i. February 14th
Tezuka disliked Valentine's Day intensely. This was because of three main reasons:
Reason no. 1) The chocolates. Although he never received as many as some people imagined - they all fitted into his bag, along with his tennis kit and school books, with room to spare - it was still far too much for someone who didn't like sweets much. Throwing them away was a no-no, because even if his mother didn't say anything about "wasting food" or "not appreciating other people's feelings", Tezuka knew that would be what it was - trashing people's hearts. Stoic and poker-faced though he was, he wasn't heartless.
His only strategy against the chocolates was to appear particularly scary for the two weeks leading up to Valentine's Day. It was either that or wear a t-shirt that said "no chocolate near me".
Reason no. 2) The people. The boys, not the girls. On Valentine's Day, during every break between lessons, they would gather around and compare their conquests. Tezuka could not stand those who counted those little bundles of feelings like trophies. On top of that, the tennis club would be completely distracted, with every person worrying about whether he would get chocolate from the girl he liked or whether he would get any chocolate at all, and if he didn't, whether the others would laugh at him and call him a reject.
This reason also led to Reason no. 3), which plagued Tezuka's mind more badly than the other two reasons and more than he would like to admit...
"Ah, here comes Buchou. We thought you got mobbed by the girls."
Tezuka held back a flinch as he entered the club room and heard Fuji's voice. Fuji never referred to him as Buchou unless he was Upset or Up To Something. Looking at that smile, Tezuka deduced it was the latter and to him, that was Not Good. (Though a small voice told him it was infinitely better than the former, and this he took comfort in.)
The regulars, led by Inui, began to close in on Tezuka's bag as their captain got changed. "Start with five laps for warm up. I'll be there right away." Tezuka glared at them, eyes still sharp even without the help of frameless glasses. "The last one to leave the room gets ten laps."
Less than a minute later, after much gasping, shuffling, grumbling and the remark "I need to seek another method to collect this data," the whole tennis club was running around the courts. Except for Fuji.
"Fuji. Join the others for warm up."
"What's the hurry? By all reason, you'll be the one doing ten laps," Fuji replied as he sat perched on the table in the middle of the room, legs swinging beneath. He leaned over a bit to study the contents of Tezuka's bag. "Despite your tactics, you're still popular."
Not dignifying that statement with a response, Tezuka pulled the tennis shirt on, did all of the buttons right up to his neck, then put his glasses back on. He eyed the large paper bag next to Fuji's locker, its contents at least three times the amount Tezuka had, and arched an eyebrow. Fuji shrugged, hopped off the table and left the room.
To counter the Valentine's Day distraction, Tezuka worked the club particularly harshly - racket swings, rabbit jumps and the first years feeding balls, two at a time and as fast as they could, for those across the net to return. Everyone else had to keep jogging until it was their turn. There were girls waiting outside the courts, but Tezuka was not going to let the club go a minute earlier.
He hated Valentine's Day. It was a stupid, useless day, its meaning twisted and perverted by money-grabbing candy makers. One more minute of keeping the club here was one more minute of standing his ground against this annoying day.
He hated Valentine's Day.
"Buchou?" A soft voice said, its owner waltzing towards Tezuka. Fuji smiled. "Are you all right?"
Tezuka nodded. Although he remained expressionless, the anger was making his face heat up.
"You're working too hard. Here."
Tezuka didn't think as he accepted the bottle from Fuji's hand and took a great draught from it.
Half the club turned when Tezuka made a sound of surprise, fell back against the chain-link fence, his free hand covering his mouth. Eiji was the first one to burst out laughing, followed by Echizen and Momo, who tried to but failed at snickering as quietly as possible.
When Tezuka regained his composure - which took 5.8 seconds, Inui noted, nudging his glasses once and then scribbling furiously into a note book that appeared out of nowhere. This was nearly 70 longer than he had ever witnessed - he clutched at the bottle, and the glare he shot at Fuji was rather deadly.
"I am confiscating this," he said with a slight tremor in his voice, and then dismissed practice.
(Inui further noted that there were still over four minutes left to the assigned practice time, and also that Fuji should not have had access to any drink which could have elicited such a reaction from Tezuka.)
(On the next day, Inui queried Fuji regarding the mystery drink, but Fuji sidestepped the question. The collection of his and Tezuka's data continued to be difficult.)
ii. March 14th
To Fuji, White Day was both an amusing and a horrible day.
The amusement was because few things could make Tezuka look miserable all day long as White Day could. It was the day the girls who had given him chocolate a month ago hoped for something in return, of course. This meant all of them, or all of them except one, would go home disappointed and heartbroken. The prospect of upsetting people obviously had an effect on Tezuka, if the way he was biting his lip was anything to go by.
As for horrible, Fuji too had to endure the hopeful looks of girls for the day. Admittedly he wasn't as sensitive a soul as Tezuka in this respect, but still, it was guilt-inducing. This probably meant he should not take so much pleasure in Tezuka's misery, but he was Fuji and Tezuka was Tezuka, the same standards could not possibly apply.
"Fuji." A tall shadow loomed over, jolting Fuji from his thoughts. "Do you know if Tezuka intends to give out any chocolate today?"
Turning around, Fuji smiled, tugging a lock of hair behind his ear, uneasy. Somehow Inui had sneaked up behind him without him noticing. "I wouldn't know." He watched Inui nudge his rectangular glasses, and asked, "are you planning to check Tezuka's bag?"
Inui looked a bit affronted. "I-I wouldn't do that." His cheeks turned pink. "Anyway, I have to go."
Fuji chuckled soundlessly as Inui left, possibly to seek out Oishi to put his questions to. Inui had definitely intended to check Tezuka's bag, but he most likely wouldn't, now. Fuji wanted to know if Tezuka got chocolate ready to be given out, too, but it was probably better if he never found out.
He stretched, and began putting all the chairs up for the floor to be wiped. Classroom duty took longer than it should because his partner had disappeared for a date with the girl he gave chocolate to, but Fuji didn't mind too much. With school year almost over there was no tennis club activity anyway, and he was in no hurry to go anywhere. Besides, this gave him a chance to be in school alone, so that anyone wanting to talk to him could do it privately.
Or that was how it was supposed to have worked.
Most of the students had already gone home by now, so there were no more silly girls waiting for chocolate from him. That was what White Day was, really: pure silliness. People getting their hopes dashed. Too many sad endings and too few happy ones.
Of course, there were those who made their feelings known on Valentine's Day without expecting anything in return. But they were a rare species; people always wished for things they couldn't have.
Fuji was nearly finished when he heard footsteps echoing in the empty corridor. Out of curiosity, he poked his head out the door, and saw Tezuka. He gave him a little wave. "Why are you still here?"
The setting sun outside the windows cast a golden glow on Tezuka's skin. Fuji had to narrow his eyes. "Sorting out final details on handing over the tennis club to the new captain," Tezuka said.
"Oh, just you?"
"Oishi just left."
This probably meant Tezuka had no chocolate to give out, otherwise he should be on a date now. Inui would be interested to know this. "Going home then?"
Tezuka lifted a notepad in his hands. "I have work on the Student Council to finish. Can I use this room?"
A moment of silence passed before Fuji responded. "Sure."
Tezuka used the large teacher's desk, and when Fuji finished with his cleaning duty he took a chair up to the front and sat opposite Tezuka, reading Tezuka's paperwork with faked interest. He thought of finding something to say, but everything he could think of centred around White Day and he had had enough of this stupid day already. It was a horrible day created purely for commercial purposes and should be scrapped.
Stupid White Day. Just a day of false hopes.
Annoyed and thoroughly bored (Tezuka wasn't exactly exciting company when he was working), Fuji slumped onto the desk, sprawling just enough to get in Tezuka's way. Tezuka's hand stopped writing, but for some reason he didn't say a word. Lifting his eyes lazily, Fuji tried to see the look on Tezuka's face without having to move from where he sprawled, but his gaze first brushed over the opened pencil case right next to him.
He didn't need to look up to know Tezuka was watching. Still not moving from his spot, Fuji hesitantly opened the pencil case a bit more. Inside, there was something in a plastic wrapper. Fuji took it out, and felt a wave of giddiness wash over him.
Inui would never find this even if he searched Tezuka's bag.
Tezuka seemed to decide that the rest of the work could wait until tomorrow. He packed up his things.
"Do you need to go home straight away, Tezuka?"
"Want to go somewhere?"
Tezuka nodded, and they left school together.
iii. Many years later
Inui walked onto the tiny stage, and tested the mic. Finding that it performed satisfactorily, he held up a greyish-green note book, dramatically blew the dust off its cover, opened a random page and began to read.
The hall was filled with familiar faces, all of them older but still very much the same - or, in the case of Tezuka, entirely unchanged. Everyone listened with interest, laughing occasionally at the sort of data Inui used to record and analyse when he was 14.
Inui flipped a page. "February 14th, 16:26: Fuji (subject 1) has given Tezuka (subject 2) a bottle of liquid which caused Subject 2 to react abnormally after intake, collapsing against the fence with a hand over his mouth. The time taken for Subject 2 to return to normal was estimated to be 5.8 seconds. This is the longest duration recorded.
"Both Subjects were questioned on the nature of the drink. Neither revealed the necessary data to analyse this incident further."
Inui nudged his glasses and looked up from the note book, finding Fuji in the crowd in no time. "Fuji, what was in that bottle?"
Smiling as he always did, Fuji pointed at the tall man standing next to him.
Tezuka ignored all the staring, and continued to sip his chocolate milk.