A/N: FLUFF ALERT!!
It seems I have no choice but to hold you
Because you're smiling in that sort of way
I'll never make you be alone.
I definitely don't want to ever let you go.
– Dakishimete Shimaisou Sa, Tezuka Kunimitsu
One Year In Four - Epilogue
October 7, 2012 – Tezuka's 29th birthday.
Streaks of red meshed with the orange sky, like lines of blood against the clouds as the sun set and gave way to the night. Fuji watched quietly, smiling. The swift sea breeze touched Tezuka's hair, tousling it a little, messing it so that Tezuka had to brush his hair back. Fuji chuckled when Tezuka's hair seemed to be as stubborn as Tezuka himself, falling down against Tezuka's brows, clinging low on Tezuka's cheeks.
"Doesn't the sky look like a summer shake? And that cloud looks like a summer shake bunny," Fuji said, walking toward Tezuka. He ruffled Tezuka's hair causing Tezuka to frown disapprovingly.
Tezuka did not question Fuji's odd choice of comparison. He was more than used to it. Instead, he crossed his arms and let Fuji play with his hair.
"I'd like a summer shake right now," Fuji said thoughtfully, still absently raking his hand through Tezuka's hair, loosening the tangles and smoothing the strands. "Melon, orange, mango and pineapple…"
"It's spring," Tezuka pointed out. He shut his eyes unconsciously, relaxed by the way Fuji's fingers caressed his scalp. He opened his eyes however when he felt Fuji's hand drop to his side.
"We should come here on summer," Fuji said cheerfully, overlooking the cliff and toward the sea.
"If that's what you want," Tezuka said, glancing down at Fuji to see the latter's furrowed brows.
"It's you who needs the break," Fuji said, poking childishly at Tezuka's arm. Fuji grinned, eyes gleaming mischievously.
Tezuka felt Fuji's fingers prodding his and he frowned, feeling a cold, round metal in his palm. He opened his hand and stared. He could feel his heart in his throat, in his head and in his hands.
"I'm not returning it," said Fuji, beaming in reassurance. He held out his left hand and wiggled his ring finger in emphasis. "See?"
Still feeling his pulse in his throat, Tezuka nodded. But he still couldn't move let alone slip the silver band around his finger.
Laughing, Fuji stroked Tezuka's back, meaning to give comfort. He could feel Tezuka quiver under his touch and he smiled broadly, holding Tezuka close. "What? Did you expect me to say 'no'?" he asked, grinning in hope to ease Tezuka's tension.
Tezuka shook his head quietly.
"Good," Fuji said, nearly whispering to Tezuka's ear. "Name the time and place, Kunimitsu, and I'll marry you."
Several koi swam towards Tezuka's hand, their scales glistening like tiny crystals as they gracefully floated up the surface to feed on the pellets in Tezuka's palm. Tezuka glanced up at Fuji. A rare smile crossed his face as he heard the latter's crunching footsteps. Fuji smiled back, amused by Tezuka's fascination for fish that almost rivaled his affection for cacti. Fuji took some of the fish pellets that Tezuka offered and squatted beside Tezuka. Fuji submerged his hand in the clear water of the koi pond and watched contentedly as some of the koi left Tezuka and went to nibble from his hand instead.
He couldn't really blame Tezuka for liking the koi so much. They were very graceful, beautiful and peaceful creatures that Fuji could feel their tranquility pass through him as well.
"Honda called," Tezuka started informatively.
"Hm?" Fuji said, watching Tezuka's reflection right beside his.
"She just had an ultrasound," Tezuka added. "The baby's a girl."
"I see," said Fuji slowly, still watching the fish.
Fuji saw Tezuka's eyes glance at him through the rippling reflection before Tezuka said, "If you don't want to go on – "
"Of course, I do," Fuji said quietly. "I just think that it would be very difficult to raise a child seeing as we're… different."
Tezuka nodded. He understood this just as well; he had his own doubts. Maybe the child would be treated differently… maybe the child would resent them… He looked at his empty hand and watched the koi swim to Fuji. But he knew that they both had to give it a try. "We'll do our best," he told Fuji.
Lifting his head, Fuji discerned Tezuka. There was so much determination in Tezuka's face that overrode the anxiety. Fuji smiled inwardly, washing away his fears, trusting Tezuka like he always did. He nodded "Yes. We won't get careless."
Fuji heard the sharp cry the moment he entered the door. He rushed toward the nursery and saw Suzumi kicking her feet, flailing her arms and bawling her lungs out as Ayana cradled the baby in her arms. He checked the wall clock. "Ten o'clock," he whispered to himself, knitting his brows in disbelief. He bowed low to Ayana and said, "Sorry, okaasan. I know how late it is. Sorry." He took Suzumi in his arms, shushing her with a feeding bottle. "Kunimitsu should have been here since seven."
Ayana smiled patiently at him. "I don't mind," she said cheerfully. "She's my only granddaughter, after all."
"Please stay, okaasan," Fuji said in a hushed voice, gently rocking the baby in his arms. "It's late already and Kunimitsu's not here to drive you home."
Ayana nodded. "I'll prepare food for you then."
Bowing, Fuji murmured his thanks that caused Ayana to wave her hand. "Syusuke, stop that. We're family, aren't we?"
"But this never happened before and Kunimitsu didn't even call," Fuji said pensively.
"I'm sure he's all right," Ayana said reassuringly before she left the room.
The house was already quiet; Suzumi had fallen into a deep slumber and Ayana had retired to bed when Fuji heard the front door click. He looked up, seated in the couch. His usual cheerful smile was gone, leaving an unreadable expression on his face.
Fuji didn't speak as Tezuka gave him a peck on the cheek. Fuji only headed toward the kitchen, heated what was left of dinner and served it to Tezuka without uttering a word.
"The team had an emergency," Tezuka said, sensing tension in the air.
"I see," Fuji said coolly. "I'm going to bed. You should too once you're finished eating." He turned his back, biting his lower lip as he strolled to their bedroom.
Burying his face to the pillow, Fuji took in a deep breath and heaved a sigh. His stomach squirmed in guilt for the way he had treated Tezuka. But Tezuka had arrived at eleven o'clock in the evening without even calling and Fuji had no idea what kind of emergency could have happened that required a university tennis coach to stay so late at night. Fuji rolled to his side and squeezed his eyes shut, forcing himself to sleep.
But Fuji remained wide awake for twenty minutes… thirty… sixty… Wondering wherever Tezuka went, he bolted up from bed and checked the rooms. He found Tezuka in the library, seated before the desk, head pored over a thick book.
"Why aren't you sleeping yet?" Fuji asked tonelessly.
Tezuka rubbed the bridge of his nose and didn't turn. "I have an exam tomorrow."
Fuji would have watched coldly and stayed in the doorway until he saw Tezuka's brows knit as if in pain. Alarmed, he took quick steps to Tezuka's side and asked, "What's wrong?"
"Headache," Tezuka replied quickly, squinting his eyes to focus on the text.
"Did you take medicine?" Fuji asked, worry overcoming his frustration.
"Yes," Tezuka answered.
"Do you really have to stay up?"
For a moment, Tezuka didn't respond. Then, Fuji heard a sigh and a quick "Sorry." Tezuka raised his head and said, "One of our doubles players was injured and we had to find a replacement right away."
Pressing his lips, Fuji said, "But you should have called."
"I'm sorry," Tezuka said again, more clearly this time.
Fuji reached out to pat Tezuka's hand. "Next time this happens, don't forget to call," he said in a low, serious voice. "What if you already got kidnapped?"
Raising his brow, Tezuka glanced up at Fuji. "Kidnapped?" he asked. But then he saw Fuji's smile and he nodded, understanding.
"Did you get a good substitute?" inquired Fuji, smiling thoughtfully.
"But you're not exactly a good doubles player and the tournament is less than a week away, isn't it?" Fuji said, ruffling Tezuka's hair.
Tezuka only grunted, glaring as Fuji made fun of his inability of playing doubles.
"I'll ask Eiji and Oishi to help you," Fuji said decidedly. "And give me some of your required reading, I'll summarize them for you."
"Where's Suzumi?" asked Fuji. His blue eyes were hazy with a mixture of anxiety and fear as he entered the hospital room B-206. His eyes glanced around the room, searching.
Tezuka immediately rose from where he was seated. He hurried to meet Fuji, running a strong, soothing arm down Fuji's back. "She's fine. It's just flu."
"Where is she?" Fuji asked. Concern was written all over his exhausted face.
Knowing that Fuji will not stop worrying without seeing Suzumi for himself, Tezuka nodded his head toward the hospital bed. Fuji pulled a sigh of relief at the sight of Suzumi sleeping soundly in bed. He took her thumb away from her mouth and pulled the blanket up to her chest.
"I've been so busy recently," Fuji told Tezuka. His voice was soft - a guilty whisper.
Tezuka took off the coat that Fuji forgot he was still wearing. Tezuka smiled gently and led Fuji to the couch. He held Fuji close so that Fuji's head rested on his shoulder. "Sleep," he said. "You're tired."
"Maybe I should quit work and find something simpler," Fuji said pensively. "It consumes so much of my time – "
"That's not necessary," Tezuka whispered against the top of Fuji's head. "She's really just fine."
No argument came from Fuji and Tezuka smiled, seeing Fuji's sleeping face. He knew less than a handful of things that Fuji genuinely cared about: family, friends, cacti and photography. Given a choice, Tezuka would prefer that Fuji gave up none of these things for the others.
"Do you like this gift?" Fuji asked, smiling brightly up at Tezuka as they sat in bed. Fuji waited patiently for the answer, watching as Tezuka flipped the pages of the photo album – Fuji's gift for Tezuka's twenty-ninth birthday. Fuji found that after more than ten years of knowing Tezuka, his heart still swelled at Tezuka's open admiration of his photography. Fuji enjoyed it – the way Tezuka's eyes scrutinized the pictures, the way Tezuka ran slightly calloused fingers down each page.
"Thank you," Tezuka said sincerely after seeing the last picture. "You took so many."
"But you like it?" Fuji asked expectantly.
"You know that you're my favorite model," Fuji chuckled. He turned to Suzumi who was bouncing up and down the bed, causing the springs to creak. "Suzumi, you have a gift to Otousan, don't you?"
"Yes, yes!" the three-year old child said eagerly. She held out a picture, something all-too-familiar to Tezuka. "This is Otousan in Mount Everest, isn't it, Otouchan?" When Fuji nodded, she grinned. She flipped the photo so that she could see the back. "It says… hmm…" She scrunched up her nose in an obvious effort to read. "I… kn-know… I cou-could cl-climb up to any height with you."
Tezuka's gaze was brought to Fuji, then to Suzumi. He couldn't tell which could've made him happier - the fact that Suzumi could read or what Fuji wrote behind his picture on top of the world's highest peak.
I'll be right by your side
For the rest of my life.
-Right By Your Side, Fuji Syusuke
A/N: Ignore me and my addiction to summer shake and bunnies. :D I hope this epilogue made up for all of OYIF's downtimes. Thank you to those who requested the pictures, for bearing with my clichéd ideas, for bearing with Honda, for bearing with my overzealous fangirling. But, most of all, thank you for reading! All reviews are much appreciated for this epilogue. (If you like, you can tell me which was your favorite chapter from each fic in this trilogy. Ü) Please drop an email address, too, if you're an anonymous reviewer so that I can thank you. TezuFuji is good for the soul and it's already a part of mine. This doesn't end the TezuFuji writing, of course. This paves way to more. Hope you can read more of my TezuFuji works. –bows-