Title: A Good Death
Summary: Fuji wants Tezuka to retire. Echizen doesn't know what he wants and Tezuka just wants things to go right.
Warnings: Assassin AU. Lame attempts at humour.
Disclaimer: I neither own nor profit from the Prince of Tennis. I hope Patrick Henry can forgive me one day.
A/N: I want to thank W and H and L for everything and more. This wouldn't have happened without your support. Kish, I hope you enjoy. I did try to include everything you wanted.
"Fuji," Tezuka bit out, exasperated, "we need to leave." He looked down at Fuji, who was still hovering over the dead man, and sighed. "Now."
Looking over his shoulder, Fuji gave him an amused grin before turning back to his work. A few more turns of his wrist, and Fuji let out a satisfied cluck of his tongue. "There. Perfect."
Tezuka gave Fuji's masterpiece a frustrated glance and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Atobe will not like this."
"Oh?" Fuji asked, sounding for all the world as if he couldn't care less. "He never did appreciate art."
Art. Tezuka blinked at that. The rose-shaped cuts carved onto the man's abdomen were still bleeding, making the rose bloom red, and blurred. For a moment, Tezuka could see what Fuji was talking about.
"Let's go," Tezuka ordered, turning to leave. He could hear Fuji follow him, humming slightly out of tune.
"If it irritates you so much, you can always find a new career," Fuji said conversationally as they walked down the back alley, past a drunken homeless man and a cat digging in pile of garbage. "I hear there's always room for advancement in the field of male entertainment."
Tezuka glared at him ineffectually. Fuji brought up the subject of quitting on a weekly basis, each time bringing up a new career choice he'd undoubtedly never partake in. What Fuji really wanted was for them to leave Japan and go elsewhere, and do something that was a lot like nothing. "I'll pass."
When they'd put enough distance between them and the crime scene, Fuji touched Teezuka's elbow and cocked his head in the direction of a sleazy love hotel with bright fluorescent lights indicating its existence.
Tezuka nodded once, and followed Fuji inside. Atobe wouldn't expect them for another hour at least.
Atobe looked up at Tezuka from his leather chair, which was no doubt more expensive than the cost of his flat, and scowled. "Tezuka, I'm displeased with things as they are."
He didn’t respond, not really having leave to do so, and gripped his hands harder behind his back. Fuji was probably out in the lounge laughing about this all, as he was wont to do, but he never had to stand in front of their arrogant boss and try to at least look apologetic for not doing as Atobe'd not so much asked, but implied.
"Can't you control your subordinates, Tezuka?" Atobe asked, slightly peevish, thoroughly provocative. "Yukimura never has this kind of trouble with his men," he added at the end.
Tezuka felt his irritation go up a notch. They employed different methods, he and Yukimura, and he didn't have a Sanada to inflict on those who stepped out of line. He had Fuji, who seemed to take incredible joy in making things more difficult…for Atobe, who hadn't had Fuji killed only because everyone knew that Fuji would take out whoever came after him, and Atobe for good measure, before he went.
"To solve this problem," Atobe said, tapping his chin thoughtfully, "I've arranged for him to stay with you. To enable you to better control him."
Tezuka almost said no out loud, but bit it back at the last moment. He wasn't sure who exactly was being punished at that moment. "I don't think-" he began, trying to sound apologetic and diplomatic at the same time, but Atobe cut him off with a razor sharp smile, and pinned Tezuka with a look. "His things are already at your place. I doubt this'll be much of a hardship for you, Tezuka." The tone of Atobe's voice implied that he knew a lot more than he usually let on, which didn't really surprise Tezuka all that much.
"Ah," Tezuka didn't know what else he could say at that point. No doubt, Fuji's former living space was ablaze and there would be no point going back there.
"Oh, and Tezuka?" Atobe said just as Tezuka placed his hand on the door "Make sure that new brat you're training doesn't mouth off to me the next time I send him on a job."
"Of course," he said, and left. Echizen. Too cocky for his own damned good. Fuji would no doubt find this the most amusing part of the evening.
Fuji was sprawled on the leather couch out in the waiting room, legs spread and hands under his head. If Tezuka had been in the privacy of any other building but this one, he'd have gone over and kissed him or more, but they were at work, and he refused to have any evidence on film, beyond what he knew Fuji had stashed somewhere. He still had some pride left, even as Fuji and Atobe separately fought to dismantle it over the years.
"Fuji," he said, getting Fuji's attention, not that he thought for a second that Fuji didn't notice him standing there. "We're leaving."
Getting to his feet, Fuji quickly matched his pace, and walked with him out of the building. There were a small group of new faces in the lobby, fresh-faced and completely unaware as to why they were really there. One day, they'd either be doing what he was, or they'd be dead. There was no room for people to get careless in Atobe's empire. There was no failure. Sometimes, Tezuka hated his job.
It wasn't something he'd ever planned on doing, really. He recalled when he was as they were, young, filled with pride, and itching to flex his muscle, show off his abilities. He was a low-level bodyguard, nothing exciting, but everyone started somewhere. He'd been there for little more than two months when Yamato had approached him as he trained in the gym, bearing an offer that was somewhere between a promotion and a threat. Yamato hadn't been pleased with anyone on his team, and he wanted a successor.
From low-level bodyguard to high-level to an enforcer to an assassin. He rose through the ranks in just under six months. Unprecedented, he'd been told. It hadn't been a choice he'd make but it wasn't one he could refuse either. Besides, Tezuka was good at what he did, and there was always satisfaction in that. Even if he was slightly put off by Atobe's way of dealing with his job, managing it as if Tezuka were head of human resources, and not the lead assassin on his squad.
Fuji smiled at him as they stepped onto the streets. "Your place tonight?"
Nodding, Tezuka figured they'd discuss the permanence of it all once they'd arrived at his house.
Tezuka watched Fuji out of the corner of his eye as they walked. They'd been working together for close to ten years. Fuji was the first person he had chosen to train. Fuji'd been working on the first floor of the building since two months after Tezuka’s first promotion. Though it was true that Fuji was always punctual, never missed a thing, and could nail the bull's eye with a knife from across the room, those things didn't factor into why Tezuka had noticed and then chose him. Tezuka had picked Fuji because he liked his hands.
One week into training, and Tezuka found he liked those hands even more.
Fuji's possessions were all in boxes in his living room, and they practically stumbled over them as they entered Tezuka's flat. Strangely, but perhaps not, Fuji didn't even look the slightest bit surprised to see his things there.
"I guess I should start unpacking," Fuji murmured, glancing at the many boxes. "And it was such a long day," he complained good-naturedly.
Tezuka touched Fuji on the arm. "I'll have my second room cleared for you in the morning."
Gazing up to him sharply, Fuji stopped going through the box. "That's unnecessary, Tezuka, your bed is big enough for both of us, if I recall."
He had no intention in sharing a bed with Fuji. That sort of sleeping with his subordinate seemed worse than the kind in which he was already engaging. "No, Fuji."
Fuji gave him a smile reminiscent of the one he gave to people he was about to gut, and Tezuka shifted uncomfortably on his feet. "Care to decide with a game?" Fuji asked, brandishing a deck of cards that must have come from the box.
It should have been warning enough that Fuji was willing to bet on a game that he'd never won more than one hand against him before, but Tezuka had ignored it. Fuji simply shuffled the deck, and he dealt the cards, stated in a cheerful voice, "Best of seven."
The game was exciting, albeit quickly over, as Fuji had taken him in four. Tezuka stared at him, barely believing that this was the same person he'd played cards with for years, when Fuji grinned at him, and stated in a bright voice, "I sleep on the right."
Fuji had barely a moment to gloat over his good fortune when Tezuka led him to what was now their bed room and taken him on all fours in exchange.
When Tezuka finally whispered the rules of the house in Fuji's ear, minutes before they fell asleep, Fuji was too worn out to argue or complain.
"Fuji-senpai," Echizen said, irritably, "I don't need your help."
A glance in their direction showed Fuji tugging at Echizen's arm and Echizen stubbornly refusing to move.
"Fine, Echizen," Fuji replied, voice cold, amused, "I'm sure you're not up to it anyhow."
That, if anything, stopped Echizen fast. "I can beat you, Fuji-senpai."
"Ah, I'm sure you think so," Fuji said, giving Echizen a patronising pat on his shoulder. Tezuka caught Fuji's eye as he turned to walk towards him, leaving a disgruntled Echizen behind him. In a blink, Echizen found himself pinned to the floor with Fuji's knife to his throat. If Tezuka had closed his eyes, he would have missed Echizen’s aborted attempt to attack Fuji when he’d turned his back. Laughing condescendingly, Fuji tapped Echizen’s throat with his knife. "It's too soon for you to beat me," Fuji said, and added with a cruel grin, "You still have lots to work on."
Fuji got up, not so subtly giving Echizen a nudge with his foot in his ribs and joined Tezuka on the bench. "Good workout today, hmm? I found mine to be invigorating."
He doubted Fuji's newly-found energy had anything to do with exercise and everything to do with the fact that Echizen was still on his back on the floor, not having had the will to get up and face either one of them. It was probably a good thing that Atobe had called him this morning. It wasn't that he wanted Fuji to not be as amazing as he was, but Echizen shouldn't have gone down so easily.
Fuji's smiled brightly at him, cocking his head to the side in a gesture that usually meant heated kisses against the brick wall in the nearby alley. A glance to the left told him it was because Echizen was still sulking.
Sometimes, he wondered why he never said no to him. Other times, like now, when he his eyes were almost glowing with delight and mischievousness, he understood why, perfectly.
Still, no matter what, business came first, responsibility, even when he didn't want it to.
"I'm taking Echizen on a job in three days," Tezuka said in reply. It was as good a time as any to get this unpleasantness out of the way.
A dark cloud descended on Fuji’s face briefly, before it was gone. Nothing irritated Fuji more than Tezuka being alone with Echizen, although he didn’t understand why. When he’d asked in the past, Fuji replied with a vague, “Don’t let your guard down, Tezuka.”
Normally, Tezuka would already have left, but today he dragged his feet, not even sure why. It was Thursday night, almost Friday by three minutes, and he needed to get on the road to meet Echizen shortly, but Fuji hadn’t spoken to him in two days, or anyone really, and that was always worrisome.
Fuji's viciousness was palpable, even if it only ever came out once in a while, and Atobe's patience was wearing thin.
He sipped his tea, and decided that when it was done, he'd leave. The tea was almost gone when he was gifted with company.
Fuji smiled, and Tezuka immediately felt weary. That smile was never anything good. That smile was exhausting "What is it, Fuji?"
Fuji gave him a pointed look. "Don't you have to be training the future, what did you call it, stick in the mud?"
Tezuka sighed. "Pillar of Support."
Fuji's expression was inscrutable. "Pillar of Support," he repeated.
Tezuka thought he could hear a hint of laughter. "Yes," he replied. "Yamato-senpai taught me the importance of being reliable to our boss."
Fuji laughed then, whether at Tezuka himself or the idea of being reliable to Atobe, he wasn't sure. "I can see it, then...if Pillars suddenly sprouted hand-painted scowls and started shooting at anything that moved."
Tezuka wasn't amused, and dearly looked forward to the mission with Echizen being over lest he have to continually suffer Fuji's bad humour. Retirement, the thing Fuji'd been bugging him to do for the last six months, was slowly becoming an honest consideration.
He just couldn't let Fuji know quite yet, or he'd be on the sands of Chiba before he could blink.
Instead, he put his cup in the sink, kissed Fuji's cheek, grabbed his coat and left.
"Echizen," Tezuka said. The man they'd been trailing was finally emerging from the run-down building. He was attempting to extort money from one of Atobe's lovers. "Pay attention to the target."
Giving him a bored look, Echizen shrugged. "Che." He picked up his gun, barely looking, and shot the man right between the eyes.
The shot was clean, but Echizen's attitude was frustrating. Tezuka didn't know exactly how he wanted Echizen to act, but he wanted Echizen to at least take the job seriously. Echizen didn't worry about staying unseen or hidden, and if there were witnesses he shot them too, without a blink. Tezuka liked to keep his body count low, fooling himself with the ridiculous notion that if Atobe had ordered the hit, then the ones he'd killed had done something worthy of such a punishment.
He never drew his weapon unless he had to, and never drew it unless he was going to use it. He didn't believe in empty threats or using intimidation beyond what he was willing to follow through with. Fuji had often teased him, calling him the last of the samurai before kissing him and ending all other forms of discussion.
There hadn’t actually been a lot of training during their trip. Instead, there was a lot of Echizen being alternately rapt with attention while watching Tezuka scout and bored to the point of wandering off at other times.
Tezuka wanted Echizen to pick. He couldn’t be both a leader and a follower, not in this job. Echizen had moments, small instances, when Tezuka could see himself reflected in Echizen’s eyes. He craved those moments because they made all the time he put into him seem worthwhile instead of as a waste.
Echizen didn’t care, but he did. He had passion and then he didn’t. It was beyond frustrating, actually, and Tezuka didn’t know how else to guide him. Yamato simply led and he followed, until he could lead himself. Fuji didn’t care either, but he never pretended to, and Echizen could never pull off the way Fuji delighted in the mockery of it all. Echizen seemed to be straddling the fence, not sure of which way to go, which path to choose.
He hoped Echizen would choose the path ahead, otherwise he’d have failed, and incredibly so. Tezuka wondered how Fuji’d react if, or when, he decided to give up on the boy. Laughter, probably, Fuji laughed at most things. A few insinuations that Fuji had told him so, also, just so he’d have the last word. Sympathy? Tezuka didn’t think so. Sympathy wasn’t in Fuji’s vocabulary, and he really didn’t want it, especially from Fuji anyhow. Sex? That was also likely. Fuji seemed to think the slightest thing was a reason to have sex, even the time when he found out he was allergic to cats and couldn’t stop sneezing.
The lights were off when he entered the flat, not surprisingly, because it was just shy of three in the morning. Echizen had mentioned staying at a hotel in passing, but Tezuka didn’t to want to risk the ensuing trouble with Fuji if he even had so much as a hint to them staying in the same hotel, never mind the same room.
However, sometimes Fuji'd wait up for him, no matter how late it was, and he tried to tell himself that he wasn't disappointed. He took off his shoes, and removed his coat before walking to the bedroom. Fuji was asleep, sideways, on the left side of the bed. His side. Fuji always slept on the left side, despite his declaration when he first moved in; it was just that normally Tezuka was asleep on the left side, too.
Walking over to the dresser, Tezuka removed his shirt, placing it in the laundry basket. Opening the top drawer, he looked down at the soft, blue felt that lined the insides. Fuji had made it for him as a twenty-fifth birthday present. He took the small cloth and wiped each of his knives before setting them down, in order of length. The first knife had a serrated edge, and he rarely used it. The second was a butterfly knife, and had the kanji for his name inscribed on it—also a gift from Fuji, which he carried with him religiously, despite the risk of having his name attached to it, the third was small, sharp and for a last resort.
Next, he removed the silencer for his handgun, and put it away. His roll of thin wire, which he was grateful he never had to use, a small white handkerchief, and bottle of chloroform. He removed his gun, too, and almost placed it down, but he instead grabbed the cleaning kit and sat down on the bed.
Tezuka looked down at his gun, and with a vague detachment began taking it apart to clean it. He hadn't done so for the last few jobs, and he didn't want it to jam at an inopportune moment, which would be any time at all, really. Just as he removed the clip, he could feel movement on the bed behind him. Fuji came around, and sat behind him, lightly resting his arms on his shoulders.
"Having fun?" Fuji asked him, breathing in his ear. He tampered down a shiver, and continued to clean his gun. The solvent stung his nose, but Fuji was so close that his slightly musky scent almost drowned it out.
Looking out of the corner of his eye, Tezuka caught something familiar. "You're wearing my shirt."
Fuji hummed unconcernedly and placed his chin on Tezuka's shoulder, arm moving to his waist, encircling it. "Am I?"
Not bothering to reply, Tezuka began reassembling his gun. Fuji laughed a little, tapping his fingers against Tezuka's stomach, and pressed closer. Just as he pushed the clip back into the gun, he felt something wet against his neck He barely stopped himself from squeezing the trigger as Fuji bit down lightly on his earlobe, sucking it deftly into his mouth.
"Fuji," Tezuka breathed out with slight irritation. He didn't relinquish the gun, however, even when it was just proven to be potentially dangerous.
"Yes?" Fuji asked, tone mischievous. "Can I help you?" This question was punctuated by Fuji's hand hovering at the hem of his boxers, the front of his pants already unbuttoned without him noticing. "Is it about the shirt? Do you want it back?"
Tezuka got up, and put his gun and kit away, removed his pants, turning only when he felt a ball of fabric hit his back. His shirt. He looked at Fuji over his shoulder. "That's better," he said, face impassive.
Sitting in nothing but his skin on the edge of the bed, Fuji laughed a little at his joke, and cheerfully asked, "Isn't this where you tell me I look better naked?"
"Fishing for compliments, Fuji?" Tezuka replied. There was a mild lewd retort on his tongue, You'd look better on your knees, but he couldn't make himself say it without feeling hideously embarrassed and more than a little ridiculous. Instead, he settled for: "Is that your way of asking for reassurance?"
Fuji grinned at him. "Well, come and reassure me. How could I resist such a generous offer?" Tezuka raised his eyebrow at him and walked to the edge of their bed. Close up, he noticed that Fuji looked tired, and then he realised that Fuji probably had tried to stay up to wait for him, and fell asleep without meaning to.
"Let's get some sleep," he said quietly, getting in on his side, and waited until Fuji was next to him before pulling up the blankets.
Fuji didn't argue, for once, instead he curled up against Tezuka's side and laid his head on Tezuka's chest. "How did training go?"
Not detecting any sarcasm, Tezuka decided to answer truthfully. "Miserably."
"Do you want me to help you?" Fuji asked then. It was the first time he'd ever made an offer out of desire to help him instead of one to torment Echizen. Tezuka almost didn't know what to say.
He closed his eyes for a moment, letting the feel of Fuji's breathing lull him into a half-sleep. "Make him want this job."
Fuji kissed his chest absently. "How can I when I don't even want this job?"
"You," Tezuka said, "can make anyone want anything."
Laughing softly, Fuji kissed him again, this time on his neck. "I'll do my best to inspire the brat, after we get some sleep."
Fuji moved, then, crawling over Tezuka to kiss him more firmly. Sleep, Tezuka thought as Fuji nibbled on his lower lip. Sleep indeed.
Fuji had an expression on his face that was frighteningly similar to the way Inui, Atobe's chemist, looked after he’d created a particularly nasty poison. It was disconcerting. And it was directed toward Echizen. He hated to admit he was grateful for that.
“It’s too bad,” Fuji said in a quiet voice, almost to himself, “that you don’t care about this job.”
Echizen looked at Fuji suspiciously, not knowing what to make of the completely hypocritical statement that came out of his mouth.
“Such a disappointment. Tezuka had such great expectations for you,” Fuji continued, ignore the murderous stare directed at him. Tezuka wasn’t sure how this was supposed to be inspiring anything more than another failed attempt by Echizen trying to attack Fuji.
Which he did just then. The failure, spectacular. Fuji offered his hand to help get Echizen back on his feet, but it was batted away. Echizen had been trying to knock Fuji down for the better part of an hour while Tezuka was off in the other corner, listening and using the bench press. It was dangerous without someone to spot him, but he didn’t mind it; he was accustomed to danger.
“How would he know anything,” Echizen grumbled, not realising Tezuka could hear him, “he never even pays attention.” The to me went unsaid.
Fuji smirked at that. “So sure about that? You’re all he talks about.” It was a little strange to hear the bitterness in Fuji’s voice at that remark.
“But you’re all he thinks about,” Echizen snapped back. In a huff, he tried again to knock Fuji off his feet, and failed.
Laughing scathingly, Fuji crossed his arms across his chest. “He seems to see something worthwhile in you, although I can’t imagine what.” Tezuka wondered if Echizen could tell Fuji was lying.
“Sure, Fuji-senpai, he sees me as his way out of this stupid job so he can go off and fuck you some place tropical.”
Fuji didn’t reply immediately, but his eyes narrowed and he struck, sending Echizen to the floor on his back. “I won’t allow you to get him killed trying to get you to be whatever it is he sees in you. So, grow up, Echizen, and take this job seriously.”
“You can’t make me do anything, Fuji-senpai,” Echizen heaved out. Tezuka almost got up to separate them, but he decided to hold off for another minute or two, curious as to what Fuji would say in response.
“Are you certain about that?” Fuji asked. There were very few people that had that tone directed at them that were still able to breathe to tell the tale. “I will end you before you become the end of him.” And with that, Fuji got to his feet and stormed out of the room, leaving Echizen on his back, no doubt with Fuji’s words still ringing in his ears.
Tezuka looked between the door and Echizen, and strolled from the room. Echizen wasn’t right about him thinking only about Fuji. It was just that Fuji was more dangerous pissed than Echizen was sulky.
"How is everything?" Yukimura asked him over a drink. They'd been meeting with each other once a year since they were assigned the head of their respective squads.
Tezuka took a sip of his drink. "Echizen's training is coming along."
Shaking his head, Yukimura snorted. "Don't lie to me, Tezuka. It doesn't suit you."
"Echizen is Echizen," he said then, for lack of any better way to describe it.
Yukimura raised his glass, then, and smiled. "And we have our Akaya."
It amused him that Yukimura gave himself and Sanada away in such a manner. Especially for all the hassle he'd given him in regards to his relationship with Fuji.
"He's learning," Tezuka said, knowing there was little to fault in results, no matter his reservations on the method.
Nodding, Yukimura took another sip. "He'll be able to lead a squad soon."
"When are you and Sanada retiring?" he asked, wondering if he was crossing a line in even discussing it.
The look Yukimura gave him was fierce, calculating. "Fuji still wants you to quit, doesn't he?"
"Yes, and he doesn't care if Echizen's ready or not."
The glass set down with a thunk that echoed loudly despite the noise of the bar. "We're not ready to die quite yet. Just buy Fuji something and he'll stop being blinded by jealousy. No one leaves this company…willingly."
Tezuka swallowed the rest of his, setting his empty glass next to Yukimura's. He knew the truth of Yukimura's words, but there was a small part of him that wanted what Fuji was asking, a part of him that was willing to try for it. "Do you really think it's all about jealousy?"
Yukimura didn't reply, but he wasn't expecting him to.
"Fuji," Tezuka said, letting his breath hit the back of Fuji's neck, watching in fascination the goose bumps that rose on his skin. "You do know what retirement actually means."
"Of course," Fuji murmured in reply, pushing back against him to get further in his embrace. "Just like the samurai, eh, Tezuka? The only way out is through death."
Tezuka kissed the nape of Fuji's neck, and closed his eyes. "So you know that leaving isn't an option."
"There're always choices. Like your choice to wear that hideous lavender shirt every single time we get free time and I manage to get you to take me on a date," Fuji laughed lightly, turning slightly to face him. Tezuka couldn't see his whole face, partially obscured in the dark, but his lips were curved in a grin. He kissed them. "Seppuku sounds interesting anyhow."
Tezuka held him tighter. "I suppose that makes me your second," he asked, trying to make a joke, despite the morbidity of the conversation.
Fuji hummed, closing his eyes. "Tezuka, you've always been my first."
There were moments, like these, when Fuji was completely honest, serious, giving him a mere glance of his soul, and in those moments, Tezuka would swear that he might just love him.
"It's too boring if you don’t add a little flare to it," Fuji said, reasonably, and continued to pose the man, he tried to drape the man's hand so they fell just so on his face, and Fuji could only accomplish it by letting the ring finger rest horizontal in the man's mouth.
Still, Tezuka thought as he looked at the body, Fuji did manage Atobe's I know your weaknesses and am about to exploit them pose almost exactly.
Tezuka tapped Fuji's shoulder with his gun. "It's not our job to add flare. It's our job to not get our boss, or ourselves, caught. This is something you appear to have trouble understanding."
"I understand perfectly," Fuji replied, tone grossly cheerful for someone that just threw a knife into someone's neck from ten meters away. "You sound so bitter, Tezuka, perhaps this line of work is wearing on you."
Fuji smiled at him, and left the room with a final nod at his end product. Tezuka glanced at the man, too, wondering if he should do something, but decided against that and on finding Fuji before the man found a bar, and subsequently, alcohol. Fuji and alcohol were two things that should never be mixed.
"Fuji," he called out, before finding him leaning against the building outside. It was a relief. He’d been worried, especially with Fuji’s growing discontent, with Echizen in particular.
"I hear they're looking for circus performers," Fuji said, continuing the earlier conversation, not even skipping a beat.
Tezuka tried to fight a smile. "Don't I have my hands filled with taming wild animals already?"
Fuji laughed, and kissed him right there, not caring who saw, or who was scandalized. There was happiness etched on Fuji’s face; he liked that. "You look good today. No lavender in sight. Take me out somewhere."
"Fine, but I'm not dancing." Tezuka took out his phone, and shut it off. Atobe had wanted Tezuka to control Fuji better; he'd just tell him that he was doing his job, if pressed.
Echizen and Fuji were sitting on opposite sides of the lounge when he emerged from another meeting with Atobe. There was another job, not that it was all that surprising, however it still surprised him just the sheer number of people that had in someway gotten on Atobe’s bad side. And Tezuka knew for a fact he wasn’t killing them all. Yukimura got the jobs in his territory.
“Fuji,” Tezuka said, looking directly at him. “You’re to teach one of Atobe’s lovers self-defence.”
Agreeing with a nod, Fuji received his newest order with neither excitement nor disappointment. It wasn’t that uncommon of an occurrence, and Atobe trusted that Fuji couldn’t be seduced by nor would attempt to seduce any of the people Atobe assigned him to.
Tezuka took a deep breath and faced Echizen. “We have an assignment in Chiba.”
He sighed internally when Echizen didn’t even attempt to hide his eagerness to go on this mission. With a smirk, Echizen shot Fuji a look that was far too close to gloating for it to be anything else. Fuji shot a look back at Echizen that clearly reminded the boy of Fuji’s previous words. I’ll end you before you can become the end of him. Echizen tugged his cap down over his eyes, and looked away from him. Fuji took the victory, smiling at Tezuka for a moment before becoming sullen again.
“Buchou,” Echizen said, casting a glance at Fuji, “how long will we be gone?”
“A few days,” Tezuka replied absently, still watching the way Fuji frowned. “If that’s all…”
Echizen got to his feet, already heading for the door. “Later, buchou.”
Fuji hadn't bothered to stand up yet, and if Tezuka didn’t know better, he’d have thought there was a pout on Fuji’s face. He wanted to kiss him.
“I’m hungry,” Tezuka said instead. “Let’s go to that place you like for dinner.”
“You hate that place,” said Fuji, smiling again as he looked up at him.
Tezuka shrugged, nothing more than a quick movement of his shoulders. “It’s not so bad.”
Mouth open and ready to reply, Fuji jumped, and so did he, at the sound of the sliding door leading to the stairs banging back against the doorjamb. A can of Ponta lay crushed on the ground.
Getting to his feet, Fuji beamed, eyes glittering madly. “Let’s go. I’m almost delirious with hunger.”
Shaking his head, Tezuka tried to ignore the implications of the banging door and soft drink on the ground, and focused instead on getting through dinner.
The day had been a disaster. A complete and utter disaster. Twice, Echizen had taken off and he had to find him. Twice, they had lost the target and had to waste large periods of time finding him again, only to have him slip away at the last moment.
Echizen was in a bad mood, and it was affecting his ability to perform. It was essential to be able to do it, no matter what was going on. Tezuka once had to go out on a job the day of his grandfather’s wake. It didn’t matter, not to Atobe, and Tezuka had still managed to track and kill his target with the same efficient detachment he had for every other job.
They lay on separate beds in the hotel room. Echizen was closer to the door and he, the window. It was pointless to stay out any longer. They’d have to do it tomorrow. There was no room for anything but success.
If he wanted to be fair, he did have something Echizen didn’t. He had Fuji, who, despite everything, was incentive enough to get jobs done, and done right. Fuji, while ruthless and thorough on the job, was fun when it was over. He smiled and laughed and kissed like he would die if he didn’t. Fuji would lick his lips sometimes, after a job, and tell him how sexy he looked holding a gun, make a ridiculously awful double entendre and tug him in the direction of a hotel or a dark alley. It made the job interesting far longer than it should have.
And Fuji wanted him to retire.
Give me obedience or I’ll give you death. Atobe’s motto, such as it was, and he believed it as sincerely as anything. Echizen would learn, one way or another.
“What’s so great about Fuji-senpai?” Echizen’s voice rang out in the dark. Tezuka almost replied before he stopped, realizing that Echizen wasn’t aware he was awake, and was speaking to himself. “Stupid…”
The words trailed off and died, and Tezuka was grateful for it. He didn’t want to listen to the childish rant anymore than he wanted to deal with the childish behavior he’d already seen today. Thankfully, Echizen seemed to truly fall asleep then, and so too did he.
Tezuka had barely emerged from Atobe's office after giving his report when he saw Fuji pinning Echizen against the wall. He had his gun out, pressing the muzzle to Echizen's temple, whose face was calm, but eyes were widened in disbelief.
"I meant every word," Fuji said, almost hissing. "Never leave your partner alone on a job."
Fuji let go, and Echizen slumped against the wall. In a voice that was barely a whisper, he said, "Sorry, Fuji-senpai."
Putting his gun back, Fuji turned and saw him standing there. His expression was both wary of reprimand and stubbornly defiant. Fuji didn't regret what he did; he just wished he hadn't been caught.
"Let's go," Fuji said, tonelessly, and walked away. He looked back over his shoulder to Echizen and sighed. "Fine. I'll wait in the car."
Tezuka waited until Fuji had left to face Echizen. "I'll talk to him later."
"Don't, buchou," Echizen replied calmly. "He's right."
He looked at Echizen in shock. He'd never expect to hear those words from those lips, especially about Fuji. "He is."
"It won't happen again. I'll become someone that can lead a squad," Echizen said, a bit louder than before, confident. He tugged his cap down and left. Tezuka almost smiled, and went to find Fuji before he drove off and went out drinking.
Tezuka just watched in morbid fascination as Fuji painted on the man's skin. Two days ago, this man had taken a shot at Atobe while he was going out to dinner with his accountant, Oshitari. Kabaji had taken the bullet for him, and was now in the hospital. That, if anything, was unforgivable. Atobe demanded he and Fuji leave for Kyuushuu immediately.
"I could have done this professionally," Fuji remarked as he dipped the brush into the small jar of black ink. That was the truth, and there was no cockiness in the remark, only assuredness. The kanji was beautifully drawn, thin and delicate.
"Hametsu," Tezuka read when Fuji pulled back, leaving the brush in the ink. He wanted to tell him that it wasn't proper to treat the brushes that way, but then realised how ludicrous it was. The man was dead and these brushes likely had a date with an incinerator. He didn't bother warning that Atobe would be upset at Fuji decorating yet another body. They both knew he would. They both knew that was Fuji's goal.
"I think I should live by the sea and paint the coast, and you can be old and cranky and confiscate the children's Frisbees."
Tezuka laughed, which sounded more like a cough. "You're far more cranky than I ever am."
"So," Fuji asked, turning to him with a grin, "I steal the toys and you get in touch with your inner artist?"
Shaking his head, Tezuka headed for the door. "The only thing we'll be decorating is prison walls if we don't leave."
Fuji jumped up to his feet and walked over to him. "How about you get a cane and a rocking chair and a porch and yell at everyone and I'll take up palm reading and frighten the locals with my love of the occult."
"So your idea of retirement is to scare people shitless," Tezuka asked, amused as they walked, realising belatedly that Fuji had guided him toward another love hotel.
"Isn't that everyone's?" Fuji replied blithely, a bounce in his step.
It was the calligraphy that did it.
Tezuka hadn't been asked to his usual meeting with Atobe, and he'd heard that the boss had been in a rage. Whenever he walked into the gym to workout, the men there ducked their heads, avoiding his eyes, and left as soon as possible without it being rude.
Fuji was taking it in stride, as ever, and didn't even appear to notice the strange reactions. "Tezuka, spar with me?" Fuji shook his limbs loose, getting into a defensive stance.
He set down his towel and faced Fuji, watching him for a second or two before he lunged. Fuji went down without a fight, allowing himself to be pinned to the floor.
Lips were on his cheek, before he could blink, and then he heard Fuji whispering in his ear. "We should go to lunch, and maybe a movie."
Tezuka recognised the invitation for what it was: A clear hint that they should leave the building.
Playing along, Tezuka kissed Fuji briefly, whispering back his agreement. "I wanted to see the new Mission Impossible movie, anyhow."
They were two steps from the lobby door when Fuji roughly bumped into his side, and moved him out of the way. A large knife was lodged into the frame of the door. It was off by an inch. Fuji merely took it out, turned, and threw it back. He heard a thud, but didn't look to confirm if the person was still breathing.
Fuji never missed.
Echizen showed up at the flat six hours later, smirking knowingly at the sight of their slightly disheveled, half-dressed state. "Did I interrupt something?"
Glaring, Fuji slumped down on the couch, not bothering to cover the red marks on his exposed chest. "What do you want?"
Tezuka tossed his shirt over the back of the chair and focused on rebuckling his pants. "Have a seat," he nodded towards a free chair.
"I'm not staying long," Echizen said, but sat down after he saw Fuji's momentarily pleased expression.
Looking at him expectantly, Tezuka waited for whatever news Echizen had. He obviously wasn't there for a social visit, never having done so in the past.
"He's gonna send Yukimura's team after Fuji-senpai," Echizen stated plainly, his eyes locked with Tezuka. This, he knew, was a favour to him, and him alone.
Tezuka nodded grimly. This is what he had always suspected would happen if Fuji ever pressed Atobe's patience to the edge. With Kabaji still in the hospital, it was no wonder that he'd reacted to Fuji's last attempt at irritating him.
"Either Fuji-senpai can try to apologise, "Echizen began— Fuji snorted at that—"or you guys should go."
Echizen took his leave then, and Tezuka sat down next to Fuji on the couch. He placed his hand on Fuji's knee and squeezed once. "Do you have a particular porch in mind?"
It was a sign of the slight hysteria he felt just brimming below the surface that he felt that now, of all times, was when his latent sense of humour should emerge. Fuji laughed, though, easily, and leaned against him, resting his head on Tezuka's shoulder.
"I even have tickets, passports, and an antimacassar for the rocker." Tezuka knew Fuji was only half joking. Fuji had been wanting for them to leave for years, been planning this for months, and meant to disappear in days. Fuji kissed him, nibbling playfully on his ear. "I'm sure you can find creative uses for the cane."
Fuji lowered his head to Tezuka's lap, leaving him only a second to sigh before he could do nothing but gasp.
The beach was warmer than he'd expected, despite the breeze that had been blowing all evening. He'd been to Chiba enough that beaches weren't a novelty, but this wasn't Chiba, and it certainly wasn't nearly crowded as it was back in Japan.
Fuji was sitting in a small pair of shorts, picking random things from the sand. He had a small pile of seashells surrounded by what looked like kelp. It was quiet, peaceful, only disrupted by the sound of soft footsteps pressed into the sand. A man dressed in very little came down to where he was sitting with a small tray, offering Fuji the drink he'd ordered earlier.
Tezuka narrowed his eyes a bit, the man lingering a little longer than he thought appropriate. He walked closer, his shoes resting on his fingers, and looked down at Fuji who was happily sipping his drink.
Before he could join him, the phone in his pocket vibrated. It was strange since only two people aside from himself knew the phone number, and that was Fuji and the person fixing their house.
"Tezuka," Atobe's voice greeted him. He tensed for a moment, but something in Atobe's tone indicated that there was no danger at the present time.
He licked his lips before responding. "Atobe."
"Finally doing what I asked, eh Tezuka?" He sounded as cocky and self-assured as ever, as if Tezuka had played into one of his elaborate plans.
Tezuka raised an eyebrow at that. Kabaji must have been let out of the hospital. Nothing else could explain Atobe's mood. "And what is that?"
"Keeping Fuji out of trouble," Atobe replied. "My incredible insight tells me you're on a beach, having the time of your life."
"Hm." Tezuka wondered why he spent so long fighting Fuji on the issue of retirement.
"Just don't come back to Japan, Tezuka, or Yukimura will be waiting."
That's why. The whole death threat thing. "Of course, Atobe."
Tezuka hung up, stowing the phone in his pocket, mentally making a note to get his number changed, and walked toward Fuji.
"Want a sip?" Fuji asked, humming happily to himself, digging his toes in the sand.
Shaking his head no, Tezuka sat down next to him. "Are you sure you'll want to give this up," he said, indicating the private beach resort, "when our house is ready next week?"
"This is nice," Fuji agreed, "but there is something I look forward to when we can finally move in…"
"And what is that?" Tezuka asked, curious despite little warning flags going off in his head.
Fuji didn't answer him, and instead moved quickly, pinning Tezuka against the soft warm sand, kissing him thoroughly. Lifting his face only for a moment, Fuji replied in a delightfully cheerful, mischievous voice, "Beach sex. Well," Fuji added once he had his hands down Tezuka's pants, "more beach sex."