Summary: Fuji learns that somethings don't change with time.
Disclaimer: I neither own nor profit from the Prince of Tennis.
A/N: Thanks to L for beta, R for comments and making me relax with this, and A for everything.
"You free tonight? Would you consider having a dinner with me?" someone asked Fuji. Someone because Fuji hadn't bothered to pay attention to his name. His office was quite near Fuji's, and he was new at work, but that was about all Fuji recalled.
"Dinner?" Fuji asked, and looked visibly uncomfortable.
"Yeah... Oh, sorry, I didn't mean it like a date or anything, I had just a production idea and I need a good photographer for that and I thought if you were interested…I would explain the details at the dinner. It would be a bit quieter than here and we might start planning," the man explained, almost rambling.
"Ah, sure," Fuji replied, smiling.
"Great, let's go directly from work and decide then what we want."
"Okay, so I could borrow this very small gallery. It's more like one small room than anything fancy. Anyway, so approximately twenty chairs would fit in there or so, and we would have music and photos," Kuwabara, that was the man's name, explained.
"Music and photos?" Fuji asked. “Sounds interesting.”
"Yeah, so it would be like a very normal slide show except that the music and the photos would really go together and the photos would be art photos, black and white if you want to, if something else, that's also possible. We might make a stand for something. Or we could just make it as if someone had just walked around a huge museum, or we could even describe some city or something," Kuwabara continued.
"And because I would take the photos, and you would compose the music, they would be perfectly fitting, not just 'well, this music is quite good for this photos' but much better than that?" Fuji guessed.
"Exactly. I've been composing for the past ten years, just for fun. I like that. Obviously, I'm not a new Beethoven or anything, but somewhat okay."
"Sounds great. Sure," Fuji agreed.
They were in silence for a while before Kuwabara asked, "You get lots of people asking you out?"
Fuji raised his eyebrows.
"I mean, you seemed as if you were thinking how to refuse me nicely and at the same time trying to give signals that I should be smart enough to back off." Kuwabara smiled.
Fuji laughed, "You are right."
"It has to be easier when people understand to back off instead of you having to spell it out loud."
"Believe me, it is," Fuji replied.
"Oh, the poor popular ones!"
Fuji wasn't sure why he was still single and why he even couldn't consider dating anybody. Certainly, it was some extreme case of Tezuka syndrome, or maybe Tezuka zone, but it still made him wonder.
He craved challenge. He wanted that in people, in life, in his work. He liked to breeze through things as he wished, and sometimes to give his all.
Very few things felt challenging, though. Tezuka was a challenge, but he also numbed people. After him, nothing felt the way it should have.
Still, after six years of last seeing Tezuka and talking to him, that hadn't changed.
The first time Fuji had seen Tezuka, he had been amazed. Not only had someone been genuinely good and even played elegantly, but there had been something else.
It was as if Tezuka didn't give his all, as if something was missing from his whole strength, and that thrilled Fuji more than anything else. Not seeing someone's full strength was great because it left room for speculation.
A bit later Fuji realized that Tezuka's composure was just a bit off, a bit unbalanced.. One needed to look extremely carefully to notice, but once one did that, all the hints of Tezuka playing with a wrong hand were there.
Fuji wasn't sure if would have noticed it if he hadn't practiced to play with both hands himself. It was a way to give handicap for Yuuta when they were kids and Yuuta was just starting to learn to play.
Sometimes Fuji wondered if it had been the same for Tezuka, too. That when he had first seen Fuji play, that he had finally seen something that was missing most of the time.
If tennis was boring at times for him, too. Or if it was boring quite often.
Fuji knew that Tezuka didn't believe in easy games. Still, he couldn't believe that tennis would have ever been just about winning and about more and more difficult games for Tezuka. It was like that for people like Echizen, who existed to mada mada dane and trump others.
It had always seemed like or a way of living, or a necessary part of Tezuka. He knew that Tezuka appreciated seriousness towards the game, but seriousness got so boring quickly.
Besides, Tezuka was capable of being serious for all of Japan. He didn't need any assistance in that.
"I hope you have fun and find it useful for your career," Fuji had said the last time they had talked to each other. He hadn't said, "I hope your shoulder lasts," and instead bitten it back and smiled. Wishing had never got anybody anywhere.
"Good luck to you, too. Although, you've never needed luck, just thrown most chances away," Tezuka had greeted, nearly smiling.
"Let us play a game when you visit Japan again," Fuji had said, not really asking, but not demanding either.
"Let us do that," Tezuka confirmed.
It had been fairly obvious that although Fuji didn't plan to continue playing tennis seriously (Fuji and seriousness had never gone together well, but seriously as far as he could), he would still be a good opponent.
"Keep in touch," Fuji had said, looked Tezuka in the eyes slightly longer than what was necessary, and turned to walk away.
Before that there had been the peculiar vodka+celebration+adrenaline rush incident, and that hadn't made things any easier.
The punch they had had while celebrating after the win at the nationals had tasted slightly weird. It was supposed to have been juice with some lemonade and sparkling water.
The sharpness should have been an obvious indicator, but their lives had been too sheltered, or at least, Tezuka's life had been too sheltered. Tezuka hadn't noticed anything, just thought that someone had let Inui too close to the drinks.
After his second glass, he had felt slightly reckless and slightly faint, and Fuji had been just near enough to him. He didn't really felt too stable, and therefore slightly leaned against Fuji.
All had been well and good until he had turned to look at Fuji.
"Something the matter?" Fuji had asked, and turned his head, too. Their lips had been ten centimeters apart, their noses five, their eyes locked together.
Echizen had appeared, "Buchou, one game?" Nobody except Echizen could have not realized the situation.
Tezuka had played. The following morning they had had real training again. "Not to get too careless after the win. There's more tennis in life, after all," Tezuka had explained it.
Momoshiro and Kikumaru had run fifty laps for inappropriate use of Swedish vodka.
Fuji had nearly run extra laps. For being disruptive. In the end, Tezuka didn't tell him to run. It would have been too difficult to justify it without giving away the actual reason.
Tezuka had already been seen running laps for an hour in the morning before the others came.
After training they had taken a picture to add to school's collection of extraordinarily good sports teams. The extra laps were visible in the picture in the forms of red cheeks and very sweaty shirts.
Fuji had that picture on the wall in his office.
Originally, it had been in his bedroom, then on the wall in his first own apartment, and now it was there. It was surprisingly good quality considering that he had taken it with a timer. The others had been standing by the school gate, posing; he had pressed the shutter and run to the picture.
People always thought that Fuji had it there because of the artistic value or because it reminded him of a careless youth. (At that point Fuji would want to laugh, "Careless?") It was always a relief that people made assumptions, not even bothering to ask. It wouldn't have been nice for him to lie.
Fuji didn't see any point in lying to himself about the reason the photo was there or about anything else, either.
Two years ago, that one interesting interview had appeared. Fuji had seen it by chance. His neighbour read American magazines quite frequently, and sometimes Fuji borrowed those to practice the language.
Our interviewer, Miss Jones, had a chance to interview Mr Kunimitsu Tezuka, who's been taking the tennis world by storm. At first some people claimed that it was luck or maybe a one tournament wonder, but by now it should be clear to everybody that Tezuka is here to stay.
Interviewer: "Congratulations on the win. I don't think it was a surprise for anybody, though."
Tezuka: "Thank you. I don't think there is such a thing as an easy victory."
Interviewer: "Oh, do you honestly believe so or do you only say so to make the others feel better? Your playing had such grace and flow that it certainly didn't seem as if you had had any difficulty."
Tezuka: "I believe so."
Interviewer: "Because everybody already knows your tennis merits, let us talk about something a bit more personal. There's been no women attached to you in public. Is it truly possible that a gorgeous man like you is still single?"
Interviewer: "Lack of time or something else? Have you ever fallen in love or had a crush?"
Tezuka: "I think this interview should be about tennis. I'm a tennis player."
Interviewer: "Sorry. I just thought that our readers might want to have some idea about you on a personal level."
The article continued but Fuji had stopped reading there for a moment. To think that someone imagined that they would know Tezuka well...The world was filled with not too bright people.
Fuji had tried to write to Tezuka. Several times within the past six years, to be exact. Now all of those letter, or beginnings of letters were in a box. Sometimes he browsed through them.
I hope you are doing fine. Journalism seems like such an interesting subject to study. It's absolutely fascinating what a skilled writer can make people believe without actually lying, just choosing words carefully. ..."
It's been a long time. I'm doing well. I hope your shoulder is okay. I've seen the results of your games and..."
How are you? I haven't heard from you (well, I haven't written, either). Everything is fine here. Yumiko is getting married and she seems glowing. I'm happy for her..."
I know it's been a long time, but I just wanted to tell you that I won the national competition for photography students. Do you remember when we won the nationals and celebrated? I..."
He had never received a letter or email from Tezuka, either. He could easily imagine Tezuka deciding that writing a letter would be too risky, because he might not get rid of it. Pieces of paper could exist for a very long time. Burning paper would be too much work and slightly risky when one didn't have a chimney. Paper collections would be out of the question. Sending a letter one didn't want to send? No.
All in all, Fuji could imagine Tezuka hating the idea of writing a traditional paper mail.
Tezuka could have opted for email, though. Writing while the internet connection was off to reduce the risk of accidentally sending it. Fuji knew that the press would be more than delighted to receive the first half of a private email written by the famous and private Tezuka Kunimitsu, intended to be sent to his parents or some friend.
At his weak moments, Fuji liked to think that Tezuka might have considered to write an email for him, and then deleted it all.
I hope everything is fine. I'm sorry about not writing. It's been difficult... I miss"
"So, you don't go to dates with people?" Kuwabara asked, efficiently returning Fuji back to reality. "Sorry that I asked and talk so much," he continued.
"Talk all you will," Fuji said with a smile. "And no, I don't date."