Prince of Tennis (c) Konomi...and it's going to stay that way.
So after years upon years of reading fanfiction, I finally get the courage to post something of my own. Hopefully, it's not too bad for a first attempt. I hope you all enjoy. Thanks to wingless crimson for beta reading and inspration. I'd love to rant...though any minute now I'll get kicked off of the computer, -sigh-.
Shattered Silken Eyes
It's a terrible thing when falling in love reminded me of dying. No, let me rephrase that, falling in love is exactly like dying. Because half of the time I'm trying to fall out of love, hanging on to every last breath my lungs can take in. Most of the time, I don't take in anything. And every time I see him, I die again. I have lost count of how many times I've died, it must be somewhere in the millions now, maybe.
Of course I don't dare tell him. Yes, it is him, who everyone thinks it is. I think everyone suspects now, because no matter how hard I try, I know I still look at Tezuka Kunimitsu funny. I think that is how I will always look at him. But it's not something I can help. All I want to know now, is why I'm so discontent being what I am to him.
I'm someone he respects, I wonder if I earned the genius title just for him to notice me a little. I know that I will never surpass him, not in tennis, anyway. And I don't want to. His tennis is something that I love. If I made his tennis my own, I won't love it anymore.
And then I'll have to come face to face with the fact that I love Tezuka Kunimitsu the person. Though half of the time he seems more like an untouchable deity than a person, it is easier to love someone for their tennis. So using that excuse, I'll keep loving him. I love his tennis, and I won't admit to myself that I love him for him.
I wonder if I'm insane. It's graduation dance now and I have a date, because everyone is going to suspect even more if I don't. Her name is Misao and we're good friends, we're here as good friends. She doesn't mind that I've spent half of the evening drinking punch and staring out to the dance floor. I haven't danced, she has. I tell her that I'm not comfortable with dancing, and she doesn't force me. The other half of the evening I make frequent trips to the bathroom.
Tezuka is here too, although almost nobody would believe that our straight-laced tennis captain would grace our prom with his presence. This is the first dance that he has ever gone to, and to no one's surprise, he is not bad at dancing.
His date is stunning. And just because she's here as Tezuka Kunimitsu's date, everyone knows her name, I'm sure. I don't know her name, because I don't want to hate her. I'm sure I've heard her name somewhere, but as of now, I've effectively forgotten.
Sitting here, I have to repeatedly tell myself, I don't hate her. I don't hate her. If I tell myself enough times, maybe I won't.
"Syusuke-kun." A hand is on my shoulder, I stop glaring at my punch and look up to see Misao looking at me. She's worried about me, I can tell because Yuuta looks like that often. "I'm making you dance with me at least once. It can't be healthy for you just to be brooding there all night. And I'm here as your date, you know."
I attempt to smile. It works, I think. She looks a little relieved. "I can't dance." I say. "I'll fall and break my neck or something. And I haven't been brooding. That word makes me feel old, Misao."
She tugs at my hands, and after a moment, I get reluctantly to my feet. "You can't be all bad. Your captain can dance, quite well, too." She blushes just a little.
"Have you danced with Tezuka?" I ask, I have been watching Tezuka all evening, as far as I know; he has not danced with Misao.
Misao nods, "Just for half a song. It wasn't too slow, though."
I raise an eyebrow, "Half a song?"
She looks embarrassed now, I'm wondering if she spent the other half of the song doing something other than dance with Tezuka. But no…Tezuka would never…I don't know anymore. If I know Tezuka, he would not be here at this dance. And he is. "Actually…every girl here has been trying to dance at least half a song with Tezuka-san. You must think we're silly, Syusuke-kun. But he's really nice about it."
No, I think, I do not think you're silly. I would give anything to dance half a song with Tezuka, even a quarter of a song, I'd give the world. I don't say that though, I offer her another smile, and I hope she is not looking at my eyes. "Well…I'm not as good as Tezuka in tennis. I know dancing will be the same. After Tezuka, I'm not sure I can measure up, Misao."
"You're taking everything so seriously. It's not like I'm good at dancing either." Misao tries to reassure me, half dragging me onto the dance floor, "You just…well, move. And if people laugh at you, then people laugh at you. Come on."
I find myself holding her waist while she rests her head on my shoulder, and we rock. Very slowly. If this is dancing, then I know why Tezuka is good at it. This is the same thing as Tezuka Zone. How absurd. You don't even have to move, no wonder Tezuka is good at dancing. The thought depresses me, though.
"See? This is not so bad, right, Syusuke-kun?"
"It is, I feel like dying."
I shrug one shoulder, she thinks I'm joking. Though I'm really not. I can see Tezuka dancing not too far away. Yet so far away. Even if I stand directly in front of him and sank to my knees and beg, I know the person in his arms will never be me. The fact that all the girls are trying to dance at least half a song with Tezuka…it seems unforgivable to me. I don't even want to begin to contemplate on why he lets them.
The song ends, and Misao lets me go. I go back to my chair and my glass of punch, while she disappears into the crowd as a loud beat blasts from the speakers. I crane my neck to find Tezuka. I cannot imagine him even remotely…
I blink. Maybe I am drinking spiked punch after all, the music is hurting my ears. But I see Tezuka in front of me. As opposed to being in that crowd over there, letting the girls fight over him. I rub my eyes again.
"Tezuka." I say, once I realize that it is really him and not just a figment of my imagination. "Misao says you're letting everyone dance half a song with you this evening. Why so charitable?"
His mouth twitches, but it is too much for him to smile. Tezuka drags over another chair and sits by me. "…It's not like I had a choice." He says, and sure enough, he doesn't sound too pleased.
I can get my hopes up a little. "…Don't have a choice? What do you mean? All you have to do is glare at everyone and be done with it. Or you could order laps around in the gym…although I don't recommend that." It is easy to laugh with Tezuka. It always has, though it hurts to look at him. It's funny, because I'm always the one doing the laughing.
"It's not funny." He says and I stop. "Inui and Echizen apparently have this signup sheet…and they're probably quite wealthy by now. It's 500 yen for half a song and 1000 yen for a whole song. They're just afraid that they're going to run out of songs."
I have to laugh. Inui and Echizen with a signup sheet of dances with Tezuka. I could see it, after a few tries,"…You're expensive." I say, smiling vaguely, feeling better, now that I know the real story, "Why are you letting them do that? Is the money for a good cause, at least? Won't your date get mad?"
"Apparently, Echizen's convinced that it's a good idea to get a jumpstart on next year's fundraising." Tezuka deadpans, "I didn't come with a date. I rode here with Echizen."
Tezuka loves tennis more than his self image. I have to put that away for future reference. "Why aren't you dancing now?"
"I'm tired." He says. "I'm thinking of leaving, actually. If I can find a ride."
It's strange that the most mature out of us, Tezuka Kunimtisu, at eighteen, does not drive. He's gone to Germany and back all by himself and still his parents don't allow him to get behind the wheel. He's too much of a jewel to release into the roads, I guess. It's a good thing that Tokyo University is close to home.
"Do you think I can pay 500 yen and dance half a song with you?" I ask, knowing that he will think I'm kidding.
He gives a cough that could have passed for a chuckle if you listen hard enough. I feel myself dying again. "…You're amusing, Fuji."
Amusing. I am amusing to him. That almost makes me happy.
I drink some more punch; there is now a bitter tang that wasn't there before. "…Do you want me to drive you home? I'm sure Misao can grab a ride home with some of her other friends or something. Although Inui and Echizen might get mad at you." I try not to sound too eager.
"I should be mad at them." He corrects me, getting to his feet. "I'll be waiting for you in the parking lot, then. Thanks, Fuji."
I go off to find Misao and tell her that I'm leaving.
Tezuka does not trust my driving, he thinks that I should watch the road more, and talk less, lest I get into an accident. He tells me so when I pull out of the parking lot and almost run a red light.
"You should be careful when you're driving." He admonishes, looking decidedly ill at ease as I jerk to a stop, "Maybe I should just go back and wait for Echizen."
I look at him, faintly disgusted, "Tezuka, I haven't crashed yet. Do you seriously not trust me? You trust me in Singles 2, don't you?"
"You can't die in the vicinity of a tennis court, Fuji." Tezuka says, as if everyone knows this, and I'm a simpleton for not knowing. "And you've been playing tennis for years. How long have you been driving?"
"Four months." I say, "Officially. Okay, fine, I get your point. But you don't really want to go back and dance, do you?"
"I guess you're stuck with me, then." I say, feeling happy for the first time this evening.
Tezuka does not say anything.
The light turns green, and I start down the street again. I feel odd, half of me feels like flying up to the sky and dragging Tezuka up there somehow with me. It's a decidedly happy feeling, because having him so close, I can't be anything else but happy. But having him so close also means that he is as far away as ever…and that makes me want to die.
When it comes to Tezuka, I'm unusually suicidal, I realize.
"Fuji." He says, after a long silence has passed between us and I have turned onto his street. His house looms ahead, and half of me feels relieved. I can stop dying soon.
"Can I…ask you something?"
I park alongside the curb and turn to look at him, Tezuka sounds hesitant, something that…just sounds strange to me. But his face gives nothing away, I'm not sure whether or not I should be worried. I have been unusually myself this evening. There is no reason for Tezuka to suspect me. But the way his eyes watch me makes me want to shudder.
"Why did you reject Tokyo University? They gave you scholarship, didn't they?"
I don't look at him. Instead, I lace my hands carefully in my lap and I stare at them. Tezuka has brought up this subject only once before. For him to bring it up twice is almost unthinkable. I say, "Yeah, they did. I just…" I cannot tell him the real reason.
The real reason is that everything will remain the same; I will go to Tokyo University and see Tezuka Kunimitsu everyday, the person I love more than anything in this world. I'll play on the college tennis team and bask in the glory that he trusts me to bring victory to him and Tokyo University, just as I have done Seishun Gakuen. But I can barely look his way, let alone touch him in any way. I get tired of dying everyday, though I will never tire of loving someone I shouldn't.
"I am thinking about taking a break from tennis." I say, purposely not looking at him. "I like photography too, and Paris Arts Institute says they like my portfolio. And plus, I've always liked French, too. It's a romantic language, I think it suits me." I stop there, wondering if I have given myself away already.
"France is far away." He says, after thinking this over. I detect a little regret in his voice. Or maybe it's just my hopes running too high.
Not far enough. I doubt that anywhere is far enough, when you're running away from this sort of thing. But of course, I cannot tell him that.
I decide that it is indeed worth the risk, "Will you miss me, Tezuka?" I ask, holding my breath.
Tezuka turns to me and I suddenly want to kiss him. I've always wanted to kiss him, but now I'm struck with the finality of this want. I reach out and clasp him on the shoulder, for a minute.
"Yes. I will. Good night, Fuji." Tezuka mirrors my movement for half a second and for that one half a second, brushing his fingers by my shoulder, I'm the happiest person ever. But then he gets out of the car, and walks towards his house and I deflate.
I start up the car prepare to edge out into the street again, when I find that Tezuka is tapping on the window. I roll down the window on the passenger's side, knowing that I look way too happy.
"When do you go to France?" Tezuka asks.
"In a week."
"Can I accompany you to the airport?" He says.
"Sure. I'll…call you." I nod, I know my eyes are betraying me, they are too bright, and my heart is also beating too fast; maybe it's too dark for him to notice. Or at least…I hope it is dark enough. "Thanks, um, that means a lot." I have a knack for sounding corny, especially when it comes to Tezuka.
Luckily for me, he never notices, "All right, drive safely, Fuji."
My plane leaves in one hour, I'm now seated in one of many airport coffee shops, across from Tezuka, who insists on buying me four cups of hot chocolate, which I drink in succession because there is nothing else to do. He himself drinks tea. We don't drink coffee; it dumps too much caffeine into our system.
Maybe I can pretend we're dating. That he is a caring boyfriend that will kiss me good bye when it is really time to go.
I think about telling him.
Tezuka, I know this will sound ridiculous, but see…I like you. A lot, I like you like…a girl would. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Let's try again, shall we? I love you, now, that sounds corny. I think I'll give up. But…yeah, I think you know what I mean.
In the end as the hour ends, I don't say anything. I remember how he used to stand there when a girl confesses to him like a statue. He sends them away with one simple no. While some of them somehow manage to walk away with some trace of dignity, most of them burst into tears and beg for mercy.
Won't you just like me a little bit? For a minute? Only one minute? Please?
I don't want that to happen to me. So…I'm not going to say anything. The last boarding call for my flight to Paris sounds, and I'm almost glad that it is just Tezuka and I. Mom, Dad, Yuuta, and Yumiko would have liked to come too, but I somehow convinced them not to. I'm glad I did.
"I guess this is good bye." I say.
"You sound solemn." He returns, shrugging my bag off his shoulder and handing it to me. "You'll come back for breaks, won't you?"
"Don't know, if I can afford it, maybe." I smile.
Then he takes me in his arms, and he holds me. I count to five, and the arms are gone. I know I look silly with my arms still up, so I drop them.
"Don't forget tennis." He looks at me. "It's going to be a waste of talent, if you do."
"I won't." I pick up my suitcase and head towards the line. "Au revoir."
I turn, he has a lost look on his face, it's a naïve expression, but it's strangely Tezukaesque, then again, a lot of things are strangely Tezukaesque to me. I smile, "Good bye, in French. Thanks for everything." I don't look back. The moment I do, I know I'll run into his arms and die.
But after a few minutes, I do look back, as the counter lady is scrutinizing my ticket trying to find something wrong with it. There are no arms for me to run to, Tezuka is already gone.
There is heavy sinking feeling. The lady hands me my ticket stub and tells me in a high-pitched voice to have a nice flight. I find myself thinking that I won't ever see Tezuka again as I follow the slow crawl onto the plane.
And yet, I'll never fall out of love with him.
Life just sort of sucks that way.