title: tomorrow is.

fandom: Tenipuri

rating: G. Quite G.

summary: A remembrance and a secret kept, shades of gray and definitions pale compared to such things. TezukaFuji

a/n: rescued from the unfinished draft pile. Divergence from the Nationals, thus AU. For Tezuka's birthday, because of course the best way to celebrate it is with crippled-for-life angst. (Though I suppose it's better than what I had planned for Fuji's birthday, namely Fuji dying of cancer with oncologist!Tezuka helpless to stop it) But uh, for my defense, there's hope at the end? s' a bit rough because I completely forgot about the occasion until just now.

Everyone has weaknesses, cracks in the faults of the foundation that brings them to their knees, their own private graceless falls and humiliations. Places beyond the makeup and public faces, the little facades people make to get through the day.

Fuji is really no different from another when stripped of the barriers which shield him off from the world, the smoke and mirrors, the masks and actor's drawl. He's a little more fond of satire, a little more adept in sarcasm, perhaps a little more physically and mentally, but when it comes down to it, "genius" is just another word.

The world might say there was something between them, something ambiguous, undefined, a simple shade of grey which defies description.

Some things just are, Fuji has never tried to define this odd connection between them. Humorously he's brought it up at inopportune times because it is amusing that he can identify the cracks; the low almost imperceptible tone of annoyance in Tezuka's voice, the little things that only he knows.

Things he takes advantage of in places like school libraries where he can whisper things that will make Tezuka react, just because he can.

"Maybe we were lovers in a past life," Fuji whispers, pointing his number 2 pencil in Tezuka's direction. "forbidden lovers who died tragically."

Tezuka snorts, and takes the offered pencil. He exchanges it silently with one of his own, a perfectly crisp, sharpened pencil without being asked to.

"Then perhaps I was your mother in a last life? My I never knew you had an oedipal complex."

"Homework, Fuji," Tezuka deadpans, brushing stray shavings from the eraser off the table and into his hand, being just as fastidious as always. Fuji doesn't bother to suppress a chuckle at this.

"Of course," Fuji says, all innocence. For once he does focus on homework, not because he particularly needs to, he never had a problem with the material in the first place.

It doesn't take much longer for Tezuka to finish, though the time spent checking and rechecking and re-rechecking seems long and drawn out, Fuji waits patiently, rather amused by it all.


"Yes?" Tezuka says. He lifts his gaze for a moment, and Fuji can see the irritation, a twitching at the corner of his jaw.

"Ah, it's nothing."

He almost says that honor is just another word, like perfect, love, forever – one of those ideals which only come to fruit in 18th century romantic literature, something long outdated and not worth sacrificing yourself for. Don't be stupid, don't sacrifice yourself, for god's sake don't be a martyr.

But he doesn't. It'd be a waste of breath.

Tezuka doesn't make it past the nationals.

Fuji knew this, had found the signs long ago, like a captain which goes down with the ship, he knew that Tezuka would carry them until the end, until he could no longer walk.

Then they would go on without him.

Ryoma shines, shines more brightly than could be imagined and carries the team just as Tezuka had intended, but alas, their captain is gone. Muscles and ligaments torn beyond repair, never to touch a racket again.

Fuji thinks it would be a kinder thing to tell Tezuka he would never walk, never see again than tell him to give up tennis.

Tezuka sits with his legs crossed, fingers gripping his arm because there's no racket to hold, he's no longer the hero, just a memory already in the process of being forgotten.

In all the photos that follow, Tezuka is always in the farthest corner. The mentions of him grow less and less until they dry up completely.

Tezuka enrolls in college, he starts studying. He begins a normal life.

Everyone else scatters to their own lives. It is Fuji who stays back, keeping his life on hold as to stay closer. Even if only for a moment, he won't let Tezuka be forgotten.

Fuji isn't really different from anyone else, he thinks. But Tezuka is.

Fuji is a genius, but Tezuka is the fallen hero, the one who took the fall for the team. He will be remembered, that shooting star whose brilliance was cut tragically short.

But Fuji wonders if anyone else saw beyond the heroism, beyond that cold solid exterior. Did they miss more than the game, the thrill of it?

Did they ever know Tezuka at all?

Or had he been the only one to press at the walls, water slipping through the cracks until they gave enough for him to pass right on through.

When Tezuka asks, Fuji thinks he's underestimated just how astute Tezuka could be.

"Are you sure you really want to know?" he says, lips tightly locked in a ironic smile.

Tezuka doesn't answer, but doesn't move away either. He just looks on, just waits for Fuji's answer. His move, his volley his play. Tezuka has let Fuji take this final move.

Fuji smiles.

"I'll show you," he says. And only you he thinks.

The question, of course, was who are you, really?. It was not the first time the question had been asked, but the second time Fuji relented, if only a little.

Tezuka would keep that secret until his last breath, and Fuji would stay to ensure that secret's keeping.

However long it would take.

The light of tomorrow is so cold, Fuji thinks. The frost covers everything and he draws his coat closer. Light comes through the grey, pieces of hope soon brushed away by returning cloud cover.

Tezuka walks every morning before dawn, and Fuji joins him. It is still, when the world is still waking. Tezuka is silent, but Fuji does not seek to bridge this quiet. It is comfortable to them, words need not dust over surface of it.

What he had thought of Tezuka was entirely wrong. Tezuka takes his cradled arm and stretches it out, wincing from the pain.

Tezuka is not so easily broken. Fuji should have known that from the start.

Fuji knows that Tezuka will mystify doctors and scientists alike and find some way to crawl back from his injuries. He will play again, the courts will once again bend to his command.

How many tomorrows will it take? Fuji can hardly tell. But it is Tezuka's choice and his own.

Until a thousand and one days, until they run out of sand, until the light stops shining or until Tezuka has healed entirely?

Fuji smiles. They're entwined now, Fuji with his remembering and Tezuka with his secret-keeping. Through the cold he feels snow falling only to melt on his outstretched palm.

They walk on a little farther in silence. The snow is like tiny pieces of paper, wishes by children only to turn to water and air again. The light of the next coming day is so bright, he can barely stand to look at it.