Rating: uh, probably G
Summary: Ten years later, Fuji's latest novel shows that art truly does imitate life. TezukaFuji
A/N: gleaned from my drafts pile, circa...05, I believe? The long italicized passages refer to the novel Fuji is writing.
as an amusing note, I actually own "Introduction to the Study and Practice of Law"
It's been ten years.
Ten years since dreams of glory, since the nationals and the mutual bond which held them together. After school they moved on.
Just life, a simple fact that is and has been for centauries. Life moves on, if you don't move with it, you'll be left behind.
Ryoma was the only one in Seigaku to go pro.
The others faded out of tennis and into their own respective lives, perhaps playing on weekends and saying "Remember when? Wasn't it grand?'
And they remember their former lives, the feeling of cement beneath rubber soles and how it felt like flying to hold rackets under the summer sun, cicadas humming loud enough to beat back the worries creeping in the back of their minds, there was just the euphoria that held together the very fibers of their dreams. "This year, we'll certainly make it!"
They remember with soft smiles and with eyes filled with bright nostalgia. With voices which are heavy with fondness, and eyes seeking out the scenery of metal and concrete and woven net, something once taken for granted.
"Wasn't it grand?"
Dreams and reality sometimes take separate paths, leaving only the tatters of life, of what simply is and the decision to accept it, or not.
Tezuka became a professor of law, teaching statutes and honor to countless students, Oishi took up medical school, for it was expected of him and not entirely minded, he never had the brilliant dreams of his classmates, he was always grounded and realistic.
Eiji became a nurse, for his dreams were never far behind Oishi's, Momo became a salaryman who took on coaching as a side job, Taka inherited the family restaurant, Inui took up a career in science, biochemistry to be exact, Kaidoh took up work in an office and trained for competitions in his spare time, participating in marathons. Sometimes fo charity, sometimes for sport, sometimes just for the pure nostalgia.
No one made any bets on what Fuji would do, for Fuji is Fuji and cannot be so easily placed.
Photographer was a popular choice, though, Fuji would smile and reply that it was 'merely a hobby'
Merely a sidestep, an excursion, a thing to pass the time.
Fuji simply is.
Fuji writes columns, occasionally. Passing from news paper articles on gossip and pop culture, sometimes he reviews things or writes for humor, but mostly, he works on novels. They're very critically acclaimed, called witty and tongue-in-cheek, and being Fuji this isn't surprising, but they also are bittersweet, filled with a breathless longing. It's not romance, per say, just the chronicles of a working girl, something very simple with pitch perfect dialogue and excellent timing.
He attributes the storyline to stories his sister would tell him. This is only partly true.
They're about a girl who is successful in everything but the one thing she's never given in to.
She never speaks the words on the edge of her tongue. She never stops smiling for she's forgotten how.
She never reaches out and lets her fingers entwine in his hair which always manages to be messy, never lets it follow the curl that lies just above the nape of his neck.
They've been walking the fine line between friends and lovers for years, and she's never said a thing.
It's the little things between them that go unsaid.
Tezuka always reads the newspaper with his morning tea.
He has no interest in pop culture, his circle of mentality rising to much weightier things. His mind is always brimming with the latest ruling, judgement, law, something else to discuss in class, an example to set.
Yet without fail, he reads through the paper, saving the "Scoop" section for last.
Acclaimed novelist and columnist Fuji Syuusuke dishes it on the latest news, this is "The Scoop"
(He always saves the best for last)
He meets Fuji later on, they meet once a week over drinks of choice in a café which seems to stand still despite of flurry of movement around it.
They make an amusing sight, how very much – and little they had changed.
Tezuka got contacts (once his glasses broke during a messy affair of a shelf and dropped books, when Fuji first saw this new look, he laughed and said it was a surprise, yet not a bad one) , Fuji got glasses (nearsightedness, an inability to see the future).
Fuji's hair has grown out, now falling to shoulder length. Sometimes he puts it in pigtails to make his little niece laugh. ("She's almost a year old now, you should come see her sometime, I'm sure she'd like you. She loves everyone")
Tezuka hasn't changed much, his jaw still looks as if it was carved out of marble, still set in steely determination.
Still trying to change the world, one person at a time.
She walks through changing scenery. Winter, spring, summer, fall and winter again. She talks with him casually over sips of coffee and he's not changed much over the years. Still full of the quiet determination which caught her eye so many years ago.
She goes to a lecture on law he's teaching, and sits in the back. He doesn't see her.
It shouldn't interest her, but it does. He shouldn't intrigue her, but he does. She shouldn't love him, but she does.
It's always been like this, these complex continuities. These paradoxes which have been worn thin through the years. These things that by logic shouldn't be, but are.
Fuji's never said this, only implied that the highlight of his week is coffee and occasional candied almonds, they leave his hands sticky and sometimes they brush Tezuka's when passing the bag he picked up from a vendor near the train station two blocks from his apartment.
Only implied that the best memories are from conversations that often fall to monosyllabic, often more silence than substantial conversation.
"It's good to relax like this, Tezuka. You shouldn't work yourself so hard."
"More almonds? They fight cancer, you know."
"No thanks. I've had my share."
Fuji's never said how much it means to him.
It's not that she can't live without him, she's strong and self reliant. She doesn't want to become his other half or soulmate, she just wants little things, to wake up and see his sleeping face in the morning, to let her hands rest on his shoulders, trace lightly over healed scar tissue on the left, to press ear to his chest and hear the sound of his heart beating.
She can live without him, she has for many years. She's not crumbling, she's not weak. She's not spending her days languishing away.
She can live without him. It's just that she doesn't want to.
Usually, she would not hesitate to go after someone who caught her attention, she's by all means a well adjusted confident girl, some would call her odd, eccentric, or even strange, but that's never caused any problems, just provided a little fun to play on others.
But this person, this person is too important to lose to something petty.
She isn't pining, she isn't languishing. Just wishing.
It's just that she's never met someone who understood her, never met someone who could tell in a single glance what no one else could see through.
Their conversation is cut short this week as Fuji empties his cup and pushes his chair out to leave.
"I have to leave early today, sorry." he says, almost apologetically, yet failing to hit that particular point, failing to be repentant.
"Oh? An appointment?"
"I see." Tezuka's expression remains unchanged. He's used to Fuji's love affairs, most lasting for periods of time, from a week to a month usually. Three weeks is the average.
She's hardly celibate, nor does she spend every minute by the phone waiting for his beck and call.
On Friday she goes on a date with a friend of a friend who was a journalist in a local publication.
He wears faded jeans and a white t-shirt. They get take out and talk for hours about the better and worse of publishers, duties and life. They share so much in common that it's as if they've slipped into another part of each other with just this one meeting.
These conversations are perhaps fuller than any of the café talks have ever been , they never seem to stop talking, in fact.
"I really want to see you again" he says when the day finally is done. His hair is perfectly neat despite his laid-back attire and lackadaisical attitude.
"Me too." she replies, even through in her mind all she can think of is how café windows refract over mussed hair and how sometimes comfortable silence is more fulfilling than a thousand words.
"How did it go?" Tezuka seems tenser somehow, like a string pulled so taut that it might snap in two.
"Good. I'm meeting him again this week " Fuji replies.
Fuji wonders if this is something usual, a hard day at work, a troublesome student or the first strains of interest that Fuji's been searching for in every other person's arms.
She goes on a second date, third, fourth. It almost passes for a normal relationship, It even makes it past the three week hurdle. They meet weekly, his job is demanding, her deadlines were always approaching someway or another.
Today they walk down the streets, through waves of couples and families, so many attached people, she feels curiously out of place here.
He takes her hand, not an uncommon gesture, but one breached before.
The pressure is warm, but not reassuring, not half as much as she'd like it to be.
She slips free from his grasp, a break in the crowd around them.
"I'm sorry." she says.
"Because... you aren't him."
"I broke up with him, you know." Fuji says at their next meeting. In between sips of coffee and tea, this new detail is released. Fuji waits, searching for the bend of emotion he saw earlier.
"Oh?" Fuji almost thinks he sees a flicking of something. Relief?
"He was nice, but it didn't feel right."
"I see." He says, eyes closed and face unreadable.
"Fuji" Tezuka says, facing him down, seeing through him, just like in old times.
"The first story you officially published was when you were nineteen, under your own name, that is. Before that you published several short stories under various pseudonyms. Including your first."
"I recognized your style."
Autumn slowly settles over the city, the trees in the park half turned, maroons and yellows and golds and even the last vestiges of green. The cold has only touched, teased them now.
It has been weeks since their last meeting. She sits outside, legs crossed, looking at the scenery that passes her by.
He's not late – he never is, but for once, she's early.
The time seems to slow, a dramatic movie scene as he approaches from the side. She chuckles, even now he sticks out through the common surroundings, the only thing special was that he'd come there.
The day had seemed warm, enough the lure her into a false sense of security, enough to forget her coat. He offers her his coat wordlessly before he sits down.
"It's been a while" she says. Much too long, she thinks.
He nods in agreement.
After ordering their drinks (black tea for him, a latte for her) he withdraws a something from his briefcase.
An old college magazine, featuring the short story "A Summer for Cicadas"
A story about tennis, sly at times, a study of a team and about one boy who loved another. Her very first publishing.
"I've always known..."
"They why did you never say anything?"
"Because I was waiting for you to come to terms of what I always understood."
She smiles, cups his chin and brings his lips to hers.
The waitress frowns at them when she gets the check, but nothing can damper her cinematic dream of a moment.
Fuji's long awaited novel is released that December.
It's called "Full Circle", the end of a series, the end of an era. The critical response is overwhelming positive, but Fuji takes this with nonchalance.
It's nothing compared to seeing a copy of his novel beside Introduction to the Study and Practice of Law on Tezuka's bookshelf.