Warnings: About none for this chapter, though the fic is going to become bloody and (if I manage to convey it) scary. ^^
Characters: Tezuka, Fuji. (Friendshipp-y). Rest of Seigaku makes random appearances.
Disclaimer: PoT is not mine. I'm merely playing with the characters.
Without further ado, enjoy!
What Should Have Never Been Found
Snowflakes drifted over a barren landscape covered in white as the grey sky grew darker. It had been cold the entire day, but now that night neared, temperatures dropped further. Meteorologists had already proclaimed the winter one of the coldest in years and no matter how well Fuji recalled this very same spot from more than one summer excursion – without fresh greenery, lively class mates and bus loads of tourists this area felt like an entirely different world.
Those steep mountains were always snow-capped, but now they were mere silhouettes against thick clouds. And the happy chatter of vacationers had vanished, as had the bird's songs. There were no more leafs to rustle in the wind, and a thick layer of snow muffled the sound of their steps.
"Are you cold?" Tezuka's voice cut through the suffocating silence, muffled by a thick wool scarf. His face was barely visible, protected against the cold by multiple layers of fabric.
"No." Fuji replied, hoping his voice would be audible over the wind.
He would have added that walking uphill was keeping him warm, even if he had wanted nothing more than to climb on the next train back to Tokyo the moment he'd stepped out on the platform. But it was too cold to say anymore and his cheeks already hurt from muttering this single syllable.
Tezuka glanced back at Fuji from the corner of his eye, though he was unable to read his friend's expression. He pressed his lips together and kept walking ahead, internally berating himself for letting Fuji come along.
Yet to be honest, he was glad for Fuji's company. They might not have chatted particularly much during the train ride, but the mere presence of somebody beside him had set Tezuka's mind at ease. Now however, he began to fear to have asked too much of his friend. No matter what Fuji claimed, he could tell his friend was paler than normal underneath those thick layers of cloth.
At that moment he finally caught sight of lights in the distance. As he remembered the woods slowly gave way to a residential neighbourhood, consisting of houses surrounded by large gardens and guarded by high stone walls.
It was a beautiful area in summer, tranquil and cool compared to the heat of the city. But in the middle of winter most inhabitants had fled the region and left it as still as a black and white photograph.
Tezuka fastened his steps, eager to leave the biting cold and abruptly turned left, taking three steps to a wooden door within the wall, almost hidden behind bushes. Fuji closed up to him while he searched for the keys in his bag.
"Nakayama. Is this it?" Fuji asked while eying the name plate and Tezuka nodded. Fuji glanced down the silent street, gauging the few visible houses.
"Your grandfather's friends must be wealthy people." He commented and his breath condensed to small, white clouds immediately. "I can imagine that spending the summer here is very nice."
"It is nice in summer." Tezuka automatically replied while he unlocked the door, recalling many summers he had come here when Tokyo had become too hot and humid. "But very cold in winter." He added and ushered Fuji into the expansive backyard.
"It's beautiful." Fuji uttered, glancing up at the two-story building. As far as Tezuka was concerned, it was just a common two-storey house which mixed traditional with modern elements. The well-kept garden was what made it special, with its wide lawns, tastefully arranged flower beds, stone pathways and the large pond that hid in the shade of massive Ginkgo trees in the far corner. But tonight all of this was hidden underneath the snow.
Not much had changed since he had come here half a year ago, Tezuka thought, but didn't stop to observe on his way around the house and to the front entrance. He hurried to unlock the door, careful not to accidentally set off the alarm and belatedly noticed Fuji was still lingering a few steps behind him, gazing left and right.
"Let's go inside." Tezuka merely said, wanting to finally leave the cold. Not that the house would be much warmer as its owners were away, but at least it would provide shelter from the icy wind.
Fuji smiled and followed him up to the dark sliding door. "The garden must be wonderful in summer."
Tezuka nodded and pushed the door open; glad to see the lights flicker to live. "Come in." He ordered and wasted no time in shutting the door after Fuji had entered.
"Ah, this feels good." Fuji sighed, unwrapping the scarf that had covered most of his face. "It was freezing outside."
Tezuka nodded while unfastening his black coat. The inside of the house - thankfully - was warmer than he expected. After he had slid off his shoes, Fuji rubbed his hands together in an attempt to restore circulation in his paper-white fingers. "So, can I help you with anything?"
Tezuka thought for a moment. "Perhaps you could take a look around on the ground floor and see if everything is in order. Or see if there's any tea in the kitchen."
"Tea?" Fuji tilted his head in askance.
Tezuka glanced up from trying to untie the laces of the thick boots his mother had forced onto him earlier that day. "We could both use a cup..."
"True." Fuji said and then pointed over to a couple of pictures lined up on a shelf. "Oh, look, that is your grandfather, isn't it? And is that you?"
Fuji leaned closer and Tezuka felt heat creep up his cheeks. The picture had to be ten years old at least – he was standing in the backyard, proudly holding up a picture that most probably was supposed to depict the garden with his family, but looked more like modern art.
Fuji smiled. "You didn't change much, did you? Already so serious as a child…"
Tezuka did not reply and Fuji glanced at the other pictures. "Are those the Nakayamas?"
A short glance at the picture of a well-dressed elderly couple and Tezuka confirmed Fuji's question with a nod. "And the lady with the cat is the late Mori-san."
"She was the one who lived next door?" Fuji questioned. "She looks nice. I think I would have liked to meet her."
"She was a nice old lady." Tezuka replied. "And my grandfather was quite surprised she died so suddenly - but perhaps it was the cold."
Fuji grimaced. "It's too cold, really. Say, where did your grandfather's friends go again?"
"New Zealand." Tezuka said.
"I'm envious." Fuji complained, barely covering a flinch when he felt cold floorboards through three layers of socks. Tezuka did not answer, but the look in his eyes read plain agreement. Though instead of letting his thoughts wander, Tezuka led them down a warmly-lit corridor until they arrived at a staircase leading up to the second floor.
"The kitchen is over there." He pointed to a sliding door on the right a little further down the corridor. "Just behind that is the living room. Feel free to make some tea and wait in the living room. Meanwhile I'm going to check the rooms upstairs."
Fuji smiled and they parted ways.
With a sigh Tezuka climbed up the wooden staircase, letting his gaze roam over the pictures decorating the wall. He felt tired, though he was loath to admit it and if Fuji's pallor was any indication, his friend, too, was struggling.
A glance at the wall clock mounted to the wall at the end of the upstairs corridor announced if wasn't much past six. This meant they'd not make it home before nine at the earliest. If worst came to worst and they missed a train…
The four rooms upstairs were quickly checked upon. One large bathroom where Tezuka took the liberty of turning the floor heating up a little; a bedroom with blinds drawn; a sitting room which was colder than the rest due to one wall consisting mostly of windows facing the backyard. Outside the sky had darkened considerably, though the snow had stopped falling.
He could make out steep mountains as black silhouettes, disappearing into thick clouds and with a sigh he turned away. Going out into the dreary cold was not an inviting prospect, but as they had school tomorrow, they couldn't stay. Coming here on a weekday had been foolish idea from the beginning on, and he had told his parents so.
But while his grandfather might have agreed, their obligation to the Nakayamas weighted stronger, and thus the task of making sure their home was left untouched and well-ordered even after the sudden death of their neighbour had fallen to him.
At least he hadn't had to make the trip alone, Tezuka thought with a slight smile.
He sighed and dragged his feet to the last room upstairs. The study had always been his favourite, housing a sheer endless amount of rare books and comfortable armchairs - the room was a little odd considering the rest of the house was mainly kept in Japanese style, but those chairs defeated all arguments.
A thud downstairs ripped him out of his reverie.
Tezuka's head snapped up, even though his mind told him to think nothing of it. Fuji might have dropped something - still, he hurried back to the staircase as fast as he could.
"Fuji!" He called, taking two stairs with one step. "Fuji!"
There was no answer and the hairs on the back of Tezuka's neck rose.
He broke into a run, crossing the few metres to the kitchen in a split second, and pushed the door open violently. The bang echoed in his ears like an explosion, but the kitchen was empty and Tezuka felt dizzy.
Pulling himself together he stepped back into the corridor and saw the door to living room standing open. His chest contracted.
"Fuji." He called again, already crossing the distance with large steps. Cold wood met his fingers, and an icy gust of wind hit his face the moment he slid the door open.
The first thing he saw in the dim light was the half-opened door leading out to the backyard. And almost directly in front of it he caught sight of Fuji's prone form. His team mate was on his side, his face turned towards the door, honey-brown hair splayed out on the light carpet and an arm motionlessly flung out.
Tezuka's heart froze.
He crossed the distance in the blink of an eye; fell to his knees and as carefully as possible while trying to stop his hands' shaking he turned Fuji over. His mind screamed to hurry and a shiver ran down his spine. No blood or injury was visible, but Tezuka stiffened when Fuji's head lolled back.
The body in his arms resembled a life-sized doll – Fuji's eyes were closed and his cheeks pale as porcelain. Belatedly he remembered to check his friend's pulse and felt an enormous weight fall of his shoulders when he found it normal.
Fuji's lips were tinted blue and Tezuka felt his heart clench. Swallowing his own fears, he pulled Fuji into his lap and looked around in search of a blanket.
Light brown hair fluttered in another gust of wind and Tezuka's eyes returned to the half-open door. Cold air crept in, and he leaned forward, trying not to jostle his team mate, and slid the door closed before temperatures could sink further.
Then he sat back and sighed.
Maybe he should have told Fuji to stay home when the boy had asked to accompany him. Having spent three years on the same tennis team together had taught him that while Fuji pretended it didn't faze him, extreme weather conditions easily got to him.
It might have to do with his low blood pressure as well, Tezuka contemplated, pressing the back of his hand against Fuji's forehead, checking for a fever. As expected however, Fuji's skin was cool to the touch and Tezuka had to cross a cold off of his list of possible causes.
If he was honest to himself, he was rather certain Fuji's abrupt collapse had been brought on by stress combined with the weather. The looming exams were eating away at Tezuka's reserves as well – even though they were not particularly relevant for him, the atmosphere at school had changed dramatically.
Days were spent in tense silence, but barely one passed without incident – fights, collapses, nervous breakdowns had become a daily occurrence.
While Tezuka would have been contend to let Fuji rest as long as necessary under usual circumstances, the two still had to make the trip back to Tokyo tonight. Luckily Fuji picked that moment to start stirring. Long lashes fluttered and a soft groan escaped half-opened lips.
"Fuji?" Tezuka asked and eyes opened.
"Tezuka?" Fuji questioned, blinking. His eyes were filled with a dozen unvoiced questions and Tezuka's shoulders slumped.
"Are you okay?" He tentatively asked, even though he could see Fuji was disoriented and feel the tremors running through the slim body. Fuji's lips formed syllables, then he abruptly made to sit up, but Tezuka's hands on his shoulder kept him down.
Tezuka shook his head softly – and Fuji's lips slowly formed their familiar smile.
"I fainted?" He asked, his voice uncharacteristically soft. "Sorry. I didn't …"
"Never mind." Tezuka immediately replied. "How are you feeling?"
He couldn't help the note of worry colouring his voice. Fuji was still pale and the darkness outside looked less inviting then before.
This time he allowed Fuji to sit up. "I'm okay. Did you close the door?"
Tezuka nodded and Fuji smiled. "I thought I … Must be the exams. Say, did much time pass?"
"No. I think I heard you fall and came down immediately."
Fuji glanced back outside.
By now night had completely fallen and he could barely make out anything in the darkness. Trees formed black silhouettes against a dark sky, and the soft light permeating the window revealed an expanse of undisturbed, white snow.
"Are you still dizzy?" Tezuka inquired. "I could phone my father and ask him if he can pick us up. It would take some time, but it's probably better than taking the train…"
Fuji waved Tezuka's concern off. "No, no, please don't make your poor father drive all the way out here. With the condition the high ways are in we'd be faster if we walked back to Tokyo."
Tezuka raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure?"
"Of course." Fuji nodded and smiled sheepishly. "Don't worry so much. I don't quite understand why I blacked out either. One moment I was looking outside, the next I'm on the ground."
"You should consult a doctor then." Tezuka advised, but sighed. "I'll make us some tea before we head home."
Fuji looked as if he wanted to protest, but remained silent as Tezuka helped him up. Much to Tezuka's relief Fuji let himself be steered over to the couch and while his face was still as white as the snow outside, he didn't sway on his feet.
"Shall I help you?" Fuji asked when Tezuka disappeared to the kitchen.
The dark-haired boy shook his head and left the doors wide open, while he set about making tea. For once he felt rather pleased at discovering tea bags in the cupboard, which saved time preparing. He felt strangely uneasy here and the darkness outside didn't help.
They were a long way from Tokyo and there was school tomorrow and homework to be done. The trip back would take long and if he could, he would leave immediately. But he was afraid what would happen to Fuji if he rushed them now – he did not want to imagine him on one of those lonely, snow-covered roads leading from here to the station with Fuji collapsing.
With a sigh he placed two boiling teacups on a tray and carried them to the living room.
Fuji was leaning against the couch's backrest, his eyelids fluttering and slowly, but certainly he was loosing the battle against sleep. Tezuka hesitated for a moment, but then he cleared his throat.
"Fuji." He called out and set down the tray.
"Ah, thank you, Tezuka." Fuji replied, sitting up straight. He smiled softly and wrapped both hands around the steaming cup, as Tezuka sank into the armchair opposite of the couch.
"Do you think it's going to stop snowing anytime tonight?" Fuji asked.
Tezuka glanced outside, where in the faint light he could see snowflakes continuously drifting down. "The forecast didn't say so."
"I heard so as well." Fuji agreed. "But it's supposed to clear up next week."
He carefully took a sip from the cup. "Though it won't be getting any warmer yet, probably."
Tezuka nodded in agreement and Fuji took to studying the wall ornaments. There were classic ink paintings, tastefully adjusted to the interior decoration, but a corner caught Fuji's interest. It didn't quite fit in with the rest of the room as it was home to a colourful mix of paraphernalia; pictures, postcards, stones and figurines just a part of the eclectic collection.
"They surely do like to travel." Fuji said and Tezuka followed his glance.
"They do." He agreed. "Nakayama-san was an archaeologist and his wife a historian."
"There must be hardly a place in the world they haven't been to, then." Fuji concluded. In his mind he imagined the elderly couple he'd seen on the picture earlier travelling to distant countries, deciphering old texts and discovering forgotten villages. "Did they tell you about their travels?"
"Often." Tezuka replied and Fuji was surprised to find his friend's gaze distant, as well as a small, soft smile tugging at the corners of his lips. "Though I believe they exaggerated a lot as well."
"Did they?" Fuji asked, chuckling.
Tezuka pursed his lips. "Sometimes they told me about ghosts and monsters and the like. I think they wanted to scare me."
Fuji could picture the scene all too well – a friendly, elderly couple trying there best to get a reaction from an unusually expressionless six-year old Tezuka Kunimitsu. Who probably interrupted them more than once with phrases like 'Ghosts don't exist' or 'That's unrealistic'.
"That must have been quite a daunting task." Fuji commented, hiding his amusement behind his tea cup. "Did they succeed?"
"Not really." Tezuka replied. Though the times they had seen it fit to use pieces of their collections had been eerily convincing.
Silence settled as memories chased each other in Tezuka's mind and Fuji turned his gaze outside. Snowflakes steadily kept drifting down and the white surface was as undisturbed as before. He couldn't help wondering why he had fainted – he hadn't felt dizzy or particularly light-headed.
All he could recall was catching sight of a silhouette outside – a small animal looking for shelter, he had thought, and opened the door. But maybe it hadn't been an animal attracted by the light; maybe what he had seen had been one of the bushes outside moving in the wind.
He had opened the door and darkness had overwhelmed his senses.
Yet that darkness – something had not felt natural about it. All had happened far too fast to tell, but wasn't the speed at which everything had occurred his first clue? Fainting abruptly was not unheard of – though Fuji had never experienced it himself.
Maybe, just maybe there had been something else involved here.
Something he didn't dare thinking further about as the implications alone send a cold shiver down his spine.
Fuji bit his lip. Endlessly turning the matter over in his mind clearly wouldn't bring about an explanation. And neither would it bring him or Tezuka home.
"We should leave." Fuji muttered, wearily gazing at the blackness outside.
Tezuka placed his empty tea cup on the table. Fuji was correct, but that didn't let the outside appear any more inviting. "The walk to the station will take at least thirty minutes. Are you feeling up to it?"
Fuji chuckled softly. "I'm fine, really. You worry too much, you know."
How could he help that, Tezuka thought. He still shuddered to recall the moment he had burst into the living room to find Fuji unconscious on the floor.
"We could call a cab." He suggested.
Fuji tilted his head. "Are you sure they'll operate here with the roads in this condition?"
Tezuka had to admit he wasn't and with that Fuji got up. "Let's go before we miss the last train."
He seemed steady on his feet and the pallor of Fuji's face had improved in the last half an hour. Blood had returned to his lips and his cheeks were tinted pink. With a nod Tezuka stood and turned to the door.
"Let's go." He agreed.
Reluctantly they left the warm living room and it felt as if temperatures had already dropped ten degrees when they arrived at the front door. Silently Tezuka slipped on his coat, watching Fuji mirror his actions from the corner of his eye. He wondered whether Fuji's sneakers were warm enough for the weather outside, but then again Fuji hadn't known he'd join Tezuka on a trip to the countryside in the afternoon.
Fuji shuddered when Tezuka opened the door and an icy gust of wind hit them face on. Tezuka swallowed, pulled up his muffler higher and set out into the early night.
Hope you enjoyed reading, feel free to head over to lj for more or leave me a review. ^__^