Title: Epistolary Novels
Day/Theme: Jan 3rd / Her handwriting (late)
Fandom: Tenipuri
Pairing: TezukaFuji
A/N: hello, draft pile! This has been 99% written for a long time. I'm tired of it sitting around. Along with 09. indigo ink for alphabet love at lj

epistolary. adj. Written in the form of or carried on by letters or correspondence: "an endless sequence of epistolary love affairs"; "the epistolary novel"

.

I.
He always writes each curve of Tezuka's name kanji sensually, with a trace amount of longing spread into the blue ink of his pen, the one he filched from Tezuka's pack after practice. It's unremarkable, plain, possibly the plainest pen in existence. Yet to Fuji, it is something always kept close, precious.

Throughout school Fuji finds himself biting the edge of it, where Tezuka's palm once rested.
A new habit, he thinks.

II.

"This isn't goodbye," Fuji says, and means it. There's determination behind his voice, it's steely and somehow insurmountable. This is a new side of Fuji, he brittle and more bitter than Tezuka has ever heard him before.

"Then what is it?" Tezuka counters, he rarely does but he is worn down with entrance exams and packing, with all the farewells he's had to say this day.

"An interlude; A change of scenes, if you will. " Fuji says, his voice low, terse and dangerous. Anymore and he will twist, divert them into a fight.

"Call it what you will," Tezuka replies, parrying each blow with his own defense.

These are their ugly sides, sallow in this new light. This is the sound of tendons ripping and strings breaking.

It's the sound of goodbye.

III.

Letters. Fuji has never been a perfectionist until now, where each part is mocking. It should be casual, as if nothing has changed.

Fuji rubs his temples and casts aside another one. It shouldn't be so hard to write this.

"Syuusuke, it's late," Yumiko says.

"Just a bit more, I'm almost finished.," he says, not looking up.

"You said that two hours and five pieces of paper ago," Yumiko says, fingers curling at the back of her brother's chair.

"Ah, really?"

Yumiko lets it be, because she understands. She was young once, and still is to an extent. She wrote love letters and concealed them as casual pleasantries It's been so long since I've heard from you, I've almost forgotten what you look like and sound like, imagine that.

She returns, checks on her child and finds her way back through the maze of hallways, interlinked corridors back to where her husband is, the steady breathing in, out affirming again all those things she wrote, witty and articulate but still far too thin for the weight of the words.

Pleasantries, not love letters.

Yumiko still has all those letters that she never sent. The ones with sloping cursive and french perfume now dulled with age, they sit in a corner in the attic untouched by dust or steams of sunlight in their well-hidden places.

It wouldn't matter, he's been married for ten years now. His wife is lovely.

IV.

Tezuka has letters too, but they're stocked in texts and tomes which he dives head first into.
If responsibility is an artform, then Tezuka far outdid any classical painter with his drive.

His letters, responses, are often just as monosyllabic, but on pen words fail even more. With paper there isn't the between that could be achieved in physical conversation. Yes, I am fine. My studies are going well. Work hard...

Other students plaster their walls with pictures, posters, stealing away a bit of home.

His are bare.

All his pictures are stored away deep in desk drawers. Even hidden they announce their presence.

This is Chiba, I grew up around here. The sun setting over the beach is, I should show you it some time. It's beautiful.

Landscapes and flowers and little shots, a child in the park, a hint of honey-color-tan hair in a shot of blue, blue sky. Tezuka holds it carefully, as to not smudge the sensitive inner side of the photo with his fingerprints.

V.

How much white out would it take before he discards yet another paper? Fuji wonders if Tezuka can see between the lines, see all of his lies, see him. Tezuka always has caught even the most subtle inflections. Would distance give him a an advantage? Would the last threads of their bond dissolve?

Fuji isn't sure he wants to hide anymore.

VI.
Months pass. Fuji wonders how many threads he can cling to. He knows that Tezuka speaks better in silence. The distance only brings flat messages.

Fuji can picture his face, the creases in annoyance, the blankness. The thought almost makes him laugh, The familiarity is comforting.

He takes a course, drops it, plays a set, and is merely dissatisfied with the carelessness of his opponent. When he returns home he hangs his jacket beside his sister's faux-fur lined one.

She studies him, reads him and tells him without for once bothering for the greetings of the day.
She puts her hands on her hips and stares him down in a way that only a fellow Fuji family member could.

"Are you going to mope forever, Fuji?" Yumiko says. "Go out and chase him."

Because moping over a lost love is a family trait, and Yumiko knows when history will repeat itself. This time she the seer can see the formations of a familiar sorrow.

And Fuji smiles in return, bemused.. "You always were the psychic one in the family."

"It's in the cards," she says. "If it isn't then I'll shuffle and try again."

Fate is a word. Life is a thing one takes into their own hands. Destiny is only for the weak or megalomaniacs, the kind who decry God or claim him on their side alone.

VII.
Yumiko slips him a book before the flight ("You'll like it," she says) and drives him to the airport. Fuji reads the novel upon the plane, a novel of love and longing and love letters never sent. The style is similar, and he remembers a time when younger when Mme. Estelle was Yumiko's first palm-reading name. Now the illustrious Estelle was writing novels, or simply one heartrending one that felt like pressing the weight of the emotion onto a paper, blood streaked and all.

It is her sole publication, and a thing she never shared with the family. More than a torrid past, it is a memoir of loss hidden under the guise of a novel. At times the lines of art and life blend, until it is not simply what is imitating what but what is real and which is the mirrored surface.

IX.

Fuji does not close the book immediately when he catches sight of a glint of glasses, of broad shoulders and incongruously unkempt hair. He savors the last few paragraphs, rereads them and feels the weight intensified each time.

In his mind he rewrites them, to a less poignant ending with too different characters. Perhaps he'd write it, but then who could resist the parallel, an almost plagiaristic one of two variations on a theme.

Or maybe it was such a oft-told tale that few would notice. There are no copyrights in love, only the same tale told in different ways.

Fuji closes his book as he sees Tezuka. A Tennis bag is slung over his good shoulder,

"Did you miss me?" Fuji says

Tezuka clears his throat, dodges the question. "Fuji," he says, more a scolding than anything.

Fuji is amused, the body language almost looked as if Tezuka was embarrassed. It was an amusing and even cute thought. He'd embarrassed Tezuka before, but never by a simple teasing question.

Fuji didn't bother to rent a room, he knew Tezuka would have a couch or a bed for Fuji to impose upon, even if it was his own.

Fuji carries his own bags, and Tezuka didn't offer. Tezuka wasn't Takasan, he wasn't a knight cloaked in shining chivalry. Besides, Fuji would've refused had he asked.

Fuji put away the novel and its final, aching ending scene. The sunset cover disappeared into his bags, its own all-too-true tragedy fading with it.

X.

Fuji sets his bags in the corner, they do not take much space. He packs light, he always does. Fuji would rather take the dangers as they come instead of such a boring thing as being prepared.

He sits on the bed as Tezuka washes his hands in a basin, his hands hidden in a white soapy lather.

"I see you're well," Fuji says. You've healed well, or as well as can be said.

Tezuka turns off the sink and dries his hands. "Why are you here? You never do things like this casually."

"Really, Tezuka, I'm hurt. Didn't you want to see me?" Fuji purses his lips into a faux pout.

"Fuji, answer the question," Tezuka says.

"Fine," Fuji says. He stops the joker's smile, the mask and rises to face Tezuka. His eyes are a brilliant color of sea reflecting sky. He is far more slight than Tezuka, yet he squares his shoulders as if to meet every inch.

"Don't you think something like this is worth fighting for?"

Tezuka says nothing. He takes a few steps forward until he is on level with Fuji, it feels as if they are on separate sides of the same fight, as if a tennis net was between them and this war was fought for dominance and perhaps happiness. Tezuka never could separate tennis from life, so Fuji wouldn't be surprised if Tezuka challenges him right then – the best of three matches to win his heart.

"Tezuka," Fuji says again.

In response Tezuka brushes his hands against Fuji's skin, as if he wanted to smudge his fingerprints all over Fuji, to leave his marks upon him deep enough that they'd never be washed away.

"I can stay awhile," Fuji says. He does not meet Tezuka's eyes, but studies his hands. Tezuka's hands

"Stay," Tezuka replies.

And Fuji does. He is rootless, floating with the whims of the wind. He does not mind the thought of being tethered to Tezuka, of hiding the evidence of them for then he can make up stories and then he could hint and tease Tezuka and hint at things whenever women came closer.

Their novel has a different ending. Less poignant, more cliche but with different cast. Fuji can take this, he can take being another Hollywood ending. He doesn't mind being one of the many mythologies that make up the world of happy love, he'd rather be one of the forgettable cliches than the burned on memories of tragic love. A life spent yearning is tedious, the weight of the sadness becomes tiresome after a while.

Contentment with anyone else but Tezuka could be boring, but Tezuka is so maddeningly simply, he is a clue hidden to the obvious, a Poe mystery. Unraveling him, and loving him is no easy feat. It is complex enough to keep even Fuji occupied for the rest of his days.

XI.

There is a picture on the wall of a pair of friends (or so they say) in front of a tennis court. It was taken by Eiji upon one of his moments of stealing (borrowing, really) Fuji's camera. Tezuka does not smile, Fuji more than makes up for him. Fuji secretly thinks of it as a wedding picture, though he thinks Tezuka didn't quite know it yet. No veil, no dress or rings, just tennis rackets and endless blue skies of a the middle of a childhood and something like a first and final love (tennis) and a second and final love (them).

Fuji sips at his tea (oolong, Tezuka's preference, not his). The water is stewing and lunch is ready. Without his watch, Tezuka might go hours and hours of study and practice without a single meal.

Fuji chuckles, despite himself. Oh Tezuka. What would he do without Fuji? Starve to death, probably.

A jingle of keys, a slip of the door, an opening. Fuji turns and smiles a brilliant, truly happy smile.

"Welcome back, Tezuka."