Invisible to the Eyes
"...on ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux."
(Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince)
During the brief but rampant chaos between the end of the final match at Nationals and the beginning of the awards ceremony, Fuji hears someone yell, "That was awesome, aniki!" And there is Yuuta charging through the crowd of people filing down from the stands, followed closely and with much difficulty by his team manager (who, too, looked as though he'd thrown composure to the winds).
This is the Yuuta that's he's missed, that he hasn't had a chance to see in a long time – Yuuta whose eyes are wide, who's grinning and positively glowing at, it hits him then, Seigaku's victory.
Fuji hold out a hand to him, exchanges a high-five and says, softly, "Thank you, Yuuta."
"Thank you, too, Mizuki-kun," he adds, for good measure, and smiles at the other's shock.
Tezuka leaves them late in autumn, and it's no sooner than he's arrived in Germany that Fuji has sent him an email – Hope that you had a safe trip.
He receives more after that, on a regular basis. They're all short, condensed, to the point of being one sentence each at times – How have you been?, How is winter in Germany?, Oishi took us all mountain-climbing again today, and, on the eve of the first official game he plays in months, Good luck in the tournament tomorrow, Tezuka.
It's stubborn of him, Fuji knows, but he has heard of people growing apart over the years, over long distances and long silences, and he is determined that it not happen to them, or to any of this year's team, for that matter. And, judging by the timely and neatly-composed responses he received, he thinks that Tezuka understands what he's trying to do as well.
He spreads his fingers absently across the keyboard of his computer, wonders if, years from now, he'll still be sitting here, writing, Good luck at Wimbledon tomorrow, Tezuka.
When Taka-san invites the team over to Kawamura Sushi to celebrate his birthday the following day, there is a general clamor that he shouldn't have to make them food on his own birthday, and shouldn't they all go somewhere else, maybe somewhere new, where they can all relax for the evening? It's Fuji who points out quietly, later, that all that Taka-san really wants is for the team to get together again, and that the one way he'd want to celebrate his birthday would probably be just to cook for them again, just like old times.
The present he brings to Kawamura Sushi is a round, yellowish-green cactus, about the size of a fist ("Nyaa! It's so cute, Fuji!" "Yes, but I wouldn't try to pet it, Eiji."). He doesn't need to suggest that Taka-san name it 'Hadoukyuu', because he already knows Momo will.
He is one of the last people off the courts at Nationals, long after the award ceremony is over and the crowd gathered to watch the finals more or less dispersed. Only when the sunset washes over the stadium, dusky red and relentless, is he aware that people have left and, in fits and starts all over the stands, are in the process of leaving.
He watches as Echizen, pursued by an endless battery of reporters, stalks out of the exit of the stadium, passing the Hyotei regulars (as well as, surprisingly, Sengoku Kiyosumi) that were still hovering, silent, nearby. A moment later, he is followed by Kaidou, who, from the looks of it, was assisting two staff members from the hospital in coaxing Inui into staying there overnight.
Once, he even catches the eye of Yukimura Seiichi, who is leaning against the support to one of the spotlights and, for one brief instant, fixes him with a gaze that is at the same time sharp and peaceful.
Somewhere on the other side of the now-quiet stadium, the remaining members of Shitenhouji leave to the sound of one lone voice calling "Nnn --Ecstasy!"
And Yukimura gives a small smile to mirror Fuji's own.
"Ahh, sorry I'm late," he says, on the first day of senbatsu, as he arrives, laiden with an extra net and boxes of tennis balls, at the court where his group has already gathered. And then, to no one in particular, he adds, "I brought an extra carton of balls, just in case certain people here happen to slice too many in half."
Echizen glares. Their group leader (whom Fuji recognizes as the coach from Shitenhouji) sends him an amused grin.
A little while later, Fuji wonders whether he ought start believing in fate, as he and Echizen attempt to play each other only to, once again, end up drenched by rain.
The pair from Murigaoka are very unlucky. It's not raining, two days later, when they decide to make and refuse to retract a downright tasteless jibe about captains and invalids and the quality of the final round of Nationals.
It's the first game in weeks that Fuji remembers letting himself be overtaken by the now-familiar drive to win – something that is not a thrill, not quite, in the way that it burns deeper and angrier and sharper. And as the Murigaoka pair stands there cursing as 6-0 is called, Niou turns to him, grins, and even grants that Yagyuu might be right – that there was something to this doubles-with-Seigaku thing after all.
When the seventh counter accidentally hits Eiji on the head during one winter practice, Fuji is there almost immediately, leaping over the net to make sure his friend was alright. Once reassured that no damage had been done, though, he encourages the common misconception that it was the cold weather that had numbed his hand and affected his grip on the racket.
People get used to growth spurts, after all. No need to let everyone know that one – and a very slight one at that – could have affected his coordination this much.
"Inui, make me a copy of that videotape, please?"
At the end of first day of the new school year and three days after Echizen leaves for America, Fuji would not say, exactly, that he sneaked into the grounds of the middle school. As far as he knew, there was no rule that said he couldn't be there.
Along the corridor of cherry that led up to the main building, quite a few familiar faces pass him, some even met his eyes, yet none seemed to even register the fact Fuji-senpai was back and the school and wandering about, much less be surprised about it. He marvels a little at the penchant he supposes he has for blending into familiar setting. Having a jacket thrown over his high school uniform and his trademark smile in place had helped, no doubt.
He wanders purposefully through the mostly-abandoned school building to the roof. From there, there is a clear view of most of the school grounds, and – more importantly – from the northeast corner, a full view of the tennis courts.
The wires of the fence bite cool and sharp into his hands as he leans forward, and Fuji feels a familiar start, not unlike a thrill, upon realizing that they were all that kept him from plunging forward, plunging down into the cacophony of wind and color that fills the space between him and the ground.
From the latter, he can make out the irregular thuds of footsteps and bouncing balls on the surfaces of the court. They are joined – he raises his eyebrows – by the sound of Kaidou-buchou ordering ten laps in a suspiciously familiar tone of voice.
Fuji pulls his camera out of the side compartment of his schoolbag. After debating awhile, he leans back, and simply takes pictures of the clear, cloudless sky.
As Momo catches sight of the expression on Tezuka's face, as he reaches out to accept the champion's flag during the final moments of nationals, he stares, despite himself. Kaidou and Oishi – and, after a moment, Inui as well – avert their eyes, as if they thought they were intruding on something much too personal. Fuji doesn't look away, but he forces a smile and closes his eyes, because otherwise it would be too obvious that they were burning and clouding over, just like Tezuka's were.
A/N: Written for Fuji's birthday in 2008, and while in a fit of nostalgia over the ending of the PoT manga. The feeling that endings are somehow also beginnings was what I was going for. :P