title: Lust
fandom: Prince of Tennis
characters/pairings: Fuji/Tezuka, Tezuka's father, mother, and grandfather, Yuuta, Yumiko, all of Seigaku
rating: T
warnings: sexual situations, kinkiness, bloodplay, AU
summary: Tezuka has a secret that could destroy him... and Fuji.
notes: blaming this on Bryan, who also named this (perfectly), and who kept me going as i wrote it. apologies for any errors regarding Japanese culture or schools; did the best that google and wikipedia would let me. much luhff to xelloss, who provided me with off-the-cuff beta'ing as i posted. thankyou!!

Their First Year

Fuji sat down on the grass, and watched the players on Court A. Tezuka was there again, playing with the senpais. It was... unusual, to say the least. Fuji watched the way that Tezuka moved, the sure and precise motions he made with everything he did. Tezuka was poetry brought to life, a succinct, elegant haiku, piercing with its directness.

And he was about to utterly destroy a third year student.

It was odd. Seigaku's glory was mainly a thing of past legends these days, but that was part of the reason why Fuji had chosen it for his school. Tezuka, however, seemed like the type who wanted a challenge, who wanted to prove himself. Fuji could beat these third years, too, but he didn't bother, because there was no point. He wouldn't be made a regular this year, likely, and if he did, they'd still have trouble qualifying or winning as a team.

So, then, why did Tezuka push so hard?

Fuji watched Tezuka with unabashed curiosity. There was something about him... Fuji just had to know more.

Eiji plopped down in the grass next to him. They were in the same class and the tennis team, so Eiji hung around Fuji a lot. Fuji didn't mind. Eiji had a good sense of humor.

"Eh, Fuji, whatcha doing?" Eiji looked where Fuji was looking, but he must not have seen anything he deemed worthy of attention, because he looked back at Fuji.

Tezuka was now shaking the hand of the third year, but unfortunately, he made a mistake. "Mm," Fuji smiled, and pointed with his chin back to where the third year was now yelling at Tezuka. "Looks like our classmate is in trouble."

"That guy," Eiji shook his head. "He's scary! Challenging third years like that! He's only gonna get himself into more trouble that way. Didja see him play the Captain yesterday? He totally didn't hold back at all."

"I saw," Fuji's smile got a little tighter. "Ah, but maybe for Tezuka-kun, that was holding back."

"Fuji, that's ever scarier," Eiji replied seriously.

The argument was getting more heated, because Tezuka wasn't backing down. The third year ran out of patience, and raised his racquet, slamming it into Tezuka's arm.

Both Fuji and Eiji leaned forward.

Tezuka's glasses were on the ground, and he was chastising the third year, ready to storm off, but the Captain was there, his jacket draped around his shoulders with the usual practiced carelessness. Now, they all had to run laps.

Fuji got up, but Eiji was still staring off at the courts, his brow furrowed.


"Fuji... Takesue-senpai didn't hit Tezuka." Eiji had his thumb to his mouth, clearly puzzled.

Fuji looked off to the distance. Ah, that Oishi was going to talk to Tezuka. Well, he probably didn't have to worry about Tezuka leaving the team, then. He'd miss watching Tezuka move. "Mm, no?" Eiji had good eyes. Almost as good as his; maybe even better, if he got serious.

"Tezuka... caught it. And then shook his glasses off. Why would he do that?" Eiji looked at Fuji as if Fuji had all the answers.

He turned his eyes to where Tezuka and Oishi were talking. He didn't know yet, but... "Good question..."

"Hey, you first years!" the Vice-Captain called out. "Everyone's running laps! That means everyone."

"Yes," they chimed together, and started to jog off. Fuji watched Tezuka run, sometimes from the side, and sometimes from behind.

Catching the racquet was impressive, but not terribly surprising for Tezuka. But why would he pretend he was hit?

Cornering Tezuka for a talk was about as easy as catching the wind, but Fuji had his own set of skills. He'd had a small smattering of conversations with Tezuka already, always on the tennis courts, though. The way Tezuka was looking at him, Fuji thought that maybe it had never occurred to Tezuka that he was a student in this school as well.

"So?" Fuji took a step closer to Tezuka. Tezuka leaned back, but he didn't step away. "Would you?"

Tezuka blinked, and then squared his shoulders. "Yes."

"Really?" Fuji didn't bother to hide his pleasure. He took Tezuka by the hands. "You'll play me in a match?"

Tezuka blinked, looking down at their joined hands, a bit confused. It was absolutely delightful to Fuji; any ordinary, heterosexual boy their age would have pulled away and acted like Fuji was insane, but Tezuka was just looking at their joined hands like he didn't understand.

It was like electricity was running through his veins. Fuji licked his lips. The game had never been this much fun.

"I'll play you. I've been curious about your strength, too." Tezuka gave him such a serious, pointed look. If it was rivalry that Tezuka wanted, Fuji could rise to the challenge. If tennis was necessary to gain Tezuka's attention, he could be better than anyone Tezuka had ever played before.

Whatever it took. "Ah, but are you sure... your arm. It was injured, right?" Fuji feigned a concerned look, and grabbed Tezuka's left elbow, squeezing it, pressing his thumb in. Tezuka's arm was surprisingly solid, but Tezuka didn't flinch in the slightest.

"It's..." Tezuka pulled away a bit, narrowing his eyes. "It's fine. I can play."

"Are you sure?" Fuji leaned in very close, close enough to really see Tezuka's eyes, and smell his breath... Tezuka's eyes... were there thin red lines shooting through the brown? Fuji felt like the air had been sucked out of the hallway. He'd never seen such beautiful eyes...

Tezuka pulled away from Fuji, closing his eyes and looking away. "Let's... let's meet tomorrow after practice. We can play then."

Fuji pulled back, a bit disappointed. The closer he got to Tezuka, the closer he wanted to get. "Sounds good. I'll meet you then. Thank you, Tezuka-kun." He reached out and touched Tezuka's hand for a moment. Oddly, it felt quite cool. Maybe Tezuka was ill? "Should get to class, I guess. Have a good afternoon!"

He turned to leave, not expecting Tezuka to say anything, and not surprised when he didn't. As he was about to turn the corner to go to his classroom, he looked back, and saw Tezuka staring down at his hand.

He took a long sip of Tezuka's water, because as he swallowed, Tezuka watched his throat with rapt attention, and Fuji liked that. Their game was a complete defeat for him, but then, he wasn't really trying to win at tennis.

He smiled, and handed Tezuka back his bottle. "Thanks. Tezuka-kun, can I ask you a question?"

Tezuka scrutinized the bottle as he screwed the cap back on. "Of course. You don't have to call me that. With the honorific." He was still not looking at Fuji.

Fuji grinned. "You wear a lot of sunscreen. You always put it on before practice, and even before school, I understand. Do you have a family history of skin cancer or something?"

Tezuka looked at him, a bit wary. "I have... sensitive skin."

"Do you?" Fuji reached out, and put his hand on Tezuka's cheek. Tezuka immediately pulled away, as if he had been struck. Fuji blinked. Tezuka's... face was cold, even after playing tennis for hours.

"It's a family condition," Tezuka said, turning around quickly. "Since you asked me something, can I ask you something?"

"Of course," Fuji answered generously.

"Do you ever play seriously?" Tezuka slung his bag over his shoulder, and looked at Fuji sharply.

Fuji smiled cheerfully. "Oh, I always play to win, Tezuka. I just pick my own games."

The sliding door to his bedroom slid open, and his mother came inside. She smiled down at him, and lowered a tray of tea. "The bath will be ready soon. I brought you some tea for your studies."

"Thank you, mother," he replied deferentially.

She smiled, and kneeled down, pouring him out a cup. "How is school going, my son?"

He looked down at his schoolbooks. Honestly, he was more challenged by his tutors. "I don't anticipate any problems."

"Good," his mother replied, sounding a bit distracted. "But that's... I mean. How is it? Are you having fun? Have you made any friends?"

He picked up the teacup. He hated tea, and the acrid, wasted feeling it left on his tongue. It was like poison, really. But his father drank it, so he had to drink it, too. "I'm enjoying the tennis team. Competition... is fun. And. I've made. A few friends."

She beamed, and put her hand on his cheek. "I knew you would. My beautiful son. I wish..." She bit off what she was going to say, and smiled brighter. "Well. It doesn't matter. I'm glad you are enjoying it." She stood up, and ruffled his hair gently. She turned to leave, but she paused before the doorway. "Ah... you aren't... having any trouble, are you?"

He looked down at his notebooks, and lied smoothly. "Of course not. I haven't had time to meet any girls, anyhow."

"That's good, Kunimitsu," she smiled. "I knew you would have no trouble."

He drank his tea quickly, letting it burn down his throat painfully, and he gripped his pencil tightly. He licked his teeth, running his tongue over each edge.

If only girls were the source of his trouble...

"Is this where you eat lunch every day?" Fuji grinned, peeking around the corner.

Quickly, Tezuka closed the spout on his drink container, and covered his mouth with a napkin. He wiped his mouth completely clean, and then folded his napkin up, shoving it away. "Fuji."

Fuji came around, and sat down opposite Tezuka on the roof. "Do you mind if I eat with you, Tezuka?"

In fact, Tezuka did mind, quite a lot. But there wasn't a single reason he could think of to tell Fuji that he did, so he said nothing.

Fuji clearly took that as acceptance, as he started to unpack his bento box. He looked over at Tezuka's 'lunch.' "Eh? A liquid lunch? Tezuka, is that all you are eating?"

Tezuka flushed, and looked away. "It's not... It's... an energy drink. It's fine." He nodded, to add credence to what he said.

Frowning, Fuji bent over to look at Tezuka's bottle, but Tezuka pulled it away. Fuji raised an eyebrow at him.

Clearing his throat, Tezuka lowered his head. "Sorry. I don't... like eating in front of people."

Fuji cocked his head to the side. "Would you rather I left?"

"It's not necessary," Tezuka replied calmly, almost bored.

That was the right answer, because Fuji beamed at him. "So, tell me, Tezuka, why didn't you go to school before this?" He started picking at his lunch, obviously trying to eat very quietly and neatly, for Tezuka's benefit.

It embarrassed Tezuka, but there was nothing he could do about it. "I had tutors."

"That's not an answer," Fuji laughed, and offered Tezuka part of his onigiri.

Tezuka backed away from it. "No, thank you. My family is very... traditional."

"Oh?" Fuji raised an eyebrow. "Do you wear hakama pants at home?"

Tezuka nodded, furrowing his brow. That was an odd question...

Fuji looked delighted. "I bet you look really good! I hate wearing traditional clothes."

Tezuka shrugged. "It's nothing, really."

"Mm. Does your house have sliding doors?" Fuji waited for Tezuka to nod. "I love sliding doors."

"Your house isn't like that?" Tezuka asked cautiously.

"No," Fuji shrugged. "Our house is nice, but modern. Western. Father is rather proud of it. But I like things that are a bit different. You're an only child, right?" Tezuka nodded again. "An only child who was tutored at home. You must be glad to be going to school finally. Did you ever have a chance to make friends before?"

Tezuka shifted uncomfortably, looking away. "It's... it's not important. I've been content."

"But it's better now, that you can make friends, right?" Fuji pressed, inching closer to Tezuka.

Staring down at his hand, Tezuka nodded, once.

Fuji beamed. "Will you come over to my house after practice? I've got a few new movies, and we can study together..."

"I can't," Tezuka replied sharply, looking up over Fuji's shoulder. "I'm not allowed to go anywhere after school."

"Oh," Fuji's shoulders slumped slightly. "I see. But you played me in a match after practice?"

Tezuka cleared his throat. "I told my parents that we were having a double practice that day."

"Ah, I see," Fuji grinned, slipping in entirely to Tezuka's personal space, so their noses were nearly touching.

Tezuka could feel the heat pouring out of Fuji's body, and hear Fuji's heart beating.

"You're a bit of a naughty boy, then, aren't you, Tezuka?" Fuji licked his lips, grinning. "That's all right. I like that you can be naughty."

Tezuka stared, wide-eyed. Fuji was so close, so warm, so alive. So...

Fuji's eyes narrowed. "Tezuka. Your eyes. There's... there's red lines in your irises, aren't there?"

Tezuka shot up, grabbing his things. "Class will be starting soon. Sorry."

"Tezuka, wait!"

But Tezuka was already inside the building again.

At practice, Fuji took every and any chance to be closer to Tezuka. They stretched out together, and volleyed together, and took breaks together. Sometimes, Oishi would get to Tezuka first, but for the most part, no one could get between Tezuka and Fuji.

Fuji would have been happier if Tezuka sought him out more, but Tezuka never refused him, so it was fine. In fact, it almost seemed as if Tezuka preferred to pair off with Fuji. Perhaps it was because of the various anomalies that Fuji noticed. The way Tezuka's body always seemed cold to the touch, the way Tezuka's muscles were rock-hard, no matter what, even just the way Tezuka moved... As much as Fuji was holding back, biding his time, he gradually became aware that Tezuka was holding back at least as much.

Probably more.

It was a pity they weren't in the same class, but that didn't stop Fuji. He got Tezuka to agree to help him with his math, and in exchange, he helped Tezuka with English, which was Tezuka's weakest subject.

Tezuka still was better at it than Fuji, and Fuji's mother grew up in the States.

What Fuji was most particularly interested in, though, was Tezuka's eyes. Every chance he got to see them, he treasured. Tezuka's eyes, he discovered, could change colors. They were soft brown, normally, but there were lines of red that got thicker at different times. In the library, during their free period, Fuji would put his hand on Tezuka's, and watch Tezuka's eyes, sometimes leaning far over on the table, so he could get a good view.

He wanted to see if he could make Tezuka's eyes go all red.

The thing he wanted most of all, though, was to photograph Tezuka. He had failed at getting Tezuka to agree to come home with him, or go anywhere with him, or stay late after practice, or come early to school. Tezuka always looked apologetic when he refused, and he always said something about what he wasn't allowed to do.

It was frustrating. Tezuka wasn't allowed to do anything.

Summer break was coming up, and first years were not required to come to every practice. Fuji at first thought that Tezuka would come anyway, since he was sure to become a regular during the next ranking matches, but he overheard Tezuka talking with Yamato about how he wasn't able to come. Yamato asked him if he was going somewhere with his family, but Tezuka evaded answering.

Fuji frowned.

He didn't want to go all through summer break without ever seeing Tezuka!

Tezuka sat in perfect seiza, his hands on his thighs, his chin down, and his eyes on the edge of the tatami mat before him. His father was in front of him, like looking into a funhouse mirror that made everything look bigger, darker.

Meditations were important. His father had stressed that all his life. Tezuka had a strange image of himself as a baby, sitting in seiza, meditating with his father.

He didn't find it very amusing.

The phone kept ringing, and it was making his father irritable. Their phone hardly ever rang, so each time it did, both his mother and his grandfather went running to get it. After each call, there were increasingly long discussions between his mother and grandfather, who were now sitting in the kitchen, waiting for it to ring again.

His father's irritability was worrisome. Tezuka's back was already starting to ache a bit, though he could sit this way all day if required, and he had, in the past.

He would rather not, though.

"Focus, son," his father reprimanded. "You can't let outside distractions keep you from your focus. It's dangerous."

Everything in the world was dangerous to his father. Tezuka wondered if his father would have been happier if he had never been born. Or if, perhaps, he could have snapped his son's neck when Tezuka was just a baby.

"You must have total control of your body. You must have total control of your mind. Son. Look at me. Do you know how important this is?"

Tezuka raised his eyes, but he didn't look at his father. Behind his father, there was a scroll, three meters tall, and a meter wide, with bold calligraphy the color of dried blood, spelling out Lust.

It was not as if Tezuka would ever be permitted to forget the dangers of loss of control.

The door to the salle slid open. Tezuka's grandfather was there, smiling genially, at no one in particular. "I'm sorry to disturb you, but there's a phone call for Kunimitsu."

"He's meditating," Tezuka's father said, faintly sneering, his chin raised and his eyes closed, his face forward, refusing to give even that much to his father.

"It's a friend of his from school, and he's quite insistent," Tezuka's grandfather continued, nonplussed.

Tezuka's blood froze. There was only one person it could be, but he hadn't given his phone number to anyone at all.

Tezuka's father was glaring at him. "A friend? Not a girlfriend, I trust?"

"Oh, no," Tezuka's grandfather chuckled. "A fellow member of his tennis team. He is quite insistent that he would like to speak to Kunimitsu. And, you have been here since six this morning..." There was a slight reproach in his grandfather's tone. It was past noon now; Tezuka could tell by the light.

However, Tezuka's father did not take kindly to being reproached, most especially by his own father. He turned his withering glare to Tezuka's grandfather. "Indeed. So I presume this is an important telephone call, mm? I shouldn't hold back my son's social life, is that it?"

"Ah, if you are done, Kunimitsu can talk to the young man. Otherwise, I can let him know when Kunimitsu might be available...?" Tezuka's grandfather continued to smile benignly.

"Well, and I gather you would like to take this call? I don't recall giving you permission to give out our phone number, but that's irrelevant in the face of your blossoming social calendar," Tezuka's father sarcastically asked Tezuka.

Cheeks inflamed, Tezuka lowered his chin to his chest. "I didn't give anyone the number. I don't know how he got it. I will call him later."

"Talk to him now," Tezuka's father dismissed him with a wave of his hand, slouching down to recline. "Your focus is gone, so further meditation would be a waste of time."

Nervously, Tezuka got to his feet, and bowed to his father fully, but his father was ignoring him now. He walked out of the salle quickly, keeping his head lowered. His grandfather slid the door shut, and followed him to the kitchen, putting his hand reassuringly on Tezuka's shoulder.

Tezuka appreciated it, but his blood still felt cold.

His mother was just leaving the room as he entered, her eyes down and a faint smile gracing her lips. He went to the phone, wetting his lips.

He'd actually never talked on the phone before.


"Tezuka? Sorry, did I disturb you?"

Fuji did not sound in the least bit sorry, but Tezuka presumed he was making conversation. "It's fine. What can I do for you?"

"Aw, so serious. This summer is so boring. I want to see you."

That sounded vaguely like an order. Tezuka blinked, and then frowned. "What do you mean?"

Fuji laughed, and Tezuka caught his breath. Since when did he like Fuji's laugh? "Let's play tennis. C'mon, you have to stay in shape, right, and I know you aren't going to practice like a good boy."

Tezuka bit his lip. He wasn't sure what he should say. He shouldn't go. He was supposed to stay home, do his homework and his chores, and meditate. His homework was all done, and he was ahead by three weeks in most of his subjects. He was up to date on his chores. "I'm... supposed to..."

"But, hasn't it been a long time since you were naughty?" Fuji asked quickly. "Don't you miss being naughty? Tezuka. Come be naughty with me."

Tezuka turned away, so he was facing the wall. He didn't really understand Fuji's tone of voice. It sounded wrong. It felt like he was supposed to resist this suggestion, but he couldn't deny that he really wanted to see Fuji.

What was the point of making friends if he could never see him?

But, there was no way his father would allow him to go out. And... eventually, Fuji would get tired of being turned down for everything.

This was frustrating.

He nearly jumped when his grandfather's hand fell on his shoulder. "Is there an emergency practice for the tennis team? It would be bad if you were dropped from the team, just because you missed it. I'll explain it to your father. Just get going. Be home by curfew, all right?" His grandfather winked at him.

Tezuka felt his heart throb. "I can meet you. Now. Tell me where?"

He could have sworn that he could hear Fuji grinning.

Wasting no time getting out of the house, Tezuka changed faster than he ever had before, and then bolted out of the side yard, quietly, so that he wouldn't run into his father. This was almost certainly going to be his only chance to get out this summer. It was more than he should have hoped for, and he'd probably be in trouble when he got home.

He had to make it worth it, then.

Fuji was waiting for him outside the tennis pavilion, just like he said. Tezuka had been here for lessons the year before. They paid to get in, and then they went to the machines. It felt good to swing a racquet again, after being cooped up for so long. It felt good just to move his body and stretch out his muscles. Oddly, though, he felt his frustrations getting more and more tightly wound as he hit. Day after day of meditations was getting to be so taxing. It used to be easier, because he never expected to go out, and his tutors would come in the summer, as well. He hadn't realized how accustomed he had become with leaving the house every day, with wearing normal clothes, with walking through crowded streets, with just talking to people.

Not that he was talking to anyone now.

He shut off the serving machine, and sighed. Fuji was watching him. He was inordinately aware of Fuji's movements and presence. He always knew when Fuji was watching him, although he sometimes felt like he was paranoid, because it seemed like Fuji was always watching him.

He... liked it.

Sometimes, though, Fuji made him feel like more of a shut-in than he already was. For instance, he couldn't turn around because he didn't know what to say to Fuji.

"That was impressive, Tezuka. You didn't miss a single one. You're very good." There was something sly in Fuji's tone that made Tezuka straighten his back. He turned and just looked at Fuji. "Your parents are very strict, aren't they?"

Tezuka blinked. "I suppose so."

"Will you be in trouble when you get home?"

Fuji seemed genuinely concerned, so Tezuka shrugged, stepping out of the cage. "It doesn't matter, really."

"What do you mean?" Fuji cocked his head to the side, in what was surely a calculated gesture.

Tezuka sighed. "I can't really explain. But my father is never really pleased with me, so it's not going to alter anything, really."

"Why would your father be displeased with you?" Fuji asked, sounding as if the idea was utterly preposterous.

Tezuka looked at Fuji for a moment. Fuji was deceptive, in many ways. Even his appearance, his haircut. He was small, naturally, but he did a thousand little things to accentuate his smallness, so that he appeared even younger than he was. So he appeared harmless. Tezuka was becoming surer that there was no one on earth as dangerous as Fuji. "It's not really important."

Fuji was dissatisfied with that answer, but he was willing to pass over it. Tezuka had the impression that there was a rulebook governing conversations with Fuji, and if he only had a copy, he might be able to follow along better. "So, it's not very likely that you'll get to get out again until school, mm?"

Tezuka just shook his head, looking away. He hated his life, but he had no choice. He could kill himself, but it would break his mother's heart. There was no honor in that.

Fuji took Tezuka's hand. "In that case, we have to do something really fun. Let's go to the beach!"

Eyes widening, Tezuka stared at Fuji. "We... can't. It's too far away."

"When do you have to be home?" Fuji pouted a little. "It's not that far. We can be there by train in about a half an hour. Even if we just stay there for an hour, it'll be fun, right?"

Licking his lips, Tezuka looked around, desperate, for a clock. Assuming they would be gone for three, maybe four hours... It would be pushing it a little, but...

If this was his only taste of freedom for the next few weeks...

He nodded once, and was rewarded with a huge grin.

Fuji didn't let go of his hand, not until they went through the turnstiles at the train station. Tezuka felt nervous, because he'd never been on these trains before. He took the subway to school, but this station was different, and the turnstiles were different, and the machine to pay was different. The trains were different, too, and Tezuka looked over the map, anxious, worried that Fuji was wrong about which train to get on, and where it was going. Fuji laughed at him, but he was used to that. Fuji made them stop at the vending machines to get something to drink, and Fuji bought a disposable camera. Tezuka just stared at it. He'd never seen anything like that before, and, as they waited for the train, Fuji let him look it over.

"I'd've brought my real camera, but sometimes, it's fun to save memories on something that is spontaneous."

Tezuka had no idea what that meant, but he handed Fuji back his camera. Tezuka had assumed that Fuji wanted the camera for when they were at the beach, but he started taking pictures in the station, and on the train. Tezuka tried not to look at Fuji as he did this, but the flash was disturbing.

On the train, they didn't talk much. Tezuka watched the scenery stream by raptly, and Fuji watched him with amusement. The further away they got, the more relaxed Tezuka felt, like he could feel the chains around him unwinding.

As they stepped off the train, he smiled shyly at Fuji.

They walked to the beach, which was less than ten minutes away from the station. Fuji offered to buy Tezuka some snacks, but Tezuka turned each one down in turn, looking away. Shrugging, Fuji slipped his hand inside of Tezuka's again, and they walked out onto the sand.

Fuji laughed out loud when Tezuka confided in him, quietly, that he'd never been to a beach before. Tezuka felt a little childish and silly, but Fuji quickly threw his arm over Tezuka's shoulder, and apologized. Fuji told Tezuka about where he had grown up, in Chiba, and how, as a child, he spent every day on the sand with his friends there, and how he learned to play tennis on a playground. Fuji said they would be playing tennis very near his childhood home next year.

Tezuka crouched down, and sifted the sand with his fingers, hiding their trembles with the falling mist of beige. He couldn't imagine it, really, growing up one place, and moving to another. He couldn't imagine traveling back and forth blithely, as if it was a normal thing.

It was sort of like seeing the sky unbounded by skyline for the first time, and realizing that it was truly very big.

Fuji insisted that they get their feet wet, and he took pictures until the little camera stopped making clicking noises. They only got two of them together, and the rest were all of Tezuka, which was pretty embarrassing, but there was nothing to be done about it.

On the way back to the station, Fuji bought them takiyaki, and some cold drinks. Tezuka drank the syrupy liquid, though it made him a little sick to do so, but he only pretended to eat the treats.

The train ride back was still, and for most of the ride, they were alone in the car. Fuji put his hand on Tezuka's thigh, and rested his head on Tezuka's shoulder. Tezuka was afraid to move, for fear he would unsettle Fuji. He tried to watch him, because Fuji's face looked different when it was relaxed with sleep. Tezuka's body felt warm, pleasantly so, and he cursed the bumps that caused Fuji to lift his head and smile at him.

It was getting dark when they were walking back in the direction of Tezuka's house. Fuji insisted on this, too, because his curfew was later, so they could spend more time together this way. The logic appeared to be irrefutable. They either walked hand in hand, or with their hands brushing together, and the warmth from the train still clung to him.

Tezuka stopped Fuji when they got to the little road that led to his house. Just in case his father was near the gate, Tezuka didn't want to risk having Fuji need to meet his father. He knew that he should just say goodbye, but their conversation continued from one topic to the other aimlessly, and even in the pauses between topics, there seemed to be no reason to rush into ending it.

Fuji smiled at Tezuka inscrutably, and asked him, "Is your skin cold for the same reason that your skin is sensitive?"

Tezuka took a step back, and looked down toward his house. "I should go..."

Fuji took his arm, and leaned up, kissing the corner of his mouth. "I'm glad you came out with me today, Tezuka."

Tezuka lowered his eyes, feeling something more than warmth tingling at his fingertips. This simple kiss, it was like a spark. He could feel his heart beating.

"I have to go. Thanks." He pulled away from Fuji, and walked away.

His father was waiting for him in his office, the doors pushed all the way open so there was no chance Tezuka could think he wasn't waiting. Dutifully, Tezuka got to his knees, and bowed before his father.

"You had a tennis practice?" his father frowned.

"Yes, sir."

"You didn't take your bag."

"We were using the school's equipment."

"And you were gone this whole time for tennis?"

"Yes, sir."

"Son, look me in the eye."

Tezuka raised his eyes fearfully.

His father scrutinized him, and then sighed heavily. "Get changed, and go to the salle for meditations. Contemplate the nature of the enemy. Stay there until I tell you that you can leave. Do you understand?"

Tezuka pressed his forehead to the floor, and replied snappily, "Yes, sir!"

He ran upstairs to get changed. It was a punishment he was willing to accept. He looked himself in the mirror, examining his eyes, before he went downstairs, though.

As he expected, there were red lines in his irises. With a heavy heart, he went down to the salle to stare at the wall scroll, and meditate.

He pulled on his regular's jersey for the first time for practice. He ran his hands over the cloth. He felt a measure of pride, but more than that, he felt like he finally had what was his due. After all, he was clearly the best player on the team.

"Do you like it?"

He had been aware that Captain Yamato was in the clubhouse with him, but he made a show of appearing startled, regardless. "Yes, thank you."

Captain Yamato chuckled. "Don't thank me, Tezuka-kun. You're the one who earned it. I'm sure you think it's about time, too."

Tezuka said nothing, and that made the Captain chuckle more.

"Maybe you'll understand better when you are Captain. You have to think about the team, as a whole. I was worried about you for a while. The upperclassmen just don't like you." He walked slowly toward Tezuka, his arms crossed over his chest, and his jacket slung casually over his shoulders, as always. Even now, he wore his sunglasses, but Tezuka could see past their dark lenses. "You're not really... human, are you?"

Tezuka's eyes widened, and he looked at Yamato.

"Sorry, sorry! I don't mean that, exactly. But. There's something different about you. For someone like me, to watch you play... It's like watching a whole other species. You're as far above me and most of this team as I am above someone who's never played before. Do you know what I mean, Tezuka?"

Tezuka continued to stare blankly at Yamato, somewhat calmed, but still betraying no signs of comprehension.

"What I mean to say is," Yamato sighed, and sat down on the bench next to where Tezuka was standing. "Well, I suppose the easiest way of saying it is right out. I'm jealous. You have the world before you, and nothing to stand in your way. I envy your talent."

Tezuka turned his gaze to his locker, and reached in to pick up his racquet. "There's no reason for you to be jealous of me, Captain."

"Of course there is!" Yamato grinned. "You're going to go far! America, Europe... There's nothing that can hold you down. Whatever gets thrown your way, you can handle. Why wouldn't I be envious? I'd love to keep playing, for years and years, but it's just not feasible at my level of play."

Tezuka shrugged, and closed his locker. "Practice has already started, right?"

Yamato laughed, and slapped his thighs, getting up. "That's the right attitude! Keep your eye on a single goal, and take each step, one at a time. The first step for you will be Nationals. I'm afraid we won't make it very far this year, but before your time here is done, you'll carry this team to a National title, I'm sure of it."

Yamato patted him heavily on the shoulder, as if emphasizing the weight of responsibility he was passing on to Tezuka, but really, Tezuka wasn't shook by the gesture. He was ready.

He was eager.

Winter came, and with the Nationals over, tennis club seemed a lot more boring. Most of the third years left the club, and Tezuka was named Vice Captain to much grumbling. Yamato had a scholarship already to a university, based on his grades and some writing he'd done, so he still showed up regularly to practice, which helped to ease the transition. It was clear to everyone that he was treating Tezuka as his true replacement, so, eventually, everyone started to treat Tezuka with more respect.

There were other benefits as well. Tezuka took his new role extremely seriously, and he stayed late every day after practice, doing paperwork and keeping the equipment locker and clubhouse tidy. Since there wasn't a set time for Tezuka to be home now, precisely, Fuji could stay late after practice, too, and do his homework while Tezuka worked, or help Tezuka out with things.

Anything, to spend more time with Tezuka.

Often, Oishi or someone else would also stay, but Fuji was patient, and he waited them out, always. On December 24th, though, half the team skipped practice, since it was the last day of classes before break, and there was no one in the clubhouse while Tezuka was finishing up. Even Ryuzaki-sensei had left, telling Tezuka to lock up. The best thing of all was, practice had ended early, so technically, they had time before Tezuka's father was expecting him home.

Fuji grinned to himself. He didn't have to do homework today, since his assignments weren't due for a while now. So he spent all of his time watching Tezuka. When Tezuka was finishing up with his work, Fuji got up, and strolled over to Tezuka, running his fingers through Tezuka's wild hair.

It could use some styling.

"Come home with me. Just for a little while. I want to give you your Christmas present." He wound his fingers up in Tezuka's hair. Any other day, Tezuka would refuse. But today was special, wasn't it?

"Christmas?" Tezuka furrowed his brow. "What do you mean?"

Fuji laughed quietly. "What do you think I mean? Tomorrow is Christmas day. And I have your present at home." He tugged on Tezuka's arm just a bit, knowing Tezuka wouldn't get up until he had decided to, anyway.

"Present?" Tezuka frowned harder. "My family doesn't celebrate Christmas. I don't have anything for you."

Fuji was of the opinion that Tezuka's family didn't celebrate anything, but that wasn't relevant. "That's all right. Come home with me, and that will be my present."

Tezuka looked up at Fuji with uncertain eyes. That look was enough to kill Fuji. Every time he thought he knew how deep he was in, Tezuka pulled him down deeper. "I-I suppose. But I can't stay long."

"I know." Fuji grinned, and slipped his hand down to take Tezuka's hand. "Ready?"

Tezuka nodded, and put all the folders in order, slipping them into the envelope for Ryuzaki-sensei. They got their coats and bags, and they stopped at Ryuzaki-sensei's office to drop off the envelope. By the time they left the school building, twilight was drifting over the sky, and the air was getting quite chill. Fuji took Tezuka's hand, and led the way. He intertwined their fingers. Tezuka's hand was even colder than normal, like there was no heat in Tezuka at all. Fuji wrapped both his hands around Tezuka's one hand.

"Tezuka? Are you cold?"

Tezuka tried to pull his hand away, but Fuji didn't let him. He looked away. "I'm fine. I dislike cold weather. But it's nothing." As always, Tezuka just looked straight ahead, determined.

Fuji raised Tezuka's hand to his lips. "Cold hands, warm heart. That's a saying." He smiled for Tezuka.

"Really." Tezuka looked away, but his expression had softened.

"You've never been to my house before," Fuji idly noted. "Have you ever been to any friend's house before?"

Tezuka was pointedly looking away. "No."

Fuji knew that already, though. He didn't understand, but there were many mysteries surrounding Tezuka. The more Fuji learned about Tezuka, the more he craved. "Are you excited?"

Tezuka looked at Fuji without turning his head. "I suppose."

"You should be," Fuji smiled. "My family is really nice. You can meet my brother and my sister. And my gift is nice, too."

Tezuka lowered his chin. "I'm sorry I don't have anything for you."

"You're being naughty and coming to my house. You know how much I love it when you are naughty," Fuji winked.

"You shouldn't say it like that," Tezuka mumbled, lowering his chin.

"Why not?" Fuji asked innocently. "It's true! I do like it when you are naughty."

"You make it sound as if..." Tezuka cleared his throat, and tried to pull his hand away again. Fuji just tightened his grip cheerfully. Tezuka sighed. "I'm not really, you know."

"Not?" Fuji wondered. "Not what?"

"Naughty," Tezuka sighed. "It... It's better that I'm not."

"Eh? But you're breaking the rules, right? You're supposed to go straight home, right?" Fuji beamed. "That's naughty, right?"

Tezuka sighed. "But I'm not..."

"Here, this way..." Fuji tugged on Tezuka's hand, and led him up the side street. "Are you afraid of being naughty, Tezuka?"

Tezuka looked away. "You wouldn't understand."

"Why not?" Fuji squeezed Tezuka's hand. He didn't expect an answer, but he was interested in how Tezuka evaded. "It's not like you're doing anything dangerous, right?"

"I hope not..." Tezuka sighed. There was a sense of deep melancholy in Tezuka's tone, so Fuji couldn't help turning to look at him.

He smiled brightly, and leaned up to kiss Tezuka's cheek. He'd like to see Tezuka smile, for real. "Hey, don't worry. Here. We're here."

He pulled Tezuka up his front walk, and opened the door for him. Tezuka could be so docile sometimes. It was a different sort of exciting.

So was watching Tezuka as Tezuka entered Fuji's house. He almost seemed afraid, looking around with wide eyes. Fuji had walked past Tezuka's house after Tezuka had gone inside the day they went to the beach, and he'd walked by there a dozen times since then. Tezuka's house looked like something out of a movie. Fuji half thought that Tezuka might be yakuza. But there was nothing special about Fuji's house. It was just a house.

Still, Tezuka was looking around like the house might bite him. It was really cute. Fuji called out that he was home, and Tezuka shrank back, his expression going blank, his eyes sharp for signs of movement.

Yumiko came out of the kitchen, a festive red and white apron tied around her waist, and an oven mitt on her hand. "Ah, Syuusuke! You brought home a friend!" Of course, she knew all about Tezuka, and she knew he was going to try to get Tezuka to come home with him today. She pulled off her oven mitt, and looked Tezuka over, top to bottom.

Fuji almost laughed. She looked like she was sizing up something good to eat. "Sis, this is Tezuka. Tezuka, this is my sister, Yumiko."

Tezuka looked nervously from Fuji to Yumiko, and then he bowed slightly. "Fuji-san. A pleasure."

Yumiko's smirk turned feral. "Tezuka-kun. It's so nice that Syuusuke has made friends with someone who has manners. You've got excellent timing, too. I just finished a batch of cookies. Come into the kitchen and have some."

Tezuka's face paled even more than normal. Fuji took Tezuka's arm, and pulled him closer, toward the stairs. "Tezuka doesn't like to eat in front of people, Sis."

"What? Tezuka-kun?" She pouted a little, swinging out her hip in a sexy gesture.

Fuji was sure it was lost on Tezuka.

"My cookies are really delicious. Syuusuke and I won't look, promise."

"Sorry," Tezuka sullenly refused, looking away from Yumiko. "Maybe I should..."

"C'mon upstairs!" Fuji grinned. "I have to give you your present!" He winked at his sister, and dragged Tezuka upstairs. Before going to his room, though, he stopped, and knocked quickly on Yuuta's door, and then opened it before Yuuta could say anything.

He was just listening to music, though.

"H-hey! You're supposed to wait for me to say 'Come in'!" Yuuta protested cutely.

Fuji smiled. "Yuuta. This is Tezuka. Tezuka, this is my little brother, Yuuta. He'll be going to Seigaku next year. He's really good at tennis, too. Yuuta, Tezuka is the Vice Captain, so you'll be following his orders."

Tezuka bowed, a bit more formally than he did for Yumiko. "I look forward to playing you."

"Like I'd join his tennis team!" Yuuta scowled, and then got embarrassed for his bad manners. "Anyway, you shouldn't burst in on people's rooms!"

Fuji laughed. "You'll join the team. It'll be great! And we'll leave you alone now. Tezuka doesn't have much time, anyway."

He dragged Tezuka away again, and into his own room. He led Tezuka to sit down on his bed, and he smiled brightly. "You've met my whole family now. Well, not my parents, but they aren't very exciting."

Tezuka looked away, and his eyes were just beautiful, the sad way they cast about Fuji's room. "Your siblings are very..."

"Aren't they?" Fuji grinned, cutting Tezuka off. "Here, here. I don't want to get you into trouble. Open your present!" Fuji had left the gift on his desk, anticipating no trouble in getting Tezuka to come home with him. He placed the gift neatly on Tezuka's lap, and stood back, putting his hands behind his back. Tezuka picked it up cautiously, looking over the brightly colored paper suspiciously. He started to pick at the taped up side too carefully for Fuji's tastes. "You can rip the paper, you know."

Tezuka looked up at Fuji with blank, clear eyes. Fuji would never get tired of looking into Tezuka's eyes. "Ah. Yes." He tugged at the paper with a bit more vehemence, but he was still being awfully careful. He unfolded the paper, revealing the small photo album inside. He took the time to neatly fold up the paper, and set it aside, and then he looked over the album.

The cover was made to look as if there was sand and shells on a book. When Tezuka opened it up, the first page just had a decorative card, with a date on it. Tezuka's eyes widened slightly, and then he flipped through the photographs.

They were mostly of Tezuka, with a few scenery shots, and a few shots of the two of them. It was their day at the beach, a stolen day in the summer that Fuji considered to be their first date.

Tezuka's cheeks flushed, and his fingers moved up and down the edges of the pages reverently. He kept flipping through the book, his wide eyes poring over each page, his lips just barely parted.

Fuji couldn't take it anymore. "Do you like it?"

Tezuka looked up at Fuji with naked eyes, an expression Fuji had never before seen on Tezuka's face. It made his heart race. Tezuka then looked back down at the book, and he closed the cover slowly. "I... can't accept this. If... it's found, I'll get into trouble..." Tezuka's shoulders slumped, and he schooled his features into a blank mask, but his eyes were still bleeding, as far as Fuji could see.

"So keep it here," Fuji suggested cheerfully. "I'll keep it safe for you. As long as you like it."

Tezuka looked up at Fuji again, measuring, being cautious. "I do like it. Thank you. But. I feel guilty. You have something so thoughtful for me. And I don't have anything for you...."

"That's easy," Fuji laughed. "Give me a kiss."

Tezuka's eyes widened beautifully.

Fuji dipped down, and pressed his lips to Tezuka's, giving Tezuka a moment to adjust before going deeper, before slipping his tongue in. And Tezuka's mouth was cold, but vital, and Tezuka's hand came up, so Fuji caught them, and he leaned in more, putting his knee on the bed between Tezuka's legs, and he put his hands on Tezuka's face, and...

Tezuka's teeth were unusually sharp.

Tezuka pushed him away, and jumped up, dashing to the door. "I have to go!"

Fuji blinked, and then he realized that Tezuka was leaving. He started off after Tezuka, ignoring Yuuta, who had poked his head out the door. By the time he got downstairs, though, the front door was already swinging shut.

"Syuusuke!" Yumiko sighed. "What did you do to that poor, beautiful boy? He went running down the stairs like a bat out of hell!"

"Ah?" Fuji shrugged, and went to lock the door sluggishly. "What do you mean? We just exchanged Christmas presents."

Tezuka sat in seiza before the 'enemy,' as his father would say. As he was beginning to think of it. He left the door to the garden open, so he could watch the sunrise. He had taken off his shirts earlier, because he felt like he wasn't uncomfortable enough as he was. His father had made over a hundred different meditations, all intended to focus the mind and control the body.

Tezuka would not fail.

The sky was cast in hues of blue, but the sun was not yet glazing the horizon. He heard movement in the house, but the footfalls were too delicate to be his father. He was not surprised when his mother stepped into the salle.

"Son, what are you doing? It's freezing in here!" She smiled for him, but he barely looked up at her. Sometimes, she tried too hard to be cheerful.

"Sorry. Didn't want to miss the sunrise." He bowed his head slightly, and relaxed his posture minutely.

"Oh, it's all right." She sat down next to him, stretching her legs out. "I couldn't get your father up. He just turned over and said there would be another sunrise tomorrow. I'm sure your grandfather is still asleep. That makes us the only ones seeing in the year right. Did you sleep at all last night?"

It was not acceptable to lie to his mother, so he just inclined his head to the side. "I didn't want to miss the sunrise."

She didn't quite look like she believed him, but she didn't call him on it. "Then turn. It's about to start."

He put his hands down on the mat in front of him, and he shifted his body, so he could face the doorway. Indeed, the sky was already changing colors fast.

"I was going to go to the temple, get it done early, while the crowds would be thin. Do you feel like going?" She smiled still, and she reminded him a little of Fuji. It wasn't really that his mother was anything like Fuji, just that he really wished he could see this sunrise with Fuji.

"I don't think I should." He raised his chin a fraction. The sun was starting to make itself visible, a glaring sheen of light that crested over the landscaping of their yard, and the tall fence bordering their property. He sat with his hands folded neatly in his lap, and he forced himself to keep his eyes open. He would not allow himself to even blink, not at all. This was a new year dawning, after all.

"You've been working so hard," his mother murmured softly. "And you've spent the bulk of your break in this room. ....I noticed that you washed your sheets a few times this week, as well."

His eyes widened, and he faced the new sun. It hurt, even in the chill; he could feel his skin getting hot. He should have put on sunscreen. And he'd do anything to pretend that his mother had just stated two completely unrelated facts. "It's nothing. I've just been... clumsy."

"Kunimitsu," she sighed. She looked like she wanted to reach out and touch him. "You know, it is perfectly natural. It's nothing to be afraid of."

There were some things his mother couldn't understand. Things his father had been trying to teach him for years that he was only coming to understand himself this year... "I know."

She shook her head, smiling, and reached up to ruffle his hair. He ducked his head, but he didn't dodge her touch completely. "Kunimitsu. Are you styling your hair differently?"

He reached up to his hair, self-conscious. Fuji had a habit of playing with his hair, pushing it until the part was on the other side. He'd gotten used to combing it that way as well, but... "I don't think so."

She pulled her hand away and sighed, but she was still smiling. She stood up, and stretched out. "Go drink. And take a nice hot bath. Second best way to start the New Year. Then, get some rest. These are your mother's orders, now, son." She patted his cheek softly, and turned to leave. He waited until the front door shut again, and then he stood, closed the sliding door to the garden, and he went to go follow his mother's instructions.

He sat in the library, in a table before a window, and stared up at the sheets of rain falling down on the panes of glass. There were no club activities in this weather, and anyway, exams were coming up shortly, and they all had too much homework. Tezuka's books were strewn over the table, open, his pencil in his hand, his eraser at his elbow, and his paper before him, but he couldn't take his eyes off of the rain.

He and Oishi had been studying together before school, but Oishi went to find Kikumaru for lunch. If Kikumaru was with Oishi, that meant that Fuji was probably eating alone, or looking for him. If he were looking for him, he'd undoubtedly find him, because Fuji was uncanny at that. If he found him, then they would probably end up packing up his things, and going to the stairwell to the west gym, because there were no classes near there, and it was almost always empty. If they went to the stairwell, Fuji would touch him, touch his hair, and maybe take his glasses, and tease Tezuka about how he didn't really need them, and then maybe, Fuji would lean over, and kiss him.

If Fuji wasn't looking for him, that either meant that Fuji wanted to be alone, or he was eating with Kawamura, or, less likely, Inui. If Fuji was eating, but not looking for him, it probably meant that he was playing a game with Tezuka.

Maybe he was waiting for Tezuka to come look for him.

The rain continued to pour down the window, and in the distance, there was the crackle of thunder. At home, Tezuka loved thunderstorms. They usually turned off as much of the electricity as they could, and they would sit around the table, candles set up, and wait the storm out. When he was very little, he would rest against his mother, and watch the candlelight flicker and listen for the claps of thunder. Even now, though, he loved to listen to the thunder, and to read by candlelight at a table with his family.

The back of his throat had been itching all day. He'd been so anxious to get to school, but part of him wished he had called in sick today, so he could be home.

Where he belonged.

He knew that someone was coming up behind him long before the hand fell on his shoulder. "Tezuka. Haven't you studied enough for today?"

He looked up, and Fuji was smiling at him. He put his hand on Fuji's, even though they could possibly be seen, and he nodded to the chair next to him. Confused, but willing, Fuji sat down and looked at Tezuka, expectant.

Tezuka looked back up at the window, and the sheets of rain. He still had his hand on Fuji's.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" He was speaking in a whisper, more out of deference for the rain than because they were in the library.

Fuji turned his eyes to the window. He turned his hand over, and curled his fingers around Tezuka's hand. "I brought my camera today. Want to take some pictures after school?"

He would be expected home right away. But everything moved slower in the rain. And he was used to meditating for hours a night at this point, regardless. He nodded.

Fuji grinned, and bit his lip. "Tezuka. Do you like me?"

Tezuka furrowed his brow. Fuji already knew the answer to that, so that wasn't the purpose of the question. "Why are you asking me that?"

"Because," Fuji leaned over and kissed the corner of Tezuka's mouth. "I like that expression on your face."

Tezuka didn't understand, but he kept his eyes on the window.

He tightened his hand around Fuji's.

He'd finished his exam over ten minutes ago, but he was unwilling to take it up to the front of the class. For the sixth time, he checked his answers over.

They were all perfect.

As soon as he turned in this last test, he'd have to go home, and he wouldn't leave again until the next school year began. No tennis for weeks. No social interaction.

No Fuji.

When he really could not stand to sit in his desk for another moment, he gathered up his things, and went to turn in his exam. Slowly, he made his way out of the classroom, and down to his locker. There were a good handful of students about, but there was still about an hour to go on the tests, and most of the student who were done either left, or were outside, enjoying the sunshine, fresh air, and freedom.

Tezuka walked past Fuji's classroom, but he couldn't see in well enough to see if Fuji was still there. He walked past Fuji's locker, too, but there was no sign, one way or the other.

Uncertain, Tezuka went outside, and to the tennis clubhouse. They'd already cleared everything out yesterday, but Tezuka used his keys to change his clothes in the clubhouse, and then went out to hit balls against the wall. If he couldn't play tennis for weeks, he might as well get in a little practice now.

Nothing felt quite as good as rolling his shoulder around, and flexing his muscles, hitting the ball back and forth. There was no way to explain it. Tennis was a part of him, from the sound it, to the smell, to the feeling. There was nothing in the world like standing on the court. Next year, he would be a regular all season long, and hopefully, they'd get to Nationals. The prospect of playing some truly worthy players was exciting, and he started going faster and faster, working up a sweat.

His rhythm was thrown off by the addition of a second ball to the mix, but he caught up quickly. Fuji, still in his uniform, had decided to join him.

They played a makeshift doubles against the wall, constantly returning each other's balls. It required precise, consistent shots, and endurance. A tingle started to work its way under Tezuka's skin. He felt the perspiration forming on his back. When he was playing with Fuji, he felt like there was something so much larger than himself at work, and he couldn't get his hands around it, but it just felt right.

Particularly when Fuji was actually playing with his real talent, rather than just goofing with him. Fuji's skills were different than his; whereas his play was defined by strength and focus, Fuji was graceful and instinctual. It was beautiful to watch.

Tezuka hit one ball a bit too strongly, and Fuji let his arc a bit high, and then they were left, panting, facing each other.

"I guess we won't be seeing each other for a while." Fuji was smiling, but there was more emotion in his voice than normal.

Tezuka shrugged, and looked at his feet. "I guess."

Fuji stepped closer to him, still thinly masking his expression with a vacant smile. "Do you have time today to come home with me for a bit?"

Tezuka looked up at the clock on Seigaku's top tower. The final exam was finished ten minutes ago. "I'm already late."

"What would happen to you if you got into trouble, Tezuka?" Fuji stepped closer and reached out, almost touching Tezuka's arm, but holding back just a bit. "Would you be beaten?"

Tezuka blinked. Never in his life had that ever needed to be a threat. His father was far more disciplined. "No. But. It's all right. Really." He bit his lip. His father was right, after all.

They really couldn't just pretend they were normal people.

Fuji took another step closer, and put his hand on Tezuka's arm, leaning up on his toes to kiss Tezuka.

He had been expecting this, looking forward to it, really. He didn't push Fuji away, but he didn't let the kiss deepen, either. Fuji was leaning on his arm, and their lips were touching, but that was it. It was actually sweet, and if Tezuka concentrated on the act of the kiss, he could avoid any deeper appetite from taking control.

Fuji broke away, finally, short of breath, and a bit disquieted that he hadn't been able to control the kiss better. "It's going to be a long break."

Tezuka traced his thumb over Fuji's sorrowful grin. "Yes. It will." Tezuka thought it would be about a million times longer for him than for Fuji, but he didn't say that. It wasn't a competition, after all, and he didn't want Fuji worrying unnecessarily over him.

Breaking away, Fuji knelt down, and picked up one of the tennis balls they had been playing with. "Hope you don't mind, but I'm taking this. If you want it back, meet me here a half hour before school starts on the first day." Fuji winked, and walked away, bouncing the tennis ball before him on the sidewalk.

Tezuka slowly gathered up his things, and started off for home. He'd be scolded for not coming straight home, but hopefully tennis could give him some excuse. He puzzled over Fuji's behavior. They both must have enough tennis balls that one give or take could make no difference. But that was probably less significant than that they had a date planned for the beginning of the next term of school.

She opened the blinds, letting in sunlight for those poor cacti. Her brother was still just a lump in the bed. Sighing, she put her hands on her hips, and reached up with her foot to kick her little brother. "Syuusuke! It's past noon! Time to get up."

He turned his head to look at her, and then he wrinkled his nose in disgust. "Not yet."

She sighed, exasperated, and sat down on his bed, leaning over to shake him. "This has been going on long enough! You need to air yourself out. You're supposed to be playing tennis in a few weeks, right? Even you can't expect to be your best without training."

"I'll train next week," he replied from under the covers.

She curled up behind him, and put an arm around him. "Oh, Syuusuke... It's only a few weeks. You'll see him in school when it starts up again."

He turned around, and wriggled around until he could free himself from the sheet, and snuggle up to his sister. "I know."

She kissed his forehead, and brushed his hair out of the way. "Are you really so much in love with him?"

"Don't be silly," he smiled, but she could see through his as well as he could see through hers. "It's not love. It's just... he's so..."

"Beautiful," she grinned. "I know. You are so shallow."

He chuckled, and that was genuine. "I think you're the shallow one here. I was going to say... mysterious. I can't figure him out. And it's driving me nuts."

Kissing his nose, she pulled him in to her arms tighter. "You need a distraction. Why don't you play some tennis with Yuuta?"

"Yuuta says he'll never play me again," he shrugged, and tucked his head under her chin.

She rubbed her hand over his back, and sighed. She'd have to have a talk with Yuuta, then, too. "Well, why don't we go to Chiba for the day? We can find Kojirou and flirt with him." She laughed a little, though she was completely serious.

Fuji laughed, too. "Don't you have work?" He leaned back so he could look her in the eye.

No option but the truth, then. "I have to do some interviews for the book, but it's nothing pressing. And today's my day off at the store, so. Let's go."

For a moment, Fuji looked like he was going to say yes, but then he closed his eyes, and put his head on the pillow. "You go, and flirt enough for the both of us. I'm just going to nap a bit."

The last time Fuji had been to the beach, he'd gone with Tezuka. She shook her head, and cuddled up to her little brother, kissing his lips so fleetingly, he probably barely felt it. "Syuusuke. This is terrible. You aren't supposed to fall in love before me."

"What can I say?" he mumbled, still clinging to her. "I never try to be an overachiever."

Before Their First Year • Their First Year • Their Second YearTheir Third YearAfter High Schoolnotes