Title: Song to the Sky
Pairing: Tezuka/Fuji, various
Disclaimer: Prince of Tennis is property of Konomi Takeshi, Shueisha Co., Viz Media, Production I.G., and all affiliated companies.
Summary: "Welcome to the beach," Fuji says, with a sweep of his arm, but when Tezuka opens his eyes, it is only the dam he sees.
A/N: With thanks to my beta, reddwarfer. happiestwhen, I hope you enjoy this!
Fuji's brief fling with painting in grade school is just that: brief. He vaguely recalls splotches of blue and gray and black that a teacher had dubbed "innovative"— a painting that he once rendered of the sea. He remembers this particular painting because it had been his favorite. He'd taken it home, bursting with pride, and held it out to his mother, and she'd smiled.
He had painted the sea because his mother loved the sea.
Trying to remember the rest of the scene gives him a headache now. The details have blurred to a point where he's not quite sure whether he's right or wrong about the colors, the composition, the conversation that followed when his father saw the painting, or even whether or not his mother had smiled. It is a moot point, after all.
Fuji Syuusuke, age fourteen, does not paint.
And the paintings of Fuji Syuusuke, age eight, are filed carefully away in a box labeled 'Old Stuff' with faded pink Magic Marker. The box sits, collecting dust and cobwebs at the foot of Fuji's walk-in closet, in the corner that even the occasional hired maid overlooks.
Fuji likes them where they are.
By middle school, his parents are pushing for a private school for their sons. "Rokkaku," his father scoffs on one of his rare trips back home. "It's a nobody school, Syuusuke. You're not going. There are better options in Tokyo. Or even in northern Chiba, if you'd rather go there."
Fuji pushes a tofu square to the top of his plate.
"Either way," his father says, "we're not staying here."
Resistance is futile; this much, Fuji knows of his father.
So they move to Tokyo, four years after Fuji quits painting and joins a small playground tennis club. "I like it here," Yuuta says, then looks at his brother expectantly. "Do you?"
"Sure," Fuji says.
He is a genuine schoolboy now, his mother comments, eyes merry with a quiet sort of joy as Fuji hops onto his place at the breakfast table, dressed in the prim and dark spring uniform of a prestigious Tokyo private school. Prestigious for what, exactly, he's not sure, as he's never heard of it.
Fuji eats his eggs in obliging silence, and the kitchen is completely quiet save for the occasional clanking of a fork against ceramic. He wonders what makes this school any more genuine than his last few schools, but knows better than to ask. Instead, he swings his legs back and forth underneath the table, until he accidentally kicks Yumiko in the shins and she makes her evilest "little brothers are a pain" face.
Their mother says something bland about clubs.
Seishun Academy, the pamphlet reads, Striving for Academic Excellence Since 1945.
Fuji slips into his new school with barely a ripple, but that only lasts as long as it takes for him to join the tennis club. Fuji is still not quite sure why he hasn't quit, taking all the grief it's caused him into consideration. He suspects it may be the people, or at least one of the people.
Or maybe because, unlike his disastrous attempt at painting, his parents have no expectations and no preconceived notions about how he should be, to compare with who he is. Maybe it's because deep down, Fuji's still an eight-year-old boy who just wants to be happy.
Even better, Fuji thinks drily, maybe it's because he just likes the uniforms.
When he's being perfectly honest with himself, which is rarely, Fuji knows that no matter how much he dislikes the school and misses his old friends, there's a part of him now that can never leave Seigaku.
"It does that to you," Yamato comments. "Well, other than its evil powers of assimilation, is there anything else you'd like to know about Seigaku, Fuji-kun?"
Fuji thinks about it.
"How's the plumbing?" he asks.
It is in Chemistry class during his second year that Fuji finds a first spot of truth.
If water seeps between the cracks of an unsuspecting boulder, it settles in the tiny air pockets and lies in wait. Water in air pockets cannot evaporate, and collects over time.
At zero degrees centigrade, water freezes over into ice.
In this moment, a boulder which has been infiltrated by too many pockets of water, that contains too much moisture, is shattered by the ice.
A couple of days into spring term, Eiji and one of the regular-hopefuls are playing catch, and they're both pretty bad at it. It's almost amusing, but not quite, because it's also pretty pathetic.
"Oi, Eiji-senpai," the younger one says, eyes sparkling with mischief, "you can catch anything with a racquet, but not your hand? That's not right, senpai, not right at all!"
"Shut up, Momo," Eiji calls cheerfully, hurling a tennis ball at him, hard and fast, and it hits Momo in the shoulder. Momentarily stunned, Momo's eyes widen in shock for a split second before he starts frowning and flailing ineffectually at his two-man audience.
"You missed," he accuses loudly. "Wow, senpai, you'd suck at baseball t—ow! Ow ow ow ow ow!"
"Now, now," Fuji says idly, and Eiji immediately rounds on him, because Momo doesn't dare.
"Fuji," he bleats, "he started it!"
"It doesn't matter who started it, does it? Neither of you bothered to stop it."
They turn in the direction of the new voice, surprised.
Somehow, Fuji finds his way to where Tezuka is sitting alone and drinking something noxious, like fruit juice. "Having fun?" he asks, smiling. Tezuka always picks the quietest places on tournament grounds, or at least the quietest places within view of the courts.
Tezuka cocks his head a little to the side in affirmation, and Fuji leans against a pillar to the right of Tezuka's bench. "I'm not intruding, am I?"
Tezuka doesn't bother to answer, just crosses a leg and keeps watching the game.
Fuji chuckles to himself and turns his gaze onto the match.
"Interesting," is all Fuji says, looking at Tezuka with unbridled amusement.
"Interesting?" Tezuka questions, puzzled. "Is that all?"
"That's all," Fuji affirms. "I can't really say much else, you know. I haven't—" he pauses. "—seen as much. As certain others."
Tezuka shifts. "Is that so," he says.
Fuji nods. "The rich get richer, huh?" He looks at Tezuka blandly. "You've been… absent."
Tezuka turns to face him then, his expression blank, and the way his eyes are boring holes in Fuji's skull—Fuji doesn't think Tezuka's seeing anything at all.
Fuji thinks he just as well may be stone, hard and cold and as unreachable as towering cliffs above a raging sea, immovable even for the waves crashing against its lofty walls.
This, apparently, is the meaning and purpose of Tezuka Kunimitsu, captain of the Seishun Academy Tennis Club. Tezuka means strong, tall; Kunimitsu means transparent, never mind that Tezuka is a mound of dirt and Kunimitsu is unwrought glory.
Tezuka doesn't look so glorious now, crouched on the court, toppled over himself, every muscle clenched in pain, so small in the sea of those eight hundred and fifty-five point six six square meters of relentless green.
And yet, Fuji knows that this is the most glorious Tezuka Kunimitsu has ever been.
"Tezuka Kunimitsu, is it?" Fuji says, tapping Tezuka on his (good) shoulder. Tezuka turns, surprised, and Fuji smiles his best new-people smile and says, "Tezuka-san! I'm Fuji Syuusuke, and I'm a big fan of yours. It's really terribly nice to meet you."
"You know me," Tezuka says.
"Not until now, it seems," Fuji says lightly. He shakes Tezuka's hand, and Tezuka looks down at it, unsure.
He starts. "Fuji—" he says, Oishi's towel still draped over his shoulders.
"To new beginnings," Fuji cuts in, and wanders off to talk to his brother.
Fuji knows that Tezuka's injury is no one's fault but his own.
Fuji knows that it is because of Tezuka's own stubbornness and acute stupidity that Tezuka may never play tennis again.
But the images of Tezuka's stupid, selfish, selfless sacrifice have been burned into his mind, wildly juxtaposed against images of Atobe's triumph and Echizen's victory.
Fuji wiggles his toes under the blanket, shuts off the light.
They stand there after the match and Fuji wonders if it's pouring harder, or if his uniform is only getting heavier, bogged down by rain. Tezuka's uniform doesn't look wet. Tezuka doesn't look wet, and Fuji wonders if it's normal for a person to be unaffected by nature. There are words coming out of Tezuka's mouth, but they're lost in the torrential water and Fuji's barely clinging on to his nerves, much less Tezuka's ridiculous demands.
In the clubroom, air tight and tense with electricity that Fuji can't quite place, he hands Tezuka a towel. "You look like you just fell in a puddle," he lies.
Tezuka takes the towel with a small nod, squeezes the water out of his hair. Ah, Fuji thinks, but before he can finish his thought Tezuka says, "So do you."
Fuji finds out in early August that his memory has been wrong all along, that the painting he once thought he'd drawn of the sea is actually a silly, childish rendition of a haunted koi pond in spring—
—and that the painting he'd done of the sea is not blue and black and gray, but red and orange and yellow, filled with sunset and the pounding movement of waves against sand.
Tezuka leaves for Kyuushuu on one of the clearest, sunniest days of the year, and it is against a brilliantly blue sky that the third-years crowd the view tower of Narita Airport, watching for a glimpse of Tezuka's plane.
They pick the wrong one, of course.