In The Name Of The Father.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Shigeno Shuichi. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Summary: Bunta deals with being a single parent. Featuring Takumi, age five to nineteen.
All Fujiwara Bunta wanted, was to be left alone with his grief. He wanted nothing more than to fall to the ground and scream his despair, his anguish. But he didn't; he needed to be strong for his son. She was gone and there was terrible, yawning void within him. He accepted condolences mechanically from the seemingly endless stream of mourners. She was gone. She had left him. Left them. And now he had to pick up the shattered pieces of his life and try to put them back together. She was gone and he faced a life without her.
His mother's death had confused Takumi more than anything. Fujiwara Mariko had been ill for over a year and during the last months of her life she was constantly in severe pain and heavily drugged. She had been unable to spend the little time she had with her precious son. That had been her biggest regret. Five year old Takumi had gazed at Bunta puzzled when he told him that there was no need to visit the hospital anymore because his mother was 'gone'. 'Where?' he had wanted to know. His father had shaken his head, unable to answer. Takumi had instinctively understood that something was terribly wrong. Frightened, Takumi had clung to his hand and had refused to budge from Bunta's side since.
He now stood next to Bunta, extremely tired but refusing stubbornly to go with one of his aunts. She looked like she was about to insist but Bunta shook his head. The boy was confused, scared and tired; Bunta was the one familiar thing left. He knew Takumi could be stubborn as hell even though he was for the most part, a quiet little boy. Bunta lifted Takumi up in his arms. Takumi clasped his chubby arms around his neck and rested his head on his shoulders. Soon, he was asleep.
Takumi was still sleeping on Bunta's shoulder by the time the last of the mourners had left. Only Yuiichi remained. His wife had thoughtfully left food for the Fujiwaras and realising Bunta wanted to be alone, had quietly left.
'I don't know what to do, Yuiichi.' Bunta said hopelessly. 'How can I bring Takumi up by myself?'
'You'll do fine Bunta. You're a wonderful father,' Yuiichi said, hating the triteness of his words.
'All I know is racing and making tofu,' Bunta said, uncharacteristically bitter. 'How am I supposed to bring up my son with that? I can't fail him…'
'You won't.' Yuiichi said firmly. 'You'll do fine. You've done a fine job up till now.'
Bunta didn't reply. Yuiichi looked his friend feeling helpless in the face of Bunta's grief and loss. Before leaving, he clasped Bunta's arm and said, 'You will be all right Bunta. I know it doesn't seem like that now, but you will be all right. You will survive this.' He tried to will Bunta some of his hope and conviction. Bunta made no reply and Yuiichi left.
After Bunta tucked Takumi in his bed, he went to his room, put his head in his hands and wept bitterly.
Seven year old Takumi had a burning fever and Bunta was beside himself with anxiety. He was worried that the fever might be a symptom of something more serious. He hadn't hesitated to rush him to the hospital.
The familiar sterile smell of the hospital made his stomach turn. Bunta absolutely despised hospitals. Incidentally, so did Takumi. Unlike Bunta though, he had qualms about making his displeasure known vocally. Bunta had a hard time trying to convince the crabby, squirming boy to keep still long enough for the doctor to examine him. But Takumi kept pushing away the doctor's hand.
'I'm sorry,' Bunta apologised helplessly. 'It's just that he doesn't like hospitals.'
The doctor waved his apologies off. 'It happens all the time,' he assured him as he checked Takumi who was by then too worn out to really protest. Takumi hadn't loosened his hold on Bunta though.
'Nothing to worry about. He's just caught the flu that's been going around. The medicines ought to reduce his fever,' the doctor informed him later, handing him a prescription.
But Bunta worried anyway and stayed up watching his son until the fever broke.
'What happened to your face?' Bunta asked his nine year old son.
Bunta raised an eyebrow. Takumi's left cheek was sporting the beginnings of a bruise and he had a split lip. His clothes were filthy and looked rather worse for wear. Bunta wondered where else he had bruises. Takumi had his chin out and was looking defiantly at his father. The look would have been more effective if hadn't looked like he was about to burst into tears any moment. 'It doesn't look like nothing.'
Takumi looked away without speaking.
Bunta repressed a sigh. The boy was ridiculously stubborn. He took a deep drag on his cigarette. 'You got into a fight.' It was a statement and not a question.
After a pause Takumi said, 'They were picking on Itsuki. They shoved him to the ground.'
Ah. Bullies. 'So you decided to interfere?'
Takumi's eyes flashed with anger. 'I couldn't just stand there and watch! And they always make fun of us! But this time when they hit him-' he took a deep breath. 'I couldn't just stand there and watch.'
'Did you manage to get any of them?'
Bunta took another drag. 'I see.' He gave his son a level look. Takumi met it part defiantly, part nervously. 'I can show you a few moves if you want.'
Takumi gaped at him in shock. 'What?'
'Something wrong with your ears? I said I can teach you a couple moves. Since you're going to do stupid things like pick fights with guys bigger than you… well anyway, boys should know how to handle themselves in a fight. Downright useful talent.' Bunta's eyes took on a faraway look as if he were remembering something. He nodded. 'Really useful.' He looked at Takumi who was still gaping at him. 'So? How about it?'
'Takumi. Takumi.' Bunta shook his thirteen year old son awake. 'Wake up.'
Takumi opened his eyes blearily. He sat up, confused, blinking rapidly as Bunta switched the lights on.
'Go wash your face and get dressed, Takumi.'
'What's wrong, Dad?' Takumi asked, a hint of worry creeping into his voice. The clock on his table read 4:00.
'Nothing's wrong. Get dressed at meet me downstairs. Hurry up.' He told his bemused son.
Ten minutes later, Takumi was down and staring uncomprehendingly at the Trueno.
'Well, what are you staring at? Get in. I don't have all day.' Bunta said from his place behind the wheel. Still looking very confused, Takumi climbed into the passenger seat and put his seatbelt on.
On the drive uphill Bunta told a pale Takumi, 'you'll have to the delivery from now onwards. I think you're old enough to drive a car. Make sure you pay attention. You'll be doing this soon.' Takumi just stared at him eyes wide with fear; his hands gripped the seats so tightly, his knuckles were white.
Once at the hotel, Bunta got out and helped unload the tofu. Takumi sat in the car, grateful for the respite from his father's insane driving. It was the first time Bunta had driven that fast with Takumi in the car.
Bunta got into the car. A half smile was all the warning Takumi got before his father attacked the downhill of Akina. Takumi had no way of knowing that his father was once a legendary racer who had terrified even his fellow racers with his insane cornering and complete lack of fear on the downhill. He also had no way of knowing that on that particular drive, he had broken all his previous records. All Takumi registered was paralysing terror and that the thought that his father had lost his mind. Bunta paid no mind to the involuntary cry Takumi gave when he tackled one of the corners.
By the time they got home, Takumi was a quivering mass of jelly. Takumi fumbled with his seatbelt, his fingers nerveless. He got out and managed to stand without falling. Bunta unbuckled his seatbelt and got out of the car. He watched his son catch his breath. He calmly lit up a cigarette. Takumi glared wildly at him. 'You're mad!' he declared hoarsely. 'Completely mad!'
Bunta let out a puff of smoke. Takumi turned to stalk off. He had gone no further than a few steps when Bunta said casually, 'So you're running away scared, huh?' He smiled in satisfaction when he saw Takumi's back stiffen and his hands clench. He wiped the smile from his face when Takumi turned around slowly.
Bunta raised an eyebrow, 'well?'
Takumi trudged towards the car. He gave a defeated sigh. 'Show me.'
'Did you spill any water?' Bunta asked his fourteen year old son.
Takumi shook his head as he handed back the car keys. He went up to his room to get a little sleep before school.
Bunta smiled. He was getting better. Takumi had got a hang of it petty quickly for all that he complained and protested about doing the deliveries. If Bunta played his cards right, he was going to be an extremely skilled driver one day. And anyway, this would give Takumi something to focus on and keep him out of trouble.
Bunta realised that most parents would consider it a pretty unorthodox and, not to mention, dangerous method of teaching a child discipline and control. That went to show what they knew. As a former racer, he knew the concentration and patience required to master a car, to control it like your limbs.
Years ago, he had told Yuiichi that all he knew was racing and making tofu –not exactly the qualities required to bring up a child. Or so he had thought. But Fujiwara Bunta was nothing if not resourceful. It was that particular trait that had made him an undefeated street racing legend back in the day. And it was because of that particular trait that he had discovered a way to combine racing, tofu and parenting. A stroke of genius, even if he did say so himself.
Bunta was surprised to see Takumi sitting in the spare room next to his bedroom, pouring over a book. They used it as a study cum storeroom of sorts. Or rather, Bunta did; Takumi hardly ever stepped into the room.
Takumi looked up from his book. 'Hey Dad,' he greeted.
Bunta put the accounts ledger on the table. 'How unusual to see you reading,' he remarked.
Takumi shrugged, 'I was bored.' He looked at the shelves stacked with books. 'We sure have a lot of books.'
'Your mother used to read a lot. Most of these books were hers.' Bunta gestured at the book Takumi was reading, 'that one was one of her favourites.'
'Oh.' Takumi looked at his book thoughtfully. He didn't remember much about his mother and Bunta hardly ever spoke of her. He considered this bit of information.
Bunta was just about to turn to leave the room when Takumi asked, 'um…Dad?'
'Was…was she popular?'
Popular? Bunta was surprised though he didn't show it. 'Well, she was very pretty. So, obviously that alone made her quite popular.'
Bunta watched the play of emotions on his son's face with well concealed curiosity. After a couple of seconds, Takumi asked hesitantly, 'um, Dad…were you popular?'
Bunta raised an eyebrow. What was all this about? 'I was popular enough,' he told Takumi. He saw no need to tell him about the hoards of girls who showed up at races and how he hadn't been above taking many of them up on their offer.
He watched curiously as Takumi's face fell. 'Oh…' he said, sounding dejected.
'What's this about?'
Takumi shook his head. 'Nothing. Just curious.'
Bunta considered his son for a few seconds before shrugging and walking out of the room. Once outside, he absently lit up a cigarette as he pondered about his son's behaviour. It was rather obvious to him that his sixteen year old son had a girl on his mind. A pretty and popular girl, it seemed.
He knew something was troubling Takumi and that it had been troubling him for some time now. Yuiichi had mentioned some team called Emperors and LanEvos. He wondered if perhaps that was the problem, but then quickly dismissed it. It would take more than some silly race for Takumi to look so…haunted. Bunta was getting worried.
He had only gotten more worried when Takumi, looking strangely agitated after getting a phone call, had asked him if he could borrow the car. Bunta had been almost tempted to refuse. Instead he nonchalantly handed him the keys. Bunta had a bad feeling about the whole thing. So, when Yuiichi mentioned that Takumi might have gone to Akagi, quite possibly to race, Bunta knew what he had to do. He knew that Takumi had had no intention of racing; something must have happened to change his mind. And considering how Takumi had been acting recently, he wouldn't be surprised if he used the race to vent his feelings. Which meant, the engine stood no chance.
His worst fears were confirmed when he got to Akagi. Takumi was a wreck and the engine had finally given out. He didn't think he'd ever seen his son look so depressed and defeated. And even though he was all of eighteen years old, Takumi was still his little boy and all Bunta was concerned about was that he was upset and racked with guilt and disappointment and other emotions Bunta couldn't identify. He patted Takumi's head as he cried quietly and knew without being told that he was crying for more than just the ruined engine.
He was inside putting away the empty trays when sound of the bell alerted Bunta that he had customers. It was rather late for customers; he was just about to close the shop. He wiped his hand on a towel and made way to the shop.
A tall boy with spiky blond hair was standing in the middle of the shop, looking around with undisguised curiosity, as if he'd never been in a tofu shop before. 'I'm afraid we're closed for the day,' Bunta informed him.
The boy started and turned away from the shelf he was scrutinizing; he hadn't seen Bunta come in. 'I…uh...I didn't come here to buy tofu,' the boy said flustered. 'Um…I actually came to see Fujiwara.'
Ah, one of Takumi's friends. 'I'm Fujiwara,' he said blithely. Bunta had an odd sense of humour.
'Er…no, I mean the other Fuj…er…Takumi…Fujiwara Takumi,' the boy said, blushing faintly.
Bunta took a long drag on his cigarette and he surveyed the boy with well concealed amusement. 'I see. Well, Takumi just got back from work. He's in the shower.'
'Oh. Er…all right then. Just tell him that Taka-'
Bunta cut him off. 'You can wait inside if you want. He'll be done in ten minutes.'
'What? …er…no…that's all right…I don't want to trouble you…I should get going'
'Er…I mean…well…' the boy trailed off embarrassed. Bunta merely looked at him impassively through a cloud of cigarette smoke. He looked at Bunta uncertainly.
'Through the back,' Bunta said, smiling slightly.
Takahashi Keisuke looked very out of place in the Fujiwara's tiny living room. His natural curiosity had overcome his embarrassment and he was surveying the room with unabashed interest. He accepted a cigarette from Bunta and lit it.
'I actually came to ask Fujiwara if he was free to practise on Akina with me,' Keisuke informed Bunta.
'I see.' Bunta paused before saying with a slight smile, 'you'll need the practise if you're planning to challenge Takumi to a battle on Akina again.'
'What?' Keisuke asked surprised. 'No, I have no plans to challenge him now. We're on the same team and anyway, if my brother found out…' he trailed off.
'Who said anything about challenging Takumi now? But you will, challenge him I mean, sooner and later. You don't seem like you accept defeat easily.'
'How can you tell?'
Bunta smiled. 'You can tell a lot of things when you get to my age.'
Keisuke puffed absently on his cigarette, engrossed in his thoughts.
'Sometimes I think that it's impossible to beat him on Akina,' Keisuke said eventually.
'It'll be hard,' Bunta agreed.
'But not impossible? You're saying he can be beaten?'
Bunta shrugged indifferently. 'Everyone can be beaten.'
There was another pause as Keisuke contemplated this. Having finished his cigarette, Bunta reached for another one.
'He's one hell of a driver,' Keisuke said after some time. 'He's incredible…working with him, it's hard not to realise just how good he is.'
Well, of course, Bunta thought. He was taught by the best, even if he said so himself. 'Hmmm…' Bunta said vaguely. He continued, 'Takumi's still got a long way to go. He'll get better, faster.'
'That's a scary thought,' Keisuke said with a slight smile.
Bunta took another leisurely drag on his cigarette. Keisuke looked preoccupied and unsure. It wasn't hard to figure out what was worrying him. 'Well, all you have to do is be faster,' Bunta remarked in an off-hand tone.
'Yes, that's all I have to do.' Keisuke laughed. 'He is advancing rapidly and he's got a very interesting style,' he continued thoughtfully. 'He makes it look so easy…. It's like I wear myself out trying to keep up -' He stooped suddenly, embarrassed at having revealed so much.
Bunta didn't see the need to inform Keisuke that the reason Takumi was advancing so rapidly was because he had, in effect, two teachers. 'Well, he feels the stress too. It's not easy for him either. You've worked with him long enough; you should know his weakpoints by now.'
'He doesn't seem to have any weak spots.'
'Rubbish! Everyone's got weak points. Use it to your advantage.'
Keisuke was struck by the absurdity of the situation. Fujiwara's father of all people was offering Keisuke advice, well sort of, on how to beat him. Did he want his son to lose? 'Why are you telling me this? Do you want your son to lose?' he asked.
'Nothing so dramatic,' Bunta said smiling. He smoked lazily. 'I was just telling you that that's what it's going to take to even try to beat Takumi. Unless you use everything you know against him, it won't even be a battle. If you don't think that's necessary, then you seriously underestimate him.'
Keisuke gave him a shrewd look. 'You don't think I can beat him. Isn't that so, Fujiwara-san?'
'He's my son,' Bunta said simply and Keisuke was left to ponder over the nuances of the seemingly simple remark.
Keisuke put the cigarette butt in the ashtray. 'Um…Fujiwara-san,' he said as a sudden thought struck him. 'Did you race when you were younger?'
Bunta laughed. 'Now, that's neither here nor there,' he said. He pushed the pack of cigarettes towards Keisuke. 'Another one?'
Keisuke shook his head. 'No. Thanks.'
Bunta looked at the clock. 'He's should be down soon,' he said. Moments later, the soft thumps of Takumi coming down the stairs were heard.
Takumi appeared wearing his usual jeans and T-shirt, hair damp from his shower. He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw they had a guest. 'Keisuke-san!' he exclaimed completely surprised.
Keisuke grinned and stood up. 'I was hoping we could practise on Akina. You're free, aren't you?'
'Yeah, I'm free,' Takumi said, still bemused. He glanced at his father who was looking on indifferently. 'Right. Let me get my keys.'
Once outside, Keisuke bowed and said, 'Thank you for your hospitality, Fujiwara-san.'
Bunta offered him a slight smile. 'Come again sometime,' he said.
Keisuke smiled back. He turned to Takumi and said, 'I've parked my car in the front. I'll meet you there.' With a final nod at Bunta, he walked off.
'He's a nice kid,' Bunta commented.
'How long did he wait?' Takumi asked.
'Oh, about ten minutes.'
'What did you talk about?' Takumi asked, sounding more than a little suspicious.
'This and that,' Bunta said lazily.
Takumi gave him an annoyed look. He knew he wouldn't get anything more out of his father so he climbed into the Hachi-Roku and with a brisk 'I'm off', he left.
That's children for you, Bunta thought amused. You look after them, you care for them, you put their every need before yours and they're still embarrassed when you talk to their friends. He smoked leisurely. Keisuke was a good kid and probably an exceptional racer. But for all his skills and determination, he wouldn't be able to beat Takumi.
Takumi was Fujiwara Bunta's son after all.
A/N: I just had to write a fic about Bunta. He's one my favourite characters. It's weird but story came out much differently than how I saw it in my head. and I couldn't resist adding Keisuke.