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 Second Year

The first day of their second year, Fuji waited for Tezuka outside the main gates, and to be sure that he didn't miss him, he left for school an hour early. Yuuta had already said that he wouldn't walk to school with his brother, anyway.

Tezuka looked surprised to see him, but pleased, as well. Fuji couldn't wait, really, not at all. He smiled, and took Tezuka's wrist in hand, and led him off to a quiet corner, behind the tennis courts, so they could talk.

Or kiss.

He hadn't really intended to, but it had been too long since he had seen Tezuka, and he couldn't hold himself back. And Tezuka put his arms around Fuji's waist, too. Fuji pressed closer, deepened the kiss, ran his fingers up the back of Tezuka's hair.

"Did you miss me?" he grinned, and he licked Tezuka's bottom lip. Bright red lines spiraled out from Tezuka's pupils, but Fuji knew better than to mention it at this point.

Tezuka looked away, and licked his lips, his arms still around Fuji. "We shouldn't be doing this."

"Why not? It's the first time we've seen each other in weeks. It's what lover's do in this situation." Fuji beamed, impressed with his own feat of logic.

Tezuka flushed. "We aren't lovers."

"No?" Fuji frowned. "I think we are."

"I think I would remember if we had done... that." Now Tezuka was blushing for real. Fuji bit his lip to keep from laughing, and pressed closer to Tezuka, kissing his lips quickly.

"Well, true. But we're still young. Besides, where are we going to do it? On the clubhouse benches? I've thought about that, but I think a classroom might be better..."

"Fuji!" Tezuka pulled away, unable to look at Fuji.

Fuji pouted. He really missed seeing Tezuka's eyes. "Yes?"

"We can't!" The first bell rang, and Tezuka lowered his head, and walked rapidly toward the school.

Fuji smiled, and sauntered to class.

Tezuka was greatly mistaken if he thought this was the end of anything.

Fuji combed the sweat from his hair as he walked over to the match board. Tezuka's first match of the day ended early, so he had already started his second match. Fuji was glad that they weren't in the same block, but really, that was only because he didn't much feel like working too hard for this.

Tennis was fun, right?

He recorded his victory, and then found the small knot of second years on the grass. Eiji was leaning against Oishi, whimpering a bit. Taka was hanging back a bit. He'd already lost three times, so he wasn't going to make it as a regular. Oishi was undefeated, as was Fuji, Tezuka, and Inui, but at least one more of them would get a loss.

Tezuka and Inui were playing now.

He sat down next to Eiji and picked up Eiji's water bottle, mostly because he knew it would irritate Oishi, but Oishi would be too polite to say or do anything about it. "How's it going?"

"They just started," Oishi supplied, eyeing the way Fuji used Eiji's water. "Tezuka's already got one game."

Fuji smiled. Tezuka was dangerously efficient, but Inui had his own threatening skills. "It shouldn't take long. But it looks like both of them will become regulars."

"Do you think?" Taka said, sounding a little despondent. Naturally, he didn't want to be left behind. "But Sugiyama-senpai is in their block, too."

"Mm," Fuji shrugged. "I don't think Inui will lose to him."

"Is Inui that good?" Eiji turned over and watched the court. "I've never seen him play before!"

"Inui has a secret weapon," Fuji pointed to Inui's tennis bag, and the green notebook sticking out of it.

Oishi grunted. "He's been taking notes on all of us for a year now. I wonder what's in that notebook."

"That's creepy!" Eiji declared, scowling. "But you know what's creepier? Fuji!" He kicked Fuji playfully.

"Hey, hey!" Fuji laughed, and scooted away. "What are you kicking me for?"

"You didn't even let me win a single game! And man, you were so tough! What was that about?" Eiji pouted, and curled up against Oishi tighter, making Oishi blush.

Fuji just chuckled, and finished off Eiji's water. "Just playing. We're supposed to win, right?" He turned and looked quizzically at Oishi.

"Eh, well, yeah, that's the idea," Oishi smiled. "Though some people have it easier than others."

"Ah, it's a good thing we decided to play doubles!" Eiji sighed. "Just look! With Fujiko, and Tezuka, we'd never get to play singles, anyway. Inui's already lost three games!"

"I thought Inui had data on all of us," Taka mused, perplexed.

Fuji licked his lips, watching Tezuka play, watching his every move, the way his shirt swung around his body, watching his legs, and his fine ass. "Data won't help against someone like Tezuka. Knowledge can only help you if you can do something about it. Inui can't return Tezuka's shots, even if he knows where each one is going."

"Fuji, that's scary," Eiji sighed. "Can anyone beat Tezuka? He's never lost yet, right?"

"Mm, who knows?" Fuji smiled. He'd like to know if he could beat Tezuka.

Inui hit a strong volley, and then approached the net. Tezuka hit a gentle, elegant drop shot. Inui seemed to know exactly what Tezuka was going to do, but it didn't matter. Instead of bouncing, the ball rolled quietly toward the net.

Four games to none, Tezuka.

"Wow!" Eiji sat up. "Did you see that? Amazing! There really is no one like Tezuka!"

Fuji could see it, not just in his classmates, but all around, everyone who was watching. Even all the third years, including the Captain, who were going to have to work hard just to make the regulars. There was a collective breathlessness infecting the team, eyes widened in every direction, and in their hushed whispers, a deafening hope was being birthed - maybe they could make Nationals, if they had Tezuka.

Smiling, Fuji leaned back on his elbows. "Impressive."

"Fujiko! Is that all you have to say!" Eiji poked Fuji's shoulder. "That was an incredible shot!"

"It was," Fuji smiled. "I can't hit that. But then..." Fuji stood up and stretched out. He picked up his racquet, and swung it around his finger. He started off for Court B. "I think I have... maybe three shots that's I'm pretty sure no one else can hit." He smiled at his classmates from over his shoulder.

He had his own second match to get to, though it was a pity. Tezuka was showing some interesting things off.

Tezuka folded his regular's jersey carefully. He needed to order a new one, unfortunately. Already, he'd grown so much that it wasn't as loose around the shoulders as he would like. He brushed the lint off the cloth, and laid it neatly in his locker.

"That was a good game," a voice he knew too well said, and he didn't start, though he had thought that he was alone. "I have to admit, I was impressed."

"That's something, coming from you." Tezuka pulled out his uniform shirt, feeling self-conscious with Fuji watching him. "Though, I can't really say the same about your match. I suppose Nakano-senpai isn't worth your best game."

"As far as I can tell so far," Fuji chuckled, "there's only one person on this team who's worth my best game."

"But you've never played me seriously. Unless you were talking about someone else." Tezuka started to button up his shirt.

"Who else?" Fuji suddenly was behind him, his arms around him.

Tezuka felt his stomach flip.

"There's no one else, Kunimitsu," Fuji breathed into his ear, and then he was nibbling on Tezuka's earlobe.

With his teeth!

Tezuka pulled away, but Fuji still had his arms around Tezuka. "You're rather... forward."

"I am," Fuji agreed. "And you still haven't answered my question. Did you miss me? Kunimitsu? During that long break, locked away in your house, so many rules to follow... Did you miss me?" Fuji swung one leg over the bench, and planted his foot between Tezuka's, and sat himself down on Tezuka's leg.

Tezuka tried to look away, but no matter where he looked, he was surrounded by Fuji. "You don't... understand..."

"I know I don't," Fuji sighed, and started to kiss Tezuka's jaw. "I can't. I thought about you a lot, but I didn't even call. I didn't think you would appreciate it. And then I thought, maybe he would. Tell me. Should I have called you?"

The answer was a clear no, but after parting his lips, no sound came out. Tezuka felt breathless.

Fuji's fingers wound around strands of Tezuka's hair. "Next time, I guess I'll call. Even hearing your voice would have been good. Did you miss the sound of my voice? Kunimitsu?"

"I... I... didn't give you permission to use my name," Tezuka cleared his throat, feeling as lame as he sounded.

Fuji just chuckled, and turned Tezuka's face so he could kiss him. "You can call me Syuusuke if you like. When we're alone, I'd prefer it, actually."

Tezuka's heart thudded in his chest, and a heat diffused over his skin. He was getting accustomed to this feeling as he spent more time with Fuji.

He stood up, displacing Fuji, and started to grab his things together. "I need to lock up here."

Fuji sighed, and leaned back on the bench. "Did our vaunted Captain leave you to do all the work again? I'm not even sure he'll make the regulars. Might as well start calling you Captain now, mm? So tell me, Captain. What will you do if I decide not to follow orders?" He laid back on the bench, and put his hands over his chest.

Tezuka pulled on his uniform jacket, shoving his shirttails into his pants. "Fuji. Let's go."

"I told you to call me Syuusuke," Fuji pouted.

Tezuka shut his eyes, and started to go through the seventh mediation in his head. He would not be defeated by the enemy. He was stronger than this. He was focused. He was clear in his purpose.

"Hey, don't do that," Fuji pushed him a little, clinging to his arm. He was scowling, but when Tezuka opened his eyes, Fuji smiled up at him. "I like your eyes. Don't close them on me."

"Let's get going," Tezuka sighed, pulling away. Fuji, however, remained stock-still. Tezuka bit the inside of his lip, and was displeased to find that he cut himself. He turned away from Fuji, so he couldn't see Tezuka swallowing his own blood. "Syuusuke. I need to get home."

Fuji was at his side, smiling brightly, and he was so beautiful... Tezuka was allowed to appreciate beauty, wasn't he? That didn't mean he was defeated by the enemy. "I'll walk with you to your train station."

He held Fuji's hand as they walked, staring straight ahead, but he had trouble following Fuji's conversation because he had to keep reciting the tenth meditation on control as they walked.

"Those two freshman are arguing again," Eiji snickered. "They're fighting over who cheered louder!"

"Mm," Fuji smiled. "You're not really supposed to cheer at tennis matches, are you?"

"Mr. Vice Captain!" Eiji poked Fuji in the ribs. "Aren't you supposed to assign laps?"

Tezuka looked over to the two little first years. They looked like they were about to come to blows. The Captain was rather pointedly looking the other way, and Ryuzaki-sensei was still talking to the other coach. He cleared his throat, and then boomed, "Momoshiro! Kaidou! You're representing Seigaku!"

They both jumped, and lined up, their backs perfectly straight. "Yessir!"

Eiji almost fell over laughing.

"Kikumaru," Tezuka warned, looking weary.

Fuji wandered over to where Inui was furiously taking notes. "Get good data today, Inui?"

"Some," Inui didn't look up from his notebook. "Some people are harder to read than others."

"The better the challenge, the more fun it is, mm?"

"Indeed," Inui smiled, his glasses even seeming to gleam wickedly. "Though, I think you have better data than I do."

"Me?" Fuji laughed. "I don't take data."

"Oh?" Inui raised an eyebrow. "Tezuka is leaving, you know."

"Eh?" Fuji looked up, and sure enough, their Vice Captain was getting ready to take off. He went over to intercept Tezuka without jogging after him. "Tezuka. We're going to Kawamura sushi after this."

Tezuka stopped, but he didn't look at Fuji. He looked somewhat pained. "You know that I don't like that sort of thing."

"But," Fuji stepped forward, forestalling Tezuka's exit. "We're going to celebrate our first victory. You're leading us to Nationals, right? You need to be there. For team unity. You are the Vice Captain, after all." Tezuka appeared to be weakening, so Fuji stepped a bit closer. "Your parents would understand, wouldn't they? And... wouldn't you like to spend a night away from home?"

Tezuka searched Fuji's expression with troubled eyes, as if he were looking for signs of manipulation. "I... I'm not sure it's a good idea."

"I am," Fuji sighed, forcefully. "Please?" He really abhorred that word, but he was willing to do what it took for Tezuka's sake.

He really did need to get out of that house.

Tezuka truly appeared to be waffling, so Fuji leaned in for the kill. "You can call on my cell, and find out. If you can't, you can't, but you never know. Maybe it's something you are allowed to do."

That appeared to be all it took. Biting his lip, Tezuka took Fuji's proffered phone, and dialed quickly. Fuji was all but holding his breath. Tezuka turned, and talked very quietly into the phone. Fuji could only make out every other word or so. He gathered that Tezuka was speaking to his mother. That seemed to be a good thing, because Tezuka was turning around again after only a few moments, smiling tightly.

"I... can go."

Fuji wanted to kiss Tezuka, but that wasn't allowed, not here, in front of everyone. He took his phone back, brushing his fingers over Tezuka's hand as he did. "That's good."

Tezuka maybe would have smiled at him if Eiji hadn't tackled him at that point. He thought so, anyway.

On their way to the sushi restaurant, Oishi was stuck at Tezuka's elbow, probably boring him about something, so Fuji hung back, and called Yuuta. He started out grumbling, so Fuji forced himself to grin wider.

"Yuuta, guess what? We won. You should have been here to cheer your big brother on."

"Get off it, jeez. Why would I have wanted to do that?" Yuuta sneered

"Mm, but I think you'll regret not joining the team," Fuji sighed. "We're really strong. You should have seen Tezuka play. Don't you miss playing, Yuuta?"

"I'm playing! Just as much as you!"

"Yes, but," Fuji bit his lip. "You aren't really competing, are you? It's way better when it's a competition. You'll get so far behind, you'll never catch up."

"Shut up!" And Yuuta hung up.

Fuji didn't let himself dwell, though. When they got to the restaurant, Tezuka stood aside, his face stony, but his eyes darting around, trying to take it all in. Fuji could easily guess that Tezuka had never been someplace like this before, so he took Tezuka's arm, and led him to the bar. They watched Taka's father preparing all the sushi, which clearly fascinated Tezuka. It made Fuji's heart ache to think that Tezuka had never even seen sushi before. Didn't he even eat at home? They finally convinced Taka's father that Tezuka was on a special diet, and while Fuji ate his wasabi sushi, Tezuka drank tea. Tezuka sniffed his sushi a bit, and watched Fuji eat it with wide eyes.

They actually talked a bit, although not about anything of consequence. A few times, they were interrupted or joined by one of their teammates, but all through the dinner, they were side by side, and when Tezuka got up and declared that his curfew was coming up, Fuji got up to walk home with him.

Tezuka's station was in the opposite direction to Fuji's house, but Tezuka didn't object to Fuji walking with him, nor did he object to Fuji occasionally brushing their hands together.

They were getting closer to the station. Looking straight ahead, Tezuka asked quietly, "You called your brother after the match?"

"You knew?" Fuji asked, surprised.

Tezuka shrugged. "I saw you on the phone, and surmised. He... won't join the team?"

"No," Fuji half-shrugged, but he couldn't bring himself to laugh. "He won't be compared to his older brother. Silly, isn't it?"

"You are... extraordinary," Tezuka softly replied. "I've never seen a smash returned directly like that before. That was an amazing shot. I don't think I can do that." Tezuka's brow furrowed, and he appeared frustrated by his lack of ability in this small area.

Fuji beamed, and took Tezuka's arm. "Do you think so? But then, you can do things I can't."

"If you ever played me seriously, we could judge each other's strength more accurately," Tezuka accused gently.

Fuji laughed. They were getting very close to Tezuka's station. Fuji pulled Tezuka aside the stairs up to the platform, and clutched Tezuka's uniform jacket. "One kiss?"

"Fuji," Tezuka looked away.

Fuji pouted. "Then at least say goodbye to me using my name, Kunimitsu. After all, we're alone."

Tezuka looked pained for a moment, and it was too dark to tell, but Fuji was sure that his irises were shot through with red lines. It made him lick his lips. "I'll see you tomorrow, S-Syuusuke."

Fuji leaned up quickly, and pecked Tezuka on the lips. "See, that wasn't so bad. See you tomorrow, 'Mitsu."

Tezuka was staring after him, but that was all right. That was how Fuji wanted it.

Yuuta was arguing with their parents again. Fuji wanted to turn his music up, but he didn't feel like that would be fair. Yuuta was unhappy at school, and he refused to join the tennis team. Their father was telling him that there was no reason for him to take private lessons when the school had a team, and even if Yuuta wasn't a regular, he could learn from his senpais.

Fuji almost laughed.

Saying that was essentially saying learn something from your perfect older brother. He understood how Yuuta felt, even if there was nothing he could do about it.

He hummed, and tapped his pencil on the edge of his notebook.

It was a pity that Tezuka didn't even have a cell phone. If he did, Fuji could leave him text messages. Though, he might get into trouble for even that.

Fuji was sick of Tezuka's rules.

It was the school break, Fuji decided. It was just long enough to go without any contact that it made Fuji hungry for Tezuka, like a starving man. The break, and puberty. Fuji was also sick of washing his sheets every other day, but he could stand even less sleeping in crunchy sheets.

Did Tezuka stay up and night and touch himself? Did he beat off in the shower, moaning Fuji's name? Did Tezuka even know anything about sex?

Fuji was willing to teach him.

Yumiko came into his room without knocking, still wrapped up in a towel from her shower. Her hair fell in flat, wet strands around her face. Fuji smiled. His sister looked so different without her makeup.

"Are they still at it?" She sighed, and situated herself on Fuji's bed, her back to the wall, and her legs straight out in front of her. "How long has this been going on?"

"Oh, you mean tonight? Father got home a few hours ago." Fuji sighed, and started to shove his books and notebooks away in his bag again. He'd do his homework in class. It was easier that way; there wasn't much else to do in class.

Yumiko huffed. "Why does Father insist on being so... obstinate? Those two are too alike! Really, it's frustrating. Can't they just... get along?" She crossed her arms over her chest, which loosened the towel around her breasts.

Fuji smiled. He got up, and slouched over to the bed, lying down so his head was in his sister's lap. "Neither of them can stand to back down, so neither of them can ever just stop. I suppose..." He cut himself off, because Yumiko never liked to hear him blame himself.

She put her fingers in his hair. "Poor Syuusuke. And you've been so looking forward to going to school with Yuuta again. Tell me. Is your sexy, mysterious boyfriend being sympathetic?"

He laughed a little, though it was odd that his older sister was attracted to someone his age. "That's a whole other matter." He rolled over on his side, and sighed.

"Oh?" She continued to comb his hair with her fingers. "Do tell."

He bit his lip. "Do you think... do you think he's abused? At home?"

"I really couldn't say, Syuusuke," she replied seriously, honestly. "Why do you think he is?"

"Well," he sighed. "His parents are so strict. And. He's always worried about getting into trouble. He can't ever go anywhere or do anything. I mean, I'm shocked that they're letting him go to matches. He never went to school before Seigaku, either. He's never been outside of his house before."

"There might be perfectly good reasons for that. I have no idea what his home situation is. He's getting older, and he'll have to be more independent. Who knows? Even if he was being abused, I'm afraid there's nothing you can really do, except for be a good friend to him," she counseled.

He rolled over onto his back. "Oh, I'm willing to be a very good friend to him."

She laughed, and caressed his throat. "Syuusuke, you know very well what I mean, although that's not bad, either. You just have to be patient, I'm afraid."

Fuji smiled, and reached up to touch his sister's cheek. It was good advice, but frustrating. He couldn't do anything to help Yuuta, he couldn't do anything for Tezuka...

At least his cacti still needed him, though he'd forgotten to water them for more than three weeks once, and they carried on without him.

These after practice encounters were becoming so commonplace, Tezuka didn't even look in his direction anymore. That certainly wasn't any fun.

Fuji sat on the bench and watched Tezuka. Watched him do paperwork that was really the Captain's job to do. Watched him tidy up lockers and equipment stored in the clubhouse. Watched him count all the school's racquets to make sure they were all accounted for and in place.

He stood up and stretched out, no longer content to watch.

After their first match, Tezuka's fame and popularity began to soar. The strength of Seigaku was becoming a real thing again, and it was all resting on the shoulders of their might-as-well-be-Captain. Fuji could stand to listen to the girls in his class giggle over Tezuka, but it made him want to stake a claim.

He wanted to leave a mark.

"Mm, does what's his name even do any of his assigned chores as Captain? I guess you really are the Captain now, hm?" Fuji smiled and put his hands behind his back, seemingly innocent.

Tezuka wasn't looking at him anyway. "It's fine with me."

Of course it was, because it was that much more time when he didn't have to be at home. To Tezuka, that must be precious time. "I mind, though. I don't like calling him Captain when I can't respect him. You're my Captain."

Tezuka glanced at Fuji, but he looked away again. "He's still our senpai," Tezuka reminded quietly, but his heart wasn't in it, not really.

Fuji was tired of Tezuka not looking at him. He was pretty sure he knew how to get Tezuka's attention. He licked his lips, and sauntered closer. "Mm, Tezuka? Don't suppose you can find a way to come over to my house sometime?"

Tezuka's back stiffened, and he looked at Fuji, his eyes guilty and needy.

It was all clearly Tezuka's fault for being so sexy.

"I don't think so," he said apologetically. "It's..."

"Against the rules?" Fuji grinned, and stepped up closer to Tezuka, his hands clasped tightly behind his back to force himself to wait for the right moment. "But you like to be naughty sometimes, right? I like to be naughty sometimes."

Tezuka's reaction time was damned fast, but Fuji made sure to look him right in the eye, confusing Tezuka for the split second he needed to plunge his hand inside Tezuka's track pants. Tezuka gasped, beautifully, but he wasn't able to react in time at all. Fuji had his hand on Tezuka's cock.

He slid his hand down the soft flesh, wrapping his fingers around it. "I've been thinking about this, you know. Wanted to know what it feels like, what it looks like."

"F-Fuji!" Tezuka's hands were on Fuji's arms, but Fuji started to squeeze and stroke, and that left Tezuka weak, his knees nearly buckling.

Fuji stepped in closer, pressing up to Tezuka's side. He pushed Tezuka's pants down enough to release Tezuka's erection. Tezuka was at least twice as beautiful as Fuji had imagined, and he couldn't have imagined the sounds that Tezuka was making, or the feel of Tezuka in his hand. It was odd, actually, because even like this, Tezuka's skin was cool, but Tezuka's cock was throbbing and getting hotter.

Fuji pressed his lips to Tezuka's neck, licking, biting a little, and he started to move his hand over Tezuka's cock. "This is good, isn't it, Captain?" He smiled, and looked Tezuka in the eye.

For a second, he was absolutely breathless.

Tezuka's eyes were now entirely red, and not just that, but they were the most amazing shade, so vibrant, they were nearly three-dimensional, and the pupils were just slits, like a cat's eyes. "'Mitsu, your eyes..."

But he never had a chance to finish that sentence. Tezuka snarled, showing off sparkling white fangs that were long enough to cover his bottom lip. Fuji didn't get a good look, though, before Tezuka pushed him off, hard, and Fuji's angel wings slammed into the wall behind him. The air was knocked out of him, and it was in a daze that he looked up, looked toward Tezuka, but...

As fast as Fuji had been thrown across the aisle, Tezuka was on him, fingers in his hair so razor-sharp nails were cutting his skin, and then Tezuka's mouth was on Fuji's neck, and Tezuka's fangs were in Fuji's neck...

"Oh!" Fuji exhaled quietly, trying to cling to Tezuka, but his hands were weak. He was weak. His knees were shaking. There was pain, certainly, but it wasn't just pain. It was incredible.

And then it was gone. Tezuka was standing a foot away from him, two feet... Fuji reached out for him, but he was sliding down the wall. There was blood on Tezuka's mouth, on his teeth. Fuji's blood. He touched his neck, wincing when his fingers poked one of his wounds. "'Mitsu, you're a..."

Tezuka took another step back, and then bolted.

Ran away.

Fuji slumped all the way down and he would have laughed, but his neck was starting to hurt. He took a few minutes to just... sit and ponder, and then he forced himself to get up, and go to the bathrooms, to look at himself in the mirror.

Amazingly, not too much blood fell on his clothes. He could button his uniform jacket all the way up, and rinse the shirt collar out at home. The two small wounds were already scabbing over, but Fuji fished out the first aid kit, and stuck a band-aid on them, just so he didn't have to explain anything. He grabbed his things, and left.

Tezuka still had to lock up, but Fuji thought that maybe he was waiting for Fuji to leave.

He pulled out his cell phone, and called his sister.

"Hey, sis, it's me. No, I'm fine, but can you pick me up from school? I think I overdid it at practice. ...No, that's not what I mean. Believe me. You have no idea."

Tezuka sat in front of the scroll, and stared at the enemy with new eyes. He understood the nature of the curse better now.

He understood his father's fear better now.

But he had control. He could have control. That was critical. He would control this. What happened this afternoon... It was an anomaly. It would have to be.

What he did... he wouldn't think about that. Fuji's sister picked him up. It was possible... Fuji might report him... Tezuka didn't think he would. It was, perhaps, projection, but Tezuka felt closer to Fuji now, felt like... he had been inside of Fuji. It was intoxicating. The blood... he hadn't known; truly, he couldn't have. He needed to drink supplements, pig's blood, cow's blood, mixed with plasma, and other things. It kept him alive and in check. He'd never felt his teeth sink into soft, supple flesh. He'd never felt raw, hot blood pouring down his throat. He'd never felt so alive before. He'd always felt frozen, like he was living in a perpetual state of death. But when he'd held Fuji in his arms, he felt his heart pumping, he felt his skin getting hot, he felt hungry...

He felt human.

Fuji had been fine. He cleaned up. His father hadn't suspected anything. So, this one time, it had been...

Tezuka put his hands on the floor, and put his forehead on the back of his hands.

Had he really almost thought 'it had been all right'? The truth was even more devious than that. He wanted to taste Fuji's blood again. He wanted to hold Fuji in his arms, and...

He started over again. The first meditation. He would gain control. He would never hurt Fuji again. He couldn't.

He would conquer lust. It would not be his enemy. He would dominate it. If one had an itch, it was still one's own choice to scratch it. He would remain as solid as stone. As pure as snow. As steadfast as a mountain.

"Again, you stay up past curfew, to meditate on your own." His father stepped inside the salle. "Sit on your own cushion." His father flicked his wrists, sending his robes flourishing, and he kneeled down opposite to where Tezuka was scrambling to kneel.

Tezuka held his hands tightly together to keep them from shaking. He could not go to live in isolation. He would rather die. Especially not now; this year, Seigaku would be strong, but next year, they had a good chance to take Nationals! Not that he would barter Fuji's life for tennis, but it would never come to that. He would control himself.

"What is her name?"

Tezuka blinked, stunned into stillness by the incongruity of the question.

His father sighed, and looked away in annoyance. "Your habit of coming here to meditate late at night has not gone unnoticed, son. This was destined to happen the day your mother forced me to agree to let you go to school. You can contemplate the enemy as much as you like, but if you wish to defeat the enemy, you must be forthright with me. You must share with me every aspect of your struggle, so that, together, we may fight off what nature intends for us."

Together, but if Tezuka stepped out of line, he would be shipped off. Tezuka knew what his father's idea of together was. "There is no girl."

There was silence for a moment, and then his father folded his arms over his chest. "How do you expect to continue on like this? Nature will have her way, son. Between a man and a woman in that situation, certain things are bound to happen. Ignorance will only lead to failure. Failure will mean death. Are you prepared to do that to your young lady?"

Tezuka clenched his jaw tightly. It was an aberration. He would never again taste Fuji's sweet blood. Even if he had to distance himself from Fuji. Even if he had to never speak to Fuji again. He would not fail. "There is no female involved." He turned his face away from his father.

Even his father would have to understand at this point. But it didn't matter, because Tezuka was resolved.

"I won't hurt anyone. I wouldn't let that happen. My control... is tested. But I won't waver." His voice sounded confident, if nothing else.

Tezuka's father said nothing for a few moments, and then he reached out to take Tezuka's face in one hand, lifting his chin so he could look Tezuka in the eye. "Male or female, it doesn't matter. You won't be able to save him on your own. Let me help you."

There was no flinching away, and no chance of refusal. He did need help, but nothing that his father could manage.

He was fairly convinced that Fuji would not be easily put off, even after what he had done.

Despite the fact that his mother and sister tried desperately to keep him home from school, Fuji was still nearly twenty minutes early. He waited by the front door until ten minutes to class, and then he waited by the door to Tezuka's class. Tezuka showed up just as the bell was ringing, and he walked past Fuji without looking at him as the teacher was closing the door. Fuji didn't rush to his own class; he stood outside Tezuka's door, trying to get Tezuka to look at him, but he was at risk of catching the teacher's eye as well, so he made his way back to class, where he got a warning for his tardiness.

At lunch, Fuji searched the building from top to bottom, but he found no sign of Tezuka, and no one who had seen him. He searched the roof, and then he even went off to the tennis clubhouse, but he couldn't find Tezuka at all. He was running back into the building when the bell rang, so he didn't have time to check Tezuka's classroom again. He hadn't had a single bite of lunch, so he ate during class, and he got caught when Eiji tried to take some of his pocky. Since he already had one warning, he got detention for eating in class.

By the time that detention was over, tennis practice was already in full swing. Fuji got laps for being late, because regulars shouldn't get detention. He would have liked to have given his senpai, the non-Captain, his thoughts on the matter of regulars, but Tezuka was standing ten meters away, with his back to Fuji, so he didn't want to belabor the point.

It was the first day since Yamato had announced the new Captain and Vice Captain that their Captain actually locked up; Tezuka had suddenly remembered something that he had to do.

Fuji knew that he should just go home. Maybe call Tezuka. Maybe just wait until tomorrow. There was no way that Tezuka could avoid him forever.

Instead, Fuji got on the train that went near Tezuka's house.

He almost lost his nerve when he got to the gate with the Tezuka nameplate. Tezuka's house really did seem like the house of a yakuza from television. Either that, or a temple. Fuji felt like an intruder. He touched the band-aid at his neck, and swallowed his nervousness.

He knew Tezuka's secret now. He was entitled to speak to him.

There was a small panel inside the frame of the gate, a speaker and buzzer that looked aged by disuse. Fuji pushed the small white button, and waited for a response. It seemed to take forever before the first crackling sound of the speaker. It was too much to hope for that he would recognize the voice at the end of the speaker; he couldn't even distinguish whose voice it was, not even male or female, because there was so much interference.

"Can I help you?"

"My apologies for the interruption. If I could, I'd like to see Tezuka-kun. I'm a classmate of his."

There was a long pause, and Fuji wondered if the speaker still worked, or if there was some working of buttons that wasn't obvious. Finally, the speaker crackled again. "A classmate?"

There was implied the question of how Fuji had come to be on their doorstep, and what possible purpose he might have. "Ah, yes, I'm sorry if I've come at a bad time. Should I go?"

This time, there wasn't a long wait, and Fuji's heart dropped a little, but the voice that came on was different from before. "No, that's all right. Please come inside."

The gate buzzed, and Fuji pushed the wooden door, and stepped inside.

The sight from the road of the Tezuka's gate and roof had been off-putting enough; the sight of the Tezuka's estate was positively humbling. The house was traditional, of course, and there was a Zen rock garden in the front lawn, with meandering patterns of river rocks chasing the front walk up to the door. The house itself sprawled opulently, and gave every appearance of sedate, comfortable wealth that had been passed down calmly generation to generation, possibly from the time of the shoguns.

Fuji wondered if Tezuka thought that his house was small.

As he approached the front door, it opened, revealing a kindly looking older man with a neat, triangular grey beard. He was smiling brightly, his hands tucked into the sleeves of his simple haori jacket.

Fuji bowed formally. This couldn't be Tezuka's father. He was too old, and too pleasant. Though, Fuji was surprised to see an elder. He had assumed, after last night, that Tezuka's family was ageless. "Please forgive me for my intrusion."

The older man chuckled amicably. "Don't stand out there, young man. It's in here that you can be greeted as a guest."

Fuji smiled, feeling at ease in this man's presence. It was deeply gratifying to see; at least not all of Tezuka's family was oppressive. He stepped up to the front door, but his smile faded.

Of course the door to the Tezuka household were sliding door. And of course, inside the front door, there was another man, hands held behind his back, watching Fuji from the shadows, his mouth in a tight, disapproving line.

Fuji bowed again, and for some reason, he felt compelled to bow lower to what must be Tezuka's father than he had for Tezuka's grandfather. "Forgive me, Tezuka-san. Please excuse this intrusion."

"You're Kunimitsu's classmate?" Tezuka's father asked sharply.

Fuji smiled defensively. "I am. And his teammate."

"What business do you have with my son that you could not attend to during class hours?" Tezuka's father continued, nonplussed by Fuji's manners.

But Tezuka himself was rushing down the stairs, a book tucked under his arm. His mother, in a beautifully hand-dyed kimono, was following him at a much slower pace. "I'm sorry, father. I borrowed a book from Fuji-kun, and forgot to return it." He walked past his father in a somewhat rude manner, and shoved the book toward Fuji, who had no choice but to take it. He quickly slipped on some sandals. "I'll show Fuji-kun to the gate. Excuse me."

Tezuka strode quickly past Fuji toward the gate, so Fuji had no choice but to bow once more, to Tezuka's parents and grandfather, and then rush to catch up. Tezuka was holding the gate open for Fuji, standing out in the lane, glaring off at a pothole on the other side of the road.

Fuji strolled past him. "That was quite rude. Don't blame me if you get into trouble. Why in the world did you give me your math book?"

Tezuka pushed Fuji along, away from the gate, so the front walk of the Tezuka estate was no longer visible. "Just what do you think you are doing, coming here like this? Who said that you could come to my house?"

Pouting, Fuji reached out to smooth down Tezuka's collar. He ignored Tezuka's glare. "Do you always wear hakama pants at home? I don't normally like traditional clothing, but I must admit, you look quite dashing."

Gritting his teeth, Tezuka pushed Fuji further along up the road. "You have no idea what sort of trouble you could cause for me if my father saw the wound on your neck. Please. Just go."

Fuji put his hand on Tezuka's arm, and squeezed. "Promise me you'll talk to me tomorrow in school. You owe me that, Kunimitsu. You drank my blood, after all."

Tezuka paled, and looked away. "Fine. I'm sorry. We'll talk."

"Tomorrow, we'll have lunch together," Fuji beamed, and leaned in to kiss Tezuka quickly. "I'm looking forward to it."

The look on Tezuka's face suggested that he was not, but Fuji was not deterred.

He was going to daydream about stripping Tezuka out of those stuffy clothes all night.

Tezuka's stride got slower and slower as he approached the house. His parents and grandfather were still in the entranceway. Quickly, he slipped off his sandals and ducked his head, trying to get upstairs as quickly as possible. It was not to be, however. His father grabbed his arm in a painful grip before he could get very far at all.

"Fuji-kun, was it? Tell me, son. Is this the reason for your late night meditations?"

He was too embarrassed to lift his head to see his mother's or his grandfather's look. He cleared his throat, and spoke clearly and quietly. "He's just a friend. That's all."

"He knows where our house is," Tezuka's father continued on, as if his son had not spoken. "I was not aware that any of your 'friends' knew the way to our house."

A lie at this point could be dangerous, but so could the truth. "I had no way of knowing that he was going to come today. My apologies."

He could feel his father's displeasure rolling off of him in waves. "Son, you have far too many secrets. I'm not at all sure that you comprehend the gravity of our situation here. Or the danger you pose to that boy by trying to deny it."

"Ah," Tezuka's grandfather sighed, looking out the door, up at the sky. "It's going to be a clear and beautiful night." He turned back to face the people inside, but he wasn't looking at anyone in particular. "I'm reminded of when Ayana first came to this house, on the pretense of a 'study date.'" That was a beautiful night as well. If I recall, the two of you studied in the garden, behind the Ginko."

Tezuka looked up at his grandfather, puzzled by his comment. His mother laughed. "Father, your memory is too good sometimes."

Tezuka's father let go of his arm, and folded his hands away in his sleeves. "I won't let you forget your responsibilities." He stepped past his wife to go to his study.

Tezuka swallowed hard, and bowed to his mother and grandfather, and then ran up the stairs.

If his father had seen the bandage on Fuji's neck... He'd be packing his bags. He had promised his father that he would leave if he slipped.

He would not make the mistake again.

Fuji waited for Tezuka at his classroom door once again, but Tezuka brushed past him, just muttering the word 'lunch' as he did. At least he wasn't being ignored.

Fuji hated that.

Morning classes stretched on interminably. He couldn't stop tapping his foot, or humming under his breath. There was no way he could pay attention to the teachers; if he looked at the chalkboards for even a second, he felt like he was going out of his skin.

He stared out the window, and he doodled in his notebooks. He passed notes back and forth with Eiji, just stupid little dirty haikus. He only got called on once, and it was during English, so he was able to muddle through it.

When the bell for lunch rang, he bolted out the door.

Fuji was out of his room so fast, he was able to meet Tezuka before he had exited his room. Tezuka looked paler than normal, though he had had the foresight to carry along his thermos. Fuji didn't care if he ended up skipping lunch again. He wouldn't eat in class again, just because he hated running laps. But one day of being hungry was nothing.

He led Tezuka up to the roof, grinning widely the whole way.

It was eerily quiet up there, above everything. It seemed like it was their place, just as was right and proper. Tezuka went directly to the fence along the edge of the building, leaning against a bar. Fuji couldn't stand still, couldn't keep his hands at his side. He had to keep flexing his fingers.

He couldn't stop smiling.

"So?" Fuji prompted.

"Yes?" Tezuka huffed, not looking at Fuji. "You're the one who wanted to see me."

"Of course I wanted to see you!" He was nearly laughing. He wanted Tezuka to look at him, but he would be patient for the moment. "You're a... you're a vampire, Tezuka!"

"I am not," Tezuka furrowed his brow, and shifted from foot to foot nervously, holding onto his elbows. "There's no such thing as vampires. I have a... blood condition."

"A blood condition," Fuji repeated, floored by Tezuka's sullenly provided euphemism. "Is that like saying a transvestite has an underwear issue?"

Tezuka scowled at him. "It's a genetic condition, peculiar to the males in my family."

"That doesn't make sense," Fuji shook his head, and approached Tezuka. "If it was genetic, it would be more common in the population."

Sighing, Tezuka looked down at the tennis courts, his expression weary. "I don't know the exact genealogy of the condition. For generations, Tezuka males have been afflicted by this condition. My family used to live on Nyuto-san, in a remote area of the Akita Prefecture. We were... isolated. My great-grandfather was the first to come to Tokyo. Our existence is... necessarily a secretive one. We are not... legendary creatures of darkness, or anything like that."

"I know," Fuji pressed forward. He almost felt a tiny bit guilty. Tezuka looked so pained. But Fuji was also thrilled, because he knew something secret about Tezuka. "You can obviously be out in the daylight. And I don't think you have any garlic aversion, or fear of crosses. But what else? Your irises turned red. And you moved so fast..."

Tezuka turned and leaned against the fence, staring up into the sky. "Blood vessels in my irises expand when I'm.... excited, and I have increased blood flow throughout my body, rather than being isolated to one, ah, region. My incisors also extract. There's a vessel inside the tooth to transport the blood up. Additionally, there is a certain factor released in my saliva that promotes the healing of wounds." He spoke in a clipped, clinical fashion, like he was reciting something he had memorized a long time ago.

Fuji stepped forward, now much less than an arm's length away from Tezuka, but he kept his hands behind his back for now. "So, you've done this before?"

"Of course not!" Tezuka scowled. "What are you talking about?" He frowned, and looked Fuji in the eye.

Fuji liked that.

"It's... it's all triggered by... by... arousal. It's... how my body reacts to arousal. When I am stimulated, I am... overwhelmed by an all-consuming hunger for blood." He ran his hand through his hair, and sighed, shakily.

"So," Fuji grinned, and touched Tezuka's arm. "That means that you are aroused by me."

"Are you a fool?" Tezuka pushed away from the fence. "Aren't you paying attention? This condition makes it impossible for me to have any normal sexual interaction. Even in normal situations, I have to maintain complete control of my body, or else I'm a threat to everyone around me. I'm sorry that I dragged you into this, but this is over, Syuusuke."

Fuji leaned back against the fence, and casually picked up Tezuka's thermos. "Eh? Mm, I do like it when you call me by my name. What's this? Can you eat food at all?" He flipped open the spout, and sniffed.

Tezuka grabbed it away from him, and flushed. "It's a mixture of pig's or cow's blood, certain types of plasma, and some vegetable extracts. It is all the nutrition I need."

"Ah, so it's not really that you don't like to eat in front of people, it's that you can't eat." So many pieces of the puzzle that was Tezuka were falling into place, and Fuji was positively delighted. He had always taken it for granted that when he finally figured Tezuka out, he would grow bored with him, but everything he was learning was only thrilling him more. "That's sort of hard to figure. If it's a males only 'condition,' then that would imply that it was on the Y-chromosome. But that doesn't quite figure, because such systematic and sweeping alterations can't really be explained in that manner. Mm. So, do you age normally? Or are you immortal? And if this is a genetic condition, does that really mean that it can only be passed down from generation to generation? Only through reproduction? Are there any other side effects?"

Tezuka turned a little, watching Fuji from the corner of his eye like he couldn't quite trust the other young man. "Of course I age normally. We are born and we die, just like anyone else. I don't know the genetics of it, but it's irrelevant; it is only passed down through reproduction, yes, just like any other genetic disorder. And there are no... I mean... my eyesight is a bit... different... I believe the ratio of rods to cones is a bit different, but not anything extraordinary in comparison to at least some members of the normal population. You yourself have very good motion vision. My hand to eye coordination is quite good, but so is yours."

Fuji laughed, and leaned forward, throwing his arms around Tezuka's waist. "I wasn't implying that you were cheating at tennis! As you say, everyone has their own individual strengths. But that stuff you drink sounds awful. Wasn't it better to drink me? You can, you know. Anytime you want." He inclined his head to the side a bit, revealing his neck. He could see the lines in Tezuka's eyes expanding, as well, but Tezuka just shoved him off.

"Idiot! Haven't you been paying attention? If I get into that state, I could easily kill you. I'm not going to be drinking your blood again." He stalked away, looking annoyed. He went back to the fence, and gripped a bar tightly.

Fuji frowned. "That's not a nice thing to say. 'Mitsu, you already said that this is how your sexual desire manifests. What kind of relationship will we have if you won't ever bite me?"

"None," Tezuka replied darkly. "We can't. Don't you get it yet? It's dangerous."

"So what?" Fuji waved his hand around dismissively. "You really want to drink just this all your life?" He thought for a moment, thought about when he was at Tezuka's house yesterday. "Does your father realize I 'deflowered' you?"

Tezuka's eyes widened, and he spun around. "No! And he can't! You don't understand! You don't understand anything, even after I've explained it to you! If my father knew...!"

"What?" Fuji pressed forward. "What would be so bad? Your mother gave birth to you, right? Your father procreated. He must have drunk your mother's blood. What's so wrong with it? If it's my blood, it's mine to share, right?"

Shaking his head, Tezuka brushed past Fuji. "I can't. I won't. It's over. I'm sorry. I should have known..." He bit his lip. "I can't be a friend to you, Fuji. Never again."

"What are you saying?" Fuji laughed, but the way Tezuka reverted to his family name bothered him. "You can't turn back the clock. What's happened has happened. There's no going back. Whatever we have to deal with..."

"No!" Tezuka snarled. "No, I won't! I won't let you break my control. I won't let you end my resolve. I will not be a monster. It's over. You are a temptation to me, nothing else. I won't give in."

"If that's true, if it's just sex appeal, and nothing else, then why do you look like you are grieving?" Fuji grabbed Tezuka's hand, desperate. "I know you have feelings for me. Why do you think I'm saying this? Do you think I'm just a pervert? I love you." He laughed. He never just gave this much away. It had to be love. And he wouldn't lose Tezuka. "I know you love me, too. Isn't that a good thing? We'll figure this out, we'll..."

"Nothing," Tezuka viciously pulled away from Fuji. "We'll nothing. From this moment on, you're nothing to me. And if you really do love me, you'll leave me alone, because your blood is poison in my veins, and I won't let you kill me with it."

He grabbed his thermos and stalked off, leaving Fuji staring blankly in his wake.

The bell rang, but he was still just standing there. He couldn't go back in, after all, until his eyes stopped watering. Stupid wind. Stupid Tezuka.

He was not nothing, not to Tezuka. Somehow, he would get through to Tezuka.

He had to.

It had never occurred to Fuji that anything was really over. They were teammates, after all. They spent their afternoons together at practice. Nothing was over. They went to the same school. There would be opportunities to talk, to gently make his way back into Tezuka's good graces.

Day in and day out, though, Tezuka found ways to evade him. Tezuka took to showing up at school just as the bell was ringing, and, sick of collecting late notices, Fuji abandoned waiting for him outside his class. During lunch, Fuji eventually figured out that Tezuka was hiding out in the tennis office. He didn't really understand how Tezuka could eat nothing but his liquid lunch and not get questioned by Ryuzaki-sensei, but perhaps the tennis coach just accepted that Tezuka knew what was best for his body.

Fuji knew what was best for Tezuka's body.

Practice should have given him any number of chances to speak to Tezuka, or be alone with him, but even if he stayed after practice until he was the last one in the clubhouse, it was no good. Tezuka adopted the habit of studying with Oishi, or going over calculus problems with Inui. All too often, as well, those two first years got themselves into trouble, and Tezuka personally oversaw their punishments. There was no hope of practicing with Tezuka, or being paired off with him. As Vice Captain, Tezuka had complete control of his own training.

Even at matches, there was no hope. Tezuka stayed with Oishi, Inui, or Ryuzaki-sensei. If Fuji wormed his way to being shoulder to shoulder, roughly, with Tezuka, Tezuka would just continue to ignore him.

People even asked him about it. Eiji was worried that Tezuka had done something cruel to Fuji, and he brought pocky for Fuji every day for lunch because he was so worried. Inui made some veiled comments, clearly pushing for information.

Every day, he watched Tezuka, watched him every chance he got. He watched him at practice, training, and he watched him at matches. If he was becoming nothing to Tezuka, Tezuka was more and more becoming the center of the universe for Fuji, and he hated every second of it. Fuji was hardly a showboating personality, but he liked to be admired and respected, and he liked to be the center of attention. Most of all, he liked to be watched, especially by the person he watched the most.

Nothing in the world that he could do could gain Tezuka's attention, however, not even when he tripped the annoying braggart first year, or when he came out to the practice courts chewing gum, or when he left his regular's jersey at home on the day of the Kantou tournament.

It was infuriating.

Summer came, finally, but it was no respite for Fuji. They still had tennis every day, because Nationals were coming up. They'd just barely qualified, and there was going to be another ranking tournament in which he and Tezuka would undoubtedly be in different blocks.

Extra tennis practice just meant extra time for Tezuka to be close to him, but not looking at him. Each day wore on him more and more.

As if that wasn't enough, Yuuta was transferring schools. He was going to a boarding school. His parents were thrilled; it was a Catholic school. Yuuta would get a place on their tennis team, as well. Their manager was a prodigy, they said. Everyone was expected to be happy. When the summer was over, Yuuta would move out of the house, possibly for good.

Fuji came home from practice, and smiled for his mother as he walked in the house, but when he got upstairs to his room, he threw his tennis bag across the room as hard as he could. It would have been nice if something shattered loudly, but it was probably better that nothing did. He exhaled loudly, and sighed.

"That was impressive," Yumiko sighed. "Too bad nothing shattered."

He smiled over his shoulder at his sister. "No clean up this way, though."

She shook her head and entered the room, closing the door behind her. "Don't smile like that for me. I don't care if you had to snarl, but don't pretend to be happy for me."

He really didn't have to say anything to that, but he didn't need to, because she was already holding onto him.

"Oh, Syuusuke... I hate that he's leaving home, too. But I think this is something he needs to do."

"I know," he chuckled, pressing his cheek to her shoulder, because he couldn't show her his fake smile, but he couldn't break down, either. "To get away from me."

"No, not you, Syuusuke. From your shadow. You understand the difference, don't you? He loves you. But it's cold back there behind you." She smoothed his hair away from his face, and kissed his forehead.

"Does he know the difference?" Fuji mused with a sigh.

"Now, now," she pushed on his shoulders so she could look him in the eye. "This bleak teen angst isn't all about your cute little brother deserting you. It's that sexy boyfriend of yours. What's going on?"

If he couldn't pretend, he couldn't look at her. He pulled away, and went over to fall face down onto the bed. "I don't have a boyfriend, sis."

"Oh? What did he say, exactly?" She came to sit down next to him, and she rubbed his back.

Fuji shrugged. "Does it matter?" He still refused to accept that he was nothing to Tezuka. "He won't see me, no matter what he said."

"Oh, Syuusuke..." She laid down, putting her head on his back. "I'm sorry. Have you thought about going to his house again?"

"No point," Fuji dully replied. "Besides... I... don't know if his father might not beat him. He... wouldn't necessarily bruise. And." Maybe his father even bite him. Though, that was supposed to be sexual behavior, so Fuji really hoped not. "I can't be responsible for him getting into trouble."

Yumiko sighed. Left with nothing to say, she just grumbled. "Why don't I get my cards? Maybe if you got a glimpse of the future...?"

"What, I could be even more depressed?" Fuji laughed. "Forget it. I'm not giving up." He put his hand up to his mouth. He wanted to feel Tezuka's teeth in his flesh again. He wanted to taste Tezuka's skin. He wanted to be held in Tezuka's arms, and look into his eyes, no matter what color they were. The longer he went without being able to see Tezuka's eyes, the more he craved them. His appetite was only getting worse with time, not better. Tezuka was something he would always need, like a part of his body that was missing. "I'll win him back."

"That's the spirit," Yumiko smiled, but her voice didn't sound very enthusiastic. "Though... you know, you are very young, and..."

"I will win him back," Fuji asserted with more vehemence.

Yumiko just nodded.

The next week of practice was a thousand times more grueling, and at the end of the week, the first years were buzzing about Yuuta's transfer. Eiji and even Oishi asked him about it. He just smiled, but it was wearing. Plus, they were doing endurance trials, and lots of running. Fuji felt like he was being mentally and physically beat up.

Emotionally, too, every time Tezuka averted his eyes from Fuji.

The last day before the ranking blocks were announced was the worst. The blowhard 'Captain' kept arrogantly reminding everyone that everything could change, so show us what you've got! Fuji hoped he was in the same block, so he could eliminate the Captain. That would definitely make Tezuka the true Captain of the team.

He went to the water fountain, and dunked his head under the spout, drinking the water greedily. He needed a good night's sleep. That was the source of all of his problems but one. He could cope with all this so much better if he wasn't spending his nights staring at the walls and ceiling, thinking a thousand things that were totally useless, but prevented him from sleeping.

It felt good to rinse himself off, and cool down. This had to be the hottest day of the summer, and spending it running around wasn't exactly his idea of a good time. The only person who wasn't sweating buckets out there was Tezuka. Eiji grumbled about it, but Fuji assumed it was another side effect of his 'blood condition,' so he said nothing.

He washed his face in the cold water. He wasn't making any progress with Tezuka. Things were only getting worse. While he was tossing and turning at night, Tezuka was getting over him. Tezuka probably didn't even remember the taste of his blood.

"I heard about your brother."

Fuji's head shot up so fast, he grazed his forehead on the spigot. He put his hand over the place that was aching. It didn't seem like he was bleeding. That was too bad. Tezuka might have liked that. "Tezuka. Ah, yeah, Yuuta is transferring..."

"I'm sorry. I know how much he means to you. You probably wanted to be able to share some school experiences with him." Tezuka was resolutely not looking at Fuji, but the way his jaw was moving back and forth, and the way he was holding onto his elbows, Fuji got the sense that Tezuka wanted to look at him, but was forcing himself not to do so.

"Tezuka. That's kind of you. I..." He reached for Tezuka's arm, but Tezuka was already moving away, calling out to a first year.

Acting as if he had said nothing at all.

Fuji smiled to himself.

Tezuka wasn't forgetting a thing.

He expected it to be his father. When the salle door slid open this late, it was almost always his father, and he would get grilling again on his contact with that boy, and lectured on the dangers he posed to everyone and everything.

It was his mother, though.

"It's late, son. School is starting again in the morning, isn't it?"

He inclined his head. "Yes, mother."

"Did you finish all your homework?" She walked behind him, to the door to the garden, and she opened seating herself in an unladylike fashion, putting one foot on the walkway outside, and one foot on the door.

"Of course," he furrowed his brow. His mother sometimes had moods like this. It was the heat, he thought, except she sometimes did this in the winter as well. Still, it was generally worse in the summer. His father, his grandfather, and he had no use for air conditioning. They were most comfortable in the heat, so they only owned one fan, even. His mother's body was different, though.

She laughed softly. "Oh, my darling son. I used to hate summer homework, you know. Hate it! So unfair, to ruin summer break with lousy homework!" She laughed, and tried to fan herself with her hand.

He walked over to her on his knees. "Mother, are you all right?" He put his hand on her shoulder. Her kimono was loosely tied, and the neckline gaped open, revealing her throat, and a triangular expanse of skin that led down to pale cleavage, which was demurely but seductively out of view, thank the gods. Still.

There were two small marks on her shoulder, slightly too long to be called puncture wounds.

Eyes widening, Tezuka reared back. His father... and mother, they...

Oblivious to his realization, she leaned over, and patted his cheek. "My beautiful boy. Are you looking forward to going to school again? I bet you are. You can see your boyfriend again, right?" She smiled at him, a bit too widely.

She was... light-headed from loss of blood? ...His father left her like this? He fed off of her, and then let her stumble around the house? "Mother, let me get you something to drink. Some... juice... maybe..."

"Oh, that's all right, Kunimitsu," she shrugged. "I'm fine. But I hardly get to see you anymore. You're always so busy," she yawned. "Classes and tennis. It's been so long. I'd forgotten how taxing high school can be. Are you happy, my son?" She leaned closer, narrowing her eyes so she could stay focused on his. "Kunimitsu. You'd tell me if you were unhappy, right? Your father is so strict because he just wants what's best for you. But that's something you have to decide for yourself. Do you understand? I liked the look of him. That Fuji. He was cute." She grinned, and leaned back against the doorframe. "He reminded me of..."

"Mother," Tezuka gently admonished, putting his hand on her lower back. She was slipping. "Maybe you should get some rest."

"Hard to sleep in this heat. You don't know, because you're... Well, you're different. But it's hard to sleep in the heat, Kunimitsu. Tell me about him." She rolled her head back, and looked at her son, smiling dreamily.

What in the world was she thinking? "Tell you about who?"

"Fuji!" She laughed. "That's his name, right? He's on your team. I follow it in the paper, since I'm not allowed to go to your matches. He's quite good, right? You two must have a lot in common."

"Not really," he sighed. "He's nothing like me."

"Even better!" she laughed. "After all, your father and I are nothing alike."

He winced, and looked away. "Mother, do you...?"

"Mm? What is it, son?"

He swallowed hard. He had no right to ask. His parents' marriage... he couldn't even begin to understand it. But his mother allowed his father to hurt her, and he did, and then he lectured his son about the dangers of their existence. He understood, but... "Nothing. I'm going to bed. You should, too."

"I will, son," she smiled. "Just in a little while. You go on. I'll be fine."

Impulsively, he leaned in and kissed her cheek. He stood up to go, but at the door, he looked back. Why would she let anyone hurt her? "Mother... he's not my boyfriend. He's not even a friend. He won't be coming here any more."

"Oh?" She furrowed her brow. "But I was sure... I'm so sorry, Kunimitsu."

"There's nothing to be sorry about. And no need to worry." He left his mother in peace, and went upstairs to sleep.

He would never hurt Fuji again.

Nationals came and went. They were eliminated very quickly, but they had one highlight at least; Tezuka beat a Rikkai Dai third year. Obviously, all of Rikkai Dai was shocked, and all of Seigaku considered it an accomplishment, despite the fact that it was their only win.

With the approaching fall, tennis practices became less and less structured, much to Tezuka's obvious disapproval. Fuji didn't approve, either. It gave him fewer chances to watch Tezuka.

He had resolved over the summer on a new strategy. If Tezuka wanted space, then Fuji would give it to him. But not forever. Fuji was certain that Tezuka wasn't getting over him any faster than Fuji was getting over Tezuka. Patience, therefore, was all that was required. Eventually, an opportunity would arise for Tezuka and Fuji to naturally spend time together, and when that opportunity arose, the loneliness that had filled Tezuka in Fuji's absence would act like a vacuum, sucking Fuji back into Tezuka's life.

It was a metaphor he had carefully honed over time, with some help from Yumiko. Inevitably, he would get Tezuka back.

And he would know the pleasure of Tezuka's kiss, and his teeth, again.

He was, therefore, watchful at all times for the opportunity to be close to Tezuka, naturally. He thought, too late, perhaps, that the most obvious thing would be if he were to be Tezuka's Vice Captain, but it really wasn't his style, and anyway, no one was surprised except Oishi when Oishi was chosen, so Fuji didn't regret not working harder for that.

It was Oishi, however, that gave Fuji his chance.

He came to their classroom one lunch period, close to the end of the school year, flushed with excitement. As expected, Eiji assumed that Oishi was coming to see him, but it was Fuji that Oishi wanted to see.

"I need your help," he said bluntly, putting his hands on Fuji's desk.

Fuji frowned momentarily at Oishi's forwardness. "Ah? What can I do for you, Oishi?"

Eiji pouted, and then pouted harder when neither of them noticed his pout. "I'm trying to convince Tezuka to run for student council president, but he's refusing. The only other candidate is that thug Sakuma from the basketball team. He's pretty popular, though. Tezuka's the only one in school who can beat him! Can you imagine? If Tezuka ran, he'd be sure to win."

Oishi gushing like a fanboy about Tezuka wasn't going to make Eiji's pout go away, but Fuji had more important things on his mind just then. It was true, Tezuka would win if he ran. And if he ran...

Smiling serenely, Fuji patted Oishi's hand. "Don't worry, leave it to me. I know just what to do."

Eiji had taken to bringing a small magnetic go board into class. It was a fleeting obsession based entirely on an anime his sister was making him watch, particularly doomed since he was completely incapable of beating Fuji, no matter how much he concentrated on their games, while Fuji typically played while doing their math homework.

It was because he dividing his attention between the small, plastic go board and their homework that he totally missed Tezuka's entrance into the classroom. Not surprisingly, though, most of the classroom went quiet, even though Tezuka was in their year.

Fuji smiled up banally at Tezuka. "Yes?"

"I need to talk to you," Tezuka informed.

"Eh? Now?" Fuji frowned, and looked at the clock. "But class is about to start. I'll meet you for lunch, ok?"

Tezuka was obviously not pleased with that plan, but he could think of nothing to say in retaliation. His shoulders slumped minutely. "Fine." He turned to leave crisply, oblivious, as always, to the attention that he garnered everywhere he went. After he was gone, the girls in class squealed, and gathered in tight clusters to gossip and laugh together.

"Sheesh," Eiji laughed. "You'd think Tezuka was a senpai or something!"

Fuji smiled, rather pleased with himself. "Mm. Well, he certainly looks old enough, though, doesn't he?"

Snickering, Eiji poked Fuji in the ribs. "You're the only one who'd say that out loud, though."

That only made Fuji smile brighter.

He felt happy, pleased with himself, all morning long. Just knowing that he was going to get a chance to speak to Tezuka, be alone with him... It made all the work worthwhile. When the bell rang for lunch, Fuji kept himself from jumping up and running out to meet Tezuka. In this case, it was probably just as well to make Tezuka wait a little bit, at least. After all, Tezuka wasn't going to be overly thrilled with him.

He didn't bother going to Tezuka's classroom. He went straight up to the roof. He knew Tezuka would be there, probably leaning against the fence, holding his arms over his chest, scowling slightly.

Just thinking about it made Fuji's skin tingle.

He was mostly right. Tezuka was standing up straight, and he had his arms at his side. But Fuji had Tezuka's scowl down perfectly. Fuji just smiled sweetly at Tezuka, though. "So, what can I do for you, Captain?"

Tezuka frowned a bit harder, but he didn't bother to correct Fuji. "What is the meaning of this?" He pulled a flyer out of his pocket, and unfolded it, holding it out for Fuji.

"Aw, you folded it all up! Those took a long time to distribute, you know," Fuji frowned, looking up at Tezuka with stern disapproval.

"Fuji. I am not running for student council president," Tezuka was patient in his 'explanation,' but his eyes looked dangerous.

Fuji felt his skin tingling. "I know. That's why it says to write your name in. See?" Fuji pointed to the relevant part of the flyer.

Tezuka sighed. "Let me restate that. I cannot be the student council president."

"Why not?" Fuji shrugged. "I'm not thinking about the school, you know. I don't care who is the president. But, I'd guess that you were allowed to go to high school; you weren't given permission to go to college."

Tezuka's expression was a dead giveaway.

It made Fuji more than a little sad. He was actually being totally honest here. "You should be going pro. Going around the world, playing tennis..."

Tezuka shook his head, and stuffed the flyer back into his pocket. "You obviously cannot understand. But I fail to see how this has any bearing on the matter at hand."

Fuji put his hands in his pockets, and grinned. "Don't you? Student council is time consuming. You have meetings several times a week. Paperwork. Coming in early to class to set up things. Staying late. Even later than with tennis. Going to festivals. Going to dances." He gave Tezuka a significant look. "This will be your last year of freedom, 'Mitsu. If that's the case, you should grab a hold of every ounce of it you can."

Tezuka closed his eyes and half turned away, his hands in fists at his side. "Freedom... isn't something that is mine to ask for."

"Why not?" Fuji surged forward, pulling his hands out. He had his arms around Tezuka's waist before he could stop himself, and thankfully, Tezuka didn't push him aside. He put his chin on Tezuka's arm, and smiled, a bit bitterly. "What, because you have a special diet? What difference does it make? You won't let yourself indulge, even when I offer you. It's not just sex to you, as it were, is it? So there's no danger. Just think about it like this: if your classmates give you the call to serve, will you turn it down?"

Tezuka shut his eyes and turned his head, shutting out all possibilities of looking at Fuji. "Well. If you say it like that... but you're encouraging them. It's not quite the same, is it?"

Fuji leaned up onto his tiptoes, and kissed under Tezuka's ear. "What difference does that make? There's nothing sinister going on here, 'Mitsu. This is your life, you know. You have to live it while you still can."

"I'm not sure you can ever understand," Tezuka sighed, and Fuji swallowed down the hurt that caused. "Why do you call me that?" He looked at Fuji from the corner of his eye.

"What? 'Mitsu?" Fuji laughed. "It's your name, right? Well, part of it. And. It's all right, isn't it?"

Tezuka sighed. "Why must you always push? I already told you, I..."

"Nothing, yes," Fuji cut him off so he couldn't say it again. "I heard you the first time. But you can't turn off these feelings like that. No matter what you say or do, I'll still feel what I feel. So, you might as well just accept it." Fuji beamed. "And if you are elected, you will accept, right?"

"I won't be elected," Tezuka grumbled, but he wasn't pulling away, and he wasn't objecting to Fuji's nickname anymore.

"You'll be elected," Fuji smiled brightly. "You can't ever do anything halfway, 'Mitsu."

Tezuka was quiet for a moment, and then he pulled away from Fuji. "That's just what I fear most, Syuusuke." He kept walking away, back inside and out of sight.

Fuji knew it wasn't a complete success, but it didn't matter, since he could hear his given name from Tezuka's lips.

Tezuka stood outside his father's office, his head down. His mother was working on a floral arrangement in the sitting room opposite his father's office. This was the best time to mention it. Somehow, though, he couldn't bring himself to speak.

His father looked up from his paperwork, and narrowed his eyes. "Son, is there a reason why you are lurking outside the door?"

Tezuka cleared his throat, and lifted his chin. "There is a... a chance that I will be elected student council president.

"How wonderful!" his mother turned, and faced him, beaming. "Isn't that wonderful, dear?"

His father, however, was looking only at Tezuka. "A chance? What does that mean? Are you saying that you decided to run?"

"Oh, Kuniharu..." his mother sighed.

"I didn't decide to run," Tezuka stated clearly. "I did not nominate myself, nor did I accept a nomination. But certain classmates of mine are... organizing a write-in ballot. It... was not my choice."

"It's wonderful," his mother stated sharply, rising to her feet. "I think it's wonderful. Your classmates must think very highly of you. I hope that you will win. Don't you hope he will win, Kuniharu?"

"Student council is a lot of hours," his father ground out, glaring at him. "Are you aware of the work involved? The responsibility?"

"Our son is quite capable of taking on responsibility," his mother snapped. "He's already the Captain of the tennis team. This is just another measure of esteem." She leaned up on her toes, and kissed Tezuka's cheek, wiping the spot of the kiss when she leaned back down. "We should be very happy for you," she said, looking significantly at Tezuka's father.

Sighing, his father set down his pen and sat back, his eyes closed. "I think you should contemplate calmly if you are truly ready for this, and pray on it. If it is to be, it will be. That's all there is to it."

He bowed low. "Thank you, father." His father didn't acknowledge his bow, so he strode away quickly, up the stairs. His mother followed him, smiling proudly.

"Son," she said softly as soon as they were on the second floor. "I'm very proud. You should be pleased with yourself as well. These things are really popularity contests, but it means that your friends and peers value you as an authority."

He turned to face his mother, feeling a bit guilty for no reason he could discern. "It's... not really anything I've done. My classmates..."

"Your friends," she insisted, stepping closer, putting her hand on his arm. "They're your friends. You are allowed to have friends, Kunimitsu."

He looked away. Fuji was a friend... perhaps. But that was horribly misleading. "Yes. Thank you, mother."

"Son," she smiled, and sighed softly. "If you shut yourself off from everything and everyone, and hide yourself away in a cage, no matter how nice the cage is, you might as well be dead. Take a risk. Nothing worth having came from giving nothing."

"Mother?" he furrowed his brow. What were they talking about now? Was she still referring to the student council?

She just smiled at him. "I'm very proud of you, son."

He watched her walk back down the stairs, and sighed to himself.

"Your speech went very well."

He froze for a moment, but then, he'd been expecting this visitor. He turned to regard Fuji. "Thank you."

"I thought your goals for the New Year went over nicely, too. You'd given it some thought, I gather." Fuji beamed, strolling closer with his hands behind his back.

Tezuka shrugged, and went back to what he was working on; exams were starting tomorrow, so he had to finish up all this paperwork for the student council's office today. "I don't think I said anything extraordinary."

"A write in candidate, and you still won by a two-thirds majority. That must feel good." Fuji sat down next to him, and put an elbow on the desk, propping his head up.

"Does it?" Tezuka shrugged. "I suppose. I'll do what I must."

"That's all you ever do," Fuji sighed. "Someday, you should do what you want."

Tezuka's pen came to a stop. He couldn't look at Fuji. "That, I can't do."

"Why not?" Fuji asked, too innocently. He leaned closer to Tezuka. "Do you want to go pro in tennis? I know you've been scouted. I suppose I can see why that would be bad. In European legends, vampires could only cross bodies of water under special circumstances."

Tezuka's back stiffened, and he scowled. "What does that have to do with me?"

Fuji laughed softly. "Nothing, I suppose. But you won't be going pro."

"No," Tezuka replied calmly. He had never once dreamed that he would. Going to Nationals... would suffice. It would have to.

"What else do you want, that you can't have?" Fuji wondered, reaching out to run his finger over Tezuka's hand.

That simple point of contact was electric. Tezuka's nostrils flared, and he could smell Fuji, could hear his heart beating. He pulled his hand away. "There's nothing that I want, because there's nothing that I can have. It's already been decided, long before I was born. This conversation is useless."

"That's no fun," Fuji complained. "Why can't you make any choices at all? Your father did."

"My father did exactly what I am to do," Tezuka sighed.

"And he got married. And had a son." Fuji leaned in closer, ducking his head under so he could see Tezuka's eyes.

Tezuka pulled back, self-conscious.

"Why are you not allowed to do the same thing that your father did?" Fuji mused, a bit sadly.

Tezuka stood up, and started to arrange the papers in the proper folders and files. "Perhaps that is my choice."

"You're afraid," Fuji stated bluntly.

"Afraid, yes," Tezuka nodded. "But that doesn't mean that it isn't an informed choice."

Fuji slumped, holding his cheek in his hand. "You're cruel."

Tezuka raised an eyebrow at him.

"I'd rather you killed me than left me in limbo like this," Fuji smiled.

"That's rather dramatic," Tezuka replied dryly.

"It hurts you, too." Fuji stated, but there was something in his tone that implied a question. Tezuka turned to look him in the eye. Softly, Fuji continued. "It would be easier to bear if I knew it hurt you, too."

Tezuka turned around, and swallowed hard. "More than you can ever know."

Fuji sighed, and stood up, hefting his tennis bag onto his shoulder. "We only have a year left, 'Mitsu. After that, I suppose I will forever be... outside your gate. You don't have to make me into anything special. But don't make me into nothing again. There's so little time left." As he brushed past Tezuka, he leaned up quickly and kissed his cheek, and then he left.

Tezuka touched the place of the kiss briefly, and then shut his eyes.

Fuji laid on his stomach. He had the shades drawn, and there was a movie playing, but he wasn't paying attention. He'd spent all morning on the courts with Yuuta, from six until noon, and he was beat. Still, it felt good to have sweat on his back again, so he didn't bother to wash up. It felt even better to spend time with his little brother; time that didn't end in an argument, particularly.

"Look at you. A little bit of work, and you are wiped out. Pathetic."

As usual, Yumiko let herself into her brother's room, closing the door behind her. At least she was respecting his desire for darkness. She sat down in front of him, close enough so that his forehead was brushing against her leg. She combed her fingers through his sweaty hair, and smiled.

"Something good happened, and you didn't tell me about it."

He smiled. There was no point in hiding from his sister. He scooted closer, and put his head on her leg. "Mm. Not good, precisely. Just hopeful."

"You've already won him over, Syuusuke," she patted his cheek. "Maybe he's just nervous. Can't expect everyone to be as comfortable with this sort of relationship as you are."

He laughed. "You don't know how right you are. But it's all right." He reached up to touch her cheek. His sister had the softest, most beautiful skin. "I have a plan."

"You make it sound like a diabolical scheme," she teased, tweaking his nose.

"Didn't you know? I'm evil," he shrugged, speaking casually.

She chuckled. "Well, my evil little brother. You also smell. I'll run a bath for you. And Syuusuke?" She leaned down, and kissed him softly. "Good luck with your plan."

He beamed up at her. "What are you talking about? Luck is for people without plans. I have a plan. Don't worry.

"By the end of the next school year, he will definitely be mine."

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