Summary: The moments slip by as Tezuka and Fuji count down the days
till their entrance exams.
Disclaimer: Tennis no Oujisama, Tezuka Kunimitsu, and Fuji Syuusuke
are property of Konomi Takeshi. No copyright infringement intended.
A/N: Crunch time for college entrance exams occurs during February-March in Japan, so please assume that it is set around early to mid-March. (This, coincidentally enough, happens to coincide with White Day, but that is irrelevant.)
There were dozens of sticky notes jutting out of his dictionary, but there was one that made him stop and pause momentarily, dumbfounded. It didn't have a definition or any sort of important reminder written on it—though there was one on the opposite page under "loquacious"—but this sticky note managed to stump him in ways English vocabulary never had. The words on it were simple enough, graceful characters flowing out in Fuji's handwriting.
"I like you."
Tezuka stared blankly at the sticky note. He turned the page and glanced through the entries, definitions going over his head. The words mocked him, the random characters and alien symbols blurring into something that was definitely not a human language. (Then again, Tezuka reminded himself, it was an English dictionary.) He shook his head and flipped back to the previous page.
The sticky note was still there. Rather unfortunately for him, its message still hadn't changed. Tezuka sighed and ran his hand through his hair, trying to grasp its meaning. Fuji was never one to be so direct. His messages and words were never quite about what he wrote so much as what he meant and where it was placed.
That was why the note's existence was such a mystery.
Silently, Tezuka weighed its importance. He could just throw it away, but the challenge behind the message gnawed at him. It really wouldn't make much of a difference in the end anyway, he rationalized, because the harm had been done: the note had been there, and he had seen it.
Tezuka scowled. They'd always had a quiet, unspoken understanding about their relationship, whatever it was. He hadn't expected Fuji to do this to him, especially not this way—hadn't expected him to upset the delicate balance between them through something as innocent as their tradition of sharing a dictionary.
"I like you."
Fuji had somehow made the message so simple and complex at the same time. His head was beginning to throb from just thinking about it, and Tezuka willed the message to change. The note remained the same.
Sighing, he shut the dictionary and pushed it off to the side of his desk, knowing full well that he wouldn't be studying much English that night. Instead, he grabbed his math notebook and began reviewing basic trigonometric functions.
He ignored the sticky note that was still jutting out of his dictionary and the shadow of it that the light from his lamp cast onto his desk.
Though a quiet place for ten months of the year, the library always became full of loud college-bound third years the few weeks before entrance exams, each noisier than the next. For the most part, Tezuka was privately amused, knowing that many of them were last-minute crammers who had waited for the last possible moment to study. Today, however, their presence was more than just a little trying.
A girl with a large stack of books shuffled past Tezuka's table, carelessly knocking some of his papers and notebooks onto the ground. She murmured a half-hearted apology as she hurried along, but didn't bother to stop and clean up the mess she'd made.
Tezuka glared in her direction as he bent down to pick them up. Before he could put them back into a neat pile, however, a boy walked by, knocking his science texts to the floor in his haste. This was too much. Tezuka sighed and gave up. He was not going to get any studying done here.
He stood up and organized his belongings. While he was packing up his books, a figure sat down in the chair across from his. Tezuka paused for a moment, frowning, and looked up slightly. "Fuji," he acknowledged, nodding in the figure's direction.
"Hello, Tezuka," Fuji greeted him back, smiling. "Leaving already? Lunch isn't even half over yet. And here I thought you were a good student, studying hard during your breaks."
Tezuka shrugged vaguely as he put his books into his bag "So far, I've spent more time picking up my notes than I did reading them," he replied dryly, and Fuji laughed. "It's too crowded in here, and there are better places to study."
"Ah, I see," Fuji said, standing up and following Tezuka as they walked out of the library. "I will join you then." Tezuka didn't reply; Fuji always studied with him, and he would have assumed that Fuji would eventually come anyway. They walked through an empty corridor, sunlight filtering through the adjacent windows. "Where do you propose we go then, oh great leader?" Fuji said after they had walked for some time, and Tezuka gave Fuji a tired look. Fuji smiled back innocently. "What?" Tezuka his shook head; he didn't bother to grace that with a reply.
Though spring had not yet arrived, it was slightly warmer than it had been the past few days, so Tezuka led them up to the roof. The wind was blowing a little, playing with their hair, and though it was still chilly, they no longer could feel the vicious bite of winter. Fuji walked over to the side of the building and looked down at the tennis courts below, where the club was holding an informal training session. Tezuka paused for a moment, looking in Fuji's direction, before joining him.
There were a few regulars on the courts practicing, but it was otherwise deserted. Fuji stared, looking a bit wistful, while Tezuka gazed approvingly down at the tiny figures moving energetically around the courts. All of the third years had retired after the Nationals, focusing on their studies instead; neither Tezuka nor Fuji had been on that court in months. "Do you think they'll be okay, Tezuka, without you there as their captain?" Fuji asked suddenly, breaking the silence.
Tezuka turned slightly to look at Fuji, slightly confused. "What do you mean?" he replied. "Of course they'll be fine. We were always fine when the captains before us left. They were fine when were no longer at the junior high school. Why wouldn't they be okay after we graduate?"
Fuji hesitated for a moment, struggling to find the words. "It's... different," he started, unsure of his own argument. "We've had many captains throughout the years, and I have always respected them, but it wasn't the same with you. You're my only captain. Somehow, it feels like it is that way for them too."
Tezuka regarded Fuji thoughtfully for a moment as Fuji kept watching the courts, and they fell into another comfortable silence. He didn't know quite how to reply to Fuji's admission, so he cleared his throat and settled on, "I'm sure they'll be fine." Fuji rewarded with him his usual smile.
Tezuka shifted from one foot to the other. "This is nice," he commented after a moment, and Fuji finally looked at him. "The quiet. It's a good environment for studying, especially since the library is so hectic now." Fuji shrugged slightly, still watching the game below, and neither of them moved from where they were standing.
Finally, Fuji began, "Of course, it would've been better if we—" The bell rang as Fuji tried to finish his sentence. "—'d have actually studied."
"Oh." Tezuka scowled. He had lost track of time.
"But, you're right," Fuji continued and smiled mischievously. "It would have been really good for studying."
"Then we should take advantage of it—"
"Tonight? But we have cram school tonight. Unless you're saying we should skip."
"No." Tezuka glared at Fuji for even suggesting skipping. He grabbed his bag and headed down the stairs back to his classroom. "I meant on Sunday, when we're off. Maybe not here, but somewhere like this. Where it's quiet."
"Mmm," Fuji commented from behind, following him. "Where?"
Tezuka stopped in the middle of the stairs, and Fuji paused steps above him, waiting for his answer. He looked contemplative for a moment, eyebrows furrowed in concentration, before he finally decided. "Bring your hiking boots."
It was eight in the morning when they had left, the weather forecasts boasting sunshine and clear skies. As weather forecasts often went, however, by two, the sky had clouded over, rain pouring down and thunder rumbling deeply in the distance. Tezuka paused from reviewing his history notes for the moment, looking up and watching the drizzle from the picnic table under the encampment, and Fuji lowered his book, gently brushing against Tezuka's arm. They watched silently as the rain trickled down and formed a small stream, which was flowing into the riverbank below.
The scenery darkened as though a mask of blue and grey had set over the entire area, but it was still light enough to see the words on their notebooks. The rain drifted slightly with the wind, pattering on the white pages, soaking and wrinkling the paper. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Tezuka knew that they should be studying instead of watching the rain, that they were losing precious minutes that could never be regained, and that even if they weren't going to study, he should at least move his notes so they wouldn't be soaked by the downpour.
Fuji shifted slightly beside him, leaning more of his weight against Tezuka's left arm, and spoke so softly that it was nearly drowned out by the sound of the rain. "Soon, we won't be able to do this again... when the exams are over, we won't have reason to study anymore. Then, if we get into Toudai... there won't be any time left."
He didn't reply, half listening to Fuji's musings and half watching the rain. For the moment, nothing else seemed important, not their entrance exams, their college applications, not even the Japanese test they had tomorrow. All that existed was them and the rain. Tezuka closed his eyes and leaned against Fuji as well.
The downpour slowed soon after, the sunlight seeping back through the clouds. They gathered their books and headed back before it became dark. As they neared the bus stop, hiking boots muddy from trudging through the mud, Fuji stopped in the middle of the road and tugged on Tezuka's sleeve. Tezuka turned around and gave Fuji a curious look, for which he was awarded a devious smile. "I get to choose the place next time."
Tezuka noted the café Fuji had chose lived up to the reputation the girls in school had given it when he finally stepped inside. It was busy, but spacious and organized enough to give an illusion of relative emptiness. Moreover, it was clean and well lit, yet still maintained an intimate atmosphere, and the soothing music that filtered through the background seemed to drown out any excessive chatter. Tezuka shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other, feeling out of place in his school uniform, but Fuji just looked back at him and smiled once, walking towards an empty table in the back of the café by large windows.
Tezuka quietly followed him and sat down in the opposite chair, hurriedly dropping his bag on the ground and reaching for his textbooks and notes. Fuji laughed airily, and put his hand lightly over Tezuka's to stop him. "It's okay to relax, Tezuka," he said, smiling.
Tezuka looked at Fuji curiously, raising an eyebrow. "I thought we came here to study," he replied dryly.
Fuji shrugged his shoulders lightly. "Yes, we did, but you don't have to spend every single moment doing it. We just got out of cram school; it's okay to just loosen up for a moment." Tezuka sighed and pushed his books to the side as a waiter came by to take their order. Fuji ordered a frozen latte, and then turned to stare at Tezuka as he simply asked for a cup of black coffee. He laughed and remarked teasingly about Tezuka's tastes, but Tezuka simply brushed off the comment. He didn't particularly like coffee anyway and didn't see the point in picking something more fancy that he wasn't going to drink.
By the time the waiter finally brought their drinks around, Tezuka could feel the tension lifting off of his shoulders, and he was sure he had at some point let out a smile or two. They'd made light conversation as they studied, tossing around casual remarks about the material every so often, when the sound of the rest of the café drifted in to their corner and invaded their private peace.
The coffee was better than he thought it'd be, and Tezuka had finished half of it before pushing it aside and letting it cool slowly by itself. Fuji finished his drink rather quickly and had ordered another, and another, finishing four before the end of the night. Caffeine seemed to have no effect on Fuji; he was no less calm and collected by the end of the night than he was when he'd first walked in.
When the waiter finally delivered their check, it was a quarter past ten, and Tezuka thought it was late enough. Fuji took the check and pulled out his wallet; Tezuka pulled out a few bills and placed them on the tray to cover his portion of the order.
"It's all right, Tezuka," Fuji insisted. "I'll get it this time." He handed the bills back to Tezuka, and Tezuka glared at him before setting them back on the tray. "No, really. It's fine. I'll pay for it."
Tezuka stared at Fuji. "Why?" he asked and put them back on again. "You're not my upperclassman and this isn't a date, Fuji." Fuji tensed, and Tezuka mentally slapped himself over the head. That was definitely the wrong thing to say.
"Fine," Fuji replied and got up. He picked up his book bag and walked over to the cashier. As soon as he paid for the coffee, Fuji walked out the door, not bothering to wait or look to see if Tezuka was following him. Tezuka hurried after him, walking a few steps behind to give Fuji some space. A dreadful silence hung between them.
Fuji finally stopped at the street corner where they usually went their separate ways, and Tezuka walked up to stand in front of him. He paused for a moment, but the tense silence was starting to make him feel sick.
Tezuka sighed. "I'll walk you home," he offered quietly as a truce, not quite willing to bring himself to apologize. Fuji stared at him and narrowed his blue eyes into a glare.
"Why, Tezuka?" he asked sarcastically. "This isn't a date." Fuji turned around the corner and waved him off as he walked. "Just go home," he said, his voice strained. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Tezuka silently watched Fuji's retreating form, his shoulders slumping and a heavy weight settling on his chest. He wanted to yell, to stop him, to run up and apologize.
He did not. Instead, he turned in the other direction and walked away.
Tezuka woke up from his sleep when he felt something shift his bed. He opened his eyes, his vision still blurred, but it quickly focused when he noticed of Fuji's slightly damp figure leaning against the crook of his arm.
"F-Fuji," Tezuka's exclaimed, his voice slightly raspy and dry with sleep. "What are you doing here?"
Fuji lifted his head a bit and opened his eyes tiredly to look at Tezuka, then closed them and settled against Tezuka's arm again before answering. "Go back to sleep, Tezuka; it's six in the morning." He paused for a moment, seeming to fall into slumber, before adding his answer as an afterthought. "I got in through your window," he breathed. "Sorry I'm a bit wet; it was raining outside."
Tezuka stared wildly at Fuji. Though he'd been fast asleep just a few moments before, he'd had now become quite awake from the surprise. He shifted, though careful not to disturb Fuji, and turned his head to look at his desk. Despite his best efforts, it had become messy with the books, papers, notes, and various other stationery items piled on its surface. The dictionary lay on top of one of the piles, various sticky notes still attached and jutting out in random directions. It was flipped open to the page with the sticky note from earlier, Fuji's "I like you." tucked neatly under the word "love."
He turned back again to look at Fuji, the latter breathing slowly and peacefully beside him. "Why?" Tezuka asked, a question he could not bring himself to stop from escaping. Why was Fuji here? Why wasn’t he mad anymore? Why had he ever written the note in the first place?
Fuji pulled himself closer to Tezuka, and mumbled sleepily into Tezuka's chest. "I want us to get into Toudai together. I want to see you get mad at the people in the library again so I can follow you up to the roof and distract you from studying. I want to be able to go on another camping trip together and watch it get ruined by the rain. I want to be able to go on another date in that stupid café and argue about the bill. I want tomorrow to come so I can share all of that with you, but I don't want to miss this moment right now either... " Fuji's words trailed off as he drifted into sleep.
Tezuka looked at Fuji who was pressed neatly against him, and sighed softly. He reached over to his desk and turned the alarm off that he'd set for 7 AM. Tezuka then closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around Fuji.
The rain was pattering lightly against his window, and Fuji was breathing evenly against him, softly lulling him back into sleep. In the back of his mind, Tezuka knew he was losing precious time that he could be using to study, that they both were, but he couldn’t bring himself to care all that much.
After all, that was for the future, in days, weeks, months, or even a few hours. They still had this moment now.
Toudai - Tokyo University