Disclaimer: Not mine. :/ What's a girl gonna do?
A/N: RE-EDITED. BECAUSE I THINK THE ORIGINAL SUCKED. Chapitre 2 is also edited, and they're kinda big changes (though no altering to the storyline) so you may wanna go check that out. And I'm sorry that it's taking so long to get Ch4 out. I have writer's block and I'm trying to overcome it.
When Syusuke turned 13, Tezuka took him to his house for the first time.
His father had known him when he was a little kid so it was with an affectionate, "Hey, Syusuke," and a ruffle of his hair that he was greeted. His mother fell in love with him at first sight, as many people were wont to do (honestly, Tezuka thought it was because of his girlish appearance). His grandfather had been meditating and it was a well-known rule in the house that you never interrupt Kunikazu when he was meditating if you didn't want to be judo-slammed into the ground, so Tezuka said nothing to the aged man.
They decided to prepare a meal for Syusuke's birthday. When Ayana learned about Syusuke's…unique palate, she prepared a lunch of jambalaya, spicy ramen, and wasabi sushi. Seeing how she was going all out to make the cute little boy happy (even though he couldn't finish all of it), no one protested against the very spicy food even as they felt their mouths burning (Kuniharu was very tempted to take the kettle of green tea and pour it down his throat). After a finishing bowl of apples (Syusuke skipped the green ones, saying that he did not like sour food), Tezuka took him to the zoo.
Like humans (most, anyway), all the animals loved Syusuke. This seemed okay for the 17 year old babysitter until the lions started sauntering down the hills directly towards them, eyes gleaming. Of course, the caretakers said they were well fed and the zookeeper said they were tamed, but the lionesses were following Syusuke's every move and the fence was only 3 feet high and therefore Tezuka found it reasonable to tear out of there as fast as possible while still barely keeping his dignity, dragging Syusuke behind him.
The arctic animals were safer, Tezuka decided. Unlike the open hills, there was a thick wall of glasses in between them and he felt comfortable knowing that no matter how much the penguins pecked and flapped their wings at the barrier, they would not be able to touch the gently smiling boy who at the moment was…talking to them.
"Penguin-san, how are you today?" he said, moving closer to the animals before immediately being tugged back by Tezuka. "Do you like it in there? I wonder if they're feeding you enough…"
"Please stop talking to the animals." Tezuka said. "It will only encourage them."
"You're being silly, Tezuka." he giggled.
At the petting zoo, the fluffy lambs cuddled up to Syusuke, rubbing against his clothes and sniffing his pockets. Tezuka made a connection from the scene to Bo Peep.
The next stop was the forest animals. Immediately, the birthday boy seemed to develop an attachment to a small bear cub. As he watched his charge teasing the baby by moving his finger along the glass, Tezuka noticed the similarities between the two: tiny, adorable, and fluffy (in a way, the description fit him), but if you underestimated it, it would destroy you. Or have something bigger destroy you. Hn. Cute…and slightly malevolent.
Halfway into the trip, Tezuka was starting to get really annoyed.
The giraffes all wanted to be fed by Syusuke, the koala bears all wanted to be held by Syusuke, the snakes all wanted to wrap themselves around Syusuke, and the butterflies all wanted to land on Syusuke. That day, Tezuka decided he was never taking Syusuke to the zoo ever again.
Syusuke was at Tezuka's house when the subject was brought up.
"Kunimitsu, when's your graduation again?" Ayana asked as she set down a cup of tea for each of them. "Fuji-kun could probably come."
"I'm not in the ceremony. That's only for the graduating third years. There'd be no point."
"I see…" his mother looked contemplative. "Well, either way we'll have a party for you when you come home."
Tezuka would've groaned if he didn't have amazing self-control. "Please don't."
But against Tezuka's wishes (who actually heeded them anyway?), Syusuke went to his high school that day, though he got many weird looks because of his different school uniform and his small stature. To Syusuke, the ceremony was so unbelievably boring since there was nobody in it that he knew and he couldn't find Tezuka in the audience. So when headed outside to the courtyard and caught sight of his babysitter standing by the gates, Syusuke dashed forward and crashed into Tezuka's back, his arms reflexively wrapping around him. He found these acts of intimacy more appropriate now that they were much closer than before.
"Agh! What the—what are you doing here?" Tezuka recovered from his initial shock—that was possibly the most expression Syusuke has ever seen from him—and twisted his body so he could see the little boy clinging to his back.
"I came here to see you, of course." Syusuke explained with an innocent smile and a cute tilt of his head. "Aren't you happy to see me?"
"My, Tezuka, I didn't know you had an affinity for little boys."
It was then that Syusuke took notice of the two other boys there. The one who spoke had midnight blue hair with shininess that rivaled Syusuke's. The other one had a cap and reminded him of Tezuka—a big rock.
"I'm his babysitter, Yukimura." Tezuka mumbled with a glare, fixing his glasses that had gone crooked as a result of Syusuke's assault.
"Day care provider," Syusuke corrected. "And you're not really my babysitter anymore."
"As long as your parents still pay me, I am still your babysitter," Tezuka replied.
Syusuke wrinkled his nose. He wondered how his parents could afford vacations and pay Tezuka. He came over a lot. Syusuke knew for one that his dad's job did not pay the most money in the world. Then again, he had no clue what his mom did for a living. Maybe they won the lottery…
"Yukimura, let's go." The boy with the black cap said. On the surface, he looked mean but Syusuke had a suspicion that he was a big softie just like Tezuka was (or like Syusuke suspected he was).
Later when Tezuka took him to watch his special tennis practice for regulars' only and he saw Sanada slap everyone who lost their practice matches, he changed his mind.
"You grew…" Tezuka announced with mild shock as he checked once more that Fuji was aligned correctly against the wall.
"Really?" the boy's voice was disbelieving.
"Aah…" Tezuka said somewhat absently. This had never happened before. Syusuke had been so small and tiny and chibi for the entire 4 years that Tezuka's known him. Of course, he had gotten taller, but it was millimeters at a time and Tezuka had never seen a difference.
"Sugoi!" Syusuke cried in joy and Tezuka was reminded of Akutagawa Jiroh, a sleepy player on the tennis team who Atobe constantly spoiled. "But…"
"Hmm?" Tezuka saw Syusuke's face turn sad in contemplation.
"If I'm getting bigger, then you can't hold me anymore." the boy looked down, eyes drooping and disappointed.
"…It's 2 centimeters. The most you'll gain is maybe 3 kilograms and you were already underweight."
"But I could be going through a growth spurt," Syusuke said anxiously. Tezuka could honestly say that this was the first time Syusuke seemed sad about getting taller. Usually, he prayed for it. "And if you can't hold me anymore, Ato-baka and Sanada-san will hit you."
"That's ridiculous," Tezuka sighed. No matter how old he got, Syusuke still had the mindset of a child. Like a parent with his child, he took Syusuke's hand and led him to the couch. After sitting down, Tezuka lifted Syusuke's small frame up and set it in his lap, where it settled in a little too enthusiastically. Warningly, Tezuka shifted him away a bit, making Syusuke pout. But he snuggled his head against the crook of Tezuka's neck anyway and Tezuka in turn gently wrapped his arms around the warm body (and pushed him slightly away when he hugged Tezuka like a koala).
"See? It's fine." Tezuka said comfortingly.
Syusuke just closed his eyes and smiled.
School had been going on for four months and summer break still wasn't here yet and Tezuka was ready to jump into the swimming pool wearing his school uniform. Luckily, Sanada held him back from making a fool out of himself. Tezuka pointed out that he'd seen Atobe do it before. Sanada told him that Atobe was an idiot. Yukimura told him to be nice.
Exams were torturous to him right now and his glasses were constantly fogging up and slipping down his nose, which was slippery with sweat. Had he been any less dignified, he would've screamed at the top of his lungs. He was coming very close to doing so.
Lunch was also insufferable. Because of the weather, no sane person went outside to eat these days and so Yukimura and Sanada headed to the rooftop every day. Tezuka knew better than to follow. He had done it once and had realized that his friends did not care about an audience and they would have their "alone time" whether Tezuka was watching or not. He never went up there with them again.
But he was seriously considering it as Atobe went on and on and on about "ore-sama's amazing vacation at the Carribeans, Bahamas, Australia, France, England, California, and Switzerland last month." Tezuka wondered if he could push Atobe off the stairwell and somehow make it look like an accident. Of course he would have to visit him in the hospital maybe once or twice but he could pretend he forgot because all the tests were piling up on him…
"Oi, Tezuka, are you listening?"
"Good, now back to my story about how on my yacht I…"
Tezuka sighed. The last few summers, he had Syusuke's air-conditioned house to go to. But the boy was on a family vacation to Alaska (smart move) and Tezuka now trudged home every day to his humid, burning traditional home where his mother made too much food (her way of beating the heat) and forced him to eat it, his father hogged all the icepacks, and his grandfather came home every day at 10:00 p.m. because the police station he worked at was cold.
"Aah? What is it Tezuka? Did my amaz—"
And with that, Tezuka packed up his half-eaten lunch and headed towards the nurse's office where he could lay down in the cot under the fan where it was dark and sleep until break was over.
The nurse greeted him with a flirty smile, which he ignored. Tezuka told her he felt sick and needed to rest and though albeit slightly disappointed, she let him. After all, he was Tezuka Kunimitsu.
Nurse Hanamura left soon after—possibly to harass some more boys, Tezuka thought—and Tezuka could breathe again without the scent of overpowering perfume drifting all the way to the other side of the large infirmary. Five minutes after he had fallen asleep, Tezuka awoke to the vibrating phone in his pocket. He knew he wasn't supposed to have it on or even in school, but frankly, in his situation, he didn't give a damn.
1 new text message from:
He pressed the open button and read:
Hey Tezuka! :) Guess what? I saw a polar bear UP CLOSE today. :D It was really big. :O
Tezuka found himself smiling at the message (and the multitude of emoticons). He clicked reply and typed:
When are you coming back?
A reply came soon after.
Why? Do you miss me, Tezuka? ;)
Tezuka hesitated before texting:
Across the world in Alaska, Syusuke blushed.
One cold blustery morning, Tezuka was awakened by a persistent ringing of the doorbell. He wondered if he could just ignore it…but his grandfather slept in a building apart from the main house, so he couldn't possibly answer it; his mother also slept like a brick and his father's snoring was loud enough to drown out a blaring fire truck so they couldn't answer it either. Of course, it was up to him.
Sliding on a robe, he trudged down the stairs while yawning, his glasses askew. The clock said it was 4:50. No one sane woke up this early.
"Who is it?" he muttered. He didn't even care that he sounded like a lazy bum. At 5 in the morning, he was a lazy bum.
He opened the door without waiting for the answer and was immediately shocked back to life at the sight of Syusuke standing there bundled up like a brown marshmallow.
"Happy birthday, Tezuka!" he announced cheerfully, holding up an orange and green gift-wrapped package out with both hands. It reminded Tezuka of a tangerine.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, alarmed. The boy was wearing a long fluffy down coat and a scarf but his face was flushed and even though he was smiling, Tezuka could see the shivers overtaking his body. Quickly he led him inside, noticing that his bare hands were freezing. "You're going to get sick."
"I'll be fine." he said, still glowing up at his babysitter. Tezuka sat him down on the living room couch and quickly shed his jacket and scarf, revealing the Mt. Fuji nightshirt underneath. Looking around, he grabbed the closest thing and wrapped the object—a furry throw blanket—around him.
"Why are you here? And don't you know that you could get hypothermia like this?" he asked almost angrily. Syusuke was struggling against the tight cocoon he was wrapped in and glaring at Tezuka.
"I'm not going to die, Tezuka! And I'm choking, so get me out of this thing." he complained, wriggling like a worm.
Eventually Tezuka did let him out but insisted that he lay on the couch while he looked for a thermometer to take his temperature. Syusuke growled as Tezuka shoved the thing under his tongue but stayed still until the process was completed.
"You have a fever," Tezuka accused. "How long were you out there?"
"Well, I know it usually only takes 10 minutes to get here but I got lost on the way there and it was dark so I ran into a tree and then I had to stop in the park to wipe away the blood and then a squirrel chased me for a few blocks and I realized I was lost and it took me half an hour to find your house again," he said, reciting the events.
"…Exactly how early did you intend to be here?"
"Mm, maybe 4:00," he decided. "I wanted to make sure I was the first one to wish you a happy birthday. You said that your grandpa wakes up really early so I wanted to be earlier." He finished with another smile.
Despite wanting to lecture Syusuke some more, Tezuka found that he couldn't when the boy insisted on being so sweet. Resigned, he sat down beside Syusuke, where he leaned his head against Tezuka's shoulder and almost immediately fell asleep. Making a mental note to call Syusuke's parents later so they didn't have a heart attack when they went to check on their son and found an empty bed, Tezuka drifted eagerly into dreamland, now with a life-size teddy bear.
Holidays were very elaborate events in the Fuji household.
Around Halloween, Yoshiko unpacked all the decorations (many…many decorations) and set Tezuka and Fuji Sr. to work while she, Yumiko, Yuuta, and Syusuke hung streamers and carved pumpkins. Right now, they were on top of the roof with cardboard cutouts of vampires, mummies, ghosts, werewolves, and fairy princesses.
Somehow the last one didn't seem right.
"Fuji-san, is this really necessary?" Tezuka asked, clinging to the chimney.
"Yoshiko wants it. Never get in the way of what Yoshiko wants." His face scrunched up in what must've been a very painful memory. "Oh yeah, hang these up over there."
Tezuka barely managed to keep his balance as a large, HEAVY box was chucked at his head. If it wasn't for tennis he wouldn't have such good reflexes.
After all the decorations were nailed down or hung up, they were faced with a different dilemma.
"Tezuka-kun, use the ladder!" Yoshiko called out worriedly. "It's not that far down!"
"Yes it is." Her husband mumbled. She shot him a glare.
"Hmm…maybe he could go down the chimney?" Yumiko asked, looking contemplative.
"I think that's more suited for Christmas." Syusuke pointed out.
In the end, Tezuka ended up falling into a row of bushes, most without their leaves. Now the injured teenager was in Syusuke's room while the boy applied disinfectant to the wounds.
"Sorry," Syusuke said as Tezuka winced. "Does that hurt?"
Tezuka glared at him, saying without words: What do you think??
Narrowing his eyes, the boy rubbed the cotton ball harder, causing Tezuka to hurriedly suppress a shriek, and told him, "You know that this is your fault, right. If you weren't scared to go down the ladder, you wouldn't be in this position."
It pained Tezuka to admit that Syusuke was right.
When all his wounds were bandaged, Yumiko came into the room with a large suitcase. After stating that Syusuke needed a Halloween costume for the party and that it was a "fashion faux pas" to repeat outfits and that they wouldn't have time to go to the store and pick up a good one, she told him that he would be choosing from their cousins' and her old collection.
"What about this?" Yumiko asked for Tezuka's opinion, holding up a gothic Lolita dress.
"No." Tezuka stated firmly. The older Fuji let out a small laugh.
"Then…this?" she emerged with a playboy kitty costume.
"No…wait, that might work."
Oops, wait—girl Tarzan.
A devil's mistress.
Imagining Syusuke in these costumes was giving Tezuka a headache and the siblings' very badly concealed laughter was not helping.
"Do you have anything in there not inappropriate or a dress?"
"Hmm…an angel?" she held up a pure white tunic, complete with feathered wings and a plastic halo.
One oddly warm November Sunday, Syusuke and Tezuka were sitting on a bench in the park eating ice cream.
"How come you never call me by my name?"
"I thought I had already agreed to do so."
"But you never have."
"I didn't think it mattered."
"It does to me!"
"Mou, you don't have to apologize."
"Say 'Syusuke,' my name! Jeez, you're so airheaded for a student council president aren't you?"
"Now say it."
"I thought we just went over this."
"Say it again."
"And now say it in a sentence."
"Saa, like 'Syusuke is my best friend in the whole wide world.'"
"Syusuke is…my best friend…in the whole wide…world…"
"Now say 'Syusuke is adorable.'"
"Mou, do think I'm un-cute or something, Tezuka?!"
"No…that's not it…"
"Then say it with conviction!"
"Syusuke is adorable…"
"See? Now say it again."
This process repeated until Tezuka's voice was hoarse from overuse and Syusuke was happily licking Tezuka's strawberry popsicle.
"Syusuke, you are aware that today is New Year's Eve, right?"
"Then why are you wearing a Santa costume?"
"Because you were in America over Christmas and I didn't get to show you my cute outfit!"
"You are such a girl…"
"That's what I thought. Now let's go!"
Closing the door behind him, he grabbed hold of Tezuka's arm and dragged him outside into the streets.
"Syusuke, isn't it traditional to go to a festival?" Tezuka asked as they headed the opposite direction from the lights of the city.
"Yes, but since you were in America, we're going to spend it the American way. Or at least, my American way." Syusuke smiled brightly. Inconspiciously, he slid his hand down the older boy's until he could slide his palm into Tezuka's. Though the student council president noticed this move, he did not comment.
"Then where are we going?" Tezuka asked, since he didn't recognize the street they were on.
"To the big clock tower in town square," Syusuke informed him. "I found a way to climb it."
"Nothing illegal, I hope."
Syusuke laughed. "Not this year. There's a door in the back with stairs winding up. We'll stop once we reach the balcony."
"We're not going to the top?"
"No, the top is really scary. And cramped."
"Have you ever gone up there?" Tezuka glanced at the younger boy, who was now only just a head and a half shorter than him. He certainly had grown over winter break.
"No, I've never climbed it before. But there's a really scary myth about the highest room. Do you want me to tell you?" he asked with glowing excitement. He loved telling stories.
"If you want to," Tezuka enjoyed hearing them. Especially Syusuke's, although they were a bit unrealistic and highly exaggerated most of the time.
"Okay. Well, you know how there are 4 clock faces on the tower?" he continued without waiting for an answer, "Well, they say that in the center of those used to be a torture chamber. It was supposed to have no door and no windows—"
"How would they get prisoners in there if it had no door or windows?"
"Hmm…I dunno…trapdoor? Anyways, there was this one guy who was falsely convicted of stealing his master's horse—"
"Is that really enough to get put in a torture chamber?"
"I suppose, if it was ancient times. They said that anyone who would dare come up there—"
"Once again, I ask: how would they get up there?"
"I don't know! Let's just say that there was a trapdoor that had to be opened by a key and the prisoner couldn't break out because he was weak with no food and handcuffed."
"But if he was handcuffed, then how would he strangle people?"
"You're taking all the fun out of this."
"Sorry. Please continue."
"Anyway, let's just say that he escaped his handcuffs—I DON'T KNOW HOW," he interrupted when he saw that Tezuka was going to say something, "BUT HE DID—and he would kill all the guards that would come up there."
"Wouldn't it get really crowded with dead bodies?"
"You're lucky I have patience with you. Hmm…let's say he ate them."
"That's highly unsanitary."
"He was crazy and he was starving, Tezuka."
"What about the bones?"
"…I do not like you very much right now. Maybe he ate those too. But back to the story. They say that his spirit is still there and will strangle anyone who dares go up there."
"Isn't there a giant bell up there now?"
"No that's above the clock. They added that about thirty years ago. I think they imported it from Europe. It's supposed to really beautiful and decorated with jewels on the inside."
"I don't see the point of putting them on the inside."
"You don't see the point of a lot of things. I think it's supposed to symbolize something. And back to the clock tower—my friend Saeki climbed the tower with his sister once. He told me that the closer they got to the room, the colder it became."
"That's probably because it's higher up."
Syusuke pouted and pinched Tezuka's palm.
"Ow." Tezuka held up his hand to examine the slightly red mark before Syusuke grabbed it back.
"You deserved it. This story's no more fun with your logic."
"But your story contradicts itself."
Syusuke stuck out his tongue. "Ooh, look. We're here."
Tezuka looked up to find them in front of a very intricately designed tower. Syusuke led him around back and Tezuka caught sight of him using a pin to open the lock on the door.
"Not illegal, huh?" he raised an eyebrow. Syusuke shot him an annoyed glance.
It was very dark inside, except for the lights that shined in through the glass panes. Syusuke held his arm as they headed up the steps. When they reached an opening, he led Tezuka through to a balcony overlooking Tokyo.
"Ne, it's pretty, isn't it?" Syusuke leaned against the balcony and Tezuka immediately pulled him back. "Hey!"
"You're going to fall."
"Whatever you say," he shrugged and reached into his inside pocket and pulled out a box. "Do you want some mochi?"
"I thought this was going to be an American Christmas."
"Just take the damn mochi, Tezuka."
They sat down on a stone step and ate in silence as they watched the city. Tezuka watched Syusuke as the wind whipped through his hair.
"Syusuke, you're going to get cold." Tezuka warned.
"It's okay. This jacket is warm." Syusuke smiled gently. "Ne, Tezuka…"
"You're going to college after graduation, aren't you?"
He stiffened. They hadn't discussed this topic before and Tezuka didn't have any intention to until it was inevitable. He guessed that was now.
"Where do you want to go?" the smaller boy asked, a soft smile still on his lips.
"Hmm, that's far, isn't it?" Syusuke leaned against the stone wall. "Call me when you're there, ne?"
"And email, too…"
"You have an email?"
"I'm almost 14, Tezuka. Of course I do…" the city lights reflected in his expressionless eyes as he gazed over the scenery.
"…Are you upset?" he asked.
Syusuke sighed and shook his head. "What kind of friend would I be if I kept you from reaching the top because of something so selfish? I'm a little sad but you'll visit during vacations, right?"
"Maybe…if time allows."
Syusuke scowled for a brief moment, only to allow that peacefully tranquil look to take over again. "Tezuka, am I your best friend?"
Tezuka would've usually said to anyone else that Sanada, Yukimura (that wouldn't be necessarily true, however, because he and Sanada were much closer…in many ways), or even Atobe was his best friend, but when he thought about it, Syusuke had definitely become one of the most important people in his life.
"Yes." Tezuka replied. Syusuke beamed. "We'll always be friends."
It was then that Tezuka turned Syusuke and, for the first time, pulled him into a hug, and it was then that Syusuke realized he wanted them to be more.
Let's see who can guess where the scary story came from :) The original wasn't in a clock tower, but it was at the top. Hint: the master's horse.
And I think that the bell should be easy to guess too. What famous fictional bell has beautiful jewels on the inside but is plain on the outside?
I have a question for all my readers who have probably realized that I like weird formats. What kind of format should I do for the next chapter? Should I continue with this multiple scenarios or a story-like thing? If I do the scenario-scene then it will be different than Years and Words, of course. Gimme your opinions! No, seriously.