title: moonrise on the pacific
fandom: Prince of Tennis
characters/pairings: Tezuka/Fuji
rating: G
warnings: tezuka playing with children
summary: Tezuka returns to Japan, and knows just where to go.

The plane landed at thirty-two minutes after eight, twenty-nine minutes late. It took forty-six minutes to get out of the airport, and another twenty to get to the Chiba rail station. There, he left his bags with his manager, and he got off, catching a cab. Another thirty-five minutes, and he was at the beach. He gave the cab driver money without looking at what he was handing over, just anxious to get out and stretch his legs.

The flight had been nearly eighteen hours. He'd done all the press nonsense he'd had to after the match, and spent two days in Sydney before returning home. Home...and yet, the idea of returning to his Tokyo apartment left him feeling cold.

He took his shoes off, and put his feet in the sand, looking up and down the beach.

It was...irrational, perhaps. He was too jet lagged, his body too stiff from being motionless for too long, his mind and heart still in Australia, or France, or America. He was a stranger in his homeland, walking a strange beach, indulging himself in strangely melancholic thoughts.

Perhaps, then, what was strange was entirely ordinary.

Even at that hour, nearing noon, there were surfers on the beach, coming in and out of the water lazily. He walked past them, his eyes seeming to search the sea without seeing anything.

If he walked that beach up and down, he might...But expecting a miracle was foolish, childish, and weak. He didn't even take his cell phone with him, though. Making a miracle with just yen in his pocket and nothing else...Wasn't going to happen.

Up ahead, there was a stand selling the type of food people craved when they came to the beach. He bought something, and took it to a small outcropping of rocks to eat without tasting.

If he did run into Fuji, Fuji would look at him like he had expected Tezuka to just show up, and smile. He'd say something, after some greetings, about the beautiful day, the puffy, high white clouds above them, the blueness of the sky, the water in front of them. He'd joke and tease and say meaningless things, but he'd do better than Tezuka, who would say nothing at all, except to acknowledge that he heard Fuji.

If he managed to navigate the ramble of conversation long enough to excite Fuji's interests, he might get invited to lunch, or to Fuji's apartment. Wherever Fuji lived, actually, since Tezuka wasn't entirely sure. He might, under those miraculous conditions, be able to connive himself into staying the night.

It was hard, though, to further that fantasy. He wasn't imaginative enough to allow his thoughts to stray so far out of the realm of reasonable possibility.

He moved out further on the rocks, and put his feet into the water, letting the Pacific wash over them. He watched the waves moving back and forth, the sand under his feet, the way the light moved through the moving water. It was jetlag, he was sure. That explained his peculiar mood, sluggish thoughts, and even the whole fanciful expedition. He was so entranced by the water that he'd lost all sense of his surroundings; at least, until the bright pink plastic ball fell right in front of him. He started, and looked around. A small group of children wearing rather nicer than expected clothes came running toward him.

"Mister! Mister! Please throw us our ball!" the little boy called out.

The girl who stood next to him swatted his arm, hard. "Toki! You're not supposed to ask strange men stuff like that! Apologize for throwing the ball at him!"

"It's not my fault you can't catch," the boy, Toki, grumbled.

The second girl in their triad ran right up to him, grinning. "Hey, Mister, want to play with us?"

He blinked, a bit surprised at her forwardness. The first girl cried out, exasperated, "Maki!"

"What?" Maki shrugged. "He's just sitting here. Maybe he's lonely!" She looked up at Tezuka and beamed.

They must have been siblings, or at least very close friends, given how familiar they were. Toki and the first girl caught up to Maki. Tezuka picked up the ball, and handed it to Maki, nodding his head. "Here. You should be more careful about approaching strangers, though." The first girl puffed her chest out proudly.

"Aw, I know," Maki dismissed, though. "But you're not dangerous, right?" There was clearly no response to that, since neither would provide any useful information, from her point of view. "Are you lonely? You can play with us if you want?"

"Shouldn't you be in school?" he asked dryly.

"Shouldn't you be at work?" Toki shot back quickly.

"It's my day off," he said, arching an eyebrow questioningly.

Toki didn't seem impressed, and he threw back his shoulders. The first girl, though, responded. "Our grandfather died. Over there." She pointed across the beach. "Our mommies told us to stop being underfoot, and damn it, go out onto the beach if we couldn't be quiet! So we came out here."

He looked across the beach, and saw several very fancy houses with beach access. He nodded slowly. "My condolences."

"My mommy says all our troubles are finally over," Maki supplied happily.

"My mommy says that your daddy would just drink any inheritance he gets, anyway," the first girl said quickly.

"Children," Tezuka sighed, pressing his thumb and forefinger to the bridge of his nose.

"Hey, Mister, what's your name?" Toki asked impertinently.

However, since he knew all of their names, Tezuka decided to be kind about it. "Tezuka."

Maki took his hand and tugged. "Tezuka-san, will you play with us? We're bored!"

"He looks even more boring," Toki grumbled.

The first girl swatted him on the back of the head. "My name is Saya, and this is Toki and Maki. You can play with us if you want. We were just throwing the ball around, but it was boring. We don't have swimsuits."

"It's too cold, anyway," Tezuka sighed. "It's nearly February."

"You have your feet in the water," Maki pointed out.

"I was on a plane this morning. It was a long flight, so the cold water feels good," he explained with unnecessary patience.

"You were on a plane? Where did you come from?" Toki asked, trying to hide how interested he was.


"Really?" All three of them chimed in at once, their eyes widening in delight.

"What were you doing there?" Maki asked. "Did you play with the kangaroos?"

"I tried to leave the kangaroos alone," Tezuka said evenly. "I was there for work. A...business trip."

"What do you do?" Saya asked, shifting from foot to foot.

"I..." he didn't think he should tell them his real profession, but he couldn't think of any other profession he might be involved in that would require a trip to Australia. "I play tennis."

"You what?" Toki blurted out.

"I'm a tennis player," he shrugged.

"That's not a job," Toki declared. "That's a game." He gave Tezuka a queer look. "You don't have a job," he decided. "Let's play already." He grabbed the ball from Maki and tossed it at Tezuka's chest, and then ran away. Maki and Saya started to giggle, and ran after him.

Tezuka looked down at the pink ball in his hands. It seemed he had little choice.

The children invented new games with each toss of the ball, and Tezuka found himself in the unfortunate position of playing referee using those fluid definitions of rules. When the sun was right above them, Maki insisted that Tezuka buy them treats, but Saya told her she was rude, and Toki said that Tezuka had no money because he was a bum. Tezuka did end up buying them treats, but since it was technically their lunchtime, he decided to buy them manju buns, which earned him limited praise. They all sat on the rocks together to eat, and the girls passed the time by finding shapes in the clouds. After a few minutes, Toki joined in, too. They kept poking Tezuka to play along, but when he looked up, all he saw were clouds, so he kept his mouth shut.

After they finished, the children seemed a bit restless, but before any new games could be invented and destroyed, a voice cried out for Maki from across the beach. Saya and Toki decided to join her, since their parents would probably be anxious for them to be home at that time, too, if Maki's mother was calling. They ran off, waving back to him. Toki yelled at the top of lungs that he hoped Tezuka found a job soon, and Maki's mother could be heard chastising him, though Tezuka wasn't able to make out the words. If she was angry with him for his disrespect or because they were playing with a homeless person, or both, he couldn't tell.

"Unexpectedly..." The hairs on the back of Tezuka's neck went up, and he turned quickly, his eyes wide. Fuji grinned, his hands in his pocket. "You'll make for a very good father. That's a bit...disappointing."

Tezuka just blinked. It was as if Fuji had appeared out of nowhere. How long had he been watching them? "I think I prefer the role of uncle."

"You have no siblings," Fuji pointed out, a bit more mischievously than helpfully.

"I will have to marry someone with siblings, then," he said pointedly.

Fuji just laughed.

"You've grown your hair out," Tezuka said softly, uncomfortable making conversation, but intrigued. He balled his hands into fists to fight the itch in his fingers to touch Fuji's nearly shoulder-length locks.

Fuji taunted Tezuka's fingers by running his own through his hair dismissively. "And you've just cut yours. I never liked your hair right after a cut. I suppose you needed to keep your hair out of your eyes in Melbourne? You looked good, by the way. Congratulations."

Tezuka shrugged, and looked away. "Still, ended up second." Which was no mean feat, of course, but it still entailed losing, which never sat well with him, having been spoiled for so long in his early career.

"I meant that half mesh shirt you wore," Fuji said patiently. "Nice choice."

Tezuka was inclined to smile. "It's hot there in January."

"That's why I would never go there at that time," Fuji said haughtily, stuffing his hands back in his pockets in what might have been a nervous gesture had he not accomplished it so gracefully. He strolled a bit closer, and Tezuka cataloged several other features, like the way Fuji's shirt wasn't buttoned at the bottom, and hung loose, and his pants were linen, and wrinkled. Fuji was standing close to him. "I can't quite get used to seeing you without glasses. The laser eye thing, I guess?"

He shrugged half-heartedly. "It was very quick and easy. Just makes it better on the court."

"It's funny, because your glasses were so weak. I always assumed you just wore them for show, you know, to look smarter," Fuji sighed, grinning just a bit.

"Of course," Tezuka replied flatly. "But I'm a professional jock now. I don't need to look smart."

Fuji laughed, and for some reason, maybe the jet lag, it made Tezuka's heart ache, like déjà vu. "So, what was that boy talking about, getting a job?" Fuji looked Tezuka in the eye, calculating.

"Playing tennis isn't a job," Tezuka explained matter-of-factly.

"Oh, I knew that," Fuji dismissed, shrugging.

"And what about you?" Tezuka asked sharply. "Do you often wander the beach at midday?"

"Rich people over there," Fuji nodded in the direction of the children's grandfather's house. "They actually hired a photographer for a funeral. Can you imagine?" He laughed humorlessly, shaking his head.

"Need a record of how mournful everyone was," Tezuka replied seriously. He could remember a time when Fuji boasted that he would never take pictures for weddings or Shichigosan. "The winner gets the fortune."

Fuji laughed out loud, and moved closer to Tezuka. "You made a joke. Are you jet lagged?"

"A bit," Tezuka confessed. Unable to hold back, he reached out and grabbed Fuji's arm. "It's...late. Can I spend the night at your place?"

Fuji blinked, and smirked. "Tezuka, it's just afternoon. You can't claim that it's late yet as an excuse."

"Ah," Tezuka conceded. "But I assumed we'd stay on the beach to watch the moon rise."

Fuji's expression softened. He slipped his arm through Tezuka's grip until he was holding Tezuka's hand, which he didn't let go of for a few moments. "Well. If that's the case, you're buying me lunch. And dinner."

"I'll even make breakfast," Tezuka agreed solemnly.

"That's presumptuous," Fuji sighed. "Tezuka," he leaned close. "Are you horny?"

Tezuka looked Fuji in the eye, holding back his smile. "That's something you ask after the moonrise, isn't it?"

"I've never been a great stickler for protocol," Fuji replied, bored.

"That's fine, too," Tezuka shrugged, earning another laugh.

"Well, come on," Fuji turned, winking. "Let's get lunch." He inhaled deeply, slowing his pace so Tezuka could catch up. "It really is a beautiful day for a funeral," he said airily.

"A good day to be dead," Tezuka probed. "Or a good day to be reminded that you're alive?"

"Mm," Fuji stretched his arms out in front of him. "After lunch, remind me I'm alive, and I'll tell you."

Tezuka nodded in agreement.

As far as he was concerned, it was a good day to be home, finally.