title: Winter
fandom: Prince of Tennis
characters/pairings: implied Tezuka/Fuji, Tezuka Kunikazu
rating: G
warnings: small angst
summary: He watches the boy grow...
notes: for Aggy, for christmas. *snugs!* ^_^ title from the Tori Amos song...

He turns at the first sound of distress, but, by then, it is already too late. The little tot has tripped on the stepping stone, and scrapped his knee. There's not any blood, though he will likely be bruised. It's amazing to the old man that his first thought is of the koi pond, how close they are to it, how something disastrous might have happened. To the tot, though, something disastrous has happened. He looks up at his grandfather, his eyes filling up with tears.

When the tot's father was his age, the old man realizes, he was working night shifts and studying for the detective's exam. During those times, and for so much of his life, really, he had been devoted to his work. It was how he served his family, he reasoned.

This was the first time, then, he saw someone so small, someone he loved, in pain, and looking to him to make it better.

"Grampy, fewl," he says, sniffling through the words.

The teacher in him would have told the tot to get up himself, that he could do it. It was a lesson. He had to learn.

Uniformed by reason, though, he reaches down and scoops the tiny boy into his arms, and holds on tight. Perhaps it was a different lesson, about the power of love. Perhaps.

As he held the trembling child, he thought to himself...

Perhaps this is how a mother feels.

The boy stops dead in his tracks, his whole body shaking. The ribbon in his hands is just barely staying with him. The old man nearly speaks, but his nascent question is lost before it begins, as the boy grunts out, "Are you disappointed in me, grandfather?"

Guilt creeps over him, though it's not directly, perhaps, related to what the boy says. Has he been putting too much pressure on the child? His mother keeps telling him to relax, this is just a phase, a hobby.

A hobby is still something worth giving one's all to, was it not?

He smiles kindly, looking at the ribbon. The red for second, he realizes, is to his grandson nothing more than a banner of loss. Yet, the old man knows that holding nothing but blue ribbons would be unnatural and not conducive to growth. The loss is good for him, he tells himself, but he knows that his grandson would rather drop that ribbon into the gutter.

"Did you try your hardest?" he asks. After a second's pause, the boy nods vigorously. "Did you do your best?" This time, the boy considers it, but the answer is still the same in the end. The old man kneels down next to the boy. "That's all I ask of you, then." He puts his hand on the boy's head, messing up his hair slightly.

The eyes behind the small glasses blink several times, and then he nods.

His little hand tightens around the ribbon that could well become the boy's inspiration.

He's unused to arguments within the family, not that he doesn't understand his son's anger. The words blur as they reach his ear. He watches his son, and his grandson, and his grandson's mother. It isn't that he doesn't understand his son's anger, no.

He doesn't like to see Ayana upset or crying. He doesn't like to see his son or his grandson looking so violently toward each other.

That boy his grandson was with... what was his name again? He seemed nice enough the other times he had been to the house.

Their words to each other are becoming poisonous. He knows his grandson well enough to know how he will react, because he knows the ways in which his grandson is like him.

He wishes they hadn't discovered the truth. That wouldn't change anything, but it would change everything.

"No son of mine will disgrace this family's name in such a way! If you can't control yourself, you can leave this house and never darken its door again!"

Ayana moans. Fear ices through the old man's heart. Never... never to see his grandson again?

"Might I remind you... it is my name and my house," he says quietly, but his voice is piercing in its tone.

It is quiet again.

His grandson gets up purposefully, and he walks to the old man. He bows deeply, respectfully... proudly. But the old man can see the boy's eyes, and he knows him, he knows him too well.

In his eyes, he is apologizing to his grandfather.

He can hear their voices outside the door. He can even make out the words, but, for the most part, he can't put the words together into something that made sense. He knows he understands one thing, of course.

He can hear Kunimitsu's voice.

He wants to speak out, tell them... not to argue. It's the first time they've seen each other in years. Kunimitsu has done some amazing things. He wants to see his grandson.

Time is short.

He can't speak out, though, can't call for them. He knows this is really all he's been waiting for... not that he believes he will die as soon as he can see his grandson, but this is the last thing he is holding out for, and afterward...

A life of no regrets. He wonders if he has lived one. But a death of no regrets... that seems to be a different thing.

The door slides open, and, on his knees, looking very traditional even in his Western suit without a tie, Kunimitsu slides in. He can't be sure if it's the haze his memory has become or grandfatherly pride or just the truth, but Kunimitsu looks good, better than he can ever remember him looking.

On his left hand, there is a band on his ring finger. It's not a real wedding ring, since there was no wedding ceremony, but it is a nice band.


He looks uncomfortable, so the dying man smiles and lifts his hand, letting his grandson take it. He's grateful for so many things right now. He's grateful that he's at home, on a simple futon, in his own room, without the smell of a hospital to constantly remind him that he's unfit. He's grateful for the snow, the last snow he'd live to see, and there was enough of it for him to enjoy watching it fall from his traditional futon.

He was grateful that he lived long enough for this.

"I'm sorry," he rasps out.

Kunimitsu looks pained. "Grandfather. You have nothing to apologize for," he says, his voice grumbling with pain.

He wished this could happen without his loved ones shedding tears.

"You... look good."

There are a million things he needs and wants to say... but there isn't enough strength or air in him, and there isn't enough time. He realizes this; he has no choice other than acceptance.

Time is short. It was always short he only just realized. He should have known all along.

He was grateful for his memories.

"Grandfather, try to rest," Kunimitsu urges, but he'll have more than enough time for rest soon. Too much time. With all the strength in him, he squeezes his grandson's hand.

"I'm proud of you," he whispers, and that will have to suffice.