Title: "Hoshi no Koe"
“Hoshi no Koe” by Shiraume
Rating: R-ish. TezuFuji (?), FujiRyo. Warning for general oddness and angst.
Note: Based on the short animated film "Hoshi no Koe" by Makoto Shinkai. Previous knowledge of the film unnecessary, but it's really, really worth looking at if you haven't already. Most of the parts in italics are taken directly from the film itself.
Thank you, sesame_seed, for reccing and providing the film. Also, many thanks to ladycrysiana for beta & advice. ^__^
“Hoshi no Koe”
[November 17, 2005]
There was a picture frame on the shelf attached to the headboard. It was a picture of all Seigaku junior high tennis club members, with Tezuka and Oishi in the center of the front row holding up the National championship trophy together. Most of the Regulars were grinning broadly from the first row, although Ryoma's face was partially hidden by the Fila cap. When he looked at it from this angle, under the sunlight streaming through the blinds just so, it almost looked as if Tezuka were smiling ever so slightly.
How badly did you want that championship? he had asked once, in a letter to Tezuka. Would you have given up your soul for it? he wanted to ask, but had not. He had decided he would prefer not to know the answer.
Fuji kicked off the comforter and headed to the bathroom. Morning routine, make the bed, pick up the bag, and he was off. Just before he left, he picked up the sealed letter, to be placed in the mailbox as usual, once every other week without fail.
The summer clouds, the cold rain, and the smell of autumn winds. Those were the things he wrote about, to Tezuka. The kind of things he loved, the things he knew Tezuka loved.
The door shut behind him.
The cell phone rang, twice, three times, and it was only after eight rings that he finally answered. "Hello?"
"Geez, were you sleeping or something?"
"What is it?"
There was an exasperated huff of breath on the other end, and a short, almost embarrassed silence followed. A smile played over Fuji's lips, imagining what kind of expression Yuuta must have on his face now. "...The Regional final's tomorrow, isn't it?"
"It is," Fuji replied placidly.
"So..." there was another short stretch of silence. "You'd better kick Rikkai's ass tomorrow."
Fuji laughed softly. "Gotcha."
"I mean, you'd better. After kicking ours last week."
"Right." Another pause. "I suppose I'll see you at the Nationals?"
"You bet." Fuji could hear the grin over the phone. "We're gonna slaughter them tomorrow at the consolation match."
"Good luck tomorrow," Fuji said.
"Yeah, thanks." Pause. "You, too."
A soft beep, and the phone's screen blinked, signaling the call had ended. Fuji rolled onto his back, staring at the ceiling. His eyes strayed over to the wall, at the enlarged and framed photograph. It was a cityscape, featuring a railroad crossing, and red, red leaves on the trees that seemed to stain the indigo sky. There was no one there, just the sunlight, the sky, the trees, and the half-raised gate. Not yet safe to cross.
The sound of rain hitting the umbrella, the feeling of soft soil in the spring... Ne, Tezuka, do you ever think about them? he had asked in the letter he wrote a month ago.
And the feeling of relief when you find a convenience store during the night.
The cell phone slipped from his loose grip and dropped on the floor with a soft thud, flipping closed. The light flickered off after a few seconds.
Seigaku's Golden Pair was struggling. It wasn't immediately apparent to the others watching, but Fuji could see it in the subtle line of tension in Eiji's back, the serious set of Oishi's mouth. He looked up at the sky, at the neat row of birds flying across, and dropped his gaze back down. On the way down, his eyes locked briefly with Yukimura's, who held his gaze neutrally for a moment, then looked away with a slight incline of his head which might had been a nod.
After the Golden Pair's loss, Inui's loss marked one win and two losses. On his way back, Inui looked satisfied, but his steps faltered imperceptibly when he met Fuji's eyes across the court. Fuji's lips curved in a barely-there smile with a short nod, and Inui took his next step with his back straight. Ryoma brushed against him lightly as he took off his jacket and headed to the courts.
"Echizen." Ryoma stopped, but did not turn. Fuji hesitated, unsure what he wanted to say. He thought he might have heard Ryoma sigh softly. Ryoma resumed walking, and his words floated back to Fuji, so quiet that they were almost lost amidst the cheering.
"I know, Fuji-senpai."
Fuji watched Ryoma take the first serve, and the first set finish in Ryoma's favor, and the second, in Sanada's. Third set began, and Ryoma served again, the Twist Serve whipping through the air, curving at an impossible angle, and just as the chair judge announced, "Fifteen-love," Fuji walked away to warm up. By the time he returned, Seigaku was at two wins and two losses, and Ryoma met Fuji's eyes steadily when he returned to claim his towel. Fuji unhurriedly unzipped his jersey and retrieved his racquet. When he stepped down to the courts, Yukimura was already waiting for him, eyes dark and intense, excitement barely contained under the calm expression.
"Let's have a good match," Fuji said simply as they clasped hands. Yukimura's eyes narrowed, but he nodded curtly in return, and their match began.
"Congratulations," Yukimura said after the match, when they met at the net to shake hands. For a moment, Yukimura hesitated, but the next moment, met Fuji's eyes squarely, and asked, "Why?"
Fuji looked at him for a moment. "I can't afford to lose."
As soon as he returned to the stand, his teammates surrounded him with loud exclamations and cheers. He looked up and saw Yuuta standing in the back with his own team, grinning, and Fuji finally smiled.
We won the Kanto Regional this year, Fuji wrote after a short salutation. Do you remember, Tezuka, when we won the Regional during the junior high?
Fuji leaned back in his chair and tipped his head back, closing his eyes. Seconds ticked by in silence, and then there was a knock on his door.
"Come in," he said, and the door opened after a pause.
"...Eh." Yuuta lingered at the doorway, looking as if he did not quite know what to say.
"Yuuta. Come in."
"Congratulations," Yuuta blurted out, and Fuji blinked.
"Ah, thank you."
There was a silence.
"Yeah?" he was trying not to sound too glad he didn't have to carry the conversation here, really.
And there was a silence.
When Fuji finished his letter to Tezuka two days later, he wrote about things other than tennis.
The cold air after school. The smell of the black board cleaner. The distant sound of a truck...
The lid of the mailbox slot rattled and snapped closed, swallowing the letter.
The night of Fuji's high school graduation, he and the rest of Seigaku's tennis club ex-Regulars got together with some of the other members, and somehow or other, they ended up at Kawamura Sushi, eventually very, very drunk.
Fuji was reasonably sure he was not, technically speaking, intoxicated. He doubted Ryoma was, either. Yet, when their mouths fused together and their fingers scrambled frantically to get the clothes out of the way, he could not remember a single logical reason why they shouldn't. He still couldn't the next morning, when he woke up in his bed with Ryoma pressed warmly on his back, an arm thrown loosely around his waist.
His days in the college seemed somehow slower, each day stretching into a week, a month, and then a year, with painful sluggishness. Fuji saw less of everyone, and even less of Ryoma. Of course, he still played for the college team, but it just wasn't the same. And the winter was colder and longer.
The sound of the snow falling on cedar trees...
I want to feel them with you, he wrote, but erased the words almost immediately after.
The mailbox lid clanked shut.
Fuji was in his junior year studying abroad in Paris when he went to see Ryoma in his Wimbledon debut. He wasn't sure what had possessed him to fly over to England when he was supposed to be working as a full-time intern. But here he was, with nowhere to run when Ryoma came up to him after his match, with eyes wide and almost innocent, like those of that precocious twelve-year-old he had first met back in junior high school.
"You came," was all Ryoma said, although his eyes said much more, if Fuji wanted to look, to listen. Fuji lowered his eyes for a moment, and smiled.
They had dinner together, and went to Ryoma's hotel room, which thankfully was a single. Ryoma was still shorter than he was, but Ryoma's hands were no longer hesitant or uncertain as he loosened Fuji's clothing and drew him down to the bed, and Fuji forgot about everything else.
The next morning, when Fuji was showering, Ryoma opened the curtain to join him under the spray, and just held him without a word, his chin resting on Fuji's shoulder. Fuji said nothing as he washed and dried both of them. Ryoma was silent as Fuji finished blow-drying his hair for him.
Fuji stayed with Ryoma until the Wimbledon finished, or at least, Ryoma finished, and they toured around London together for a couple days. Ryoma had his return plane ticket reserved, and had to go back a day earlier than Fuji did. So Fuji saw him off to the airport, and Ryoma gave him a small, rueful smile before leaving him.
Fuji did not ask, "Would you stay if I asked?"
"Would you come with me if I asked?" Ryoma did not ask, either.
Instead, Fuji walked along the Thames and remembered Ryoma's voice, hands, and lips. Remembered how Ryoma's arms tightened around him and how Ryoma's breath tickled his ear. "I can live with being second to tennis," Ryoma might have whispered to him with a hint of chuckle in his voice. "But not to someone else's shadow." Ryoma hadn't said it, but Fuji knew that had been what needed to be said between them. And maybe even what Ryoma wanted to say.
...And the smell of asphalt after an afternoon rain. Fuji finished his letter to Tezuka, folded the letter, and sealed it in the envelope.
The mailbox clicked shut.
The day Fuji came back to Japan, in late May of his senior year, Eiji surprised him with a welcome-home party. Most of the ex-Seigaku team was there and Fuji was happy to see them.
"Ochibi's still in the middle of his tour," Eiji said to him unnecessarily, and Fuji merely smiled and nodded.
That night, Fuji told Eiji his plans to move to France after graduation; the company he had worked for as an intern wanted to sponsor him, and Fuji thought the offered deal was probably as good as he would get for the time being. Eiji was surprised, but supportive.
"I guess you're going pro, after all," Eiji said quietly, but Fuji heard every word despite the loud hum of the party in full swing.
"Yeah," Fuji replied. Eiji worried his lower lip for a while, then smiled.
August came, and along with it, the championship title for Tokyo University tennis team. After the final, Rikkai University's team, which had been, in many ways, the archrival team to Fuji's throughout junior high school, high school, and now university, briefly came to exchange words of congratulations and other pleasantries. Fuji declined his teammates' invitation to join the celebration afterward, and Tachibana let him go after a brief look at him.
"You did well," Tachibana said in an undertone, meant for Fuji's ears only, just before he left with the team, and Fuji looked after Tachibana for a long time. When he finally left the tournament ground, he found Yukimura waiting for him.
"Nice game, today," Yukimura said without preamble, and Fuji smiled at him.
"Thank you. Likewise."
Yukimura's lips quirked, but only briefly. "Can I speak to you for a moment?"
Fuji shrugged, and led them to a small caf? nearby. Once they sat down, he waited for Yukimura to speak, sipping his chai carefully. When Yukimura did not volunteer anything for full five minutes, Fuji glanced up at him, and found Yukimura studying him intently. "What did you want to talk about?" Fuji asked, putting down his cup.
"I hear you're planning to go pro after you graduate."
"Yes," Fuji replied neutrally, mentally going over how Yukimura might have known this. The only ones who knew were his family and former team...Inui, and it clicked.
"Yanagi let me know, from his correspondences with Inui," Yukimura clarified for him anyway. "In France?"
There was a long pause. Finally, Yukimura sighed softly and leaned back in his chair. "Fuji...why are you really doing this?"
"Because I chose to," Fuji replied truthfully. Yukimura looked at him in the way Tachibana looked at him sometimes, and as always, made something ache distantly inside him, but only vaguely.
"What he wanted - "
" - Did not take what I wanted into account. I made my choice, Yukimura," Fuji cut off curtly and precisely, and though Yukimura did not look taken aback, his eyes softened, a little.
"I see." The faint traces of a smile at the corners of Yukimura?s mouth hinted this was not the first time he had to deal with stubbornness of this sort. Though, given the team Yukimura had had under his wing all this time, it wasn't a surprise. "Have you ever...regretted it?" Yukimura's voice was gentle.
"Not enough to turn back."
"I see," Yukimura repeated, and they finished their drinks in silence. Just before they parted way, Yukimura hesitated for a moment, then pulled him close for a short hug. "Do your best," he said in a low but firm voice, and Fuji started, not at the words but at the tone, the same firm, commanding tone Tachibana had used, a little while ago. Yukimura noted the start but only held him tighter, before letting him go. "See you on the court," Yukimura said in parting, and Fuji stared after him for a moment, then turned to go on his way.
The white sands of the European beach. The blue of Saint Michel's sky. The rainbows over Rome's cityscape.
The mailbox slot lid gave a creak as it heavily moved back to its place.
It was a clear October day, a week before he was to leave for the Vienna tournament. He had been home for a couple of days, and in hindsight, he supposed he should have cleaned out the mailbox first. As it was, Yuuta did, and came straight to his room with the content. Yuuta did not ask what they were.
"How long?" was what he asked first.
"Since the third year of junior high school," Fuji replied, since there was no point keeping it from Yuuta anymore.
"Oh my God," Yuuta said quietly. "Oh, my God."
"Does it bother you?" His voice only held a mild inquiry. Yuuta shot him an incredulous look, which Fuji met with a neutral one of his own, and finally, Yuuta looked away with a sigh.
"I did think it was weird we had that old mailbox in the front yard for this long," Yuuta said finally, and was quiet for a long moment. When Yuuta spoke again, his voice was quieter, softer. "Why? He wouldn't have wanted you to."
Fuji's smile was tinged with sadness. "What he wanted never took what I wanted into account, Yuuta."
Yuuta leaned back, eyes closed and looking as if he had a migraine. "You've been doing this precisely because he wouldn't have wanted you to?"
"Saa." That wasn't quite right, but not quite wrong, either. "He was always more selfish than most people gave him credit for."
Yuuta cracked an eye open, then the other, to peer at his face. "Do you regret it?"
Yukimura had asked him the same thing, over a year ago. His answer came as easily as it had then. "No."
Fuji took the unopened letters and put them in the box he kept in his closet just for that purpose. All of the letters were for the same person, with no address to go with the name. Yuuta watched in silence as he put them away.
"You know Echizen's dating his manager? That girl he went to school with at Seigaku?" Yuuta asked suddenly, and Fuji looked at Yuuta in his not-quite-quizzical way before answering.
Yuuta's next question was slower, more hesitant. "Why did you...? With Echizen?"
"Saa..." Fuji pulled at a loose thread from his comforter. "Maybe it was just a little bit...difficult." Because even two hundred and seven letters written over ninety-five months could feel -- sometimes -- inadequate to bridge the distance of an eternity.
Ne, Tezuka... Maybe thoughts could bypass time and distance. Have you ever thought about that?
The silence stretched between them. Slowly, Yuuta pulled him into an awkward but warm hug. Yuuta had grown nearly a head taller than Fuji, and Fuji could lean his head on Yuuta's shoulder comfortably. After a minute, Fuji closed his eyes, and relaxed.
See, we must be thinking the same thing.
All of his letters ended with the same: "Yours," a blank line, and then "Fuji Syuusuke." Sometimes there would be variations, "Yours under the hot sun of Seville," or "Yours in dire need of a hot shower," but always -- "Yours."
To: Tezuka Kuminitsu