A/N: Hello, everyone! Long time, no see! Yes, I'm still writing PoT fanfiction, and yes, I'm finally posting again after a long semester and a summer job. For a complete update on my current status, check my bio page.
As for this fic, it's my attempt at writing for the FujiRyo pairing, and I'm dedicating it to Ishka, who writes very sweet FujiRyo pieces. I did my best to keep it believable, so all feedback is welcome, especially since it's my first time writing for the two of them. (Incidentally, I'm pretty sure there are no showers in Seigaku's clubroom, so just humor me during that part.) Enjoy!
Warning: Very light shonen-ai/slash/BL/boy-boy pairing. Don't read if you can't stand it. Needless flames will be used to make s'mores. XD
"Perfection itself can be a kind of flaw."
One corner of Ryoma's mouth tugged upward as he recalled the conversation.
"Don't you think so, Echizen?"
It was as though he could hear that melodic voice ringing inside his ears, or maybe somewhere over his head. Fuji Shusuke's voice was like that. It stayed inside a person's thoughts, long after the speaker had vanished.
It was like that now, as Ryoma carefully slipped book after book onto the long shelf in front of his face. It was getting late; tennis practice would soon be over, and the other Regulars would be changing out of their sweaty uniforms and heading home. Ryoma, however, was not with them. In fact, he was stuck with library duty that day, so he couldn't go to practice.
He couldn't help frowning about that. As much as classroom-related duties were a part of going to middle school, he didn't like missing tennis practice. And standing in a library trying to find where a pile of textbooks was supposed to go wasn't his idea of fun, either.
So instead of fuming about having to miss anything to do with his most beloved sport, he was letting his thoughts wander. And now he found himself wondering why his thoughts were inevitably wandering toward the tensai of Seigaku. It wasn't as though they had talked much within the past few days… In fact, Ryoma wasn't even sure that they'd so much as made eye contact for almost a week.
"You've got a ways to go before you can beat me."
Thump. Thu-thump. Thu-thump.
That's right. The rain. It was because of the rain.
It had been just over a week since that fateful tennis practice, the one where Ryoma had finally found himself pitted against Fuji Shusuke in a tennis match. It had been even more exciting than he had anticipated… The tensai had thrown him for a loop more than once, and by the time that unfortunate downpour had cancelled their epic duel, Ryoma had been losing by several games. That was still a frustration to him… Just when he had been starting to turn the outcome around, the match had been stopped.
But it wasn't as much of a frustration as he might have expected. For the first time, Echizen Ryoma was content with the fact that the match had taken place at all. He had always been curious about the infamous 'tensai' of Seigaku, and Fuji had surpassed his expectations on that stormy afternoon. It was true, that Fuji was a tensai, a prodigy, a genius… It was all true…
But it was more than that.
Because Fuji Shusuke, with all his adroit skill, was perfect. It had taken an underhanded kind of trick on Ryoma's part to disable just one of his 'triple counter' moves, and even that had been an imperfect solution at best. And so Ryoma could draw only one conclusion from this.
Fuji Shusuke was perfect.
"Perfection can be a flaw."
"Don't you think, Echizen?"
Ryoma remembered that snippet of a conversation only vaguely. As far as he could recall, they hadn't even been talking about Fuji at the time. In fact, it was Ryoma's faint conviction that they had been talking about Tezuka Kunimitsu, their imposing captain, instead. Fuji Shusuke had a certain level of unshakable admiration for Tezuka, a fact that almost surprised Ryoma. After all, Fuji himself was an impressive player, and if he weren't always so hesitant to reveal his true abilities, he probably could have matched the captain in skill.
But then again, Ryoma could understand it, even if it was surprising. After all, they were talking about Tezuka. Tezuka was… Well, Tezuka was something else. Using the word 'perfection' in relation to the stoic captain was almost an understatement. In fact, it wasn't like Tezuka didn't have any flaws… It was more like the man was completely above flaws.
This was why, even though he dimly grasped what Fuji had been trying to say, he thought that it didn't really apply to Tezuka.
He thought, in fact, that it applied much more accurately to Fuji himself.
It was difficult to describe, how the tensai's perfection seemed almost like a flaw. Fuji was like a living, breathing picture… Always smiling, always quietly observing all of Seigaku's tennis matches, always commenting on them with a unique kind of insight that flowed like poetry. This façade that Fuji liked to wear in public was appealing, and even appropriate. It was of the image of an unassuming yet beautiful boy, gifted in every possible way and blessed with a cheerful disposition.
But Ryoma, for his part, thought that this outward perfection was nothing but a flaw. After all, it did little more than serve to hide the tensai's real self, a vibrant and passionate being that sometimes awakened during his most challenging matches. In Ryoma's mind, it was when that perfect mask dropped, and those electric blue eyes shot open and pierced the air with their fire, that the tensai became the most beautiful.
This was what he thought… Or would have thought, if he had possessed the words to express it.
As it was, he shook his head slightly and glanced back at the dwindling pile of textbooks. He was nearly done; just a few more and he could leave. Checking the clock on the wall, he noticed with regret that there was no way that he would finish in time to get to tennis practice, not even for a few minutes. In fact, the team was probably in the locker room already, preparing to go home. With his pace slackening somewhat, Ryoma leisurely filed the last of the books into their places on the shelf, and started making his way toward the exit.
As he passed by the tennis clubroom, he glanced toward the courts. Sure enough, they were already deserted. So deserted, in fact, that the freshman had already finished picking up all the balls and sweeping the courts. Ryoma craned his neck upward toward the sky. He hadn't been aware of the steady passage of time inside the library; it was already sunset, and twilight was approaching quickly.
Just as he was about to shrug to himself and continue on his way, the sudden sound of a door opening and closing attracted his attention. There, coming out of the clubroom, was Seigaku's vice captain, Oishi Shuichiroh. This wasn't exactly unusual… Oishi was the one in charge of locking up the club room after practice, and of unlocking it first thing in the morning.
What did ignite Ryoma's curiosity, however, was the way Oishi hovered on the threshold for a moment, and then leaned inside the locker room, calling, "Fuji! I'm leaving now! Just turn the lock on the door before you go, okay?"
Ryoma strained to hear the response, but all he could hear was a faint, cheerful sound, which he assumed to be Fuji's reply. He would have listened a bit longer, trying to decipher the muffled words, if Oishi hadn't gently closed the door and noticed the freshman standing there.
"Oh, hey, Echizen!" the vice captain remarked amiably. "I didn't see you there. You weren't at practice today?"
Ryoma nodded, almost blankly, and offered the barest of explanations. "Library duty."
"Ah, I see," Oishi affirmed, with his usual smile. "Well, I'll see you tomorrow morning, then!"
Ryoma responded to the vice captain's friendly wave with another nod, cordial if not articulate. And as Oishi began to walk away, the freshman's eyes returned to focus on that clubroom door, with an almost determined intensity. He didn't know why, but he was curious now… And so…
Oh, well. Why not?
Ryoma turned the doorknob and slipped into the clubroom. He was instantly met with a distinct combination of the smell of sweat, the faint warmth of steam, and other, lighter smells still lingering around the carefully washed uniforms that were tucked into the cubbyholes. It was a familiar feeling, the kind that Ryoma had grown accustomed to being enveloped in before every tennis practice. Usually, however, it was coupled with a frantic cadence of sounds, mostly thoughtless chatter on the part of his teammates.
Now, though, there were only two sounds echoing in the empty room… The faint hissing noise as a showerhead gradually stopped flowing, and the light rhythm of the last drops of water hitting against the tile in the bathroom.
So that was it. He had been taking a shower.
Ryoma fully intended to leave it at that, and turned back toward the door to leave. But he froze by the door an instant later, when that familiar voice called out in the silence…
"Saa, Oishi, you know that Eiji's waiting for you. You'd better hurry."
The comment was said in an almost laughing tone, but it took Ryoma's breath away. Of course, he was already familiar with the beautiful quality of the tensai's voice, but something about the way it sounded as it echoed in the empty locker room was almost ethereal. Ryoma opened his mouth, intending to give the tensai some kind of response, but the words were stuck in his throat.
"You've got a ways to go before you can beat me."
Ryoma's heart started to pound silently in his chest, as he remembered once again. The rain… It was just like the rain…
There was a faint rustling noise somewhere outside of Ryoma's consciousness, and then that beautiful voice spoke again. This time, though, that melodic tone held a faint hint of surprise.
"Oh, Echizen, it's you. I didn't know you were in here."
Ryoma looked up, only to find himself face to face with living perfection. Sure enough, there was Fuji Shusuke, soaking wet and wearing nothing but his tennis shorts. He had been occupied in briskly drying off his hair with a towel, but his blue eyes were now fixed upon the unexpected presence of Ryoma, with an almost startling intensity.
For a split second, Ryoma forgot how to breathe.
But just as quickly, Fuji's eyes shut again, and Ryoma immediately lapsed into his usual attitude of apathy.
"Uh, yeah, I thought I'd stop by," the star freshman offered with a shrug. "I had library duty."
Fuji thought about this for a moment, as he walked over to the bench and started rummaging around in his tennis bag. Then he smiled, almost ironically, Ryoma thought.
"Mmm, yes, I seem to remember one of your classmates saying something about that," was the tensai's only comment.
The silence that followed was almost uncomfortable, or it would have been, if Ryoma hadn't been strangely fascinated by the sight of Fuji's bare skin. It suddenly occurred to him that he rarely ever saw Fuji undressed, or undressing, for that matter. It seemed odd, given that they all changed in this same room every day, but it was true. Really, it fit perfectly with Fuji's character… It always seemed like the tensai was hiding something.
And now that he wasn't hiding anything, Ryoma found his eyes fixating on every inch of Fuji's back, which was facing him as the tensai searched among his belongings.
And as he was staring, he had quite a surprise.
Fuji's skin was perfect. That didn't surprise Ryoma. Of course the tensai had perfectly smooth skin. Of course the subtle shape of the muscles down his back was like a picture, and completely flawless. Even his shoulder blades seemed perfectly symmetrical and perfectly formed.
But what surprised Ryoma wasn't Fuji's perfection.
It was the single flaw on that bare back.
He took a few steps closer, very quietly, straining to see. He wanted to make sure it was real… He couldn't quite believe that there could be a flaw on that perfect back. But there it was, all the same.
Just above Fuji's left shoulder blade, in that soft spot just below the neck, was a small white mark.
On Fuji's beautiful back, there was a scar.
In complete disbelief at this revelation, Ryoma felt his hand reach outward. Slowly, his fingers inched toward his senpai's damp skin, and before he even realized he was doing it, he found himself lightly tracing this tiny mark on Fuji's back.
The tensai jumped slightly from the sudden touch, and Ryoma almost smiled. He had startled the tensai of Seigaku… Well, that was saying something. Though what he was doing to cause that surprise, he genuinely had no idea. But somehow, his eyes couldn't leave that spot, that tiny imperfection on the flawless figure of Fuji Shusuke.
"Echizen," Fuji finally managed, his voice sounding a bit taken aback. "What are you doing?"
"Sorry, Fuji-senpai," Ryoma offered slowly. But his finger didn't leave its spot on Fuji's porcelain skin.
After a second had passed, or maybe it was a full minute, Fuji hesitantly cleared his throat.
"Saa, Echizen, do you mind if I put on my shirt now?"
Ryoma almost choked at that, and he felt his face get warm. He quickly pulled back his hand.
"Ahh, umm… Excuse me, Fuji-senpai. I was just… that's…"
After a few more incoherent attempts at an explanation, the star freshman finally managed to say something that was close to a complete thought.
"It's just… That scar. On your back."
There was a long pause, as they both listened to the deafening silence in the locker room. And then, slowly, Fuji's hand went up to his own shoulder, and his fingers carefully slipped down his back, brushing against that tiny imperfection.
"You mean this?" the tensai asked, very quietly.
Ryoma managed a nod, but then realized that Fuji couldn't have seen it. When he tried to choke out an answer, he could only whisper, "Yes."
For a moment, Fuji's hand lingered on the white mark, and then his arm dropped back to his side.
"I've had it for a long time," he said at last, with a slight shrug of his bare shoulders.
Ryoma was silent for a moment, as he listened to the tensai's remark. He had the distinct feeling that he should drop the subject, but then curiosity got the better of him.
"How did you get it?" he wondered aloud.
Fuji's electric blue eyes flickered open, as he glanced over his shoulder at the freshman. A painfully silent minute slipped by, and Ryoma was certain that the tensai would give him no explanation whatsoever. But then, Fuji Shusuke sighed, just a little, and his face returned to its customary smiling expression.
"My brother and I were fighting one day, when we were small. I still don't remember how the fight started… I don't think he does, either." Fuji smiled a bit softer at the memory. "The only thing we both remember is when he shoved me, and I fell backwards down an embankment and got a cut from some glass on the ground."
The tensai paused a moment, still remembering. And then he continued, in a more casual tone, "I had to get a few stitches, and it eventually left a scar. Not a very interesting story, I suppose, but that's what happened."
"No…" Ryoma's rushed interruption caught Fuji by surprise. The tensai turned around and looked the star freshman in the eyes.
"No? No, what?" he asked.
"No, it's…" Ryoma tried to reply with his usual ease, but something was making his words come out more stilted than usual. "It's interesting… It's not like you."
Fuji appeared to be thinking about this for a moment, with a faint hint of surprise lingering in his expression. And then he smiled.
"Not like me, Echizen? What do you mean?"
Ryoma felt his face get hot. He was starting to feel frustrated, though from what, he wasn't quite sure. Maybe it was the way that his thoughts were refusing to form themselves into coherent speech. Maybe it was the fact that Fuji was asking him to clarify his statements for the second time, and really, he didn't know what he was saying anymore. Maybe it was… maybe it was…
Maybe it was the rain.
Either way, Ryoma found himself blurting out something he hadn't meant to say at all.
"I mean, you're perfect, Fuji-senpai!"
Ryoma clamped a hand right over his mouth. He didn't know what he was saying anymore, but he certainly wasn't going to say anything else. Not at the rate this was going. Not with the way Fuji was staring right into his eyes, like he might pierce right through him.
"I'm perfect, Echizen?" Fuji repeating, looking very serious. And then, after a moment's pause, he smiled and laughed. "Well, I don't know about that. But even perfect people have their flaws, you know."
Ryoma thought about this for a moment, as his face cooled to its usual temperature.
"Fuji-senpai, that doesn't make any sense," he finally pointed out.
"Perhaps not," Fuji agreed, still smiling, as he slid into his collared shirt and began working at the buttons. "But it's true, nevertheless."
"What do you---" Ryoma was about to complete the question, when he remembered that conversation that had lingered in his thoughts only an hour earlier.
"Perfection itself can be a kind of flaw."
Suddenly, Ryoma understood. After all, Fuji Shusuke was perfect, and yet he wasn't perfect, either. He had no flaws, at least not flaws that he intentionally allowed to be revealed. And yet the perfection that he had achieved through his outward appearance… That perfection did nothing but hide those shockingly beautiful flaws.
It was something that clicked in Ryoma's brain for a split second, but that he would never be able to articulate out loud.
Before Ryoma could even try to articulate it, however, Fuji was securing the clasp on his school jacket and hoisting his tennis bag over one shoulder.
"Fuji-senpai," he exclaimed, before the tensai could move toward the door.
"Yes, Echizen?" Fuji turned to look at Seigaku's star rookie, with the usual smile on his face. Except that now, something about that smile was making it hard for Ryoma to keep his thoughts straight.
"Um… well…" Ryoma's mouth struggled for the right words to express his thoughts, but they just wouldn't come.
Fuij's smile got a little wider, as he helpfully filled in the blanks.
"Is it 'mada mada dane,' Echizen?" The suggestion was said in a light tone, completely unaffected by the implications of the phrase.
Ryoma couldn't laugh, not even ironically, at the joke. His lips felt like they were frozen in place.
"No," he finally managed. "Not that…"
For just a split second, Fuji's eyes opened again, intrigued by the hesitant reply. And that brief flash of sapphire blue pushed the words out of Ryoma's mouth, all at once.
"It's just that even your scars are perfect, Fuji-senpai."
Even before he had finished saying it, he had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. It was an odd thing to say, at the very least, and he had said it to Seigaku's most enigmatic player, after all…
Any doubts in Ryoma's mind about how the tensai would react were dispelled within the space of an instant.
"Why, thank you, Echizen…"
Fuji leaned down, close to Ryoma's face, and his fingers brushed against the boy's lips, lingering there for just a little longer than a second.
"So are yours."
The door to the clubroom opened and shut, and Fuji Shusuke headed home, leaving one precocious freshman to wonder about what his own scars could possibly be, and when Fuji had seen them.
And then he smiled, his usual half-smirk of a smile.
"Mada mada dane," he said to himself, with a sharpness that felt like the mark of a scar.