Title: Snowflakes Around Me
Pairing: Tezuka x Fuji
Rating: G (hope you weren't expecting something heavily rated :P)
Summary: "Tezuka reminds me of the snowman in a snowglobe..." Fuji had observed one day. "So cold."
Warnings: Spoilers up to St. Rudolph arc
Disclaimer: I do not own The Prince of Tennis or any of its characters. The following non-profit fanwork is produced by a fan for the enjoyment of other fans.
A/N: Done in consideration of the request: Kinks: in character, canon-realistic, hints of Inukai <3 Prompt/Scenario: snow, valentine, white day
To don_amoeba: My ideas of ZukaFuji in canon are rather tame and I've been told that my ZukaFuji fics tend to be kinda "pastel/bland". Hope it doesn't differ too much from your cup of tea. Also, it might be evident from the messy changes in styles - somehow, I got blocks left, right and center writing this. ^^;; Nevertheless, I do hope that you'll find it an enjoyable read~! (Ah, and I did try inserting "hints of InuKai", but I'm afraid it came out sounding rather forced... XD;; )
"Ne, Tezuka," Fuji asked from where he stood by the window, face lifted towards the cloudless azure sky. "Do you think it will rain this afternoon?"
Tezuka ignored Fuji, his full attention on the administrative reports that were part of his duties in the student council.
Sometimes, Fuji asked the most random things. Tezuka treated these questions as he would any other meaningless activity--with complete disregard. The problem, however, was that Fuji, unlike most people, did not simply drop the topic or shy away in fear when met with an unresponsive--some may even say rude--Tezuka.
"Even though the sky seems clear now, the weather has been fairly unpredictable lately..." Fuji mused thoughtfully.
"Don't you think?" Fuji's eyes left the scenery outside almost reluctantly as he tilted his face towards Tezuka and waited patiently with a vague smile.
"Fuji," Tezuka finally looked up from his files. "If you're so interested, check the weather report."
Fuji laughed lightly, the aloofness of Tezuka's tone washing over him like droplets of water rolling off a duck's feathery back. He watched Tezuka return his attention to his papers, a chuckle still in his voice as he observed,
"Tezuka reminds me of the snowman in a snowglobe - so cold."
When the third years stepped down from club activity, it was only natural that vice captain Tezuka stepped into the role of captain. Tezuka led his club with a firm hand. As he had proclaimed to Oishi in their first year, he intended to lead the Seigaku tennis club to the Nationals and win the Champion trophy. This was still an impossible dream for the present Seigaku team - thus, training was essential. Skipping practice was not to be tolerated... even on Valentine Day.
"Fuji's got a mountain of chocolates!"
Tezuka wasn't surprised when he heard Kikumaru's voice even before he entered the clubroom.
"Wowww, I'm so envious," Momoshiro's moan followed. "I wish some pretty girl would give me chocolates too~"
"There were even seniors who came to our classroom asking for him!" Kikumaru boasted, nodding his head. (What has it got to do with you, Eiji!)
"Thus far, Fuji has received the most chocolates this year among the members of the tennis club," Inui looked up from his completed calculations and declared the result of the 'official' statistics.
"As expected of Fuji-senpai," went the murmurings around the clubroom.
"Tezuka could have received more..." Fuji responded.
Tezuka cast Fuji a glance that the other either didn't see or chose to ignore.
"Eeeh? Tezuka?" Kikumaru turned to his classmate, eyes widened in surprise.
Fuji nodded. "I saw a few girls trailing him earlier when we were walking from the classroom block."
"No way! Captain Tezuka!?" were the thoughts of stunned figures.
Inui muttered something as he scribbled furiously into his notebook.
"So, I say, Tezuka would probably receive a lot more chocolates if he were less like a snowman..."
"'Snowman'," Kikumaru let out a chortle
"Isn't that right, Tezuka?" Fuji's smile was directed past Kikumaru's shoulder.
Kikumaru whirled. And then jumped behind Fuji, leaning close to his ear with hushed whispers of astonishment at Tezuka's "silent entrance" and concern about being made to run laps.
Those who were done changing hastily grabbed their rackets and filed out of the clubroom.
"I wish there were pretty girls trailing me too~" Momoshiro whined as he lifted a basket of tennis balls.
"Me too~" Kikumaru sighed dramatically, as a low reprove "You're too noisy" was heard in the background.
"You have a problem with that, Viper?!" Momoshiro turned upon his ball duty partner, glaring.
Kaidoh hissed, returning the glare.
"Here, Eiji. Have some chocolate and cheer up."
"Fuji's the best nya!" Kikumaru glomped his best friend.
"Eh? But why is it green?"
Fuji smiled. "Try it, I assure you they're nice."
Kikumaru unwrapped himself from Fuji. He looked suspiciously at him and then sniffed gingerly at the round green-coated ball of chocolate.
"Fuji, it isn't very good to give away chocolates that were specially made for you, is it..." Oishi said seriously, a frown creeping between his brows.
"Fuji received sooo much chocolates! He can't possibly finish them all anyway," Kikumaru retorted, sticking his tongue out at Oishi before popping the truffle - declared safe by smell - into his mouth. "Mmmm!"
"Actually, it's alright, Oishi. I made these myself." Fuji offered the bag of chocolates to Oishi. "Here, try them too."
"No way! Fuji can make such good chocolates?!" Kikumaru exclaimed, words slightly garbled by the chocolate in his mouth. "Why are you making chocolates for Valentine's Day anyway?"
Fuji's smile was enigmatic. "I thought Yuuta might like to receive some..."
He turned to Momoshiro and Kaidoh by the door, interrupting their glaring match. "Have one too?"
"Thanks, Fuji-senpai," Momoshiro gladly took a chocolate and held the bag to Kaidoh.
"Thank you, Fuji-senpai--"
"Fuji's handmade chocolate," Inui took the bag before it passed to Kaidoh's hands. "How will it taste?"
Inui raised a contemplative eyebrow as he chewed.
"So?" Fuji tilted his head at Inui as he held out to Kaidoh the bag returned to him.
"Let me try another one." Inui intercepted the passing of the bag once more.
"Hmm, green tea?"
"Maybe." Fuji smiled serenely as a tortured wail rose in the background, a basket clattering to the floor, tennis balls spilling out.
A sudden hush descended on the room.
Kikumaru froze, colour draining from his face and one hand remaining outstretched with the original intent to steal the bag from Inui.
The only sounds came from tennis balls bouncing their way to a rolling stop, soon joined by the fierce gulping down of water.
The silence was finally broken by Tezuka's announcement that practice began in five minutes.
The sounds of movement returned.
Fuji paused as he walked past Tezuka to get his racket. The source of all trouble was pushed to Tezuka. "Try them too, I made them myself."
Tezuka's gaze dropped to the bag in his hands, before it rose to Momoshiro, now sitting on the bench and mothered by a worried Oishi, and then finally returned to Fuji.
There was not a hint of remorse on Fuji's tranquil face.
"Fuji. Twenty rounds around the courts." Tezuka felt a need to enforce some form of punishment even if the damage was neither permanent nor particularly serious and the penalty was unlikely to be effective.
Fuji knew when not to push his luck. "Yes, Captain."
Tezuka was neither one who considered himself imaginative nor one who enjoyed leisurely exploring the creative limits of the human mind--not when there were other more practical ways to occupy his time. But if he were to choose an element of nature to which he would liken Fuji, he would choose the wind.
Being in Fuji's company was comfortable--similar to the feeling of a gentle breeze blowing in one's face or listening to the wind's whispery song in the rustling of tiny leaves overhead - his quiet voice and soft smiles had a soothing effect. Sometimes, the wind was playful--it scatters a neatly swept pile of leaves, tugs a hat smoothly off somebody's head, tossing it for some distance before letting go. And on rare occasions, the wind completely unleashed its fury, rooting trees and sweeping away anything in its path.
Recently, however, Fuji felt a little different, something that was not calm nor playful nor angry. His gentle voice and smiles were still all there; he behaved in a perfectly normal manner that one expected of him. Yet, there was just a slightest something off in his state at which Tezuka's brow subconsciously creased.
The student council meeting about the new school year's opening day ended later than planned. Winter's shortened hours of daylight meant that the school compound was already fading into darkness, save for certain artificially lit areas, when Tezuka exited the building. He paused at the edge of the sheltered area for a brief moment to open his inconspicuous, dark-coloured umbrella before stepping out into the snow. It was almost the end of February and the weather was still very cold.
Tezuka walked briskly towards the school gates, breaths clouds of white vapour that streamed regularly from his scarf. If he walked quickly, the air would feel less cold and he would get home faster.
In a short time, the familiar gates entered Tezuka's vision. At the same time, he noticed a lone figure standing by the gates under a white umbrella.
From the uniform - the familiar Seishun Gakuen black winter wear--Tezuka deduced that it was a male student of the school.
Tezuka didn't interfere with matters that didn't concern him. Thus, he had fully intended to walk past the figure, paying no heed, when an accidental moment of right positioning allowed him to glimpse the profile of the face under the umbrella in his peripheral vision.
Surprise halted Tezuka's steps as he turned his head to confirm what he thought he had seen.
The other's eyes were raised towards the sky, his gaze faraway. However, sensitive as Fuji was, it was a mere two seconds before, apparently having sensed the out-of-place presence of a stationary figure, he turned his head.
Fuji paused when he noticed Tezuka. Then, the corners of his lips lifted; Tezuka felt a chill as though some invisible sheet was pulled up between them along with the slight movement.
"Tezuka." Fuji tilted his umbrella backwards to better see Tezuka. "Student council activities ended late today?"
"That sounds tough... Tezuka is always so busy."
There was a brief moment of silence. Then, Fuji elaborated, "I stayed back in the library for a while and am waiting for my sister to pick me up."
"Wait in the school building," Tezuka told Fuji. Wait in the school building where there is heating. It is better than waiting out here in the cold.
"It's some distance to the parts that are still unlocked. I'm rather lazy to walk there and back again," Fuji said, laughing softly. Looking up again, he smiled at Tezuka. "My sister should be here soon anyway." Thanks for the concern though.
Tezuka nodded, not asking further. It wasn't his business to pry. "See you then."
A light snowfall fluttered down from the overcast heavens. Tezuka was forced to reduce his pace as he joined the stream of human traffic that flowed slowly under a canopy of umbrellas. In front of a gift store's display window, he suddenly stopped, pressing close to the glass so as not to block other pedestrians. A small collection of snowglobes on display had caught his eye. After a moment lost in thought, he headed to the entrance and pushed the door open.
A bell tinkled softly in greeting.
On a shelf along the wall of the store, there were various designs of snowglobes. Many among them contained a single snowman, standing brave in the middle of a white platform of 'snow'. Others enclosed miniature animals, winter sceneries, children in winter clothing or the like.
Tezuka picked up a snowman snowglobe, turned it upside down and then back upright in a fluid movement, before returning it to the shelf.
The snowman in a snowglobe...
Watching the bits of fake snow drift leisurely back to the bottom of the snowglobe around the solitary snowman, an image suddenly pushed itself into the foreground in Tezuka's memory; he saw a forlorn figure under a white umbrella, upon which surface snowflakes were slowly drifting down.
...stands behind a layer of thick glass, cold, alone, and unreachable.
Kikumaru remarked that Fuji had told him to go ahead and he'd catch up soon.
Oishi expressed his worry when fifteen minutes into practice, Fuji, who was usually early, still had not arrived.
Inui volunteered information that the frequency of Fuji's smiles had decreased by twenty-five percent since the beginning of March and the smiles themselves were 0.3cm smaller than before.
Oishi looked alarmed.
Kikumaru wanted to look for him immediately.
Tezuka told Kikumaru not to leave practice, leaving Oishi in charge as he strode off in the direction of the classroom block.
Inui raised an eyebrow as he watched Tezuka's departing figure and then scribbled in his notebook.
The door to the 2-6 classroom slid open. Tezuka stood in the doorway, his gaze cast broadly over the silent room. Its usual occupants had abandoned it in favour of home or other activities, save for one who sat at a desk in a middle row, head resting upon arms folded on the desk, face turned away from the door. A packed bag leant silently against the leg of the chair. Sunlight, dimmed by clouds, streamed in through the windows, highlighting the brown hair that spilled over arms and desk.
A frown creased Tezuka's brow. Of all possible scenarios, he had least expected to find Fuji sleeping. He made his way across the classroom and through the rows of desks and chairs, coming to a stop before Fuji's.
Eyes, half-opened, stared emptily out of the window. It was clear that he had never been sleeping.
Tezuka looked upon Fuji wordlessly. The expression the other boy was wearing was starkly different from his usual laidback, smiling demeanour. Unknowingly, the wind had died down. Only one other time had Tezuka seen this expression--in the aftermath of a brawl stopped not by him.
"Fuji," Tezuka finally spoke. "If you're not feeling unwell, go for practice."
Between Tezuka and Fuji, there were many silences. Neither felt a particular need to hear the air filled by chatter; thus, it was often that as if by mutual agreement, both simply remained silent. Sometimes, silence was part of a waiting game. Usually, Fuji was the one waiting. This time, it was a role reversal.
Tezuka wasn't an impatient person. He could sit in the same spot for hours with nothing but a fishing rod in his hand and a stretch of clear water before his eyes. But unnecessarily wasting time was a different matter. Tezuka was about to speak, when Fuji spoke first.
"Ne Tezuka," Fuji's voice came out muffled as he spoke into the crook of his arm, still not turning to look at the person to whom he spoke. "How did you find my Valentine chocolates?"
He was used to how the other spoke in circles, and didn't show a hint of surprise at the seemingly random question as he answered, "The green tea ones were good."
"Ah, is that so? It's a pity Yuuta didn't like them."
Tezuka recalled Fuji's younger brother, a boy with a perpetual scowl.
"I just wanted to let him know that his older brother loves him even when he's not physically present at home. But his schoolmates called him a queer when they found out that I was the sender, and then took his chocolates and got angry when they ate those that weren't green tea flavoured. Yuuta got into a fight with them and refused to come home, not even to celebrate his birthday..."
Fuji lifted his head, tilting his face towards Tezuka. He studied the other's visage, "You think it was my fault for giving the chocolates too, don't you?"
Tezuka paused. If he had a brother, he probably wouldn't have appreciated Valentine chocolate from him.
The implied 'yes, partially' hung in the air.
The corners of Fuji's lips tugged upwards in a smile that didn't reach his sad eyes.
"Thanks." For trying to be nice, even if you couldn't lie.
"Yumiko-neesan says I'm always doing things that upset Yuuta. I'm a bad brother..." Fuji's gaze shifted to the floor. "I'm sorry, Tezuka, but I think I'm not feeling well enough to go for practice today." He turned away to lay his head back on his desk
A hand grasped Fuji's shoulder, preventing him from lying forward.
His head jerked up.
Questioning eyes found startlingly intense ones.
"Fuji. I think you are partly at fault for having given the chocolates, but I disagree with what you said. Whether you're a bad brother, it isn't for you to decide."
The room was thrown into silence--so still, even a pin drop could have been heard.
Fuji blinked wordlessly.
Tezuka released the pressure on the other boy's shoulder, though his eyes remained on his face.
A small smile gradually found its way onto Fuji's lips. This time, it was a genuine one.
Tezuka replied with a single nod.
Fuji watched as he turned and left the room.
"It turned out that he was worried about us seeing his bruises from the fight he lost," Fuji told Tezuka. "The silly boy. As always, so adorable." Fuji sighed happily.
Tezuka listened to Fuji, despite his eyes being on his book. Fuji was recounting how his brother had finally returned home that weekend. Though his tone was cheerful, Tezuka could hear immense relief behind it.
"Tezuka, are you done with that yet?"
An arm suddenly hooked under his and Tezuka found himself being tugged out of his seat.
Hurriedly, he thrust his left leg back to steady himself. Pushing up his spectacles, Tezuka glared down at Fuji.
"Let's find something good to eat," Fuji beamed up at him. "My treat."
Fuji could be very insistent when he wanted to be.
It had stopped snowing, but even if the natural white of snowflakes was no longer present, the colour could still be found in many shops for the past week or two due to today, the day where males returned white-coloured gifts of gratitude for the gifts they received on Valentine Day.
Fuji liked the snow, liked how snow fell from the sky gently, beautiful on the whole as a scenery observed from afar, and just as pretty as single snowflakes scrutinised up-close. However, the fact that he was able to walk outdoors without the hassle of carrying an umbrella helped him feel happier that it was no longer snowing.
Tezuka walked silently beside a humming Fuji, but stopped abruptly in his steps. Even as Fuji turned in surprise, he vanished into the store, in front of which they stood.
Fuji waited patiently on the street in puzzlement.
When Tezuka re-emerged from the store, there was a small box in his hands.
Fuji greeted him with a quizzical glance.
Tezuka held the box to him.
Fuji took it, surprised.
"What's it?" Fuji asked curiously, tilting the box side to side beside his ear as they continued down the street.
"You can open it," Tezuka told him.
Fuji carefully pulled open the top of the box and withdrew a round snowglobe.
Bits of snow fell over the two snowmen from the prior shaking.
"Two snowmen? Hmmm, you usually only see single ones, don't you?" Fuji drawled, then eyed Tezuka. "Are you saying that I'm a snowman too?"
"It reminded me of you standing in the snow," Tezuka said simply.
Fuji fell into a thoughtful silence.
"Well, thanks anyway," Fuji said after a while.
He smiled up at the other, and pondered, as he blinked, if he had been imagining it when for a fleeting moment, he thought he glimpsed Tezuka smiling back.