Summary：Fate was such a cruel thing to them, no matter how long them waited, or however many lives they lived. Perfect / TeFu / AU
Disclaimer：Fuji, Tezuka, pour me some tea and bring me some cake! No? Oh… right… I don't own you guys.
Notes that may be useful (or not): Past names are from shortened variations of their real names. Look to the bottom for an explanation of each name. Some cases of FemFuji. Immense time lapse between sections. Character death(s).
They lived in a tiny little village 3000 years ago.
He was called Ku, a young man with a seemingly perpetual frown on his youthful face and a stern demeanor. When he set his mind to something, he could not be swayed, no matter how one tried. Quick to be irritated, he solved all annoyances by ordering the source of his annoyance to run laps around the village. Even the village dogs obeyed him without question, running with their tails clamped between their legs; he was just that frightening.
She was named Syu, a young woman with a delicate build and sweet smile that never seemed to leave her face. She possessed fair skin that never seemed to get darker, no matter how much time she spent in the sun. But, pretty as she was, she had a stubborn streak, and it was not unlikely for her to pull pranks on people with the innocent cruelty of a child, giggling as she watched the unfortunate person be subject to horrid embarrassment that only she could think up of.
There was something about Syu that captured Ku's attention. Perhaps it was her stubbornness that was so like him, or perhaps it was the fact that she never left him alone so that his attention had no choice but to be focused on her. Either way, she was in his mind day in, day out, every single day. He could be watching his family's small flock of sheep and chance a look up at the blue sky, and his mind would say: that blue is nothing compared to Syu's eyes. Or he could be by the river, underneath the willow tree, and he'd think: Syu is much more graceful than even the willow's branches dancing in the wind.
With almost all his thoughts straying to Syu, Ku finally made up his mind to do something to end his silent torment. In three days, he had fashioned a string of beads, designed to be worn around the forehead. It was a common accessory of the village females, but Syu had stubbornly refused to wear one, insisting that she'd only wear one that her husband made, if she was ever to marry.
However, as Syu was not married yet (though each of the young men in the village tried their hardest to make her his bride), she was accessory-less, and her honey-brown hair flew in the wind, constantly making its way into her face only to be brushed impatiently away with a hand, until the next time it flew into her face.
He presented his gift to her one mid-summer afternoon. Syu took it curiously, fingering it like it was a precious treasure before laughing. "You're quite sure of yourself, aren't you, Ku?" she asked, holding it up. "You even carved both of our names on here. 'Ku's Syu,' it says." Ku's face remained stoic as she gave it another look.
"Say," she said, tying it around her wrist, carvings facing toward her skin, "Tomorrow, come to my house. If my mother agrees, I'll wear this around my forehead every single day and promise to be a loving and faithful wife."
Now it was Ku's turn to be faintly amused, although he did not show it. "Who said I was marrying you?" he asked, although the idea was not a bad one, and he had certainly entertained it on several occasions.
Ku appeared the next morning at Syu's house, leading a ewe and her lamb behind him as gifts for her family. Syu's mother, delighted that Syu had finally decided to marry like the other girls that were of age, quickly agreed to the arrangement. They were to wed on the next full moon, which was to appear just after the big hunt that Ku was to participate in, as a male member of the village.
Syu waited patiently for Ku to return from the hunting trip, beads around her forehead, hair finally tamed. 'Ku's Syu' rode proudly upon her skin, and she would admit, she couldn't wait for him to return and formally claim her as his. Absentmindedly, she wondered whether or not married life would be different from the life she currently led in regards to Ku. Hopefully, wives were allowed to tease and prank their husbands.
Two weeks passed, and the hunters returned, although several of the young men were missing. This Syu noted quietly, but didn't pay much attention to, until it dawned upon her that Ku was one of those missing men. Immediately alarmed, she begged the hunters for information. What had become of her beloved Ku?
In the end, she managed to squeeze some information from a man who felt sorry for her. Apparently, the day before they were to return to the village, the ledge that Ku and several others were standing on suddenly collapsed underneath their feet. Before they could react they had plunged down to their deaths. The rest of them had hurried to go down to see if there was any hope for them, but those who had survived were so badly injured that they didn't last long.
"Ku wasn't one of those," a man hastily piped up, hoping to make things better, if only marginally. "He didn't feel any pain." He was roughly elbowed and told to shush, and Syu was presented with a simply feather headdress. The craftsmanship was beautiful, though, and she instantly recognized it as Ku's handiwork.
"Ku made this before the accident. He wished for you to wear it and be to prettiest bride this village ever had."
It was with trembling hands that Syu took the gift, hugging it tightly as if she could bring back its creator with a hard enough squeeze.
Iko was a sick man, confined to his bed the summer of 150 BC. At one point in his life he had been brimming with health, athletic and strong despite his delicate build, but now the illness had eaten away at his body and he was forced to stay in bed, the lack of activity slowly making his muscle waste away. Occasionally, he'd venture out, flanked by worried family members and hovering friends, making an outing such a hassle that he wished it would never happen again. But staying in bed all day every day was boring, and he'd rather have all the annoyance than be bored to death.
Tezu was Iko's childhood friend. The two had been neighbors, and ever since they were young boys, Iko had looked up to his more mature companion. Gradually, that admiration had bloomed into a one-sided love, although Iko was fairly certain that Tezu looked down on such a relationship, so Iko contented himself with the task of finding a girl who was exactly like him.
It was a daunting and difficult task.
And in the end, Iko had just given up and resigned himself to the fact that there was simply no such girl that could be Tezu. Sometimes, he wondered why he had even bothered with looking for one. Perhaps that was what sickness did to one's mind.
Tezu wanted to go places. He wanted to be someone. Someone important, someone grand. This, Iko knew, and he shared that same dream, to a certain degree, although he had long since crushed it into a thousand little pieces. Sick men did not become someone. They did not do important or grand things, and they most certainly did not go places. It was with incredible bitterness all over his features that Iko listened to Tezu speak of going out into the frontier, where he would join a troop that was to settle the vast lands that stretched for miles beyond the city gates. It was an order from the Emperor, and had been posted in the city bulletins all over the country, and it was only after months of preparation and testing and registering that Tezu was able to join the effort. Iko wished he could go along, but there was no use for a sick man in the troop, much to his disappointment.
On the day of departure for Tezu came all too soon for Iko's liking, and it was with a great effort that Iko heaved himself out of bed and stumbled out into the street, making his slow way to the city gates. He made it just in time to catch the last words of some grand speech made by the troop director, and shoved his way past people in his attempt to get to Tezu. After initial grumblings, they parted for him willingly enough. No one wanted to be charged with the guilt of pushing a sick man mercilessly down onto the ground.
"You'll come back, won't you?" he demanded Tezu, coming to a stop next to his friend and holding onto his sleeve for support.
"I'll be waiting, so you've got to come back. You've got to!" he pleaded, looking desperate, scanning for anything that could give him some reassurance that his friend, his secret love, would come back for him.
"The air is fresher over on the plains. When the settlement is finished, I'll bring you there so that you can properly recover from your illness."
Two years passed after Iko saw Tezu off with his troop. Settling the frontier was a dangerous and immense task, but at last a walled fortress was made, the settlement complete and only needing regular inhabitants. Tezu and his troop returned to the city one day in early autumn to search for families who would be willing to move to the new settlement. Tezu left his troop in the middle of the task and rode his horse purposefully towards Iko's house, where he planned to personally invite Iko to the place where he had worked so hard to complete for two long years.
The lady who answered the door for him studied him silently for a while before recognition crossed her eyes. "Oh, Tezu! You're back!" she cried, and he recognized her as Iko's older sister. "You're looking for Iko, right? He's out in the yard… he's been waiting for your return." Something about her over-eager manner seemed strange to Tezu, and he felt a strange tugging in his chest, but he could not fathom why.
That is, until he actually stepped into the inner courtyard and Iko's sister led him to a grave. He stared at the stone, saw Iko's name carved into it although his mind refused to believe that Iko was the one buried in the ground with only the stone to mark his new bed. "You just missed him," his sister said slowly. "He said he was going to wait for your return so that he could welcome you himself, but his body simply couldn't do that. He passed away just last month."
The last six words of her speech reeled around in his mind as he stumbled away from the house of his beloved.
There was a tiny little tea parlor along one of the longest and most dangerous paths in the country, one that crossed a tiny corner of the desert on its way to the next big city and was notorious for having very few, if any, travelers complete it in its entirety. It was whispered to be a cursed path, but was the only one connecting the two cities at either end of it, but the sheer difficulty of crossing it did much to segregate the people of the two cities.
The small parlor was one of the two rest stops along the journey one would make, close to a city but not too close. It took a good three or four days of journeying to reach it, where the traveler could sit down to rest his weary feet while enjoying a cup of tea. For the most part, the teahouse was silent, and those that stopped generally just drank their tea, dropped a few coins on the table, and then hurried off, hastening themselves to their deaths while they tried to play with fate.
This teahouse was Suke's treasure. He had inherited it from his father, who got it from his father, who got it from his father, whose father built it more on a whim than anything else. At one point in time it had two small house included in the property, but after years of neglect the houses no longer were used, and the teahouse worked well as both a place to conduct business (most of the customers sat at the tables outside) and as a place to live. Suke met quite an assortment of people by running his little teahouse, and it gave him a certain satisfaction to study the men as he served them tea and make calculations as to whether or not they would survive the journey.
He would never know whether or not his calculations were correct, but it was still nice to make them.
He kept a quiet existence at his teahouse, leaving it to journey to the city whenever he ran low of tea. It was peaceful, it was tranquil…
And then he came along.
Suke looked up curiously when the man strode over to a table, sitting down and ordering two cups of tea. Suke could not see another person coming up, so curiously made up the order, bringing the cups on a tray over to the man. "You know you can get refills," he teased, looking amused. "Why order two cups of tea for one person?"
The man studied him for a minute before saying, "Drinking tea by oneself is rather lonesome, wouldn't you agree?" Amusement growing at this surprisingly clever logic, Suke agreed, setting down the cups and then sitting down opposite of the man, watching him as he picked up a cup and took a grateful sip.
"I am Suke," he said cheerily. "And who might you be, two-cups-of-tea-san?"
His companion raised an eyebrow, not looking very amused by the name that Suke had called him. "I am Chou," he answered, and Suke echoed the name, rolling it around on his tongue like it was a delicious candy to be savored.
Chou glanced at the young man sitting opposite of him over his teacup. Suke had a willowy build with gentle features that almost made him look like a girl. Chou would not have been incredibly surprised if Suke did turn out to be a girl… he was certainly a very pretty boy. And the way that he said his own name, in that gently lilting voice with the little rise at the 'ke' syllable… it was rather cute.
As though he knew he was being studied by Chou, Suke tipped his head gently to one side and flashed him the brightest of smiles, clearly wondering what he was thinking of.
Chou took out some money and laid it on the table, standing up in a fluid motion. "Thank you for the tea," he said politely, "but it's best that I get going."
Suke jumped to his feet as well, looking alarmed at the sudden announcement to go. "So soon?" he asked, wondering why he had such an urge to make this man stay.
"I wish to reach the other city as soon as possible," was the answer that he received, and Suke drooped a tiny little bit. Noticing it, Chou ran a hand through his hair as he contemplating something to say. "How about this," he said, "if I can make it to the city and back to this teahouse, would you agree to marry me?"
Not expecting anything of this sort, Suke stared at Chou, mouth open in a perfect little 'o' while his mind wondered if the other man had grown another head. It was hard enough for someone to cross once; twice was virtually impossible. "Can you…" he started, faltered, and started again. "Can you do it?"
"Of course I can. I estimate that I will see you again in a few months if things go smoothly; a year if not."
"Then I'll wait here for you."
A year later, there was no Chou. Suke waited patiently, figuring that perhaps something hadn't turned out so well and it was taking Chou a bit longer than usual. Another month passed, and then another. On the third month, Suke grew tired of waiting. He shut down his little teashop, packing his belongings and set himself off on the journey to the city himself. Somehow, he knew that he would make it safely to the other city, and even though it was an exhausted and battered Suke that walked into the city, it was a living Suke.
It was at the city that he learned that Chou had vanished without a trace just a few hours before he had made it to the city. He had been travelling with another man along the last stretch of the journey, and Suke got the information right from the companion's mouth: "He was there one minute, and then he was gone! Poof! Like he never existed in the first place!" There was nothing of his left, nothing that Suke could use to find his whereabouts.
Fighting back tears, Suke checked himself in at the tavern for the night, before dragging himself out of bed early the next morning to leave. He never looked back.
Mitsu looked up from his scroll as Ji exploded into his room. A light frown crossed his face; why did Ji always deem it necessary to enter his room in such a loud and annoying way? Couldn't the energetic girl find it somewhere in her heart to leave her poor lover in relative peace while he tried to do his reading?
Oh, but this was Ji that Mitsu was talking about, and such a thing was impossible. He should have known.
"What is it?" he asked, shifting his scroll to his other hand as Ji threw herself down besides him, her honey-brown hair framing her pretty face, blue eyes sharp with an undaunting determination that made her so precious to Mitsu.
"I want you to take part in the official examination!" Ji announced. One of Mitsu's eyebrows rose as she barreled on. "You know… the famous exam that takes place in the capitol every four years to determine the advisors to the emperor. Only the country's most talented take part in it!"
Mitsu's other brow rose as well. "Ji," he said slowly, deep voice calm, "those men prepare for years for the exam. I have not. The chances of me passing such an examination are very, very slim." But as he spoke, he knew that Ji had already decided that he was to take the exam, and when she decided something, there was nothing anyone could do to make her change her mind.
He was no exception. She insisted that he go and take it, because, "My Mitsu is just as intelligent and just as capable as any of those other men! I'm sure you'll do fine." Mitsu could only sigh and shake his head; resistance was futile and a waste of his breath.
"This is ridiculous, Mitsu!" one of his closest friends cried out when he heard that Mitsu was going to take part in the examination. "The capitol is on the other side of the country! How will you get there?"
"I'll walk if I have to," Mitsu said seriously. Ji wanted him to go take it, and Mitsu could never say no to his Ji. It simply didn't happen.
"But… but…!" The friend stuttered, livid, trying to convince him otherwise but knowing it was a lost cause. Finally, he surrendered, shaking his head. "I wish you the best of luck, then," he said, clasping a hand heavily on the other's shoulder. "Whether or not you pass or fail, we'll all be proud of you." He flashed Mitsu a smile, to which he was given a nod in return.
"Tell Ji that I'm going."
"Of course. Just don't get lost on the way to the capitol."
Several years later, Ji was handed a letter by a man who lived on the other side of town. It was a tattered letter, stained and wrinkled in various places, obviously having travelled quite some distance and not in the best of fashions. She looked curiously at the messenger, who urged her to open it. Curiously, she did.
Mitsu's lilting letters greeted her eyes, and she smiled… until she saw the date and read the letter's contents. 'I did not pass,' the letter said, 'although I was told that I was only a few points away from doing so by the exam proctor. Nevertheless, it was a good experience all the same, and I suppose that I should thank you for making me come here.' Polite and straightforward, it was just like her Mitsu.
'I write this to you while I sit in bed with some strange cough or another. It seems like I have come down with some illness or another; as such, I do not think that the return trip is possible until this passes. I wish the best for you, Ji, and hope that you are doing well back home. With care, Mitsu.'
Ji looked up at the messenger, holding the letter gently in her hands, as if she was afraid it would suddenly turn to glass and shatter. "He's coming back soon?" she asked, although somewhere deep down she knew that he wasn't, that the illness had claimed him over at the capitol despite his reassurances that it was nothing. Mitsu… her Mitsu… dead of an illness because she had made him make the arduous trek from their home city to the capitol to take a national examination.
The man who brought her the letter did not answer, but he did not have to. Instead he said, "I have been told that when Mitsu wrote this letter, he gave it to someone with strict instructions to make sure that it made its way into your hands. I don't know how many people have had this letter before I, but I am sure that Mitsu will be pleased that his letter has finally made its way to you."
Ji was shaking as she stiffly thanked the man and watched him walk off, before turning roughly on her heel and marching back into the house. She did not reappear for days on end, and the town whispered, whispered about the girl who sent her lover out to take the exam.
"Risky, it was," they murmured behind their hands to their companions. "But such terrible, terrible fate that he had to die after he took the exam… and he was so close to passing it, too. Poor couple…"
"Aye," would be the whispered response. "Fate must really hate those two. It would have been much kinder it he had died on the road if he had been destined to die."
Life in the city continued, Ji going through her day normally, smiling, though it was an obviously fake smile, talking, although the conversations obviously did not interest her. Only at night did anyone hear great wails come from her house, where she would be sitting in front of Mitsu's favorite little reading table, clutching his letter to her, sobbing.
But her sobs were not enough to make death give back her Mitsu.
Years passed… many, many years. The village of 3000 years past where Ku made his Syu the beaded headband was ancient history. The city gate where Iko bid Tezu farewell was gone, no matter how hard one looked for it. The teahouse where Suke had once poured tea for weary travelers had long been abandoned, and only by some sort of extreme luck managed to remain standing, a strange unidentifiable structure of hardened wood amid a modern setting. The house where Ji sobbed for her departed Mitsu was replaced by a multi-story apartment building. The transformed land knew nothing about the tragic lives that it had nurtured in the past.
It was by coincidence that the two of them met: he, Tezuka Kunimitsu; the other, Fuji Syusuke. They bumped into each other quite on accident at an outdoor art display, Tezuka standing still while contemplating a piece, Fuji backing up slowly while he contemplated another until his back hit Tezuka's.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" Fuji murmured, half turning to see who he had bumped into. His startled blue eyes were met with serious hazel ones… eyes that looked hauntingly familiar, although he did not know exactly why.
Tezuka stared quietly at the man who had bumped into him, the man with the petite build, the soft hair, the sweet blue eyes. He felt important to him, special, although Tezuka was fairly certain that this was the first time that he had met the other young man. He opened his mouth, fully intending on saying something along the lines of: "It's not a problem."
What came out, though, was: "I seem to have been looking for you for quite some time," much to his horror.
However, the other man was not at all surprised by this statement. "I believe that you've kept me waiting for a very long time, yourself," Fuji answered, and it just seemed so right, because this was Fuji, and Fuji was talking to Tezuka.
Fuji giggled and slid his hand into Tezuka's larger one, instinctively leaning against the taller man. Tezuka did not push him away, as he would have done to a stranger, because Fuji was not a stranger. He had been Syu, had been Iko, had been Suke, and had been Ji, just like Tezuka himself had been Ku, had been Tezu, had been Chou, and had been Mitsu in his past lives. Fate had been cruel to the two of them before, tearing them forcibly apart no matter how hard they tried to defy it, but now… it was different.
Fate was smiling down on them, after all those years of failures.
Fate was giving up on toying with them, after seeing them be so persistent.
Fate knew that no matter how many times it tore them apart, they would attempt to make it work again in another life. It knew, and it acknowledged their desires after three thousand years.
"I love you," Fuji murmured quietly, nestled in Tezuka's lap and snuggled comfortably against his chest, where he rightfully belonged. "You know that, right?"
"I do," Tezuka answered quietly, cheek tickled by strands of Fuji's wispy hair, holding the smaller man with no intention of letting go, as if he wanted to make up for all the lost time.
"And you? Do you love me, too?"
Silence, and then, "I do. I have always loved you."
Ku: derived from Kunimitsu
Syu: derived from Syusuke
Iko: derived from Fujiko
Tezu: derived from Tezuka
Suke: derived from Syusuke
Chou: derived from Buchou
Mitsu: derived from Kunimitsu
Ji: derived from Fuji
A/N: Ah... I have never killed so many people in one oneshot before. This is a new thing. Let's see... there's Ku, and Iko, and Chou, and Mitsu... Oh my. What is the world coming to?
This is an idea that I got from reading a five-part love story in a magazine on the airplane from Beijing to XingJiang. And because my Chinese reading skills are next to zero, the people on the plane looked at me as if I was a complete idiot. I'm sorry, but I can speak the language and I can read it, and that's good enough for me. But anyways... I really loved the story, and I love Perfect Pair, so I took a stab at it. I tweaked a lot of things, though, most notably their names (I wanted it to be Perfect Pair related even before the actual TezuFuji part, but shall use the names I gave them in explaining the differences as not to confuse you).
In the magazine, Ku dies because he chased a peasant off of a cliff because he wanted to use its feathers to make Syu a pretty headdress. Granted, love makes one silly, but I could never picture that amount of silliness with Tezuka so changed it. Iko was also a girl in the magazine, who could not join Tezu on the trip to the frontier (I forgot the original reason why Tezu had to go. Whoops XD) because she was a female. In that version, Tezu was the one who did not return, as opposed to Iko dying of illness. Suke was a female in the teahouse scene as opposed to being a pretty boy, and Fuji and Tezuka meet in a beer factory (yes, a beer factory) in present day. The last section was totally non-existent in the magazine, but I could not stand the rather open-ended ending it had so added it. And fate was never mentioned in the magazine, at least not directly.
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