Title: Keeping Score
Summary: Fuji has a confession, of a sort.
Disclaimer: Konomi owns all.
A/N: I did my best to write something tailored to your request. Hope you enjoy! Thank you to my very patient beta reader.
The ball hits the ceiling and bounces back into Fuji's palm. He looks over at Tezuka, watching him tug his jersey off over his shoulders and fold it carefully on the shelf in his locker. Tezuka's locker looks barren, unlived-in, cold. Fuji's locker is much the same, except for the picture on the inside wall of an empty tennis court. He'd taken the photo a week after his first match against Tezuka, way back in first year before his hand was as steady and his eyes were as sharp as they are now.
It's the sixth weekend in a row that they've played and now the score is tied again, 3-3. The probability that Fuji will win next weekend is almost exactly 50% -- he doesn't have to be a data expert to know.
Fuji tosses the ball again and remembers how it sounded hissing over the surface of the court, rolling back against the net. Fuji knows nearly all Tezuka's moves by heart, and yet they still manage to take him by surprise. He can recognize the curve of his serves, the arcs of his returns, but he doesn't know when they'll come, or how quickly. He doesn't know how strong the pull of the zone will be at any given moment.
Tezuka keeps him on his toes.
They've been playing these past six weeks at Fuji's request. This tennis is new and on their own time, outside of high school practices with no one watching; no expectations but their own. Maybe Tezuka doesn't get it, or maybe he does, but it's not just about tennis to Fuji. There's a reason he lingers in the changerooms even though he's quick to get out of his jersey and shower. There's a reason he walks with Tezuka to the bus station, even though they rarely speak, and there's a reason he brings an extra water bottle, though Tezuka is never careless enough to forget his own.
Sometimes Fuji wishes he could ask Tezuka out to dinner or a movie, a normal date thing like normal couples do, but Tezuka wouldn't understand. They're not a couple like that. It's not that they're two boys, it's that they're Tezuka and Fuji, and as simple as it would be to call Tezuka up and ask him out to a café, Fuji feels he has to temper himself. Tezuka is never careless, and so Fuji can't be either. Tezuka never addresses their relationship, and when Fuji tries, Tezuka responds only in eyebrow raises and noncommittal grunts, so Fuji doesn't push it.
He's grateful to have this much.
Fuji likes games. He likes angling, teasing. He likes watching people for reactions, and that's precisely what has always made Tezuka such a frustrating puzzle. Tezuka doesn't react to things the way normal people do. He rarely gets flustered like Taka-san, or blushy like Kaidoh. He is amazingly controlled and solid.
Fuji would trade half his photo collection for just one glimpse at Tezuka when something's really gotten to him. He's almost afraid of that. It might destroy his interest in Tezuka entirely.
"Tezuka," he starts, but doesn't know how the question ends. Fuji is most careful with his words when he's with Tezuka, because with Tezuka it feels like he's tightrope walking. Precision is the key.
Tezuka turns around and he's in his regular weekend clothes again and it's the first time Fuji has missed the change. But then, Fuji no longer has to pay attention to everything Tezuka does because he knows what Tezuka looks like with his shirt struggling, somehow still dignified, over his head, with his jacket on, zipped to the collar, with his school uniform on looking somehow younger, sharper.
Fuji likes to catalogue these movements, these frames, but he can't work out what any of them mean. With Tezuka, Fuji feels like his intuition fails him. Tezuka is not an open book like Inui or Eiji, and he doesn't communicate code in Fuji's language the way Saeki does.
There are days when Fuji wishes he weren't a genius. He knows more than he understands.
"Fuji," Tezuka says, and the tone is expectant, like Fuji is keeping Tezuka waiting, when really it's completely the opposite.
It is Tezuka's move, his turn to serve, because Fuji doesn't initiate things unless he needs to. He lets things happen around him, taps them to keep them spinning but doesn't like to interfere too much. He takes the little things and keeps them like his photographs, carefully arranged in his memory, and waits for something more.
He likes taking sips from Tezuka's water bottle after Tezuka already has. He likes propping his chin up in his palm and watching Tezuka writing, his hand steady, his brow furrowed slightly in concentration, never a mistake, never a flip of the pencil to erase. He likes standing in Tezuka's shadow, or standing so his shadow falls over Tezuka's shoes. They're little tricks, but they bring him closer.
"What do you like, Tezuka?" Fuji asks.
Tezuka's eyes look lighter for a split-second and it's enough to tell Fuji that he's surprised.
Tezuka clears his throat. "I like a lot of things. What do you mean?"
"Well," says Fuji, taking a step forward. He drops the tennis ball and lets it bounce, muted, against the ground. Sometimes Fuji says things just to see how Tezuka will react. Once he told Tezuka about the time he and Saeki stayed out until 3am lying on the beach, waiting as the tide crept higher over their toes, up to their ankles. He asked if Tezuka liked the beach, which is to say, if Tezuka would like the beach, like that, with Fuji. Fuji always means what he says, though, even when it's the answer that means more to him. "I like curry, and Yuuta, and playing tennis against you. What do you like?"
"Oh," Tezuka says, but it isn't an 'oh' of understanding, "I like tennis, too."
Fuji smiles, because the answer is not quite what he hoped for, but it's good. Some questions have simple answers, and with Tezuka nothing that seems simple ever really is.
"I'm glad," Fuji says, and his smile widens until it hits his eyes and his face scrunches, tightens, feels like it's closing up.
Their games are tied, and there will be another weekend for more questions, there will be another day of classes on Monday and Fuji can tap his pen against the corner of Tezuka's desk with a sly rat-a-tat-tat until he gets his attention, but for now, Fuji is satisfied with this.
Which is why he isn't sure why he does what comes next.
First Tezuka takes a step back. Then Fuji takes a step closer. And another.
"I like you," he says.
Tezuka's eyes seem to darken momentarily. "I know," as if to acknowledge the meaning behind the past six weeks of games, even though he won't stand close enough to Fuji in the hallways to even hold his hand.
That's when it happens -- the opportunity that opens up like a chance ball spinning right into the perfect path for a counter.
Fuji lets out a little white laugh and stumbles forward, onto his toes, a careless mistake, and his mouth covers Tezuka's, for a second, for long enough to get his point across, and then he pulls away again.
He steps back, licks his lips. He has nothing to compare the taste to, but he likes it. It isn't spicy, it isn't sugar-sweet. It isn't really anything at all.
Tezuka is standing there, just as he was moments before, unmoved, his eyes open.
Maybe Fuji has pushed too far this time, but he couldn't help it. He's always worked on instinct, and maybe now he's pulled ahead in the score.
He licks his lips again. Tezuka blinks.
Fuji walks away, leaving the ball in Tezuka's court, a whisper-slide Tsubame Gaeshi across the clay, like the shiver of Tezuka's shirt against his skin when he moves, finally, and crosses his arms over his chest like a shield.
"As expected of Tezuka-buchou," Fuji sing-songs over his shoulder, and begins to count to ten.
"Wait," Tezuka calls.
Fuji smiles to himself, and turns around.