A/N:  This pairing is unheard of and rather odd, even for me (I got the pairing by drawing some slots.  Heh heh).  Then again, I thought, Why not?  Writing it could be very challenging and interesting.  It's a HUGE experiment but please give it a chance, ne?  And tell me what you think.  This is my first PoT fic so please be gentle.  ^____^  Disclaimer:  The author does not own Prince of Tennis or any of its characters.  They all belong to Takeshi Konomi.

From Afar

The sun slowly set in the horizon, bathing two silent figures standing on a now deserted tennis court with a golden glow. An empty court, save for the two of them…  A teenage girl and a young boy stood facing each other, the net separating them as the cool late afternoon breeze drifted by.  Finally, they moved: the girl taking a step forward, the young boy mirroring her action.

"That was an excellent crosscourt."  With a sincere smile replacing her shocked expression, the girl fondly ruffled the boy's bronze-colored hair.  "I was completely taken off guard," she released a self-deprecating laugh.  "To be outdone by a grade school kid.  My coach would be very disappointed."

The boy remained silent as he turned sherry-brown eyes toward the girl in front of him.  The girl noticed his sharp gaze that she quickly dropped her hand from him and moved back involuntarily.  What's with this kid?

"What's your name?" the boy finally asked of her, at the same time signaling her to crouch down in front of him so that their gazes leveled.  The girl found herself complying with his silent command, much to her surprise.  What's with this kid that she found herself following his lead?

"Fuji," the girl answered.  Her long brown hair danced softly with the wind as she smiled at the boy.  "Yumiko Fuji."

"I'll look forward to playing with you again."  The stern features of the little boy softened into an awkward smile.  He then released his racquet and rested his hands on the net between them.  Before Yumiko realized what the boy was planning to do, the grade-schooler leaned forward and lightly pressed his lips on hers.

Yumiko was stunned to immobility.

"That was the prize for my victory against you," the boy continued, his unsmiling expression back on his face.  He then turned and left without a backward glance.

Yumiko found herself plopped down on the ground, her hand touching the lips that the young boy previously kissed.  A bright red flush crept up her neck and stained her cheeks.  That was her first kiss!  He was her first kiss!  A grade-schooler!  She didn't know if she should get angry or just cry like a little baby.  How embarrassing it would be if someone found out about it!

* * *

"Syuusuke, want a ride?"  Takeshi Momoshiro and four other Seigaku regulars stopped as a sleek silver car slowed down beside them, the dark tinted window sliding open to reveal the enchanting face of tensai Fuji's older sister Yumiko.  The five students of Seishun Gakuen Junior High were on their way to the Echizen Household that afternoon to return a little white spotted Himalayan cat to its worried owner, the freshman Ryoma Echizen.  Their afternoon practice finished early since the Tennis Regional Tournament was to start the next day.  And their coach, Ryuzaki-sensei, had advised them to rest up and prepare for the upcoming competition.

But first, they had to bring back the lost cat that was found sleeping peacefully in their locker room back to its home.  Momoshiro vaguely explained that the cat belonged to Echizen, and volunteered to take the cat back to his teammate.  Tezuka went along, bringing a note from the coach to be given to the freshman.  Oishi and Kikumaru tagged along, too, with the former bringing the bag Echizen left behind in school.

"Ja, minna," Fuji smiled, raising a hand in a careless wave.  He opened the car door to the passenger seat, and slid beside his sister.  The remaining four Seigaku regulars watched as the car disappeared from their view.

Kikumaru, who was still wearing his blue and white jersey, gave a low whistle as he watched Yumiko drive off.  The red head was buying a new pair of tennis shoes in a nearby store when he bumped into Oishi and the others that afternoon.  They found him running out of the shop, panicking for his money was 80 yen short.  Oishi ended up lending him the little cash he was lacking, much to Kikumaru's obvious delight.  The red head sighed when he thought of Yumiko Fuji.  "Now why can't my own nee-chan act as sophisticated as Fuji's ­nee-san?"

"Eiji!  That's not a very nice thing to say about your sister!"  Oishi reprimanded his doubles partner almost immediately.  Eiji has always been someone who spoke his mind out loud, Oishi thought as he shook his head.  It's funny sometimes but he just doesn't know when to stop.

"But it's true!"  Eiji pouted as they continued walking.  "And what's worse, my nee-chan keeps on finishing my favorite toothpaste!"

"But she replaces them, doesn't she?"  Oishi insisted.

"Yeah, but that doesn't make her so-phis-ti-ca-ted," Kikumaru held up a finger and wagged it as he enunciated each syllable.  "What she needs is a boyfriend!"  The red head proclaimed with a solemn nod as if what he thought was the best solution to his sister's dilemma, however oblivious the person concerned was to it.  "A classy boyfriend!"  He stated again with a nod.

"I think your sister's fine as she is."

Kikumaru quickly whipped his head toward Oishi in surprise, then a knowing smile spread across his lips.  "Eh?  You like my sister, don't you, Oishi?"

"W-What?!"  A bright red flush darkened Oishi's cheeks.  "N-No!  I just---"

"Uso!"  Momoshiro exclaimed as he joined in the conversation, a teasing smile on his face.  "Eiji-senpai's sister?  Really?  What's she like, Oishi-senpai?  I've never met her."

"I told you, I do not---"

"Aha!"  Kikumaru snapped his fingers when he suddenly remembered something.  "Is that why you always drop by our house?  Why you were always asking about her?  Like where she studies and stuff?"  A cat-like grin appeared on the younger senior's face.  "Is that why you're all red and shy around her, Oishi?"

"I was only---"

"Eh?  Really, Eiji-senpai?  Oishi-senpai's like that when your sister's around, huh?"  Momoshiro grinned mischievously.  "As expected from the vice captain!  Liking a girl he knew his friends would approve!"

"Oishi likes my nee-chan!  Oishi likes my nee-chan!  Nyaa!"  Kikumaru jumped around his doubles partner in an excited dance.  He then draped an arm across the now red faced Oishi and announced proudly, "You'll be a good husband to her, Oishi.  And I wouldn't mind you being my brother-in-law!"  Then he turned thoughtful, "Although I don't know what you see in her.  She's pretty, yeah, but…"

"Enough of that, Kikumaru, Momoshiro," the unexpected command came from the silent buchou who stood behind them.  "People are staring."  Both looked around and true to the captain's words, people really were staring at them.  The two hyperactive regulars quickly complied with their captain's order and stopped teasing Oishi.

"Hai, hai," Kikumaru folded his arms behind his head and shared a grin with Momoshiro.  The junior scratched his head in mild embarrassment while the cat inside his open coat meowed.  Oishi released a sigh or relief.

"Demo…"  After a while, Momoshiro continued, quite seriously this time.  "Fuji-senpai's nee-san really is hot, isn't she?"

Oishi and Kikumaru looked at Momoshiro and then down the road where Yumiko Fuji's car disappeared to.  Yumiko Fuji… with her beautiful features, her full red lips, her fashionably long hair, her deep blue eyes, her alluring smile and voice…

Kikumaru grinned.  "Yeah, she is.  Fuji tells me she's so popular in the office where she works, her admirers kept on coming to their house each night to court her."

"No wonder," Momoshiro replied, "with a gorgeous face and a killer body like that, a man has to be blind not to notice!"

"Yeah, but she's way out of your league, Momo," Kikumaru laughed.  "The guys she probably dates are the matured, good looking, silent, and most of all, classy types.  You fail miserably on all four aspects!"

"That's mean, Eiji-senpai!" Momoshiro quickly disagreed with mock indignation, though his violet eyes gleamed with laughter.  "I am good looking!"  He framed his face with his forefinger and thumb, a smug smile in place, and lowered his voice for effect, "Just check out my admirers in school."

"What admirers?" Oishi joined in their friendly bantering.

"You, too, Oishi-senpai?" the dark-haired junior groaned.  He then grinned at the vice-captain.  "Are you by any chance getting back at me because of the teasing about you and Eiji-senpai's nee-chan a while ago?"

"Masaka," Oishi replied evasively, although a tinge of red stained his cheeks once more.

"Don't worry, Oishi-senpai, it's natural that we experience that 'time' in our teenage lives."

Oishi was afraid to ask, "Er, that 'time'?"

"When we find older women very attractive," Momoshiro answered in a no- nonsense tone, "it's normal since we're healthy teenage boys."  He looked at his red head teammate, "Right, Eiji-senpai?"

"Right!" Kikumaru bobbed his head in agreement.  "Anyway, as I was saying before, you're probably not her type, Momo," he continued with a shrug, "and neither is she your type.  I always thought you'd go for nice, cute, bubbly girls."

"Yeah, I guess," the junior agreed after a while.  "She's more like the buchou's type, in my opinion."  Momoshiro commented carelessly, totally forgetting that the silent Tezuka was right behind them.  Oishi and Kikumaru stilled.  "Since the buchou already looks like a grown up, he could pass as her---"

"Momoshiro, you'll be running 20 laps around the court tomorrow."  The junior sweatdropped when he heard the bespectacled teen behind him speak in that deep hard monotone of his.

"Nice going, Momo."  Kikumaru laughed as he patted the junior's back in sympathy.  Momoshiro groaned in response.

* * *

Kunimitsu Tezuka scanned the shelves of the bookstore he frequented a few days later.  He stood in front of the Bestseller Category, in search of Ed McBain's most recent novel called Fat Ollie's Book.  His sharp gaze finally found the said book, still in a hard bound jacket since it just arrived in Japan.  As he reached for the only and last copy, a slim, feminine hand reached for it at the same time, causing Tezuka to pause and glare down at his contender.

"Ara?  Tezuka-kun?"  The dark frown that crossed the captain's face didn't even startle the young woman in front of him, which was a first since he was known for scaring the teachers in the school with just but a look, however unintentionally.  Then he knew why it was ineffective when he recognized the young woman beside him.  Her long golden brown hair lay unbound on her small shoulders, a light touch of make-up enhancing the natural beauty of her features; she stood straight and confident before him, still in her neat classy work clothes.

"Yumiko-san," he acknowledged tensai Fuji's sister with a nod as he released his hold on the book.  Yumiko sensed more than saw Tezuka's slight yet abrupt withdrawal from her company, and watched as he gave her a stiff nod once again and turned to leave.

"Tezuka-kun," she stopped him from leaving, not with a restraining hand but with a soft voice.  The bespectacled teenager turned slightly to face her, watching as she took McBain's book from the shelf and then walked toward him.  "You forgot your book," she smiled up at him and handed the novel over.

He didn't take it but merely stared at her.  "You wanted it," he stated.

"I figured you saw it first," Yumiko answered with a shrug as she gazed at the tall captain.  "Besides, it seems that you've been long collecting Ed McBain's 87th Precinct Novels.  I've just begun reading his works."  She smiled as she tilted her head to one side in a thoughtful manner.  "What was his first 87th Precinct Novel again?  Was it The Heckler?"

"Cop Hater."

"Oh, of course!  Cop Hater.  I remember now," Yumiko nodded.  "I couldn't find a copy of that novel anywhere.  I think they haven't released a reprint yet so I'm still waiting for it."  She smiled again when Tezuka finally took the book from her hand.  "I've always wanted to read the book that started it all.  I even thought of ordering one from the internet."

"I could lend you mine."

She looked like he offered her an ice cream.  "Really?" she practically glowed.  "That would be great!  I'll be sure to tell Syuusuke to get it from you tomorrow in school."

"I could give it to you today," Tezuka replied, surprising even himself for offering at such short notice.  "My house is just a short walk from here."

"That's very kind of you, Tezuka-kun," Yumiko readily accepted his offer.  "I'm bringing my car.  I could drive you home as well.  It's parked right outside the bookstore."  The stoical captain nodded, turning toward the counter to pay for the book they almost played tug-of-war over.  He then followed Yumiko Fuji outside the shop.

"Syuusuke told me your team won the ticket to the Kantou Tournament," Yumiko started a conversation as she reversed out of the parking space.  "I wasn't able to congratulate you earlier so consider this my sincerest greeting."

"Thank you," Tezuka said politely and proceeded to give her directions toward his home.

* * *

"Okairi nasai, Kunimitsu," Tezuka's mother greeted his son the moment he entered the house.  "Are?  You brought a friend over," the older woman smiled as Yumiko appeared behind Tezuka.

"Good evening, Tezuka-san," Yumiko greeted politely with a bow.  "I am Yumiko Fuji, sister of Tezuka-kun's friend.  I'm sorry for dropping by so suddenly.  I'm just here to borrow a book from your son."

"I see," Tezuka's mother smiled, recognition at the mention of her name lighting up her eyes.  "Please make yourself comfortable.  I'll get you some tea."

"Oh, please don't bother," Yumiko quickly shook her head, "I won't stay for long."

"I insist," the older woman replied.  Both Tezuka and Yumiko watched as she disappeared inside the kitchen adjacent to the living room.

"I'll get the book," Tezuka told Yumiko almost stiffly, leaving the beautiful young woman alone silently contemplating if she made a mistake of going to the Tezuka Household unannounced.

Yumiko sat down and looked around the spacious living room.  Tezuka's home had a traditional Japanese touch to it.  Sliding wooden doors instead of swinging ones, the living room projected strict custom and conservative quality, void of any personal warmth and effects.  Just like Kunimitsu Tezuka himself.

In contrast to his son, Tezuka's mother showed warmth and affection, Yumiko thought as she waited for the teen to return with the book.  With the little knowledge she had of Tezuka (thanks to Syuusuke's accounts on Seigaku's tennis team), Yumiko thought that the young captain was indeed a very good leader.  He may not express himself through words or actions but his strong and silent character remained a dependable solid wall for them.  They relied on the strength that was Tezuka and because of that, their respect toward him never dwindled.

Yumiko's thoughts were interrupted when Tezuka returned with McBain's book in his hand.  She stood up as he walked toward her.

"Thank you, Tezuka-kun," she smiled, taking the book from him, "I'll ask Syuusuke to return it to you as soon as I finish."  Tezuka nodded in response.  "I best be on my way.  Please extend my thanks to your mother as well."  She then turned to leave but stopped when Tezuka spoke behind her.

"Do you still play tennis?"  At Yumiko's surprised expression, Tezuka continued, "Your brother had told me that you used to play tennis during your high school years.  And that you were exceptionally good."  Tezuka couldn't believe that he was saying what he was saying right now.  When had he become so talkative?  "Perhaps you'd like to play before you go?"  The words were out before he could stop himself.  Tezuka wanted to stuff a sock inside his mouth.

Yumiko smiled.  It was so far the longest dialogue Tezuka shared with her.  "A challenge from the captain, hm?" she laughingly motioned to her white cotton blouse, unbuttoned blue pinstriped overcoat and knee length skirt.  "As you can plainly see, I'm not dressed to play tennis."

"I could lend you some clothes."  Tezuka suddenly wanted to hit his head on the wall.  What in the world was he saying?  Where had the usually calm and impassive captain gone to?

Yumiko laughed outright then, a magical sound to Tezuka's ears.  "I would have to kill myself then if your clothes fit me perfectly," she paused as if in deep thought, "Unless, of course, you have a size 24 waistline?"

The thought brought an awkward smile out of Tezuka.  "What an ugly picture of myself you made me imagine."

There was silence afterward.  Tezuka noticed the Yumiko's eyes suddenly widened in a sudden realization.  Then it quickly vanished, to be replaced by an enchanting yet somewhat slightly reserved smile.  "Well, you could lend me a shirt and a racquet.  I can use my comfy shoes and shorts stored in the trunk."

* * *

The ball dropped on her side of the court and rolled toward the net.  Yumiko stared at the bright green ball in awe.  Syuusuke had told her about it.  Tezuka's famous move.

"The Zero Shiki Drop Shot," she whispered to herself as she lowered her, rather Tezuka's, Mizuno white racquet and looked at her unsmiling opponent.  She lost, six games to love.  As expected from the Seigaku captain.  "You win, Tezuka-kun," she smiled and flexed her right arm.  It had been years since she last wielded a tennis racquet.  And it felt nice that she was able to play again.

Tezuka walked toward the net and so did she.  Yumiko was gasping for breaths as she shook hands with the captain.  Her head spun slightly as something similar replayed in her mind.  She had played him before, around seven years ago.  He was the boy who---

"Yumiko-san, are you all right?  You look a little pale."  Tezuka's words brought Yumiko back to the present.  She mentally shook herself out of her reverie and smiled up at him.

"You've gotten stronger," she said more to herself than to him.  "Then again, you've always been strong."  At Tezuka's obvious confusion, Yumiko laughed.  She couldn't resist.  She reached up and fondly patted Tezuka's head.  "Thanks for the game," she said and handed over his racquet.  The bronze haired teen automatically took it from her, still stunned at her sudden sister-like affection.  "And keep up the good work, buchou."

* * *

Yumiko Fuji walked back to her car in a strangely light mood.  The Seigaku captain was the boy who defeated her seven years ago, the boy who glared up at her when she ruffled his hair.  She knew it was him when she saw the captain's lips lift up in that same boyish awkward smile the young Tezuka wore after their match years ago.  Her loss on that particular match didn't bother her at all, what bothered her was an entirely different matter.  She shook her head in amusement.  Tezuka was barely eight during that time while she was almost seventeen.  He was a mere child and he had the daring to kiss a teenaged girl on the lips.

He didn't recognize her, she knew.  He probably didn't even remember playing her during that time. He was just a kid then after all.

She was running her shirt sleeve across her temple to wipe off the bead of sweat that formed there when she realized that she still wore Tezuka's tennis shirt.  The white collared shirt was too big for her, the sleeves reaching her elbows, the hem ending on her mid thighs.  She caught  the faint scent of Tezuka's expensive cologne when she donned it a while back.

She paused.  She must return the shirt to him after she washed it.  Then again, why not keep it?  The memory she shared with Tezuka was a treasure worth keeping.  He may not remember their match years ago but she did.

Love wasn't the emotion she was feeling for Tezuka right now, she was sure.  It was fondness.  After all, as much as the teenaged Tezuka looked like her age right now, she knew deep inside that he was still a boy.  He would be forever a boy to her…  The boy who had the courage and cunning to steal her first kiss away from her.

She smiled to herself.  She'd just have to content herself: to watching him grow up to a fine young man.  From afar.

* * *

Kunimitsu Tezuka watched as Yumiko disappear outside their gates, walking away from him without a backward glance.  He gripped the racquet she used tighter, a frown creasing his forehead.  She didn't recognize him!

Yumiko Fuji… he had always remembered that name.  The name of the beautiful high school student he challenged to a tennis match seven years ago.  It was during that time that he first experienced the sweet taste of victory with his own lips.  Literally.

He didn't like it that she treated him like a little boy back then.  He liked it even less that she still treated him like a little boy now!  Her soft hand in his, Tezuka was already leaning toward her earlier, prepared to take the sweet prize of her lips for his victory once again.  When she suddenly turned pale, he moved back swiftly, concern and wariness clouded his handsome features.  He suddenly felt embarrassed at the thought of her knowing how he felt toward her.

Instead of moving away from him, she smiled,  leaned toward him, mumbled something about him being strong, and patted his head!  He was too stunned to even react.

She's more like the buchou's type, in my opinion.

Tezuka suddenly remembered Momoshiro's words.  How right the junior was.  She really was his type.  Then again, Kikumaru's words also rang true.  Yumiko Fuji's way out of their league.  She was a cool, sophisticated woman who only treated him as a younger brother, like how she undoubtedly treated Syuusuke and Yuuta… with a soft smile and a pat on the head.

The strong Seigaku captain sighed and ran his hand through his bronze hair, remembering the warm hand that caressed him in a sisterly fashion earlier.  Maybe that's what he always was and ever will be to Yumiko Fuji.  A younger brother..  Forever a boy of eight.  And perhaps that was what attracted her to him in the first place.  No one, not even his family, treated him like a child.  He was a grown up in everybody's eyes.

Tezuka straightened up.  Being the grown up that he was, he had to move on.  The Kantou Tournament was just around the corner, he didn't have time to think such sentimentalities.  His responsibility as the buchou beckoned him.  He would sooner or later get over his feelings.  He loved tennis first and foremost and that fact would never change.

The sound of a car pulling out of their driveway caused Tezuka to look up.  Yumiko Fuji left.  A viselike grip twisted his heart.  No matter how much he denied it, he knew, he was going to continue watching the woman of his dreams.  From afar.