title: Slow Burn
fandom: Prince of Tennis
characters/pairings: Tezuka/Fuji
rating: Teen
warnings: sex
summary: Tezuka and Fuji, living apart, but on each other's minds
notes: written for the tezukafuji lj comm. post a day challenge. *pokes those that poked me to participate* ^_~


The Scenery on My Window

He leaned against the frame of the window, and felt the cold, dirty glass rattling from the storm. It was a grey and dank rain, melting the dust and mortar powder that covered the building, streaking the already dirty pane with the decaying remains of the violence.

It was odd that people just got used to living with war. Odd that he was one of those people now. He raised his camera to his eye, but he didn't depress the shutter.

The picture wouldn't come out.

Her hand touched his sleeve. "Syuusuke-san, you shouldn't stand next to the window." She smiled at him kindly, tiredly, and he nodded, and stepped away. She had pretty hair, even if there were lines around her eyes. He wondered if he were 'normal,' would he use this time together to fuck her?

Somehow, that thought seemed sad.

"The military will be here tomorrow," she informed him. He nodded again, and looked over at the radio on the ground. It was simple technology in a world where cell phones set off bombs, but maybe that was why she could keep it working. "I'm going to give you everything. You'll get the reports out, right?" She had an earnest face and wet eyes that looked older that the lines around them.

He smiled brightly. "Of course. People have to know the truth about what's going on here." He had found out early that platitudes like that really energized people like her. Of course, no one who didn't already have at least an inkling about what things were like here would care at all about their reports, but that didn't stop her or their bosses from thinking that they were oh so righteous in their quest for the truth. It all made him a bit nervous. Being here, getting involved in a complex political situation, trying to sort out the reality of it to present a point of view through pictures and words...

His fingers went to his neck, and he touched the chain there. It was a habit he had affected and it had become ingrained. A sense of familiarity filled him, and a scent that was thousands of miles away seemed closer.

She smiled at him. "That's a pretty charm. Is it a family heirloom?"

"Yes," he replied automatically, and then he realized that he was misleading her. That shouldn't have been a problem, however. "Not my family, though. I stole it from a friend the night before he left for America. I'll give it back to him someday."

She chuckled soundlessly, and shook her head. "I bet you'd be an interesting person to meet under different circumstances. What does that symbol mean?"

He wondered if she could even see it in this grey light. Everything was grey. Tomorrow, the gods willing, he'd start to make his way out of this man-made hell. He tried not to think about it, though, for fear of jinxing it. "It means hope."

"That's a good message to carry," she nodded, and it sounded so artificial. So easy.

He shrugged, and sat down.

"You should try to get some sleep. I don't know when the military will get in here, but I'll let you know. Until then, rest up. It's a long way home." She passed him a threadbare pillow that was nearly flat.

He was tired of her smiles. She shouldn't be staying here, but she had gotten herself invested in this place somehow. She might never get out alive, but it was going to be her choice. He turned the pillow around in his hand. "It's hard to sleep here," he mentioned uselessly.

She laughed, a meaningless and grating sound. "I know. You should rest, though. It's going to be a long day tomorrow."

He put the pillow on the floor, and his head on the pillow. He'd be better off with his head on the floor. He'd be better off sitting up. He touched his charm, Tezuka's charm, and he stared at the dirty ceiling and the dirty wall.

"I never asked you," she said suddenly. "I always ask, but I've never asked you. Why'd you come here? Why'd you join this program?"

He grinned. Everyone asked that. It was the usual icebreaker. He liked that she hadn't asked him. "I wanted to see the world."

That made her laugh for real. "Makes you wish you hadn't, mm?"

He didn't agree or disagree with her. "What about you?"

"Stupidly, I guess, I really want to make a difference," she shrugged. "I don't know if we will, though."

He was sure they wouldn't. He ran his fingers over the edges of the charm, as if he could cut open his fingers with it. Tezuka was out there, somewhere. Playing tennis. Taking over the world.

Maybe he would see Fuji's pictures, on the net or in a newspaper, and think about him.

"Get some rest," she suggested in what she might consider a motherly tone.

He nodded, but he didn't close his eyes. He was scared. He hadn't really expected things to get so difficult. He wanted to go back to a place that didn't exist anymore, a court behind a school where he used to go everyday, just about, and play with someone he used to know, better than anyone else.

He didn't expect to get scared. He'd always been so blithe about everything. He even made jokes when his sister had begged him not to go. But it was the quickest way to get out into the world.

He dreamed about taking it over, still, too.

Thunder boomed, and he closed his eyes, holding his breath.

He wasn't going to die here, he reminded himself. He had to return Tezuka's charm. It sounded stupid, but he could feign dreaming by thinking about it, so it was good enough to get him through the night.


He was lying down in the back seat, his hand up in the air, listening to the sound of the road more than anything else. His manager kept looking back at him, worried, which was understandable, because he wasn't acting quite like himself.

He didn't think he was reacting well to these new pain meds.

On the floor of the car where his feet should be was a newspaper, and next to that, a magazine. Each was opened to the same photograph, which was taken by an exceptional new photographer, and he won some photographic journalism award, or something like that. Tezuka didn't really know for sure, because the newspaper was in Italian and the magazine was in Spanish, and he couldn't read either of those languages.

He let his arm fall down to his side, and he stared at dome light above him. It sparkled. Actually, he wished the car had a sunroof. Then, he might be able to see the clouds.

The car swerved, and he nearly fell off the bench. He wasn't buckled up. That wasn't safe. He couldn't remember ever doing that before in his life.

A first time for everything.

"Sorry about that, Tezuka. We're going to stop up ahead here, all right? It's time for lunch."

That didn't require a response, so he didn't give one. The car turned around some more, the motions exaggerated by Tezuka's precarious position. Finally, the car came to a stop, and his manager and assistant opened their doors.

He didn't move.

"Tezuka? Do you want to come in? We don't know when we'll be eating again..."

"The pain meds are a bit strange," he said critically. "Just bring me out some water when you're done."

"You probably shouldn't take any more of those," his assistant said, sounding worried.

"Probably not," he replied dryly.

He could hear them walking away, their feet crunching in the gravel. He had no idea where they were, even. They were driving to Paris from the hospital he had been at in Rome. He didn't know why they were driving. Something his manager had decided, about character and enjoying the journey, and taking it slow, but it never made sense to Tezuka. He sat up, and looked down at the paper and magazine on the floor, the picture of a building that had been bombed, and a child's doll that was strewn like a sacrifice over the wreckage, the hem of its skirt dirty with what might be blood.

He might have gone insane if he stayed in the car a second longer, so he got out, and breathed deeply of the moist, fresh air. They were in a small town, parked outside an inn. Across the street, there was a church and a schoolyard. There were children kicking a soccer ball around on the blacktop.

It was good enough, though.

He popped open the trunk, and dug his tennis bag out from under every other piece of luggage. His manager clearly had hoped that would deter him, but it definitely wouldn't. He took out his racquet, and a fresh can of balls. The doctor had told him to absolutely not use his arm unnecessarily for at least two weeks, but the doctor had known his body for less than a month. He had known his body for about a quarter of a century. He'd also go down and burn in hell before he dropped out of the French Open, so he needed to limber up sometime.

He watched a small little hatchback rumble down the road, and he hit the ball against the wall of the church. There was pain, and he wasn't as coordinated as he liked to be, but he just easily swung his racquet back and forth, getting the feeling for it.

The trick was to embrace the pain. He'd realized that a while ago. Fear came into play if he assumed that pain wasn't supposed to be part of the equation. If it wasn't supposed to hurt, the threat that it might was always present.

If it was supposed to hurt, then he didn't have anything to be afraid of. He figured that out, and that made it all a lot easier. Then, it wasn't about training so he didn't hurt himself. It was about training so he could play no matter how much it hurt.

He didn't tell anyone about this revelation. He didn't think they'd appreciate it.

The children came over to watch him in chittering clusters. One brave boy approached him, pointed at his racquet, and said something in fluid French. He liked the way the language sounded, and he was usually halfway decent in understanding spoken French, but he was used to Parisian accents. He just shrugged, but the boy moved forward more, and made some motions with his arm.

He wasn't very good with children, but they didn't seem put off by his grim expression. He went back to the car, and got his extra racquet, and he gave it to the boy. They played standing across from each other, no net between them, in the cramped space the rest of the children allowed. He was just moving his arm around, just slicing the air, just lobbing it, aiming so the boy could hit it back.

It hurt, and that was good.

"Tezuka!" his manager called out to him angrily.

He caught the ball, and turned to wave off his manager. He then turned to his opponent, and shrugged. "Time for me to go home."

They laughed, and the boy handed him back his racquet, and he jogged slowly back to the car. His manager grabbed the racquets out of his hand. "This isn't why we left you alone! You could undo all the good that's been done!"

Ignoring him, Tezuka got back into the back seat, sitting down properly, and buckling up, like he should. He looked down at the paper and magazine again, looking at the stain on the doll's dress. Interrupting his manager's tirade, he asked his assistant, "Can I have the phone?"

She blinked, and looked from his manager to him and back again while instantly going to riffle through her bag. "Who do you want to call? I'll dial for you."

Muttering, his manager pulled the car out of the parking lot. Tezuka noticed that the water he asked for was next to him on the bench, so he opened the bottle and took a swig.

"Home. Oishi."

He turned to look out the window while she dialed. He wondered how long it had been since he had talked to Fuji.

He wondered if Fuji thought about how long it had been.

Travelers of the Wind

They rushed into the restaurant, desperately pulling the door closed so it didn't get ripped off in the wind. Fuji laughed, amused at how rumpled his agent had become. They'd come to this place to meet with a publisher about the rights to his photo journal for the past several years. His agent recognized the man right away, and Fuji was surprised by how short and round he was.

Unfortunately, there was some delay. Despite having reservations, their table was given away to someone else. The publisher looked at him, flustered and annoyed, and made his apology. "It's the damned Wimbledon. Some hotshot tennis star came in unexpectedly, and now we have to wait!" He tossed his small, round hands up in the air, shaking his head in a disturbing fashion.

Fuji looked over to where the pudgy man had vaguely indicated their stolen table was.

His eyes widened.

His agent had gone on to talk to the publisher about something else, manners or etiquette, or perhaps the geopolitical ramifications of hurricanes, but Fuji wasn't paying attention. Smiling slightly, he said under his breath, "I know that tennis star."

He looked over his shoulder at his agent and the publisher, and he winked. He slipped past the fussy maitre d' and threaded his way through the tables, coming up behind Tezuka. He just put his hand on Tezuka's shoulder, and laughed.

"You stole our table."

Tezuka looked up at him, and his eyes widened. He stumbled to get to his feet, stuttering, "F-Fuji."

"No, no, don't get up," Fuji laughed, backing off. "I just thought I should say hi."

"Hello," Tezuka replied, still seeming to be dazed. "Are you in London long?"

"Sorry," Fuji shrugged, sticking his hands in his pockets. "Only until tomorrow night, and then I'm off to Holland."

Tezuka reached out for him, and then looked back to his dinner companions. "This is... sudden. I'd like to get a drink later, but..."

"Drinks aren't on your diet," Fuji winked at him. He opened his mouth to make his goodbyes. Already, this was getting stickier than he'd intended.

"Where are you staying?" Tezuka asked quickly.

Fuji had forgotten how piercing his gaze could be. "Oh. Uh. Here, I'll write it down. It's not as glamorous as wherever you are, I'm sure," he laughed, poking around his pockets for a piece of paper or a pen.

Tezuka quickly pulled both out of his suit jacket, and handed them to Fuji, murmuring, "Probably fewer paparazzi, though."

For a moment, there was eye contact, and Fuji felt his body get warm all the way down to his toes.

Damn Tezuka.

He scribbled his hotel name and room number quickly, and folded the paper in half, passing it back to Tezuka. "Enjoy your dinner."

"You, too," Tezuka said too seriously. "Sorry..."

"Don't be," Fuji laughed. "It's just serendipity."

He turned to go back to his dinner companions, certain that he could feel Tezuka's gaze on him the whole way.

All through dinner, he would turn and sneak peaks at Tezuka, and he would catch Tezuka looking at him. It was insane, of course. They weren't children anymore, and a lot of time had transpired since they played games together in the courts behind school.

Tennis, even, sometimes.

He left dinner early, promising to go to the publishing offices to sign the contracts first thing in the morning. He begged off exploring the London nightlife with his agent, opting to just have a quiet night to himself in his hotel room. He picked up a book he hadn't been reading because he wanted to convince himself that he wasn't waiting for Tezuka, but when he heard the knock on his door, his bookmark hadn't even moved to page three.

He let Tezuka in without a word, just looking him over. He closed and locked the door, and leaned against the handle, letting Tezuka look him over.

Tezuka's eyes went to the charm around his neck.

He blushed, and brushed past Tezuka, putting his hands up to take it off. "Sorry. I thought I'd have a chance to return this to you a long time ago. I..."

"Don't," Tezuka said quietly, catching Fuji's hands, keeping him from removing the chain. "It looks good on you."

Fuji looked over his shoulder at Tezuka. "You haven't changed a bit."

"Mm," Tezuka shrugged noncommittally. "My forearm has improved a lot."

Laughing, Fuji turned. Realistically, there was nothing he could expect from this night. But he never really considered himself a realistic person, anyway. He reached up, and mussed Tezuka's hair. "You look windblown."

Shrugging, Tezuka moved closer, and put his hands on Fuji's hips. Fuji could smell his aftershave, and the lingering scent of sweat. "My hair always looks like that, though."

Fuji really sunk his fingers into Tezuka's coarse, wild hair. "Mm. I hadn't forgotten that."

Tezuka inched closer, and Fuji didn't have a lot of room to move back before he'd be bumping into the bed. He wasn't sure what was going on, but he was sure what he wanted to happen, and he needed to regain control of things.

He pushed Tezuka back, and pulled away a bit. "You know, a lot of time has passed, and we've... gone radically different routes, and I know we can't just go back to wherever we left off, and I'm not even sure where we left off, or what we might have said to each other all those years ago, but we're our own people now, and..."

Thankfully, Tezuka interrupted his rambling. "Are you saying you don't want to fool around?"

"Oh, no, I definitely do," Fuji nodded. "I just don't want things to be weird in the morning."

Tezuka took off his glasses and tossed them to the nightstand. "No weirdness. Fine."

They were kissing. It was almost like they were trying to bite each other, like they hadn't quite gotten back to the point where intimacy could overpower lust, their hands grabbing at each other's clothes. Some lone, logical part of his brain was deeply amused with the both of them, getting carried away like teenagers. He slipped his hand up the back of Tezuka's shirt, and he groaned, the velvet feeling of taut muscles melting all rational thought away.

As he unbuttoned Tezuka's pants, he conversationally said, "I've won a Pulitzer, you know."

Tezuka nodded, pushing Fuji's shirt up. "I won a Grand Slam."

Furrowing his brow, Fuji pushed Tezuka's pants and boxer briefs down. "I won another award, too... uh... It had a French name, I think..."

Tezuka pulled Fuji's hands away so he could strip him of the shirt. "I've had four surgeries in the past two years."

Fuji dug his fingers into Tezuka's shoulder. He looked down at his body. "I was grazed by a bullet ten months ago in Tel-Aviv."

Tezuka's hands sought out the crinkled scar tissue on Fuji's side, and his mouth came down to cover it, his hot breath making Fuji squirm. "Syuusuke. You're job is too dangerous."

He started to pull Tezuka's shirt off. "I know. I. I never really intended to. One thing happened and then. Well, now, I can basically do whatever I like. Kunimitsu. You don't even remember that tennis is just a game, right?"

Tezuka moved up his body, his arms on either side of Fuji, and he looked down into Fuji's eyes, and then he kissed him, hard and deep and wet, and Fuji clung to him.

They managed to get all their clothes off, and it seemed like there was too much landscape, and not enough hands, and not enough mouths, and not enough of anything. Neither of them had lube but the hotel had nicely supplied them with lotion, and while they both prepared each other, Fuji ended up throwing his leg over Tezuka's hip.

As Tezuka thrust into him, they looked into each other's eyes, and Fuji felt his universe shift on its axis, realigning itself to center around this person who could do these things to him.

Afterward, he slipped out from under Tezuka's clinging limbs, and he went into the shower, rinsing himself off and cleaning up, but he didn't really want to wash himself. He just wanted to not feel dirty.

He came back to bed to find Tezuka under the covers. He kneeled on the bed, and pulled back the sheet, putting his hands down on Tezuka's chest. "I forget, when were you on the 50 hottest people list?"

Tezuka huffed, and smiled, looking away. "Thank god, I've never been on such a list."

"You should be," Fuji sighed, leaning down to kiss over Tezuka's heart.

Tezuka reached up, and brushed his fingers over the chain on Fuji's neck. "Do you ever take this off?"

"Why would I?" Fuji asked absently, and he curled up to Tezuka's side. There was a thick, pleasant, musky scent all around them, which lulled Fuji, making his limbs feel heavy and his eyelids droop.

Tezuka kissed his forehead. "Are you going to stop going to such dangerous places?"

"Mm," Fuji replied unwillingly. He'd had this conversation a million times with his sister. "I think we both have a bit more road to travel before we can go home." But maybe it would be possible for their home to be together. Maybe.

"Hm," Tezuka sighed. He lifted Fuji's chin, and kissed his lips softly. "I won't forgive you for taking my charm if you aren't able to keep wearing it for a long time."

Tezuka's voice was so stern, like he might order Fuji to run laps if he got himself killed. It was such a comforting tone, like it reminded him of home. He put his head down on Tezuka's bad shoulder, and yawned loudly. "Yes, yes, Captain. Got it."

Tezuka shook his head, and turned out the light.

In the morning, Fuji gave Tezuka Yumiko's phone number, because his sister always knew how to get a hold of him. He refused Tezuka's publicist's phone number, though.

It was Tezuka's job to track him down. He couldn't always rely on luck.