A/N: Don't know why there's decimals. It just looked cool. xD Also, again, sorry for typos. I didn't check it over. (I'm such a lazy editor. It's really unhealthy for my writing, lol)
Fuji knows Tezuka is going to be something when he first sees him.
He's as hard as rock, as strong as a first year can be. He plays tennis with solid dignity. He doesn't take crap from his senpai, but he doesn't disrespect them either. He's the pride of every sensei, a delusion of perfection hidden behind hard work and determination.
He's a rival at first. Tezuka shakes the club up. Fuji works his magic quietly, slipping through the cracks of the fence with skills that surpass but do not shine.
Fuji knows, inside, that he can be better. He can win.
But he doesn't take up the challenge.
Instead, he watches with eyelids peering into his soul. He watches the way Tezuka ties his shoelaces, in quick, compact knots. He pays attention to how long Tezuka takes a shower: fifteen minutes in the club room, but when he comes out, he smells like the bark of fresh trees. Fuji listens and watches and feels everything about him.
He wants to know Tezuka.
He wants to be a part of his armored aura.
But he doesn't. He doesn't know why he doesn't try. Perhaps he's waiting for Tezuka to notice him instead.
The first time they talk, it's Tezuka.
"May I briefly review your History notes? I was absent yesterday."
Fuji smiles, the barest flicker of shock passing over before it disappears. "Sure," he hands the notes over. "Just give them back before class ends."
"Of course," he nods, curtly.
Fuji spends the rest of class staring at his fingers that touched Tezuka's when the papers were passed. He knows there was a spark.
After that class, Tezuka always sits next to Fuji, and whenever they have to choose a partner, it's Fuji that he works with.
One evening, when he's a second year, Fuji walks home instead of taking the bus. The sky is thick with rain that has yet to fall. The cherry blossom trees are plush in the midst of spring. He skips along the damp sidewalk, holding his umbrella tight in his hand. He knows it will rain soon. He can smell it, feel it about to pour.
And then he sees Tezuka.
His heart hops twice, like a bunny. Tezuka walks ahead of him, holding his book bag. He doesn't have his glasses on.
Fuji frowns, and runs up to him.
"Hello," he says.
Tezuka squints. "Fuji." He relaxes. "Hello."
"Where are your glasses?"
They talk now, after sitting together in History class so much. Fuji hopes he's not being too personal, even though he knows it's ridiculous to think that he is.
Tezuka shifts his bag. "I lost them."
This doesn't settle well with Fuji. Tezuka is the most the responsible person he knows. He has a place for everything. He keeps spares, extras. He's never one to let his guard down. But Fuji doesn't question him. It starts to rain a moment later, and without Tezuka asking, Fuji flicks open his umbrella and shares it over their heads.
"Thank you," Tezuka looks grateful.
"It's not a problem," Fuji smiles, and looks at the branches of the trees. "It's so beautiful, isn't it?"
"It's blurry," Tezuka says.
Fuji laughs, softly, like the tinkering of a bell. It feels so good. The warmth and energy rush through him. He feels like that whenever he's with Tezuka – like the world is on his fingertips, just waiting to be explored. But of course, he doesn't say any of this. Instead, he just walks with him, silently, and together, and that's enough for him.
When they reach the curve of the street, Fuji feels rough fingers slip into his own.
They hold hands the rest of the way home.
They walk home together every single day now. Sometimes Tezuka takes his hand first, and other times, it's him taking Tezuka's.
It's perfect. Fuji thinks their relationship is like the steady strength of iron. They won't break – ever – yet there is nothing to break.
For Fuji, it's always, always been Tezuka.
Then one day, out of the blue, a boy named Echizen Ryoma signs up for the tennis club.
He knows that Ryoma will be a ticking bomb about to explode on their relationship when he walks home with them. For two years straight, it's been Fuji and Tezuka, silently holding hands as they walk down the streets of Tokyo. Fuji savours the walk – the pleasant silence where there's nothing but him, the gap of air between them, and Tezuka.
Apparantly Ryoma's house is in the same direction, and he just happens to catch up with them as they're walking home.
"Echizen," Fuji says.
Ryoma trots up beside them. "Hm," he smirks. "Fuji-senpai and buchou live in the same direction as me?"
"Apparantly so," Fuji hopes he doesn't sound bitter.
Ryoma walks between them, hands in his pockets. Tezuka doesn't say a single word, but Fuji sees the corner of his eyes flickering to Ryoma every few seconds. There's something in those dark brown eyes – curiosity – and Fuji doesn't like it. But he knows he shouldn't be thinking that. He's curious about Ryoma too.
"Are you adjusting to the school well?" Tezuka talks for the first time when their five minutes from Fuji's house.
Ryoma nods, and yawns. "It's easy. And boring."
"You shouldn't let your guard down."
Ryoma looks up at him, appearing kind of fascinated. "Has buchou ever let his guard down?"
Fuji sees Tezuka pause, and shift. "I try not to."
"He lost his glasses once," Fuji pipes up. He remembers that day so clearly, that day that began their something that he now holds dear to his chest. Ryoma snickers under his breath, and Tezuka gives Fuji a sharp look. It softens when he sees Fuji's teasing smile.
"Ne, buchou, can you see without them?"
Tezuka nods at Ryoma. "I can see, but not clearly."
There isn't much talking after that.
They come to Fuji's house. Fuji's heart sinks when he realizes they Tezuka and Ryoma will walk the rest of the way alone. It makes him feel sick and bitter, and angry towards Ryoma, but he knows he shouldn't. He watches as Ryoma says something to Tezuka with a smug smile. He watches as Ryoma's eyes perk up when Tezuka responds.
He's a child, innocently being grasped in by the magnificent pull that Tezuka unknowingly holds.
He's only being pulled in; the way Fuji had been a couple of years ago. Fuji knows he isn't to blame.
And yet, when he shuffles into his house, all he can think about is the fact that for the first time in two years, they didn't hold hands.
Two days later, Fuji's caught in the club room with only Ryoma. Rain thunders outside in a steady beat.
"Fuji-senpai," he tilts his head. "Are you stronger than buchou?"
Fuji's fingers freeze over the zipper of his tennis bag. No, I'm not. He's isn't. Maybe he hasn't reached his full potential yet, but currently, right there, in the now, he isn't. Not even close. Tezuka's strength is like a boulder that grows size with every match and every practice. Fuji's is an erratic, unfaithful game.
But Ryoma is looking at him like it's a possibility. Like he believes Fuji could be stronger than Tezuka.
And for some reason that he can't explain, Fuji lies, swiftly, and says:
"Yes, I do believe I'm stronger."
One day, Fuji decides to really see Ryoma.
The boy is short, and lean, with passion that flows from every inch of his body. His skin is tan in the summer, and pale porcelain in the winter. His cheeks curve with baby fat, his lips curled in a sharp, taunting smirk. His hair is dark and silky, with highlights of green when the sun shines of over it. He's cute. He's intriguing.
But he's not Tezuka.
He will never be Tezuka.
"Why are you staring at me?" Ryoma asks Fuji.
Fuji blinks. Ryoma's slanted, gold eyes sink into his. They show power, strength, and foreign emotion.
"Excuse me," Fuji's heart shudders in his chest. He needs to see Tezuka. He can't take this – this slight change of faith, this tingly feeling he gets around Ryoma. It makes him feel cheap, and bad, and wrong. Tezuka has been the one to carry his heart ever since they met in freshman year. He can't let that longing go.
He can't share his heart with two people.
But when he goes for the door, Ryoma follows him.
And Fuji can't help that the smile that floods his face when he does.
"Tezuka," Fuji says.
Tezuka looks up from his homework. "Yes?"
"Echizen's interesting, isn't he?"
Tezuka's eyes narrow. "Yes." He says. He pauses, and his eyes flicker to Fuji's.
Silent words exchange between them.
Yes, he is interesting. But not as interesting as you, Fuji. Never as interesting as you.
Something has changed.
Fuji sees it, sharply, and it hits him right in the middle of his gut. When they come to practice, there's a silent knowledge instilled between them. A secret, something precious held only for the two of them. He sees the way Ryoma watches Tezuka with more admiration than before. He sees the way Tezuka glances at Ryoma, each look growing more fonder than the last.
They work without words. They know what the other is thinking. They are one.
Fuji has never felt so jealous in his entire life.
Ryoma corners him after practice.
"Are you sure your stronger than buchou?" he demands.
Fuji swallows, and looks down at the palms of his hands.
"Maybe not," he says, so quietly it's a whisper.
That's all it takes for Ryoma to lose interest. His eyes lose that same belief they held before, and he doesn't look at Fuji with the same awe that he used to. Instead, it's only Tezuka: Tezuka, Tezuka, Tezuka. Fuji sees it all, perceives it, takes it in. He feels lost and out of control. The edges of his smile break and crackle.
He doesn't know what he wants anymore.
He wants Tezuka, all to himself. But he wants Ryoma too, in some sort of twisted, unimaginable way.
"So, you played a match with him?" Fuji doesn't look up as he slips a shirt over his head.
Tezuka's nimble fingers button up his shirt. He stares out the club room window, where the dark, stormy rain clouds smoke up the sky. "Yes."
He stops, and looks at Fuji. Fuji feels himself melting in dark, narrow, and brown.
"He's the pillar," he says softly. Then, before Fuji can reply, he slips out the club room, quiet and graceful as if he'd never even been there. Fuji holds the cloth of his tennis shirt in his hand, staring at the spot where Tezuka had been. His fingers crinkle, tightening around the shirt. His eyes shutter open with a wildness he cannot describe.
He's the pillar.
No, Fuji thinks. No. He doesn't have to be. We're doing fine without him.
He's the pillar.
Yes, Fuji thinks. With him, you'll reach your dream. You'll make it to the Nationals.
"Fuji-senpai, have you seen my cat?"
Fuji twists around, and puts on a picture-perfect smile. It slides across his face smoothly, as if he isn't feeling emotions coiling all over his stomach and heart. As if he doesn't hate Ryoma. As if he doesn't find him coming up to him both endearing and upsetting.
"Your cat?" Fuji asks.
"Yeah," Ryoma shifts. He bites his lip, and his eyes dart in hopes of spotting his pet. "Have you seen him? He's a Himalayan. I think he followed me to school."
Fuji sees the worry, the care in Ryoma's eyes. His face softens. Somewhere in his chest, his heart gives a tug.
"No, I haven't," he says. Ryoma's already turning away, running. "But I'll tell you if I see him."
He smiles and watches Ryoma go up to Inui. Despite everything, there's something about the boy that's comforting. A young, naïve freshness that tells Fuji that Ryoma has no idea what he's doing. That he has no idea that he's seeped into their lives, disrupted their relationship, and intervened in their calm way of life.
That means Fuji can win. He can control what's going to happen.
His eyes follow Ryoma running up to Oishi.
The problem is, he isn't sure if he wants to.
"Echizen has a cat," Fuji tells him.
Tezuka's eyes flicker up to him. "I know."
"He lost him, didn't he?"
There's a brief pause. Then:
"Yes. I spent the afternoon helping him look for him."
Fuji takes a pass from Science to the library. He's had a bad headache all day, and the classroom noises are becoming too much to handle. With his head pulsating, and his mind throbbing, he enters the silky silence of books and tables.
It's almost empty.
He finds Tezuka on a lone desk, working on a report. He slides up to him.
Tezuka's brow arches. "Fuji."
"I have a headache," Fuji says lightly. Tezuka doesn't respond, so he buries his face in his arms and closes his eyes. He can hear the pounding of his head against his wrist. He listens to the careful sounds of Tezuka's papers shifting and pencil scrawling. A moment later, when his breathing is still and his brain drowsy, he feels a hand touch his hair.
Tezuka brushes the bangs from Fuji's face.
Then, the chair creaks, and Fuji hears his footsteps echo away.
There's a class trip. Ryoma doesn't go because he missed the days the forms were handed out.
Everyone in his class is gone. He's alone in the cafeteria.
Fuji stares at him, the way he eats his food, quietly, carelessly. He doesn't seem to care that he's alone in a room full of people, sitting by himself like a loner. He doesn't seem to give a damn that he has nobody else to sit beside him. Fuji knows he would care. He would hate to be alone with his thoughts.
But Ryoma doesn't.
The gold eyes fly up, catching him staring. Fuji smiles and moves forward. He'll sit with Ryoma today, give him company.
But before he can cross the distance of the cafeteria, or even blink, Tezuka slides into the seat next to Ryoma. Fuji stops cold.
He knows he can go up to them and sit too. He would be warmly welcome. But he just…can't. Some unearthly force won't let his legs move in that direction.
So he doesn't. Instead, he chooses to head up the flight of stairs and find Eiji.
It's funny. First, Fuji was jealous of Ryoma. The way he crept so brashly into their lives, slipping and snatching Tezuka's interest before Fuji could even comprehend what had happened.
Then he was jealous of Tezuka. The way he always seemed to know more about Ryoma. The things Fuji wanted to know.
And now he's just there. With a pitiful longing that he can't quite place. He can't connect with Tezuka anymore. He can't connect with Ryoma, either.
He feels like he's on the outside, watching through a window as the two of them form a bond so tight that even Fuji knows he won't be able to slip in.
Fuji looks down and smiles. "Yes, Echizen?"
"How come your eyes are so blue?"
How come your eyes are so blue?
The words dabble in Fuji's mind like a song. He lies on his bed, rain falling in the background. He rolls over, and stares at the frayed ends of his carpet. The question was so sudden. He remembers the fascination on Ryoma's face, before he quickly became embarrassed, scoffed, and said, "Che, they're way too blue. Ja ne." And ran out of there.
How come his eyes were so blue?
Fuji finds his mirror. Shattering aqua eyes look back at him.
His hand gingerly touches the mirror.
He loves his eyes. He's glad Ryoma does too.
How come your eyes are so blue?
He then spends the next hour wondering if Tezuka does.
"May I borrow your notes for Civics?"
Fuji hands him his notes, and when their fingers touch, he can't help but muse how similar it feels to the first time.
"Give them back before class ends," he teases.
Tezuka doesn't blink. "Of course."
Ryoma always walks home with them now. Fuji doesn't know if he likes that or not. Tezuka and him never hold hands anymore. Ryoma's usually wedged between, trotting along so unknowingly, uncaringly, as if the whole world centers around him. He brags, he snorts, he smirks, he smiles, he raises his brow – Fuji watches the movements of his face.
Usually, only Tezuka and Ryoma talk. Fuji listens to their conversations. They usually go like this:
Ryoma: Ne, buchou, can I try on your glasses?
Tezuka: I'd prefer you don't.
Ryoma: Why not, buchou?
Tezuka: They're very expensive.
Ryoma: Buchou, don't you trust me?
Tezuka: You're a freshman.
Fuji: That's my house. You know, Echizen, you ask an awful lot of questions. And you have a tendency to say buchou quite frequently. Tezuka, you really should let Echizen borrow your glasses. You let me, after all.
The last one is a particular blow at Ryoma, but Fuji doesn't think he cares. Sometimes, he wishes he could be like Ryoma. To not care so much about what revolves around him. But he can't. He sees everything all too deeply. He sees things complicated, not simple.
That's who he is.
He hopes they appreciate him anyway.
Tezuka is the steady, reliable land that holds them up.
Ryoma is the fire: burning, glowing, rising with fire.
Fuji is the ocean: going with the flow, with thoughts too deep to reach the surface