Of Words and Assumptions
Pairing: Tezuka/Fuji (through and through!)
Prompt: Tezuka rejected a romantic relationship with Fuji back in high school, not willing to risk censure from his family/society. A few years later a regretful Tezuka admits his mistake and seeks out Fuji. However, it may not be so easy for Tezuka to convince Fuji to forgive him.
Disclaimer: I do not own them. But they do own each other...
A/N: This was originally written for ann89103 in response to her prompt above in the cactuscontinuum community at LJ. This was beta-read by Tora Macaw (I love you and I hope you don't mind if I used the old wordings). Enjoy! And I'd really love some reviews. Please read and review!
Don't regret what you said, regret what you didn't say when you had the chance. -Anonymous
The world knew that Tezuka was a man of few words because Tezuka found that words could be tricky. Not only could words be taken for granted and used to a person's advantage, a few words arising from misjudgment could also endanger thousands of lives. But he knew that words were sacred too. Words could bind a person to just about anything from pinky swears of childhood to treaties between nations. Thus, Tezuka had learned not to take words lightly. He treaded around words carefully, uttering them only when he meant what he said.
Once, in junior high school, Fuji had asked why Tezuka didn't like speaking much. Tezuka had curtly responded, "I have to be sure that the words I speak are true."
Fuji had frowned then and remarked while wearing a lopsided grin, "Then, are the truest things laps and preparedness in your world?"
Tezuka did not have a ready reply so he didn't say anything.
Sipping his morning tea, Tezuka found himself pondering why he hadn't asked Fuji out a few weeks ago after he'd spotted the familiar light brown hair and slight figure moving gracefully through a crowd of spectators following his recent tennis match.
He'd had the urge to do so yet he had ended up turning on his heels and letting Fuji disappear. Saying "Fuji!" should have been so easy for someone who had dominated Wimbledon and had just become Australian Open champion. But his hands went cold and sweaty when he saw Fuji and he had to ask himself if there was something wrong with his voice.
"Captain?" Looking up, Tezuka glared at the young man strolling casually into his hotel room. Echizen had grown tall and lean, but he hadn't quite outgrown the habit of treating Tezuka as his captain thanks to long sessions of them both training under the same coach. "The cab's waiting at the entrance."
Nodding his thanks, Tezuka pushed to his feet and picked up his luggage. Gripping the handle tightly, he unexpectedly heaved a rare sigh. He didn't miss Echizen's curious glance his way but he deflected it by wearing his usual cold expression and heading straight to the door.
He was going back to Japan and as he walked beside Echizen across the hotel lobby, he couldn't help but wonder if he'd ever find his voice.
Tezuka stared at the piece of paper in his hand and wondered if he should make the call. A reasonable part of him encouraged him, telling him that he already has the number and the phone. All he needs to do is dial the number and talk. But a rare, dubious part of him dwelled on the question Yumiko had asked a few minutes ago: What will you say?
His mind drew a blank for an answer.
But practicality... with a little aid from longing... quickly won over his hesitation. Keying in the number and unconsciously holding his breath, Tezuka pressed the phone against his left ear.
Ring! Maybe, Tezuka's reluctant side began to think, Fuji is too busy. Ring! Maybe he should just call tomorrow. Ring! Maybe –
Tezuka's hazel-gold eyes widen and darken at the sound of the familiar voice.
Taking a deep breath, Tezuka finally managed to speak a single word. "Fuji." He was relieved to find that his voice had turned out much calmer than his mind, his stomach and his emotions. Silence lingered for several seconds and Tezuka found himself wondering if Fuji had recognized his voice at all.
"Tezuka," Fuji replied sedately. "I haven't heard from you in years."
Fuji sounded cheerful enough, but in a blank, detached way that caused Tezuka's grip to tighten on the phone. "Yes, years."
"To what miracle do I owe this phone call then?" Fuji laughed then added, "But please make the miracle story short. I have things to finish and – But, then again, you're already a master of verbal brevity, Tezuka."
Neither sharpness nor malice was present in Fuji's tone. But Tezuka was certain that Fuji's words shaded another layer of meaning. "I saw you a few weeks ago," Tezuka said curtly, already expecting the short pause that followed.
"Indeed?" Fuji asked calmly.
Tezuka heard shuffling from Fuji's end as if Fuji was making a point of busying himself. "You watched my game," Tezuka said in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Yes and some others. Neesan and I visited otousan in the US during the summer break so I thought I should watch some of the matches," Fuji brightly replied. "Anyway, Tezuka, I know it's rude of me, but," Tezuka heard more hurried shuffling of papers and things, "I really must go. A model is waiting for me. I'll hear from you some other time? Bye."
Tezuka listened to the long string of eerie beeps signaling a busy line before sighing and pressing the end call button. He didn't know if Fuji was truly indispensable or merely avoiding him or both. But he truly wanted to believe that Fuji was really just busy that night.
Getting up from the couch to make something for dinner, Tezuka resolutely decided to take a risk and hold Fuji to the words I'll hear from you some other time.
Fuji's left hand tightened on a thick pad of matte photo paper as his right hand unconsciously fluttered to touch the lens of the camera that hung on a thick black strap around his neck. "Tezuka," Fuji finally acknowledged after a few moments of thoughtful silence. Though Fuji appeared to be calm and cheerful, Tezuka could see the surprise that was concealed by the friendly smile.
Moving away from the tree that he'd been leaning against, Tezuka asked, "Do you have time for tea?"
"I have work at four," Fuji replied shortly.
Not about to take "no" for an answer, Tezuka said in his best matter-of-fact tone, "It's still half-past two."
Fuji's eyes became narrower than usual. Nodding once, he led Tezuka out of the campus grounds then walked silently toward a small café just a block away from the university's entrance.
"How did you know where I'm studying?" Fuji asked as a waitress beckoned them to a table.
Taking a seat, Tezuka simply told Fuji, "I asked."
Fuji frowned slightly. He didn't ask anything more as the waitress took their orders. Fuji requested for the strongest coffee he could get while Tezuka asked for green tea. Once the waitress had gone to the counter, Fuji turned to Tezuka. "I haven't congratulated you yet for winning, have I?"
"No," replied Tezuka directly.
Smiling, Fuji held out a hand. "Well, congratulations."
Taking the offered hand, Tezuka briefly shook it. When Fuji let go, Tezuka felt his heart drop along with his hand. "What keeps you busy?" Tezuka asked purely for the sake of conversation although he already knew the answer.
"School, magazine," Fuji replied with a casual shrug. "I work with magazine models."
"I thought you'd like to do field work," Tezuka remarked.
"I do but I can't do field work yet since I'm still studying," Fuji explained quietly.
"I see," Tezuka answered with a nod.
The waitress returned to set a cup of tea and a cup of coffee on the table. Tezuka watched as Fuji added a pack of brown sugar to the dark coffee. Fuji lifted the cup to his lips and tasted it. Satisfied, he smiled as he delicately replaced the cup on its saucer. He glanced at Tezuka and asked, "Why did you suddenly invite me for tea?"
Tezuka didn't answer right away. Instead, he took a deep breath, carefully weighing his words before answering. "Four years ago, I –"
"Oh, that?" Fuji asked with a nonchalant laugh. "Forget it, Tezuka. I did a very foolish thing. I'm sorry if the thought still bothers you."
Tezuka's eyes widened yet he stayed quiet. However, he found himself resenting his own silence. It reminded him too much of the silence four years ago, when Fuji had come up to him and told him something that made his spirits soar but plummet at the same instant.
"I'm sorry, I can't," Tezuka had told Fuji back then. Tezuka had purposefully avoided Fuji's open eyes.
"You can't?" Fuji had asked in an obviously disappointed whisper. "Will you tell me why?"
Tezuka hadn't responded thus leaving the answer to Fuji's interpretation. From this lack of words, the truth got lost in translation.
"I see," Fuji had muttered, but he hadn't really seen anything at all.
"Is there anything else you want to tell me?" Fuji inquired.
Tezuka answered with a soft "No". But Tezuka knew that he was not being as honest as he thought.
Tezuka's life fell into a perfectly normal routine during his first week back in Japan. At dawn, he would run three miles along the streets of Tokyo, or haunt the local gym in the event of rain to jog on a handy treadmill. After warming up, he would then train with his coach and later play a few sets with Echizen. And every night, he would call Fuji. Their conversations were brief and often punctuated by busy rustles from Fuji's end and long pauses from Tezuka's end. But Tezuka looked forward to his evening ritual in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, one night, he'll find the right words.
However, Tezuka always ended up not saying much, causing Fuji to think that Tezuka was just trying to catch up with the four years that he spent out of Japan. Sometimes, when the call had ended, Tezuka would sit and wonder if he'd been so careful with words that he had reached the point where he doesn't even know how to use them anymore.
During one of those times when Tezuka was questioning his lack of speech, he heard his phone ring. He answered the call, only to startle at the sound of a familiar gentle voice.
"Kunimitsu, will you come over for dinner?"
"Why, okaachan?" Tezuka quietly asked.
"You ask your mother why?" Tezuka Ayana replied in a tone of amused incredulity. "Your uncle is coming and your father wants to flaunt his champion of a son. Are you coming?"
"Yes," Tezuka answered dutifully.
That night, Tezuka drove through heavy rains to sit with his family for dinner where his beaming uncle Ayao proudly congratulated him for winning the US Open. They discussed tennis for a while until a mildly exasperated Ayao laughingly asked if Kunimitsu ever talked about something not related to tennis.
Smiling over her serving of grilled fish, Mrs. Tezuka cut into the conversation to honestly remark, "Rarely. I have to guess what he's thinking most of the time. Once, he came home with an arm injury but he didn't say anything. I only found out when I saw him hold his chopsticks with his right hand." Pausing, she smiled fondly at her son. "You can say that my maternal instinct is twice as strong as other mothers'," she added cheerfully.
When dinner was done, Tezuka helped his mother put the dishes away.
"What's wrong, Kunimitsu?" Ayana asks when Tezuka entered the kitchen with a pile of rice bowls in hand.
"Nothing," Tezuka said automatically while placing the bowls near the sink.
"Oh?" Ayana asked with a slightly raised brow. "You forget that my maternal instinct is twice as strong as others', Kunimitsu. What's wrong?"
Letting out a low sigh of resignation, Tezuka paused to consider his answer. He lifted his eyes and finally asked, "Is it okay to let a person assume?"
"Assume what?" asked Ayana softly.
But instead of replying, her son looked at her steadily and she knew from long experience that he wouldn't speak a word more.
Wiping her hands on a dish cloth, she calmly began, "No one knows you as much as yourself, Kunimitsu. Often, people will have the wrong assumptions and they'll believe that assumption until you tell them otherwise. What if that night, when your left arm was injured, I assumed that you were all right, that you were probably just learning to be ambidextrous and you never told me about the injury?"
"I wouldn't be playing tennis by now," Tezuka flatly replied.
"Exactly. Wrong assumptions can be devastating," said Ayana with a thin smile. "So you should try to change it or clarify it as soon as you can."
Tezuka's lips pursed. His brows creased. Bowing to his mother, he politely requested her permission to leave "Okaa chan, please excuse me. I need to go." Without waiting for his mother's reply, Tezuka walked briskly to the door.
Parking his car in front of a tall glass building, Tezuka carefully checked his watch. It read thirty minutes past nine – half an hour before Fuji was due to leave work. He was still uncertain of the words he had to say. He felt uncomfortable, as if he hadn't warmed up for a major tennis match. But he knew he couldn't back away, not now, not before he was too late.
Waiting patiently until people began to file out of the building's entrance, Tezuka suddenly spotted Fuji standing by the entrance.
Gripping his steering wheel, Tezuka swiftly drove in Fuji's direction.
At the sight of Tezuka's car, Fuji's forehead wrinkled. His eyes flickered open when Tezuka opened the window and asked Fuji to get inside. Frowning, Fuji did so, his obvious puzzlement was evident in his knitted brows.
"I'll drive you home," Tezuka said as Fuji settled into the passenger seat.
Fuji blinked his surprise before nodding his consent.
The drive to the Fuji residence was short and silent. Stopping the car in front of the Fujis' iron gates, Tezuka glanced furtively at Fuji before heaving a little sigh. "Fuji, can we talk?"
"Of course," Fuji quickly replied as his lips curved into a usual warm smile. He tilted his head to the side, ready to listen.
Firmly gripping the steering wheel with both hands, Tezuka steeled himself as he lowered his head. "Four years ago-"
"Tezuka," Fuji interrupted with a reassuring smile, "I told you. It's all right. We were both fifteen and – "
"No, it isn't all right," Tezuka cut in firmly. "You asked me if we can try but I said I couldn't."
"I remember," Fuji said blankly.
Tezuka's hands formed tight fists on the steering wheel. "I did want to, but I thought of my family, my career and –"
"I became the least priority," Fuji bluntly finished for him.
Upon hearing the edge in Fuji's voice, Tezuka looked up quickly. His eyes became round and dark, filled with fear and uncertainty.
"I understand," said Fuji in a hushed voice. He opened the car door and slipped out, shutting the door gently behind him.
When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain. – William Shakespeare
Fixing his smile, Fuji cheerfully greeted his mother when he saw her watching her favorite primetime drama on TV. He entered Yuuta's room and ruffled Yuuta's hair thus causing Yuuta to yell a fierce "Aniki!"
Voicing a gentle laugh, Fuji then made his way into Yumiko's room.
"You gave him my number, my school, my schedule, and my working address, didn't you?" Fuji calmly said while he casually plopped down on the edge of her bed.
Looking up from her book, Yumiko asked innocently, "Gave it to whom?"
"Neesan," Fuji said sharply.
"Yes, I did," Yumiko answered simply.
"Why?" Fuji asked. His eyes opened and showed his disapproval.
Yumiko shut her book and placed it on her lap. "I think," she said, smiling fondly at her brother, "when he finally decides to say something, you should be there to listen."
Fuji pressed his lips.
"He told you something tonight," Yumiko pointed out. "Did you listen?"
"Yes, I did."
Yumiko peered at her brother closely. "But not completely," she told herself as she noticed a forced smile spread across her brother's lips.
Every time his phone rang at around seven in the evening, Fuji found himself half dreading and half anticipating the call. But for a week now, all the calls had been from either Yumiko or from his mother. For a week now, he found himself slightly, very slightly disappointed that Tezuka hadn't called.
Leaning his head against the backrest of his chair and rubbing his nose-bridge with the base of his palm, he moaned softly as he felt of the beginning of a headache. He closed his eyes, trying his best to ignore the pain.
"Aren't you leaving yet?" Asked one of his co-workers who hurried past Fuji's desk.
Straightening in his chair, Fuji answered with a small smile. "Yes, yes, I'm leaving." Impaired by the throbbing in his head, he slowly packed his things. He hoped that his sister would arrive early to pick him up but then he remembered that she was away on a business trip. Bearing with his throbbing temples, Fuji strolled out of the building.
Fuji knitted his brows together when a familiar car stopped in front of him. "Tezuka, not now," he said as the passenger window rolled down.
"Fuji," Tezuka said intently, "just listen. I-" Tezuka paused once he noticed the ailed smile on Fuji's lips. "What's wrong?"
"Just a headache," Fuji replied simply. "I'm going home."
"Get in," Tezuka abruptly commanded.
"No – "
"Get in," Tezuka repeated. His eyes narrowed at the sight of Fuji's pale face.
Fuji tried to return the gaze with defiance but, after a while, he gave in to the pain. He murmured a reluctant "Fine" before sulkily joining Tezuka inside the car.
Reaching the Fujis' house, Tezuka silently followed Fuji to the door.
"You can leave now," Fuji muttered quietly while putting on his slippers.
Acting as if he hadn't heard, Tezuka only slid his feet into a pair of guest slippers. "Are you going to be alone tonight?" he asked quietly.
"Yes," Fuji replied tersely. "You may leave, Tezuka." He climbed up the stairs, leaving Tezuka by the door. Dropping onto bed, Fuji hoped that Tezuka would leave. But when he heard light footsteps approach his room, he stubbornly rolled to his side, turning his back to the door.
"I have painkillers with me," Tezuka gravely told Fuji's back.
"You're always ready, aren't you?"
Tezuka didn't answer the question. "I brought water," he stated then Fuji heard the thud of glass bottom against wood. "I'll leave now."
When Fuji finally heard the door shut, he propped himself up. He took the brown bottle beside his bed and spent a moment glaring at the tablets that Tezuka had left before finally popping one into his mouth. Taking a swig of water, he then lowered his glass to watch the water swirl.
Fuji released a strained breath before falling back to bed. He used to pride himself in being the one who understood Tezuka most. But, now, he suddenly found himself wondering why he couldn't even try to understand Tezuka again.
Fuji could hear the surprise in Tezuka's "Fuji."
Fuji's smile softened involuntarily. "I'm at the café near my campus. Will you come?" he asked while pressing his phone closer to his right ear.
"Yes," Tezuka answered promptly.
Fuji took a sip from his cup of coffee when the call had ended. This time he'll listen, Fuji promised himself. Tezuka talked so rarely but Fuji knew the careful way Tezuka's words were chosen, the sincere way Tezuka's words were said.
Seeing Tezuka enter the café, Fuji smiled warmly.
Giving a nod in return, Tezuka settled on the chair opposite Fuji.
"You wanted to talk to me?" Tezuka asked.
Raising the cup to his lips, Fuji took another sip of coffee. "Tell me everything, Tezuka," he said sedately.
Tezuka tilted his head slightly, as if searching Fuji's face and thinking of the right words to say. He started sharing what he had felt that day; when Fuji asked if they could try to be together. He had felt glad at first, but he'd felt uncertain too. He told Fuji that his parents were the main reason because he had assumed that his parents would shun him if they found out who he was with. But then, he went on to say that over the last four years, all he wanted to do was tell Fuji the truth. This was why he had contacted Yumiko to ask about Fuji. He had asked where Fuji was studying, asked about Fuji's photography, asked about Fuji's health, asked many things about Fuji. All along, he'd been hoping to tell Fuji the truth, but he had never known what the right words were. "I'm sorry," Tezuka ended. His voice was deep and honest.
"Hiding the truth is as bad as lying," Fuji remarked. His voice was calm. His emotions were well controlled.
"I know," Tezuka said truthfully.
Silence wrapped around them like a cloak and, at that moment in time, Fuji remembered the usual silence they had shared in Seigaku. Their silence used to be comfortable. They had always understood each other by calculating each other's actions. They had not needed words. But Fuji knew that there were questions too, questions like "Why can't we try?" that he used to ask himself years ago, when Tezuka did not say a word. Fuji knew that all questions would remain unanswered until one of them asked and the other answered.
Fuji also realized that however good they were at calculating each other, they needed words too – words to further understand each other, words to clarify their assumptions.
"I'm sorry," Tezuka quietly repeated.
Fuji noticed Tezuka's clenched fists on top of the table. He saw the apologetic and uncertain lines on Tezuka's forehead. Fuji knew that his own wounds would not heal if he were to wound Tezuka now. "Earn it," Fuji finally said.
Tezuka raised his head. His eyes widened in question.
Fuji's eyes answered with an unspoken challenge.
"Earn my forgiveness," Fuji replied after a long pause. He watched silently as Tezuka's brow furrowed deeper and as Tezuka's fists clenched tighter. And, then, Fuji chuckled lightly. "I know you will."
The worried lines on Tezuka's brow disappeared and Tezuka's lips curled into a smile that only Fuji recognized. Nodding, Tezuka declared, "I won't get careless."
A/N: I'm working on the next chapter of Remembrance, by the way. And I'd love some reviews... :D