Rain was tapping the window when Tezuka woke. He sat up, gazing blearily at the dark room, the windows glowing with gray light. The glaring red numbers on his alarm clock read 5:13 am.
A knock sounded softly on his door. "Yes?" Tezuka called, rubbing his eyes. Who would be lurking at the entrance to his room on a lazy Sunday morning?
The door swung open to reveal Fuji, leaning casually against the doorway.
Startled, Tezuka stared at his friend. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm here to take you away." It was a vague response, designed to frustrate and possibly annoy.
"What are you talking about, Fuji? How did you get in here?" He tried to control the confusion and irritation in his voice.
Fuji lifted an object to face-level, turning and examining it closely. Tezuka saw a flash of silver. "Did you know that everyone hides their key under the doormat? It's so interesting. You'd think people would be smarter. Get dressed, Tezuka, and meet me outside." With that, Fuji quietly strode across his room, cracked open a window and slid outside into the mist, silent as he had come.
Tezuka sat immobile for a moment, before he flopped back onto his bed, burying his face in a pillow.
A few minutes later, he dragged himself out of the comfortable warmth and shivered in front of his closet, snatching a hooded sweatshirt, jeans, sneakers, and his glasses. After he finished dressing, he stole out the window into a foggy, drizzling morning.
Fuji was waiting for him inside of a rumbling car. Tezuka rushed into the passenger seat to avoid the threatening downpour. Fuji peeled away the instant the door shut. It was only when they were paused at a signal that Tezuka realized that he had left no note for his parents.
The two sat in tensed silence for a long while, before Tezuka spoke.
Fuji smiled, his eyes opening enough for the brilliant blue to appear. "We graduate next week, Tezuka."
Tezuka relaxed into the seat, "I know."
"We'll probably never see each other again, after this week."
They lapsed into quiet, hearing the rain whisper against the roof. It was peaceful and gray. Tezuka didn't offer keep in touch, nor did he wish to promise that it wouldn't happen. They would forget each other, one day. He left it alone, because there would never be a proper way to say good-bye.
They were heading to the coastline, he could tell. The air was thick with clouds and the scent of the ocean. He could just barely make out the line of sand. The waves were crashing, fierce and powerful, the sound carried by the wind. It was early, and the beach was deserted.
Fuji pulled up sharply, parking roughly and turning the ignition off. He darted outside, locked his door, and raced to the sand. Tezuka hurriedly chased after him, but couldn't quite keep up.
Toppling into the sand, Fuji sighed gleefully. Tezuka plopped next to him, feeling the cool mist from the water. Soon, he stretched out on the sand. Fuji, shivering from the cold, curled up against him, nuzzling his face into Tezuka's shoulder. They lay together for a long while, enjoying the peace and this last moment.
"Will you make a sandcastle with me?"
Fuji was crazy. That's all there was to it. But, grudgingly, Tezuka got up to help him.
This was their last year together. High school graduation was bearing down fast, and soon he would have to leave the life he'd always know: the Seigaku tennis team. His safety net would be taken away, and he'd be off to a new world. It was a daunting aspect; there would be no one else with him, and he'd be alone. Without Fuji.
They spent an hour building a primitive castle before Fuji sat back. "One last thing." He drew a star into the wall of the castle. "This is all of us. This is our memory, and I will cherish it always, Tezuka. This is our championship."
It began to rain, the droplets pelting the shore and turning everything dark. Tezuka leaned over and kissed Fuji with all of his love and all of his sadness.
They embraced for a time. It would only be a matter of time before everything was sucked away as stealthily as the ocean took back the sand.
"Let's go." They headed back to the car before the rain washed away their fragile, indestructible castle.
Fuji dropped Tezuka off at the corner of his street. He gave a small kiss before he shot down the street, trying to outrace time and obligations. He didn't want to say good-bye.
Tezuka watched him go, before he unlocked the door and replaced the key inside a flowerpot. His mother was making breakfast, and gave him a startled look as he walked through the living room.
"Oh! Kunimitsu, you scared me! I thought you were asleep. Where have you been?"
"Just for a walk."
"Oh, all right. It's funny though, I didn't even know you were gone."
Tezuka smiled kindly at his mother, "If only."
The next Sunday, he awoke to the sound of his window being cracked open. He had unlocked it the night before, hoping for a nighttime visitor. He was heading off to college on Tuesday morning; the week had been filled with graduation parties and well-wishes. He constantly dreaded the next good-bye he would have to make.
Fuji removed his shoes, leaving them by the window. He slipped in next to Tezuka, burrowing into the soft sheets. He covered Fuji with the blankets, wrapping him up well. The two fell asleep, comforted by each other's presence.
Tezuka dreamed of sunshine, of driving around on long, empty streets. He had no duties and time was only a memory. He could stay there forever, lost in roads and freedom and dreams.
Fuji had kissed his forehead gently. When Tezuka woke, he was gone, the dusty sneaker prints the sole sign that he was ever there.
Tezuka had long since finished college. He once spent a day with Fuji, a month after the first term began, but it was difficult to see him. It would be impossible to meet each other more often than a few times a year, their colleges being fairly distant. Fuji had declared that he couldn't do it. He couldn't see Tezuka a few times and not be with him whenever they wanted. They parted, and buried themselves in their studies and their separate lives. It was better that way. It had to be, Tezuka had reassured himself. He never truly believed it.
It was cloudy when he climbed out of bed. The curtains were kept open, the sky bleak and colorless. He dressed in warm clothing before heading out the door.
The walk to the beach wasn't long. He had secured a beachfront property for himself. Having the water close by made him feel as though he was home.
It was drizzling softly, the ocean stirring in perpetual longing. The world was gray and lonely, the shore stretching for as far as the eye can see. There wasn't a soul in sight.
He wandered aimlessly, thinking and finding tranquility in memories. It was a calm morning, one made just for him. Few had the fortune of having happiness in something unattainable. As long as he had these waves and this solitary shore, he would always have hope. A pale blue seashell sat before his foot, a rare one; it was perfectly shaped, without any broken pieces. It reminded him of someone. He slipped it into his pocket.
When the chilly wind became too much for him, he traced his way back to the apartment, making tracks in the wet sand. The door was unlocked when he arrived. A shadow moved quickly in the corner of the living room, before coming to greet and attack Tezuka with kisses.
"Good morning, 'Mitsu. Where've you been?"
Tezuka launched a counterattack, targeting the neck. "I just wanted to take a walk. Here, I brought back a seashell for you."
"Thank you; it's beautiful. How strange, I never even knew you were gone." His lover smiled softly.
"I didn't know that either, Syuusuke."