Title: Pieces

Author: a1y-puff

Fandom:Prince of Tennis

Characters: Tezuka & Fuji + mention of Seigaku

Genre: kind ofslash-of-life? Friendshippy, fluff.

Word Count: 3743

Rating: G

Warning:Unbeta'd and semi-AU because I mixed manga canon and anime canon, and the timeline might be inaccurate. Oh, and I completely ignore ShinPOT.

Summary: They were strangers. They were teammates. They were rivals. They were friends. During the three years they spent in Seigaku, Tezuka and Fuji were a lot of things to each other.

Disclaimer: Konomi, stop messing up with SPoT and make TeFu back to canon like it has always been in PoT.

A/N: Surpisingly (or not), writing TeFu felt like coming back home after being away for a long time to me. It was welcoming and a little awkward, but I tried so I hope this is okay. Done in snapshot-ish style coz it's my favorite. This is my attempt at regaining my TeFu muse back, and to remind my why I love TeFu so much in the first place.

Dedicated to paranoid_fridge on LJ for her birthday, for Tacuma to cheer her up, also for the crew of the Armada who used to be hanging around with me. I really missed our y!m convo, ladies~


.: PIECES :.



The first time he kind of walked home with Fuji, Tezuka thought the blue-eyed boy was stalking him. He had noticed that his teammate was rather in the eccentric side, and he had also noticed Fuji occasionally stared at him curiously during practice.

It made him feel uneasy.

It was awkward, when Tezuka decided to confront Fuji to stop following him and the shorter boy's reply was, "Oh, but my home is this way too. I'm turning right at that intersection."

Tezuka's eyes followed Fuji's finger to find an intersection just two blocks away from where they were standing, where he would be going straight for another block before turning left.

The bespectacled boy looked back at his companion and sighed. "You could've said something," he quietly spoke, his tone half-reprimanding.

"I thought you didn't like talking, so I decided to just walk with you quietly," the lithe teen replied while smiling brightly.

Tezuka was sure Fuji was teasing him for being the quiet person that he was, no matter how sincere his smile seemed to be, Tezuka knew better.

He just knew.

It was spring in his first year of junior high that Tezuka first got himself a companion to walk home.


***


Fuji was well-liked, that much Tezuka could tell. It was like he knew everyone in the club—not only the other freshmen but also all their seniors—and though he was rather small, no one ever made fun of him

And he was getting along suspiciously well with Inui. They talked about things Tezuka couldn't understand and he wasn't sure if he wanted to understand. Tezuka secretly dubbed it 'the talk between eccentric geniuses'.

Not only with Inui, Fuji got along with everyone just fine, that sometimes, Tezuka thought, watching Fuji was like watching a butterfly; going from one flower to another with ease—it was much later did Tezuka learn about the term 'social butterfly'.

So Tezuka didn't quite understand why when they were ordered to partner up for stretch, Fuji always came to him. He could've asked anyone and Tezuka was sure no one was going to refuse Fuji's offer.

Not that Tezuka wasn't grateful, because to be honest, he still found it hard to start a conversation with his peers. He really needed to work on his social skills like her mother had always said.

It was summer in his first year of junior high that Tezuka knew he didn't need to worry about finding a partner, and he was thankful.


***


"Tezuka-kun, come with us to the burger shop?" Fuji offered one Saturday after practice ended at around midday. The weather had gotten chilly, and Tezuka wasn't too fond of the concept 'hanging out'.

And besides...

"I'll pass," he replied, zipping up his light jacket and double checking his belongings, avoiding the nervous looks he still got from some of his peers—the calculating look he got from Inui was a completely different story, though.

"You don't like hamburgers?" Fuji asked.

"It's...unhealthy."

He was pretty sure by now that the others thought of him as... what was the term again? Ah, 'spoilsport'.

"And my mother is expecting me to come home soon," Tezuka added when the guilt started building in his chest.

A moment of silence, and then suddenly Fuji said, "Well then why don't we all just come over to Tezuka-kun's house?"

The bespectacled teen immediately turned his head to Fuji in disbelief. "Wha—"

"That's a good idea. I could get some really precious data," Inui added, the strange glint on his glasses did nothing to convince Tezuka.

"Wait..."

"I'd love to, if you don't mind," Oishi shyly said, followed by curious and hopeful glances from Kikumaru and Kawamura.

"We can't?" the light haired youth asked again, somehow managing puppy eyes with his eyes closed.

"..."

It was autumn in his first year of junior high that Tezuka first had his teammates over his house and somehow—thanks to Fuji and his mother—it made them think he was really one of them too, now.


***


"I heard rumors that you're going to be vice captain next year, Tezuka-kun."

Tezuka turned his head a little to the left and found Fuji came up behind him when they were running the laps for warming up.

"Hn. It's just rumors," he replied shortly, not really fond of the idea of talking while running laps.

"Oh, but everyone believes it. I myself think that you're going to make a good vice-captain. The other freshmen respect you ever since... you know, that incident."

The incident that got his elbow injured, Tezuka thought in his mind. He didn't know what was there to respect having oneself injured by a senior, threatening to quit the club, and then forced to run laps by the Captain.

"Maybe they think it's like some kind of a battle scar. Isn't it manly?" Fuji chuckled lightly.

Tezuka was more concerned to the fact that Fuji seemed to be able to know what he was thinking and responded accordingly.

It was a little bit creepy, to say the least.

But well, Fuji was kind of a best friend to Tezuka by now, and maybe, he thought, that was how best friends were.

Then again, Oishi never really read his mind.

It was winter in his first year of junior high that Tezuka decided that maybe Fuji was just perceptive like that.


***


Going through a growth spurt, Tezuka decided, wasn't always a good thing. Over the holidays and after a few weeks of the new school year, Tezuka had grown more or less nearly 10cm, and the girls in class had started to notice him.

"Tezuka-kun, would you have lunch with us?"

"Tezuka-kun, what is your hobby aside of tennis?"

"Tezuka-kun, have you a girlfriend?"

Tezuka-kun this, Tezuka-kun that; Tezuka felt a headache coming. God, why wouldn't they just leave him alone?

"Tezuka-kun—"

"What?" he almost snapped, barely managing to hold himself back but the reply still came out rather rude. He turned his head to apologize to the girl who had just called him, but instead of some random girl, his eyes met a familiar face. "Fuji-kun."

"My, you don't look too good," Fuji looked genuinely concerned, but Tezuka knew better. Fuji was trying not to laugh at him. "Why don't we get you something to eat and then we could join Oishi-kun and Eiji on the rooftop?"

Still, Fuji came to his rescue, so Tezuka would pretend to not see that twitch on Fuji's smile that indicated the shorter boy's amusement and refrained from commenting how Fuji's voice hadn't changed yet; he still sounded like a girl.

"Ah," he simply replied instead.

"Well then, please excuse us," Fuji threw a charming smile to the girls that had been bothering Tezuka before—a smile that they couldn't say no to—before leading Tezuka out of the classroom.

It was spring in his second year of junior high when Tezuka felt really grateful Fuji was in the same class as him.


***


They were working on an assignment—an essay for their literature class—in the school library. It was quiet, and he was glad they took seats by the window. The soft wind blowing from the open window was refreshing and encouraged the tranquil mood they were in.

Fuji sat across of him, right hand busy writing on his paper while his left hand occasionally moved to brush his hair behind his ear when it got swept by the wind. When he noticed himself staring, Tezuka averted his gaze from his friend and concentrate on his own essay, going through a book on the Tale of Genji for more reference.

It seemed that he was too drown in his reading that he didn't realize Fuji had been calling him, until the other boy softly touched his left hand and called again, "Tezuka."

"Hn?"

"It's getting late and I'm a bit tired. Let's go home and continue this tomorrow?"

Now that he thought about it, his shoulder did feel kind of stiff. "Ah," he replied, closing his book and started to tidy up his things.

"Tezuka, could you pass me that book over there?"

Without saying anything, Tezuka took said book which happened to be near his left elbow and gave it to Fuji.

Wait. Something was different.

"Let's go, Tezuka," said Fuji while standing up, and it was then that he realized what was different.

It was summer in his second year of junior high that Tezuka realized they had been dropping the suffix when calling each other—and he didn't mind.


***


Tezuka watched Fuji's match against Inui ended with score 7-6 to Fuji—was a real close call—and he briefly wondered what it would feel like to face Fuji across the net for real—their match in Freshmen year surely didn't count.

Tezuka had decided Fuji was his rival, but they never really got to play each other seriously up until now, it was kind of sad. Rivals should be constantly competing, pushing each other to go forward—

"Get out of my way, you baka Mamushi!" From the corner of his eyes, the vice captain caught sight of the new freshmen—Momoshiro and Kaidoh—who claimed to be rivals of each other were currently shoving one another while running their assigned laps.

—Well, maybe not really pushing literally, Tezuka thought.

"My, my, they sure are on fire, aren't they?" an amused comment caught Tezuka's ear, and he turned his head to find the tensai standing next to him, a water bottle in hand. Tezuka immediately noticed Fuji's heavy breathing.

"You should work on your stamina," Tezuka commented off-handedly before taking his racket, ready to find someone to play him.

A hand suddenly caught him by his left elbow, and Tezuka jerked involuntarily, before turning his head to face Fuji, who was looking at him with his blue eyes shown.

"And you should work on giving yourself a break."

It was autumn on his second year of junior high when Tezuka found out he and Fuji were doing their job just fine as rivals.


***


It hadn't been snowing last night, so practice could be held outdoors. Tezuka was overseeing the freshmen doing the drills, when silently, Fuji came up behind him.

The dark haired youth didn't even bat an eyelid with his friend's sudden presence by his side, having been too used to Fuji standing next to him in every chance they got. Instead, he asked, "How was your match with Kawamura?"

"Made me feel warm despite the cold with his constant shout of 'burning'," Fuji replied laughingly, and for whatever reason, Tezuka felt displeased with the answer.

"Fuji," he warned.

"Loosen up, Tezuka," Fuji was still smiling but his tone was a bit different, Tezuka noted. "Alright, I won 6-4. Taka-san's improved though."

The taller boy grunted his acknowledgment.

"How is your elbow?" Fuji asked quietly, "It hasn't been hurting since your check up last time, has it?"

Tezuka spared his companion a glance, before reassuringly replied, "It's fine."

"Good."

Silence fell between them, and Tezuka's mind drifted to a few days ago, when he found Fuji waiting for him outside the clinic. The day Fuji asked the question of 'what if'. What if they hadn't been teammates? What if they had come from different schools? What if...

"About what you said last time," Tezuka started, and from the corner of his eyes, the bespectacled teen could see his friend was looking at him. "I never thought about what if we weren't teammates, but..."

"Yes?" Fuji prompted, seemingly curious that Tezuka even entertained his random thoughts.

"I'm glad that we're both in Seigaku," he replied, turning his head just enough to see Fuji show his cerulean eyes, smiling genuinely at him.

It was winter in his second year of junior high that Tezuka admitted to himself that he really was glad to have Fuji by his side.


***


The new academic year was here again and suddenly Tezuka felt he was getting really, really busy. There was his duty as the Student Council President, the paperwork he needed to do as the Tennis Club Captain, and the simple fact that he was a third year student with a whole lot of assignments because the Teacher seemed to be determined in stuffing as much knowledge as possible into the seniors' heads to prepare for the National Exams and High School.

He often spent lunch breaks eating quickly before going to either the Student Council's room or the library, juggling between assignments and paperwork.

Also, he was targeting the National Championship this year, so tennis practice was getting harder. It was great that the team now had Echizen, a good asset to achieve his—and the team's—dream of winning the National.

His days were busy and time seemed to fly quickly, but even with all those things occupying his mind, he felt like something was missing.

One day he had to stay late at school for a Student Council meeting, and by the time it was finished, the sky was already darkening. Even club activities had ended by that time, so when he walked to the lockers, he didn't expect to see Fuji there.

"Has the meeting just ended? My, you must be tired, with all those things you have to do," Fuji greeted him with his usual smile.

"What are you still doing here?" was the automatic reply that flew out of his lips.

"I was using the dark room of the photography club and I lost track of time."

"I see," he replied while exchanging his indoor shoes with the outdoor ones.

"We haven't seen each other much outside of practice, ne?" the wistful tone made Tezuka look up at his friend, "I was so used to seeing you every day in class..." Fuji trailed off.

Ah, so that was what it was, Tezuka thought, that was what was missing.

"Let's walk home together," he simply said, and Fuji smiled brightly at him.

It was spring on his third year of junior high that Tezuka realized that not having Fuji's company as much as he did before made him miss the prodigy.


***


"Kyushu?"

"Yes."

"I see. Kyushu."

"...Fuji."

"Yes?" Fuji replied with a blinding fake smile it made Tezuka almost flinch. Almost.

"I'm not sorry," Tezuka stated firmly.

Fuji looked up at him, blue eyes exposed for Tezuka to see the mixed feelings in them. There were a little bit of annoyance, a tad of exasperation, but mostly, worry.

Then, the lithe teen closed his eyes and sighed. "Of course you're not sorry. That left arm of yours is your own to abuse. You're not even sorry you lost to Atobe, are you? Even though I warned you—"

"Fuji," the Captain cut in, "it was for Seigaku. I'm not sorry I tried my best."

"Yes, yes, I get it," Fuji waved a hand dismissively, not looking at him and instead, he turned around to hold the chain link fence and looked down to the grounds below, where the tennis courts could be seen, before continuing in a much quieter voice, "You're not sorry. I get it."

"I'm sorry I made you worry."

That got Fuji's attention. The shorter teen turned around to face him once more, and Tezuka pulled out a tennis ball he had been carrying. He then took Fuji's right hand and placed the ball in his friend's hand.

"I'll be back for the Nationals," he promised, "Until then, help Oishi and watch the team for me."

He watched Fuji look at the ball before moving his cerulean eyes to look at him in the eye, and suddenly, Fuji smiled. It was a smile that was saying, 'What am I gonna do with this guy.'

"When I come back," Tezuka started without releasing Fuji's gaze, "I'll be able to have a match with anyone."

There was a calculating look and a bit of uncertainties in Fuji's eyes as he repeated, "With anyone."

The 'with me' was left unsaid, but Tezuka heard it anyway.

"Yes," he firmly replied.

It was summer in his third year of junior high that Tezuka silently promised not to make Fuji worry about him again, and it was also then that he made another promise to his rival that he would make sure to fulfill.


***


"It's still so shiny, huh? I wonder if Ryuuzaki-sensei secretly wipes it clean every day."

Tezuka inwardly smiled at his friend's comment as the smaller boy took the photograph of their glorious National Trophy. His eyes then traveled to their prided trophy, still remembering those days of sweat and blood—and he wasn't exaggerating, what with Kawamura's match had been literally bloody—when he was struggling with his team to win the National tournament.

It wasn't until the flash of Fuji's camera lighted up that he noticed his friend had just taken his photo, and he was. Not. Amused.

"Fuji..."

"I'm sorry I couldn't help it. You were smiling, so—"

"You are not publishing that picture on the yearbook," he warned with a dangerously low voice.

"Alright," Fuji lightly replied and Tezuka nearly blinked at how easy his friend was to comply.

He couldn't help but be suspicious.

"Don't worry, I really won't," Fuji said laughingly, "I would just keep it for myself, promise."

"Why would you want to keep it?" Tezuka asked while pinching the bridge of his nose.

"Because you don't smile a lot and I don't really want to share the view with others."

"Why—" the words died in his throat as the meanings of Fuji's words dawned on him. There was a very faint pink hue on his friend's cheeks, and Tezuka didn't know what to make of it.

An awkward silence stretched for a few seconds, and then a wistful, almost sad smile was formed on Fuji's lips. Before Tezuka could say anything, Fuji broke the silence.

"I'll be on my way now." And then he was gone, leaving Tezuka to stare at the door, still holding the documents he should be leaving on Ryuuzaki's sensei desk.

It was autumn in his third year of junior high that Tezuka first noticed the foreign warmth in his chest and the strange fluttery feelings in his stomach, and he didn't know what to do with it.


***


"Game set and match, Tezuka-buchou 7-6." Echizen announced, not too loudly but on a court where there were only the three of them, it was loud and clear.

Tezuka stared across the net, chest still heaving from the match and sweat running down the side of his face despite the cold weather. He watched as his opponent's posture slowly relaxed, right hand with the racket went limp on his side while the light brown tresses obscured his eyes from view.

"Fuji..."

Another moment of silence fell, before Fuji finally lifted his head, a smile on his face. He approached the net, and Tezuka mirrored the movement. Once they finally both met at the net, Fuji let his eyes open.

"We've finally got to have this match, ne?" Fuji started as he reached out a hand to shake, and Tezuka took it. "And as expected, you're really strong, Tezuka."

"You have improved a lot yourself. It was a close call," he replied, tightening his grip on Fuji's hand just slightly, before letting go.

His rival smiled up at him with open eyes. "Come here," Fuji said, gesturing with his left hand—the one without the racket—for Tezuka to come closer.

When Tezuka complied, he didn't expect the one-arm hug Fuji pulled him into.

"Thank you," he heard Fuji almost whispered in his ear, "Thanks for fulfilling our promise."

Tezuka stayed immobile for a second, and then awkwardly, he lifted his right arm and slowly rested it on the back of Fuji's head. And in that moment, he finally understood.

He understood what the warmth in his chest was, why his heart fluttered, and why this very moment felt so right.

He finally understood what this feeling inside of him was.

"Ahem," the sound of someone clearing his throat was heard, and both rivals immediately pulled away from each other. "If you two are done, could I leave now?"

Tezuka turned his head to find Echizen standing on the side of the court trying to look unimpressed but the twitch in his right eye said otherwise.

"Yes, you may leave. Thank you for being our referee."

"Mada mada dane," Echizen waved a hand and turned to walk away, muttering under his breath about seniors dragging their junior to come to school even though it was still winter break.

A soft chuckle was heard and Tezuka found Fuji was already walking away from the court to the bench where they left their things. "Well, that was awkward," Fuji lightly commented as he put his racket back into his bag.

Tezuka walked up to his friend at the bench and started to put away his racket and tidy up his belongings. For a moment, only the sounds of rustling and zipping were heard, and the bespectacled teen could feel an awkward tension in the air.

Then, he put away his bag and called, "Fuji. Come here."

"Yes?"

As soon as Fuji turned towards him, Tezuka reached out his left hand and cupped the other's cheek, before bending down to press his lips lightly against Fuji.

He pulled back right away, suddenly feeling nervous of what he had just done. It was quite uncalled for, wasn't it? He knew he could have said something instead of just acted on his impulse, but he honestly couldn't say the words. They just... wouldn't come out. So he moved his left hand to hold Fuji's right, hoping that he could at least get the message across and that Fuji would understand.

Tezuka watched Fuji blink at him once, then twice.

"Oh," the prodigy said slowly as comprehension dawned on him, "Oh."

And then Fuji smiled; soft and bright, understanding and accepting. That one smile was beautiful; it radiated so much happiness that Tezuka couldn't help it when the corners of his own lips twitched upwards.

Their fingers laced themselves with each other.

It was winter in his last year of junior high when Tezuka realized that yes, he was in love with Fuji—he had been for some time now—and yes, Fuji loved him back. And all he knew was that right now, he was finally feel completed.


~NeverEnding~



A/N: It's been a while since I last wrote TeFu, so reviews would be really, really loved. I hope I haven't got rusty. Let me know what you think, yeah? :D