuki apparently used. Finding a strength and disabling it, pushing the player deliberately. It was a dangerous type, and Fuji found himself having a strong dislike for that person. There were reasons to hurt people, but none of them involved just tennis.
It would be Yuuta’s turn to play soon, so Fuji went looking for his brother even though he knew that he wouldn’t be welcome. Sometimes he wondered if it was just a perverse need to feel that pain in his chest every time that he sought the other boy out. Other times he knew it was, because he needed to feel it, to make sure he really existed.
He watched his brother practice a shot, and his eyes narrowed in thought. Yuuta was talking to one of his teammates. He seemed so angry all of the time now. Fuji couldn’t help but think that it was his fault, just like his brother blamed him for most other things. And when his brother saw him, the friend commented on something to do with Yuuta being Fuji’s younger brother.
The reaction Yuuta had was predictable, but still saddened the prodigy. It would never cease to amaze him just how much his sibling detested being associated with him, and it hurt like hell. So Fuji smiled, quickly covering the lapse, quickly pushing down the pain. It was the only way he could deal, the only way he could be who everyone expected him to be…including Yuuta.
As the other student ran away, Fuji stood, eyes resting on Yuuta’s face. He noticed that even in a short time, his brother seemed to have grown. The other boy was growing up without him, didn’t need him anymore, and Fuji kept having to remind himself of that.
“You look great, Yuuta.” He hoped his voice sounded normal, and didn’t give away just how much this was getting to him. “Are you used to dorm living yet?” There was still no response, no sign from the other boy, so Fuji pressed on, not wanting silence to remind him of how alone he truly was… not without Tezuka there to take it away. “I thought for sure you were going to be playing first or second singles. I was looking forward to the match…”
The air changed, the tension rose, and although it was a reaction, Fuji wanted the earth to swallow him up whole. He didn’t show it, no, he didn’t show it. The smile saved him, saved anyone from seeing the torn up mess he was within right then. He was glad, he didn’t think he’d be able to stomach the sight himself.
Yuuta’s voice was anger personified when the boy spoke. “Don’t lie to me. I don’t care if you think so!”
Fuji couldn’t keep the surprise off his face. Did Yuuta care that little about what Fuji thought and did?
But his brother continued, and Fuji was drawn to listen, whether he wanted to or not.
The freshman who beat Inui-san for the regular spot…He’s a good opponent for me!” The sentence was punctuated with anger, raw and true. “I’ll use everything I have to crush that freshman! You can get beaten by Mizuki-san. That will ensure St. Rudolph’s win.”
Those words hurt, were aimed to hurt, they crushed, and were aimed to do that as well. Fuji no longer tried to keep the smile on his face as Yuuta brushed past, because there was no reason to keep up a wall that was crumbling. If he’d had a mirror right then, he was quite sure that he wouldn’t have recognised himself.
And then Fuji got angry. What right did Yuuta have to be like this, to act this way? When had Fuji ever done anything to hurt his younger brother? He’d been there for him, helping him and tried to guide him when the absence of their parents grew obvious. “Putting me aside…Our Rookie won’t be that easy to beat…Yuuta.” He wondered idly if his brother knew just how much he could affect him.
His brother stopped and looked back at him. “I won’t know… until I try.”
Fuji watched him walk away, and then walked in the opposte direction to where the ball his brother had hit earlier was still jammed high up in the fence. That shot didn’t impress him. In fact, it made Fuji angry. And there was only one place where that shot could have come from… Mizuki.
Fuji left to walk back to the match, and he wasn’t looking forward to it one bit.
And so, Syusuke watched the match, standing alone, further away from Tezuka than usual. For some reason Inui was standing closer, and Fuji couldn’t help a little annoyance. This was something he didn’t know how to share, silent or not.
His brother’s tennis had improved, and Fuji felt a swell of pride despite the pain inside. The rising shot was much better, and he smiled as he mentioned the fact in a low voice. The reaction from the other freshmen amused Fuji, and he turned open eyes to look at them. They didn’t say anything else… he thought maybe he’d scared them. He’d been told he could do that sometimes…and right then, it suited his purpose.
Inui was a cool guy, but right then, when he decided to explain just what a rising shot was, Fuji would have dearly strangled him. He didn’t need this… this interference. Couldn’t they just watch the match?
He heard footsteps, and was close to readying a retort on his tongue when he realised who it was; Tezuka. Somehow it just made Fuji relax that little bit more. And when his friend spoke, the words as well as the tone, told him just how much Tezuka really understood.
“This is a complicated situation for you, Fuji.”
But he couldn’t help it, the smile stole back, and he turned his face away from his friend’s, call it a reflex action he couldn’t quite avoid. “Why’s that?”
And he could feel those brown eyes watching him, unwavering in their resolve. He knew the thoughts going on in Tezuka’s head, because they were his own. Fuji’s memories swam of having been so proud and happy that his brother had come to Seigaku, and of the heartbreak and loneliness when that same boy decided he couldn’t live within Fuji’s shadow. So he answered the unspoken invitation.
“I’m okay with it if Yuuta’s okay with it.” But Fuji’s eyes were open now, and he suddenly felt lost. And still he could feel his friend’s eyes on him. It made it all seem just that bit easier. He didn’t even move away when he stopped speaking, because he needed that comfort, and it felt good, just knowing Tezuka had known that too.
The twist serve was amazing, and yet, Yuuta managed to return it without a problem. Fuji’s eyes opened. How much had his little brother grown? And how very much of it he hadn’t needed Fuji for. That hurt, and the dislike the prodigy had for that manager, that Mizuki, grew even more. So far, so much… so little the person Fuji thought he knew. Yuuta almost felt like a stranger to him.
Yet, it almost pained Fuji to see Echizen even the score. He could hear the whisperings, the murmurings and he felt for his brother. It made Fuji wish, not for the first time, that he’d never been born the way he was. He wished that just for once, he could have been the second son, so that Yuuta wouldn’t have had to stand in his shadow.
Tezuka was closer that he had been, and Fuji found he needed it, welcomed it. It allowed him to speak, softer than normal, so that not everyone could hear. “This is the time for Yuuta to shine. He hated to lose, even as a child.” No answer was given, because none was needed. Fuji remembered things, in the company of someone who understood, and that was enough.
Then it came, that stance, that move Fuji had been dreading. Eyes open, no longer able to hide what he was feeling, Fuji just stared. The tension in his body was palpable, and he knew that Tezuka picked up on it. A twist spin shot. How could he? It was obvious by the smile on Mizuki’s face, where Yuuta had learned that shot. Powerful it might be, but the damage it could do to his brother’s still growing bones, was dangerous.
He calmed himself, not letting his temper get the better of him. Vaguely he felt Tezuka move away for a second, and clamped down on his temper all the more. He needed to be logical. Maybe Yuuta only used the shot sometimes, perhaps…
There it was again. One theory down the drain.
As the match progressed, so did Fuji’s mood. It got worse and worse. The self-satisfied smirk on his brother’s manager’s face, made his blood boil. His brother might have gotten stronger, but that shot could ruin him, would ruin him. Didn’t he even realise that he was holding his arm afterwards for extra support?
Even Ryoma had realised what that shot was doing. It made Fuji wish that Yuuta had thought about I himself. The scowl on Mizuki’s face was enough to confirm what Fuji had been almost completely sure of anyway.
Echizen’s Drive B almost woke Fuji out of his mood, but it just wasn’t enough. He could feel Tezuka’s burning pride in the boy and was almost glad that his friend’s attention was focused somewhere else. He remembered seeing Yuuta walk away, remembered their goodbyes. Remembered how it had felt when he lost his brother, because that was what happened.
Even when Yuuta stopped using that shot, Fuji’s annoyance didn’t wane. Although he was proud and he knew that his brother would only keep getting stronger, Fuji couldn’t help how he felt. The anger was slow, and burning, because Mizuki had hurt his brother, and Mizuki was going to pay.
In amidst the thoughts of how interesting it would be to play Echizen; behind a smiling façade, Fuji chose a plan of action, a plan of retribution. Now Fuji wasn’t a violent person, it just wasn’t his nature. But he looked, and he searched for the best place to hurt a person, to humiliate them. He wanted to humble Mizuki, wanted to show the world just what type of a person the black-haired boy was. Because when it got right down to it, how nice a person could you be if you taught that shot deliberately. Of course, Fuji would make sure of that first…
He went to his bag, to get ready for his game. Putting his jacket away, Fuji controlled his breathing, controlled his anger. Tezuka wasn’t far away from him, again…still. The prodigy was grateful for it, grateful for the silence, the comfort and the silent agreement. At the same time that stance, Tezuka was asking him to talk, offering to listen, just like always.
Fuji took a deep breath. “Tezuka, do you feel like playing?”
The slightest movement of his friend, the shifting, making those brown eyes study Fuji even more intently. The smile dropped, his eyes opened, determination and fire the only things visible in them. He could feel his friend accept the sight, even if he also knew that Tezuka didn’t quite approve.
“I’m sorry, but it doesn’t look like we’ll get to you this time.”
Fuji wasn’t going to lose, because he had a point to prove. He didn’t wait for acceptance from his friend. If he couldn’t have it, he’d deal with it later…but for right now, Fuji’s need for retribution overrode everything else.
I am really sorry for any grammar stuff ups and spelling, because its almost 330 am… so bear with me… I will go through it again when I am more awake.
Sorry this chapter isn’t as TezxFuji heavy. But please bear with me, the next few chapters are very important for the development of the story.