disclaimer: i have a plushy army trained to take over the world, but so far they mainly sit around and look cute. little @#$%ers...
summary: Tezuka and Fuji reconnect. sequel to Never Surrender.
warnings: sexiness, sexual situations, my own pickiness over how to spell character's given names... erm, and apparently i'm overly influenced by oob...
There was nothing quite like standing on the court. Even on the sidelines, even in the stands, to watch a game that was fierce and beautiful... It was the best thing in the world.
He watched them from the top of the open-air stadium, the way the ball whizzed back and forth, the sound of the ball hitting the racquet, the ground, the racquet again, the sounds of the players as they swung their racquets, as they ran, as they put all their effort into getting each point...
He hadn't felt this excited about tennis in a long time. It was a whole different atmosphere here than he had ever experienced before; southern Florida was like the home of tennis. There were courts everywhere, and everyone seemed to know how to play and who were the big players. There were so many truly skilled competitors in the area, as the tournament was about to begin. So many people were here, from all over the world.
It was a whole different stage.
The preliminaries were starting at the end of the week. Right now, the players on the court were just practicing, really, although it was likely that there would be no game played in the tournament with as much fire and passion as the one he was watching.
It was... bittersweet.
It was just that... he had changed so much. His hair was longer, looking... incredible as he ran back and forth, the sweat dripping off of every strand. His body was different... stronger, faster... he was still lithe, but he was more solid. His arms were thick. So were his legs. He was... changed.
Tezuka watched carefully, his arms crossed over his chest. Of course he had changed, everyone changes over time, but... it was the changes in his game that bothered Tezuka the most. He couldn't recognize the Fuji he used to know in the rapid-fire shots of the professional tennis Fuji now played.
Bittersweet, to be so close to the person he'd been missing for so long, but to find him changed.
Everyone changed. It was inevitable. He would have to accept that. Perhaps...
He turned, and bowed briefly before the pert, little blonde before him. "Aa, hello...?"
"My name is Stacey." She grinned, and stuck out her hand. "I'm the player coordinator for the tournament. Forgive me, but I don't speak any Japanese. I hope your English is all right... We can get a translator if you need one."
He shook his head briefly. "Not necessary, thank you. I appreciate your assistance."
She smiled broadly. "Your English is quite good, Tezuka-san. That's correct, isn't it? Shusuke is very good, isn't he? Did I pronounce that correctly? I can never be sure! I really want to learn Japanese some day... I don't suppose you know Shusuke?"
Tezuka turned to watch Fuji smash the ball past the other player's defenses. "I used to know Syuusuke."
The hotel was nice, and comfortable, but ultimately, it was like any other hotel in the world. He didn't have a manager or a coach yet, so it was unusual for him to be in the tournament at all. It also meant that he didn't really have anything to do in his off time, and he was a bit too uncertain of himself to go out and explore the nightlife.
He showered early, and put on some comfortable chinos and a loose, white oxford shirt, and prepared to spend the evening reading and listening to music. Simplicity was best, especially after a long match.
He wanted to just relax, and maybe not think so much about things. He'd finished at the top in the preliminaries; where he was seeded, he would face Fuji in the third round, if all went well. He had watched the other man as often as he could, but he had yet to actually have a chance to speak to him. Fuji was in the center of the universe here, the top seed in the tournament, admired and respected by everyone. There were always people around him. Tezuka didn't even have a coach just yet.
He tuned the clock radio to a sufficiently bland music station, and tried to focus on reading instead of loneliness.
He had read the same page three times, and then he changed the radio station. The fifth time he read the page, he threw the book aside, and turned the radio off. He flipped through the hotel's six television stations discontentedly.
The knock at his door startled him. He flipped the television off, and had the door unlocked before he thought to check to see whom it was.
His hands moved automatically to open the door, his mind blank. Fuji was leaning against the doorframe, wearing tight, low-slung jeans and a button down shirt that was left open save a few buttons in the middle. He was holding two champagne flutes, and a bottle of what appeared to be expensive champagne.
Tezuka wasn't sure what to say, now that Fuji was right before him. So much time had passed, but it felt like no time at all.
"Mm, won't you invite me in?" Fuji grinned. "Don't leave me in the hallway."
Tezuka stepped aside, and closed the door after Fuji.
"You haven't changed, Tezuka." Fuji slipped off his sandals, and jiggled the champagne bottle. "But even you have to want to celebrate when you accomplish something good, right?"
Tezuka looked at the bottle, finding himself feeling strangely blank and empty. "What should I be celebrating?"
"Qualifying, of course!" Fuji smiled brightly at him, and stepped inside the room, putting the glasses and bottle down on dresser. "It's good to hear a familiar voice, speaking our native language again. I get so tired of speaking English all the time, and having people mispronounce my name, call me by given name when they barely know me..." Fuji sighed, and started to unwrap the cork. "It's about time you came, you know. You've kept me waiting a long time."
Tezuka sat down on the edge of the bed, and just watched Fuji. It was not how he had expected it to be. It had been so long... it was hard to remember now that there had once been a time when they were intimate with one another. Once, he had thought he had known everything that Fuji thought. He had been wrong, of course, but still. Now he was about a foot away from the other man, and he couldn't begin to imagine what he was thinking. Maybe this was better. Maybe they could understand each other better without preconceptions. "Waiting?"
Fuji smiled teasingly. "You're a bit slow tonight, Tezuka. Don't tell me you are tired from your matches."
"I'm a bit surprised. It's been a while." He tilted his head to the side, and watched Fuji's nimble fingers at work.
"That's true." Fuji sighed, and put his thumbs on either side of the cork, ready to pop it. "But that's not my fault, you know." He smirked, and popped the cork. "You never replied to my last email."
Tezuka blinked, and he felt his face get hot. He couldn't look at Fuji, his fingers digging into the mattress. "Aa... true..."
"Now, now, don't be like that..." Fuji tsked as he poured. "What's done is done, and so on. Though, really, what did you mean by sending me that email? Were you looking for benediction?" Fuji smiled as he handed Tezuka a glass.
"Benediction?" Tezuka echoed hollowly. "I'm not sure. I can't remember if I wanted forgiveness, or if I wanted to make you jealous."
Fuji laughed, a bright, tinkling laugh that cut Tezuka to ribbons. "Oh, it's not a good time to discuss such things. Let's toast, shall we?" Fuji raised his glass, so Tezuka did the same. "To old friends, and new rivals?"
Tezuka pulled his glass back a bit. "To better friends." He tapped Fuji's glass quickly, before Fuji could say anything.
Fuji smiled softly, a beautiful, true smile. "You are being optimistic."
"Shouldn't I be, before my first pro tournament?" Tezuka sipped the sparkling drink, just letting the liquid bubble up to his tongue.
"You don't do anything halfway, I can sure say that. Most people start lower, you know. But you have to make a name for yourself internationally as an amateur first..." Fuji shook his head, wandering uselessly around the room, holding the glass with one hand and his elbow with the other. "People are afraid of you, Tezuka. You're a dark horse. No one knows quite what to expect from you."
Tezuka stood, just because he was feeling restless watching Fuji move. Even his walk was different, more predatory... "Except for you."
"Do I know what to expect?" Fuji wondered. "It's been a long time, you know."
"Three years." Tezuka sighed, putting his glass down.
Fuji grinned, and sat down on the bed, stretching his legs out in front of him. "Yes. That's a long time. We could count it in matches, but I don't even know how many matches it's been. So many... I've changed, Tezuka. My body is stronger, bigger. See?" He flipped the tails of his shirt open, revealing his stomach. "I'm not soft anymore. I've got a six-pack. Want to touch?"
Tezuka stared at the exposed skin, refusing to face Fuji completely. He felt at a loss. Was he being mocked? Was this some sort of psychological attack? There he was, on Tezuka's bed, his lounging body ready to be explored, his challenging eyes flashing... This was torture of the most exquisite sort.
"Come on, Captain. Come see how much I've improved."
Tezuka used to know this voice, this sultry, seductive voice that enticed and taunted. He used to take this for granted, believing he would always be able to hear this, whenever. The power Fuji had over him seemed only to have multiplied in his absence, leaving Tezuka feeling weak and useless. "Captain? I'm not your captain anymore, Syuusuke."
"Don't be silly," Fuji corrected, his voice thick with perfectly controlled emotion. He finished off his glass, and set it on the bedside table. His fingers trailed up his skin, undoing the buttons in his way as they moved. "You will always be my captain, Kunimitsu. Now come over here. I want to show off for you."
Tezuka knew this game. It was a fun game, when he was in the mood. For a moment, as he lowered himself onto the bed, he could almost think that they had slipped back in time, and that everything was as it once had been between them. His hand moved out like an alien ship across the night sky. His fingertips came in contact with Fuji's skin, and a tingle moved through his nervous system, shaking him. He laid his palm down flat on Fuji's stomach, and felt him breathing, the way it moved up as he inhaled, and down as he exhaled.
Just breathing. Nothing terribly exciting, not really, but each discreet moment separated in Tezuka's mind, expanding this experience, stretching the moment out until it was sure to break.
"If you really want to see how much work I've done, you should open up my jeans. I'm rather proud of my six pack." Fuji smirked, and put his hands behind his head.
Tezuka closed his eyes, and curled his fingertips over Fuji's skin. "Why did you leave like that, Syuusuke? On Saturday, we talked about going to the Spring Festival at Seigaku together, and on Monday, you were all packed and ready to go without a word. What... Were you in such a rush to get away from me?"
There was a noticeable pause. Tezuka kept his eyes on Fuji's skin, on his hand on Fuji's skin, unsure of what he would see in Fuji's eyes. Fuji's hand came up, his fingers touching Tezuka's fingers. "Ah... You know... It's so silly, now... My father had a plan. From the first time I picked up a tennis racquet, he had a plan. He... felt that he had waited long enough, and that he was throwing good money after bad to send me to college. It was time, he said, for me to pay them back. So I went." He sighed, his stomach heaving as he did, their fingers sliding over each other. "I should have said something about it, but... I felt rather... trapped."
Tezuka looked up. It wasn't like Fuji to be so forthcoming. Fuji's eyes were closed, and his face was half turned away, a bitter smile creeping across his face. He pushed his hands forward, and captured Fuji's fingers.
"Trapped by my own talent... how dramatic, eh?" Fuji smiled, and shrugged, opening his eyes to look at Tezuka. "I should have said something, but I honestly thought that you would be coming right after me. Maybe I wanted you to chase me." He laughed, but he clearly didn't think it was funny. "Why did you wait so long, 'Mitsu?"
That nickname, that only Fuji used... Tezuka put his head down on Fuji's stomach, his cheek pressed against Fuji's skin, his hand clinging to Fuji's hip. He spoke softly and distinctly against Fuji's skin. "My grandfather fell ill our last year in high school. I... it felt private, so we never spoke of it outside the family, Grandfather would not have wanted people to know he was weak. He had a stroke, and it... Well, it was only a matter of time. You know how my parents are. He was my real family. If I only had a little bit of time to share with him, I wanted to share it with him. Even though it seems foolish, because there was no way to know how long he would last... I didn't mind waiting, if it was for him."
Fuji laughed softly, bitterly, but with genuine humor. "Aren't we a pair?" He murmured softly, burying his fingers in Tezuka's hair. "If we give it a second go, 'Mitsu, we'll have to promise to talk to each other more. Never know what we might learn about each other that way."
Tezuka heard the sarcasm, but his body reacted only to the possibility that there was still a chance. He put his lips down on Fuji's skin, opening his mouth so he could taste Fuji. His body decided his course of action, and he put his arms on either side of Fuji, working his way up the other man's body, flicking the thin ring of metal inserted into his nipple. "This is new," he murmured as he took it into his mouth.
Fuji gasped, and grasped Tezuka's hair. "Yeah... was... cultivating a... bad boy image..."
"Were you," Tezuka sighed, and moved up again to nibble on Fuji's neck. "Can I tell you a secret, Syuusuke?"
Grinning, Fuji ran his hands over Tezuka's body where he could. "Sure. I'm trustworthy."
Tezuka put his lips right next to Fuji's ear. "I want to learn everything about you."
"Mm, is that so?" Fuji curled up to face Tezuka, his smile lazy and content now. "Good, but you'll have to study hard, because I'm complex."
"I know that already," Tezuka sighed, running his hand over Fuji's skin. "I always did love a challenge, though."
Fuji stopped Tezuka's hand just before it reached the waistband of his jeans. "You should think about it, though, before you sign up for this class. We're not in junior high anymore, 'Mitsu. I've already made enough money to get my father to leave me alone. I'm safe, as it were. But this is a fishbowl. In certain parts of the world, tennis is huge, and even in the US, people know the big tennis players. Sports are entertainment, and if you get big enough, they'll learn everything about you. There will be press and managers and pr agents and fans, and they will all want to know what you eat for breakfast and what kind of underwear you wear, and what position you sleep in at night... It's hardly about the tennis at all. They will find out, 'Mitsu. And it's bad enough in the tennis world being Japanese; you might not want to be a fag, too."
Tezuka pushed Fuji down onto his back, and leaned over him, rubbing his thumb under Fuji's eye. "Did you think I came here for the tennis?" He leaned down, covering Fuji's mouth with his own. "I'm chasing after you, of course."
Fuji clawed at Tezuka, pulling him down harder. "'Mitsu..." Fuji groaned, and grabbed Tezuka to kiss him brutally. He grasped at Tezuka's hair, and flung his leg over Tezuka's. "Mmmm, well, in that case... can I tell you a secret?"
"Mmhm..." Tezuka very nearly purred happily against Fuji's skin, grabbing at him, finding himself needing him again.
Fuji rubbed his nose against Tezuka's ear, smiling and closing his eyes. "Your email... made me insanely jealous. It was two weeks before I could even look at my computer without wanting to throw it out a window. I scared everyone on the courts. Took another week to reply to you. I kept thinking of his hands on you... Damn it. Was he any good?"
Tightening his arms around Fuji, Tezuka bit his lip, and pressed his cheek against Fuji's neck.
Fuji laughed. "It's ok. You don't need to lie to me. I know; he's Atobe. Damn it. But... he's never going to touch you again, 'Mitsu."
"No," Tezuka agreed completely.
Fuji smiled and ran his hands through Tezuka's hair. "Not that I'm going to make this easy on you. No, you still need to win me over." Fuji wound a lock of Tezuka's hair around his forefinger, smiling gently at Tezuka.
Tezuka smirked. "I won't lose."
"We'll see," Fuji grinned, leaning in to kiss Tezuka on the nose. "Tomorrow, after practice, I'll pick up dinner. There's only one decent Japanese place in this entire state, and the décor is atrocious. We'll eat together, and we'll see how far you get." He got up sinuously, refastening his buttons. "Don't be surprised if there are already rumors tomorrow. Everyone in the tournament who doesn't have a home here is in this hotel. It's a fishbowl."
Tezuka stretched out on the bed. "No time like the present to get used to it, I suppose."
Fuji shook his head. "It's a whole new world, 'Mitsu. You ready?"
"Ask me tomorrow." Tezuka put his head down on the pillow, and closed his eyes.
Fuji chuckled. "Good. See you tomorrow, then, 'Mitsu."
Tezuka heard the door close behind Fuji, but he didn't lift his head, he didn't open his eyes. If this was a dream, he would stay here a bit longer, lingering where he could still smell Fuji in the fabric of the sheets, if he wanted to enough.