Title: Boundary Line
Rating: Eh, PG. Some swearing but nothing too bad.
Character/Pairing: Tezuka, Fuji (gen)
Summary: Three years and three snapshots. On boundaries, tennis and what makes up an unconventional friendship. Tezuka & Fuji, gen.
Pure gen. Which is surprising because in my mind most of their fights are solved via tennis makeouts. I think this is somewhat connected to me searching for a way to explain their relationship via non-sexual, non-romantic canon terms ages ago.
Latelate birthday present for Vierblith. See, for the fic I was trying to originally write I got blocked on the last scene and I'll just have to give it to you later or something. Instead of porn you get gen~ This is somehow vaguely humorous I think.
It had all started as a joke.
Fuji giggled, hand over his mouth. Tezuka was 12-going-on-40. It amused him all the things he could do, rather like a child amused itself by poking a particularly hideous bug. Would it fly back and attack? Would it spring to life or fly away?
In between their chores as ichinin on the tennis team, Fuji amused himself with Tezuka-watching.
Tezuka's style was strong, yet controlled. He was talented enough to even make the third year's worry but beyond his tennis, Tezuka was reserved and laconic. Fuji brushed aside an errant strand of hair and thought of what it would take to break that reserve. How much teasing before he got a smile, a laugh? The thought wove itself into Fuji's mind, coming again and again until he couldn't help but act on it.
He started with conversations that were mostly him talking just to see if he could get Tezuka to say more than a grunted Ah. It was the ultimate challenge, see if Tezuka actually could emote or if he really was a robot like several other of the ichinins suspected. (Which mostly made up of him and Eiji. Inui would've been added to this list too, but Eiji said he was an alien robot and thus a little different.)
The first time Fuji photographed Tezuka, he'd hoped for a look of surprise in the glare of the flash, maybe of anger, but Tezuka just stared blankly back at him.
Most thought that Fuji would tire of this chase, that he would lose interest when he realized that Tezuka wouldn't give the response he desired no matter how much poking – perhaps even Fuji himself considered this option.
But Fuji took it as a challenge.
After that first shallow, humorous thought Fuji began to look deeper. Tezuka was more than the kind of stoic, blank boy; Fuji saw the seeds of a future leader. Fuji thought that maybe he'd want to play against Tezuka. One set, just that to see what kind of tennis this strange, fascinating boy would show.
Just one would be enough for Fuji.
On Seigaku's second year, they lost 2-1. Tezuka had been the only one to carry through. Eiji had suffered an injury halfway through the match; just as they seemed on the verge of winning, he landed a desperate leap wrong, and sprained his ankle. Fuji had lost too, by a slimmer margin.
He'd been teasing an older player, letting him get his confidence up and inching his way forward. His plan had been to snatch victory from his grasp, letting him win a few sets, then destroying him, but he'd gotten serious a set too late. The end was anticlimactic, and Fuji felt more disappointed at being denied the right to wipe the smirk off his face than to have lost the game.
Tezuka won his, of course. His match was nearly flawless, perfection on a sinking ship.
Fuji sat on the side, idly running his fingers over the racket. Cicadas droned on in the distance and Fuji focused on them and the faint thrumming in his head the unrealness of the situation left them with. They'd lost, they'd gotten so close only to have it snapped away.
Every look Tezuka gave him seemed accusatory. His anger was oppressive, like the worst of summer heat. Fuji wished Tezuka would just punish him already. Give him laps, a stern talking to, anything rather than this smoldering resentment. He had urged – commanded them to work harder, to never grow careless and never give up and they, all of them had failed their captain.
The thing was, this sort of burning resentment wasn't for the team, it was for Fuji. It was like Fuji had severely disappointed him, as if he'd been expecting him to hold up the rest of the team along side him. No misstep or botched shot was as much a failure as the ones Fuji had made.
Momo could've lost zero-to-six and Fuji still would've felt the smoldering resentment pointed right at him. Tezuka didn't have to even say a word, for Fuji knew through that thick, smog-like silence that Tezuka wasn't simply angry, no – he was disappointed.
And that was worse than any mere rage could have been.
The school year came to a close and for Fuji it couldn't come fast enough. He flew through his exams just as he did every year. Eiji spent most of his time lying and staring at the ceiling and mooching off of Oishi when needed. Inui went into full data mode and most instances of practice were canceled for the end of the year. Few had the desire to go to practice after hours of integrals and capitols (Except Tezuka, but that was a given.) and morale had fallen low since their close scrape with victory.
Ryuzaki-sensei knew when to cut her losses and acted accordingly.
Fuji tapped his pencil against the desk. His sheet was filled out already and turned in. Probably not flawless but he knew he would pass with a high mark. He pushed aside any stray paranoid thoughts and focused on the clouds soaring outside. He could see the courts from here, and the net swung in the light breeze.
He turned back to his finished test. He turned his back on lost battles and matches and Tezuka and all his lingering, uneasy silence.
After the loss Fuji was glad for the respite that a trip to Chiba would give him. He'd missed the frame of waves and off-center feeling that arose when that sun heat got trapped under his skin.
It felt good to wash off the lingering feeling of unease that the loss and Tezuka's anger had left. Fuji didn't usually dwell on lost games, they simply were – a inescapable thing that happened when playing but Tezuka wouldn't accept losses as an answer. Fuji liked Saeki. They thought alike, most the time when Fuji tried to bullshit him, Sae caught it in an instant. But it wasn't like when Tezuka saw through him, it wasn't how Tezuka's eyes would narrow it'd grow into something fierce, a battle of wills and purposes.
Sae would just laugh, and then Fuji would laugh. Sae tended to solve most problems by shoving sand down people's pants and dunking them in the sea. Tezuka, on the other hand, used silent warfare. Fuji thought that more people should rely on Saeki's way. The world would be a better place if more arguments got solved by de-pantsing and noogies that ended with friendly water fights. Just think of the casualties it would save if everyone went out for a drink after a particularly heated game of volleyball.
The sand under his feet felt scratchy and hot, it was like a familiar relative to him. He'd missed the feel of it sinking between his toes. He'd missed the feeling of the sun and the waves flecked over his skin.
Fuji wanted a break from tennis, it felt like a demanding, histrionic girlfriend and he wanted a chance to drift again. Aimlessly, like a seed, from one habit to another, like he always had before.
But that wasn't right, it wasn't tennis he was tired of.
It was serious, rock-like sensibility and responsibility. All the features he admired and hated in Tezuka.
When the sun was down and their skins were thoroughly burnt to a crisp. Saeki waved and went home. It would've taken Yuuta to keep him overnight and Yuuta hadn't come.
The lack of Yuuta put a damper on the trip, but Fuji was determined to enjoy himself, if only to prove to Tezuka that it could be done. Fuji felt like being as petulant as a child, kicking pillows even crossed his mind a few times.
He stared up at the rafters with all their familiar splinters. The pipes of the summerhouse creaked and the kitchen faucet dripped. They left a rusty stain that his mother fought battles against every summer. Wielding a steel wool pad she'd scrub until the metal shone through again.
It was comforting, he knew all these ghosts.
Sae was summer incarnate. He was just as carefree and lackadaisical as hanging in a hammock and feeling the cool sea breeze when sea salt met salty skin. They could swim until their skin turned wrinkly and then settle in the shade for balm for the burns and a cold drink. They could joke and banter and play cards late into the night but Fuji knew that he couldn't talk with Sae about everything. Saeki's eyes would glaze over if he ever mentioned tennis in serious terms.
Saeki liked tennis purely for its recreational purposes. He'd rather be benched than practice hard for he took tennis as another form of leisure. He was the same as Fuji in that way – naturally gifted without the kind of refined practice that people like Tezuka had. If Saeki ever had an injury, a really serious life-changing injury he would simply quit and move on with his life.
In this way, Eiji was the same. Sure they could giggle over schoolwork or go out to eat or study together but there was never the depth that he felt with Tezuka.
Even if Tezuka managed to make him angrier than perhaps any other friend, it was Tezuka who was driving him farther. It was Tezuka who he trusted that shaky sort of trust, willow-like in its flexibility.
Fuji stared at the sea, the light on the water that glistened and made him have to squint from its brightness. A shadow shaded over him and he looked up to see Sae smiling down at him.
"Lost in thought? Figured out the meaning of life yet?" Sae grinned and Fuji couldn't help but smile back.
"Maybe," Fuji said.
It wasn't the meaning of life (Which Fuji knew Tezuka probably deep down thought was 'tennis') But for Fuji, it was close enough.
Fuji didn't return until the break was over and the school days began again. He settled in and heard the tales of all of Eiji's family (which was quite lengthy, considering the size of Eiji's family) and then about Taka's Sushi restaurant. There had been a semi-famous idol that had visited their shop and Taka blushed just to remember it.
Tezuka had of course, already prepared and was overseeing some ranking information so Fuji was spared seeing him while changing. Despite the fact, Fuji didn't feel as relieved at this as he thought he would.
Tezuka was taller, even from this distance Fuji was sure of it. He'd sprung up at least an inch or two while they were away and all Fuji could do was chuckle. The distance had increased between them again, and considering that Fuji seemed to take after his mother's side, he wasn't sure he could catch up on this deficiency.
But skill wise...
Fuji smiled. He knew the best sort of almost-apology would be to play the best damn tennis he could right where Tezuka could see. He'd get the message halfway through a well returned shot.
And one of these days he'd show the extent of those skills to Tezuka firsthand. But not quite yet.
Fuji didn't realize how much he'd missed tennis until the racket was back in his hands. The grip felt so right that without it there was an unexplained emptiness. He looked out over the court and to Tezuka's broad shoulders and back.
He knew Tezuka was aware of his presence, even focused away. He didn't have to call out a greeting, he'd make a six-to-zero game his long awaited hello.
Tezuka sat down beside him on the bench. He slowly lifted his water bottle to his lips and drank and then lowered the bottle. Fuji expected him to say something, a reprimand, most likely. He had to suppress a smile at the thought of Tezuka putting him in timeout. But Tezuka was silent. This closeness could only be calculated, there was no way it could be an accident.
An odd thought crossed his mind, of definition.
He supposed Tezuka and he were friends, in a loose sense. There was an expectation between them, and neither of them allowed failure in the other. Fuji was one of the few who dared to tell Tezuka when he was being a heroic idiot, no matter how many laps might result of such a thing.
They didn't have an exact rivalry per se. Tezuka was too impartial and devoted to tennis itself to show much exact rivalry. Fuji had never seen him stoop to the level of bickering like Momo and Kaidoh had. Their wars were waged in silence, not words.
Fuji basked in the fading sunlight and felt Tezuka relax marginally beside him. He realized that Tezuka was saying something, by saying nothing.
It was just his way, and Fuji wouldn't have it any different
Maybe they weren't friends in the traditional sense, or rivals, but for Fuji, it was enough.