disclaimer: i own plushies, clear files, pencil boards, cds... le sigh.
summary: Reflection on what is lost, and what was never held. (Tezuka/Fuji)
notes: rambling. blatant making up of things. also, just in case, should know that Tezuka's given name, Kunimitsu, means 'national treasure.' as always, pretending they are in high school. unusual pov.
For a moment, she paused, the door open, and she stood in the lightly falling mist. The water of the pond was disturbed, but not rippling, like the surface of a cake dusted with sugar. It was rare for her to be home so early in the day. The sun was just going down, and the distilled light of the twilight, filtered by the mist, was perfectly lovely.
She closed the door behind her, and sighed happily. She never was much of a 'homemaker;' even in the early years of her marriage, Ayana preferred to dine out, and have a maid come in twice a week. But when she did cook, she liked to do her best. Cooking was rare, so she only took the time to prepare a meal as a special token of her feelings for the men in her life. Her husband was home less often than she was, and her son worked hard at his tennis, so they probably wouldn't appreciate a spur of the moment thing like this, but that didn't matter to her. If she were only concerned with the reward, the offering wouldn't be worth much.
Just as she was finishing the preparations for dinner, she began to brew some eel tea. She couldn't stand it herself, but her father in law and her son enjoyed it, so she could endure it for a meal.
She planned the meal for seven, because she didn't know when Kunimitsu returned home from his practice. Seven seemed late enough that there would be no way that he could be later. Just before then, her father in law came into the kitchen, and cheerfully helped her with the final preparations. Seven fifteen came and went, and her father in law suggested that they start the meal on their own.
Her father in law retired to his rooms, and she neatly packed the meal for Kunimitsu's lunch. She had purposely chosen something that was as good cold as warm. It was enough.
She brewed some oolong tea, and sat down at the kitchen table to do some paperwork.
It was a quarter to nine when her son returned home from school. He didn't even call out when he entered the house, at least not so that he could be heard. She sighed softly to herself, and put the pot of eel tea back on the stove.
He wasn't alone when he entered the kitchen, his school uniform jacket open, and his collar undone. If he'd had a match that evening, he'd still fix his collar and jacket perfectly. Trailing behind him with a smile that was not quite like the smile he always wore was Kunimitsu's friend, Fuji. Fuji's hands were on her son's arm, and her son had a soft expression on his face. She knew that soft expression from back when her husband was still close to her. Fuji's hands dropped discreetly, and Kunimitsu's expression melted into blankness.
"Mother. I didn't realize you were home." Kunimitsu bowed to her shortly.
Such formality from a son to his mother, but then, it was too late to suggest that something else would be acceptable. She bowed shortly in return. "I made dinner, if you boys are hungry."
"Ah, thank you," Kunimitsu's eyes turned away from her. "We ate on the way home from school."
That Fuji's boy's lips twitched slightly. Going out to eat after practice... very unusual for her son, but then, a lot of things seemed unusual about her son since he had first brought that boy home and introduced him as a friend. Kunimitsu had never brought home a friend before. He hadn't since, either. Sometimes, boys from Kunimitsu's team came to visit him, but Fuji was the only one he brought home.
Fuji was... special to her son.
She smiled, tired. "Take the tea with you. But it's so late already... Have you called home, Fuji-kun?"
Fuji smiled brightly in a way that made her feel like he was laughing at her. "Ah, my parents have gone to Chiba for a few days. My sister is at home, and she knows where I am. If it's not inconvenient, Tezuka-san?" He bowed, fully, and she wished she didn't feel like it was a mockery of respect.
She shrugged indifferently. The boy was spending the night. How... convenient that her husband was facing a deadline this week, and sleeping at work. "If you need any help preparing a bed, just let me know. I still have some work."
Her son stood before her awkwardly, and nodded. "Thank you, Mother."
She almost leaned forward to put her hands on her son, but he moved to put together a tray. Fuji stood nervously in the doorway until Kunimitsu was ready to go upstairs. Fuji carried their bags, while Kunimitsu carried the tray. Kunimitsu looked back at her before leaving, but he said nothing else.
There was still work to do. There was always work to do. She was involved. Her husband hadn't wanted her to work, but she hadn't wanted to stay home and be kept. She became a pillar of society in every way that she could.
The numbers on her ledger sheet blurred together. She could hear them moving around upstairs, pulling out the extra bedroll. She couldn't hear their voices. Her son was a proper Japanese boy, and wouldn't be heard making a disturbance. She didn't know about the Fuji boy. His manners were always just polite enough, but she couldn't tell for sure. She felt like he was a bit insolent. She never questioned her son's choice in friends, however.
Fuji was special to her son.
He'd be leaving her, soon, too - either for college, or, as she feared, for America. The first time he picked up a racquet, she had wanted to pull it out of his hands. Her son was so serious, and so determined. There was a great well of quiet passion in him, and whatever he applied himself toward, he always gave his whole self. Tennis was not something he would do casually, and it wasn't the sort of pastime that would accelerate him on a path toward college and a prestigious career. It was a career that would take him away to lands far from where his ancestors were laid to rest.
She sipped her cold tea. When she first realized she was pregnant, she had taken the train home to her mother's house. It was the first time she slept in her mother's house after she had gotten married. She was twenty-seven, and had been married for two years, which was long enough to fall out of love with her husband. They had a cordial and highly functional relationship, but she hadn't intended to get pregnant. She wasn't sure she wanted to be a mother. She wasn't sure Kuniharu would be a good father.
All throughout her pregnancy, she had harbored fears and doubts. She had nightmares about miscarrying the baby, which were the only indications she had that she really wanted to carry the child to term. She was afraid that her negativity would cause her baby to be detrimentally affected.
Labor lasted nineteen hours. There were many times when she just broke down into tears, feeling like death would be easier. Her son was large, over eight pounds, and he was completely healthy. She didn't remember much about what happened after the birth except that Kuniharu was so very proud, and that she was wheeled into a dark room to sleep and recover, and no one came to see her for hours.
They moved into her father in law's house a few months after Kunimitsu's birth. Kuniharu never said it directly, but Ayana knew. She was tired all the time, and she complained so much. New mothers were supposed to be grateful for their babies, but she found him so burdensome. It was easier, after that. She could get out of the house, and do things that made her feel more human. It didn't take long for her to gather herself back together again, but maybe those were critical months. Kunimitsu never seemed to depend on her the way babies were supposed to; she had been relieved by that at first, but it started to weigh upon her heart.
He was so determined to walk, but he didn't like to hold her hands as he first developed the muscles in his legs. He was so serious, even then. But when he accomplished something on his own, he would turn to look around for his mother, and he would smile.
It was later than it was supposed to be, but she fell in love with her son then. He was such a precocious, determined little thing, and she couldn't help thinking that he had such an awfully big name for a little boy. She would be satisfied with him, no matter what choices he made with his life. She had vowed that to him when he was a toddler, and he fell asleep in her arms.
She looked down at her ledger, surprised to see that it was still there, waiting for her. She had promised that to him before he even knew what she was saying, but a promise was a promise, right? Upstairs, that Fuji might be doing strange things to her little boy. It wasn't so much that he was a boy that bothered her, although that certainly was an issue. But...
Kunimitsu had grown into such a fine young man. He was tall, strong, and intense. People were always complimenting her for her fine son. She was proud of him, to be sure. Captain of his tennis team, class president... Kunimitsu had truly grown up into his name. They got letters and calls from foreign teachers and coaches, who had learned of Kunimitsu's fantastic skills. Kuniharu was immensely thrilled with his athlete son. He bragged about him every chance he got. Ayana, however, was all too aware that the day that her little boy was going to leave her was getting closer and closer.
In grade school, she had been worried about her son, and gone to see his teacher. It wasn't normal, she felt, for a boy to spend so little time with friends. Kunimitsu loved going on trips with his father for fishing or hiking, so much so that Ayana was afraid that he was growing up too fast, and that he wouldn't be able to relate to his peers. Kunimitsu's teacher did not impress Ayana. She seemed to be entirely too flustered for a teacher. She tried to assure Ayana that Kunimitsu was highly regarded amongst his peers, and that Kunimitsu was often breaking up fights or getting the class back in order when they got unruly. Ayana bit the inside of her cheek to keep from pointing out that those were tasks for the teacher; of course, she couldn't complain, but her son seemed to be elevated to a position of authority without even trying.
She didn't know how to fuss over him without appearing to nag, and she never had the ability to take Kunimitsu into her arms and just tell him that he was loved. Her son never came to her with problems or concerns, preferring to work it out for himself, always. It was just the way things were, and she accepted it.
So, his first year in high school, when he brought home a friend for dinner, it had been quite a surprise. She had been doubly surprised to meet Fuji; he seemed to treat Kunimitsu with a sort of deference, but his manner was also so easy, so natural. Fuji was the sort of boy that good things happened to without much effort, in contrast to her son, who worked so hard for all his laurels. She thought that perhaps it might be good for Kunimitsu to have a friend who was so relaxed; maybe it would teach him to relax some.
She stood up to stretch out her legs, and stood at the bottom of the stairs. The door to Kunimitsu's room was closed, and the light was out. Of course, it was getting late, since time passed quickly while woolgathering, but she couldn't help but wonder, if she went up the stairs, and opened the door to his room, in what condition would she find them? Would Kunimitsu sit her and her husband, and possibly her father in law, down some day to tell them something shocking? Would this Fuji boy go with Kunimitsu to America, to chase dreams together? Was this just a phase?
She would never breathe a word of this to her husband. Kuniharu was undoubtedly looking forward to generations more of Tezukas. He had wanted a large family, but she had only given him one son, and so there was a great deal of pressure on that one child.
There was nothing to be gained by this. Her little boy wasn't hers, anymore, maybe he had never been... Maybe that was her fault, because she hadn't really wanted him before he was born. Maybe she had taken too long to feel love for him like a mother should. He was a fine, beautiful boy, which she could appreciate purely from the standpoint of a mother who was pleased with her son. She expected that there were many girls at school who stood around corners at certain times of day so they could watch her son. It's what she would have done at that age. She even had worried that older women who would look at him and think that he was of a good enough age, would try to 'teach' him things a mother didn't necessarily want her son to learn. His father would probably be disappointed if he thought that Kunimitsu was still a virgin, but this was definitely not how he would want things to go.
Fuji was almost certainly a decent enough boy, but if he had seduced her son, Ayana wasn't at all sure that she could ever love him. And if her son had seduced him, she had no idea how she would feel. She would be better off ignoring these thoughts, but her thoughts could not escape from the image of the two of them, sleeping bare together in the same bed.
He was her little boy. She wasn't ready to lose him yet.
Heavily, she sat down at the table, and forced herself to work. The pen in her hands felt thick, and her fingers felt clumsy, the numbers swirled before her eyes, and she confused easily, but she wanted to work.
There was always work to do.
She had no idea what time it was when he walked into the kitchen again. It was late, certainly, but that was a vague concept. His voice startled her.
"Mother, are you still awake?" Her son's hair was more disheveled than usual, and his pajama shirt was not fully buttoned.
She smiled at him, because his appearance and the concern in his voice reminded her that her little boy wasn't quite gone yet. "Just muddling through, son. What are you doing up?"
He looked away, and spoke softly. "I was thirsty, that's all." He went to the refrigerator, and pulled out the bottle of juice. He poured himself a glass, and sat down at the table with his mother. "Is this important?"
"Not so important to keep up my son, who is too busy as it is," she smiled at him. "Although, it's been a while since we sat down at the same table together, hasn't it?"
He lowered his chin. "I'm sorry that I was late coming home, and that I brought a friend home without asking first. I didn't know you would be home, although that's a poor excuse."
She reached out and put her hand on top of her son's, squeezing it. His hand used to fit in her palm, but now hers seemed small on his. "You don't need to apologize, Kunimitsu. You spend enough time on your own, so it's only natural for you to do things on your own volition. Do you have a match this week?"
"Yes," he answered quickly. "We're playing St. Rudolph. It should be... interesting."
He never told her where or when he played anymore. It would probably be embarrassing to the captain to have a cheering section come for him. He was supposed to be thinking of his team at all times, a leader. She sighed. "Will you play?"
He shrugged, nonplussed. "If I have to."
"What about Fuji-kun?" She smiled, resting her cheek on her hand. She was still holding his hand; he was allowing it. "Will he play?"
He looked vaguely troubled. "He will most likely be placed at singles two, so he will only play if we lose one match."
She nodded. "And you will be singles one?"
"Most likely," he shrugged.
She watched him for a moment. "How is your arm? Does it still bother you when you play?"
He pulled his hand out from under hers, and shifted away in his seat. "I'm taking care of it."
She grinned wryly. That, or a variant thereof, was one of the first things he learned to say. 'Me do self' was how he phrased it when he was a baby. "I'm sure you are." Another mother might be able to lean over and kiss her son on his cheek, or forehead. She couldn't even imagine Kunimitsu's reaction to that. She sighed. "You should go back to bed. You have school in the morning." She picked up her pen wearily.
He stayed in his seat for a moment, watching her. She smiled at him encouragingly. If he wanted to say something, even if he might not always have known it, she was willing to listen. He stood up, and rinsed out his glass, placing it in the dishwasher. He put his hand on the back of his mother's chair as he passed her. "Don't stay up too late, Mother."
"Yes, Captain!" She teased. "Goodnight, Kunimitsu."
"Goodnight, Mother," he bowed shortly, and then disappeared. Back upstairs to his Fuji.
She sighed. She had promised him when he was just a baby that she would be satisfied with him, no matter what. She would have to fulfill that promise, even with this choice. Although, she could still wish that it were just a phase, it didn't particularly matter. More than anything else, she wanted her little boy to stay near her for a bit more, and that didn't seem likely. So, she would just accept whatever came.
It was all a mother could do.