Reminiscing. Recollecting. Remembering.
Disclaimer: see chapter 1
Warning: see chapter 1
European Studies: Chapter 2
A wind chime sung its song early in the chilly morning of December. The snow had stopped falling sometime during the dead of the night, leaving a few layers to be shoveled off the wet pavement. Windows slid open one by one, and life breathed its blessing onto each house.
Fuji Syuusuke appreciated the view of the all white city, flooding him with the fond memories of what was and what had been and stealing away just as achingly slow as the slipping snow held in his hands. A pinprick from one of his cacti pushed him back to the reality he now faced.
His line of sight fell on the street courts not far away, causing him to bite his lip. Tucking a loose strand of hair behind his ear he readied himself for the days to come and breathed in whatever the day had to offer. The thought of getting a new set of clothes passed him as he saw himself in the mirror and realized what he wore (a plain black short-sleeved shirt on top of a long-sleeved fuchsia) was ten years old and nearly didn't fit him anymore. Walking out of the room he headed for the kitchen. His mother had already prepared breakfast, as the table had been set with a plate of bacon and eggs, a basket of freshly baked bread and some jam. A note had been left that Yoshiko-san had to go to a meeting, for what, it didn't say. Taking his place by the table he got his share and read the paper and setting aside the business section to take with him later.
The door bell rang, and something whizzed by so fast that you couldn't distinguish it anymore for what it was. Fuji just ate; he was intrigued though to hear his brother give out a strangled yell so early without his personal guidance. A few minutes later someone gave an overly dramatic moan that would make anyone's ears turn red. Syuusuke stood to see better, being the ever curious person he is. He moved quietly to his brother's side and regarded the other person standing by the door. The nameless person thus-far seemed too struck to do anything than gape like a fish out of water. "Yuuta, who's this?"
Yuuta jumped at the feel of his brother's warm breath just below his right ear and grumbled at the game his brother still played at. If the game was simply that it would have been fine, but these two men took it to a whole different level of overprotection and psychoanalysis. They were twenty two for crying out loud. "Aniki, you know Mizuki-san."
The man addressed glowered, balled his fists and focused his energy on them to control his, when it came to the Fujis, raging temper. To Syuusuke it looked like he wanted to take this outside. "/Maa/, you've finally come home, Fuji Syuusuke. What took you so long?"
Syuusuke held his chin and cocked his head to the right, his eyes as if in thought. "I think I had schooling to attend to. What about you?" He cocked his head to the other side then added, "You call at me so casually, have we met before?"
It took a while, and by the time Yuuta tried to intervene he was beaten to it by Mizuki. "No. We haven't. I'm a teacher in St. Rudolph." He glared at the older Fuji, challenging him. "And I tutor your brother for some of his subjects."
"/Saa/, Yuuta, couldn't we have gotten someone nicer?"
Mizuki gave up on the verbal onslaught he was receiving and threw his hands in the air. He told Yuuta to go to the usual place and left, not bothering to spare Syuusuke a glance and leaving the brothers in a stunned silence. The first to break of the tension was the younger of the two who retraced his steps and went back to his room, more slowly this time. Syuusuke returned to the dining area to finish his food or what was left of it.
Without so much as two of his toast wolfed down, Yuuta's voice broke the peacefulness Syuusuke seemingly enjoyed. "Aniki, I'm heading out now." He looked up from the paper and paused to look at his younger brother wearing sweatshirt and pants with a duffel bag slung to his shoulder. He agreed thinking to himself that Yuuta didn't really need to seek for his approval anymore and continued reading the news article. Yuuta scratched the cross scar on his forehead, ruffled his short cropped hair and sighed. "Aren't you coming along?"
There was a moment of hesitation that flashed in Yuuta's eyes. It wasn't that he was at a loss for words but was deciding how best to ask this of him. "...Mizuki-san"
Syuusuke looked contemplative for a few moments a small frown marring his immaculate face, and Yuuta wasn't sure whether he should let this phase of over-protectiveness of his brother go or let the older man know that he knew of and wouldn't allow the success of whatever sadistic plots he might have in mind. He shifted under Syuusuke's gaze and readjusted the positioning of the duffel bag's strap, mentally readying himself for their head-to-head, fist-less fight.
Syuusuke let up the down turn of his lips into a sheepish grin, folded the newspaper into four and placed it flat on the table for emphasis as he stood. "Please tell Mizuki-san that I'm sorry for offending him then." He got the part he had set aside earlier and dropped the dirty dishes by the sink as he passed it.
By the time the shock had gone from his heart to his head and back Yuuta's eyebrows flew at the reaction he got and asked, "Are you feeling alright, /Aniki/?" When Syuusuke had waved him off he turned to leave, not wanting to make the elder have a change of heart about the matter.
"Ah, on second thought, I'll head out with you."
The sheepish look remained on Syuusuke's face when Yuuta had turned to look. "I have to go to my...high school." He explained and asked to wait for him. A bit of scuffling was heard he ran for his room, put on a different shirt, donned a jacket and dashed down the stairs. Coming at breakneck speed he jumped the last step and tugged at Yuuta's sleeve for them to get up and going.
Yuuta took his time tying his rubber shoes as he observed the man beside him, still disbelieving everything that was happening. They left with him setting the pace. It was mostly a silent walk with a few comments along the way Ã¢Â€" how the street courts have changed, how the side vendor isn't there anymore or on how the times are progressing. Syuusuke chuckled once or twice on both their ideals but never said much about it.
They parted by the high school gates, with Yuuta heading farther on straight for the bus stop and him heading left for the administration area of Seishun Gakuen.
Tezuka raked his hand through his hair at the paperwork he needed to finish for the company. It was nearing six in the evening already and with the research he had just finished he felt a sudden burst of weariness overcome him. The feeling that he was suddenly older than he should have been wouldn't leave him alone in peace. Leaning back on his chair, he sighed and chose to give this stress-filled work a rest. He stood and began cleaning his table when he had heard a knock on his office door. He called the person in, not bothering to look up. He knew it was Oishi. Tezuka had asked his friend to come pick him up later that afternoon since his car had broken down and was currently being repaired.
"/Maa,/ Tezuka, working over time? Practically no one's here." Oishi said even though they both knew there were probably tons of people, doing what the stoic man would probably have done if not for the occasion. He checked the time, silently urging the other man to hurry up as they were going to be late if he moved any slower. Being the nice and amiable man that he is, Tezuka complied and kept moving slowly if not any slower as he meticulously kept things in the neat order they were supposed to be in.
The way to the Kawamura's sushi-ya from the company wasn't that far that you would need to commute by train but it wasn't near enough to walk to either (It was the hospital district that was near enough for that), and Tezuka was thankful that Oishi had gone out of his way to pick him up. Closing his suitcase, he sighed and felt the second wave of exhaustion washing over him. The occasion was a good reason to come away from work. He gripped the handle hard with his left hand, turned to get his coat and set off to where his friend cum driver-for-the-night stood. He let his appreciation be known to the other which was replied to by something along the lines of 'anything to get you out of your office'.
The traffic wasn't that bad once they got into the outskirts of the city. They parked to the side of the restaurant, got their valuables and locked the car doors. Oishi lagged behind him as they entered the shop, checking through his emails and voice messages. They were welcomed warmly by Atsuko, Kawamura's wife. She concerned herself with their coats and sped off as Tama, their cat, tried for the upper rooms.
Their host was currently making sushi, and Tezuka sat in front of him. He looked around and saw the headache they knew they would be giving Atsuko-san after this little get-together that Inui had planned with a little help from Eiji. There were those who never made it into "regular status" scattered through the reserved restaurant Ã¢Â€" bickering and talking amongst themselves Ã¢Â€" although there were none from any year before his own and just so many from those of the current tennis team. Eiji was currently teasing Echizen to the point of embarrassment and Momoshiro was adding fuel to the fire. Kaidoh just sat near the group but wisely chose to say nothing lest he incur the wrath of the up and coming star of Japan. And Inui was nowhere to be found.
Oishi tapped him on the shoulder, startling him a bit. "Inui mailed me, saying we're in for a surprise today." Tezuka raised an eyebrow at that and wondered what surprised him more, Inui or Oishi. He grabbed a book from his bag and began reading. Not even five pages into it, the shop's door had opened revealing Inui with a silly grin on his face, his glasses glinting.
"Ara, Inui, you took long enough!" Eiji exclaimed, still shaking Echizen by the shoulders and trying to get the boy to confess his secrets to his 'senpai'.
Pushing his glasses up, he cackled evilly, gave his apologies and moved aside for the other man to come in. "Someone, actually came home in time for the occasion." Eiji almost jumped and squealed for joy at the sight he saw.
"Fuji! You're home!" Eiji ran to his best friend, patting the man on the back hard once he reached the other. Fuji just smiled at the redhead and let himself be led to the table where all the regulars sat, most of them anyway.
Tezuka then stood up from his place and sat across of their resident tensai. In the background he could hear Momoshiro fighting with Eiji on how they should not eat anything yet since Ryuuzaki-sensei wasn't there yet. "Fuji. Did you find it?" The man addressed looked at him quizzically then shook his head. Surprised, Tezuka did not press the subject.
Inui's glasses glinted again as if he was up to something. He scribbled something fast, mumbled a line or two that no one could hear, stood and paused for a few moments before working up the command.
The people were stunned and took sometime to register Inui's orders. Suddenly, everyone was excited. Fuji seemed slow on the pick up this time for he really didn't know what they had planned prior, and Oishi dragged him to drop down flat on the floor, handed him some confetti and all but ordered him to keep quiet and listen for a bit. Tezuka sat still, unwilling to prostrate himself in such an undignified passion but did as planned when Eiji had started threatening his car.
No one dared to speak, fearing the excitement would break out of they would. When a shadow had appeared on the paper door, hands on hips with a girl's, not quite a lady's, figure, no one breathed.
"Tomoka, wait up! You're tiring obaasan and me." A second figure hovered over the paper filters.
"I'm sorry! I'm forgetting myself."
"It says they're closed for today..." A third stained the white like ink.
" Ã¢Â€" impossible!"
The shoji had slid open so fast that the three women were caught flabbergasted. Everyone got out from where they were hiding, clapping, cheering or throwing the confetti around. Sakuno after a minute or two led her grandmother to the interior and had her seated by the counter, giving the old lady a full view of everyone who came.
Sumire looked at all the faces, and placed a name for each, some she remembered with just one look and some she had a bit of trouble adding together, but she had it committed to memory like a general with all his soldiers under him. She greeted everyone and asked them to sit. Old as she was, she still spoke clearly. "So, everyone knows my time has come huh?" She laughed heartily and shook her head, continuing. "I'm glad to have taught all of you hardheads. So thank you for remembering me even if it is as some devil woman."
All of them shared in her cheer, Ryuuzaki Sumire was after all a very notorious teacher, moderator and adviser. Inui gave her their gift of appreciation with a promise to fill in for her in Seigaku. Some cheered for Inui, the boys of Seigaku tennis team obviously did not know what they were in for, yet.
Sushi was immediately served by Atsuko thereafter with her baby girl, Miku, strapped behind her back. Tezuka offered to watch Miku in which she was greatly thankful for. The boys were getting very unruly after all, emphasized by the commotion Arai and Momoshiro were making over the last bit of sushi on a particular plate. Holding the baby in his arms, he looked at Miku for a long while. He let a small smile slip when she tried to tug at his hair.
"It's surprising." Fuji had said as he looked at Tezuka with half lidded eyes.
Tezuka gave it some thought then shook his head. "No. Not really." After another pregnant pause he gave the girl to Fuji who still sat across of him. "Kids are nice."
Unsure of the bundle handed to him, Fuji could do nothing but open his hands and accept. He never had any previous experience in handling these little bundles-of-joy, as mothers so quaintly term them, aside from Yuuta. Whose only taking care of that he had given was fighting off bullies and mad dogs and teasing him on wits end. He hugged the girl awkwardly which made her cry out not three seconds later. He received a reproachful look from his Buchou and was gestured to readjust his arms in a manner that supported the head and the small body of the girl. When the crying wouldn't die down even when he had held her properly, Fuji began panicking.
"Don't feel so scared of her." When Tezuka had uttered those words everything seemed to work like magic. Fuji didn't know if it was because of himself or of his captain's voice that Miku calmed down. Either or, he was contented.
Tezuka nodded. "Ryuuzaki-san is heading for England tomorrow and Inui has taken her position in teaching and training the tennis club, as I'm sure you know by now." Fuji made a non-committal sound of agreement, and Tezuka continued. "Oishi is currently a first year med student at Seibo, and Eiji owns a pet shop somewhere near here."
"I see." Fuji said off-handedly, still busy poring over the kid else something would happen to upset her. He peered at the other man when nothing seemed to want to continue that last statement and asked softly almost tenderly, "And you?"
Kawamura squatted by their table, cutting their conversation short when he had finished the last of the orders for tonight. Upon seeing his daughter, the proud look of a father shined from that face. "Fujiko-chan welcome back to Japan. We haven't heard from you in a while."
Unwilling to let go of the baby just yet, Fuji made no move to give it to her father. He smirked and elbowed his friend while carefully making sure not to disturb the kid. "And you are a married man. Why didn't you tell me you got married while I was away? I would have come!" It was true. Kawamura-san was a precious friend. He would have flown back to Japan for the occasion if he had known.
The two men he was conversing with flung their hands out to comfort the baby who had been wronged almost as soon as it gave the first signs of discomfort. Kawamura cooed and shushed her to sleep once again. Tezuka bit his lip as he held back what seemed to be a laugh, and Fuji huffed at Miku as he propped his hand upright on the table, supporting his head with it.
They talked for a few more minutes, catching up on things. At some point, Eiji had sat beside Fuji, and Oishi had squeezed in between the two. The hour was nearing a close, and everyone that could relate to the small group had pitched in with Yamato taking careful lead to embarrass some few first years, sharing a good laugh on memories past. A little later, Kawamura had to hand over his girl to Atsuko who had returned specifically for her charge as it began crying for mommy. This was when Fuji and Atsuko were formally introduced to each other.
Fuji elusively escaped being part of the spotlight and sneaked towards the honorary guest. He called on her, waiting for a while to receive her attention. "It's been a long time, sensei." A moment of understanding came to pass. Somehow it was Sumire-san that always ended up helping send off students to some faraway place. He gave her a card from his wallet and explained. "I have a friend in Europe to help you get settled." She took the card and thanked him. For a moment his eyes drifted to the crowd a bit behind her. She clapped his back, gave a hearty laugh. He ducked his head in response. "Have a safe trip sensei, good night." Nodding and whistling, she moved to her bunch of reminiscing students.
"Fuji-sempai, you're leaving?" Echizen, who had been close all the while stood in front of the brunette when he had made a half turn. It was then that Fuji realized just how much the younger boy had grown up to be Ã¢Â€" slightly taller than himself, finely toned and no more of the baby fat he once poked at.
/"Saa/, you're not a chibi anymore." Ryoma smirked. "You've become an odaichi!" He was rewarded by an annoyed look from the younger boy to which Fuji promptly ignored and called out to the new trainer, inquiring the new recipe for Echizen's made-to-order juices. The tennis star paled at the mention of it. Fuji was pleased at the reaction he got and finally answered the question. "I need to visit Saeki tomorrow since I promised. That means I have to leave early...and jet-lag"
Ryoma nodded as someone who understood both situations and proposed to go with him, offering his father's beach stall as an explanation.
"I won't wait for you though." Echizen snorted and left to thwart whatever Momoshiro had to exploit about him.
Fuji said his farewells and got his coat. Stepping outside the /sushi-ya/, he shivered. He felt the full blast of the December cold and regretted immediately his rushed choice of clothes, wishing he had brought gloves and a scarf. Turning to close the shoji behind him he was taken aback as he saw Tezuka standing by the doorway.
"I'll walk you home."
Fuji shook his head, wistfully. "Why does everyone want to escort me to wherever I go these days?"
Tezuka shrugged. It wasn't his business what the others did.
Yumiko had set the last plate down on the table when the doorbell rang. She walked to the door in long strides, opened it and was surprised to see her brother with someone else. "Syuusuke, you should've told us you were going to bring someone home."
"I'm not staying, Fuji-san." Tezuka supplied.
"Nonsense, we just finished making dinner." She tugged at both men's arms and gestured for the dining area.
"We already ate /nee-chan/. We came from the Kawamura's." Yumiko didn't back down until one of her offers was accepted. They accepted coffee. Fuji pointed to the sofa in the living room and took his coat. When Tezuka had thought about it he realized that even if he couldn't count the number of times he went into this house with both hands, he never had the time to survey the area beyond the stairs. The living room had three loveseats positioned to form a 'u' and a low table. It was joined with the dining area that eventually led to the kitchen, separated only by a counter.
Tezuka sat on one of the sofas, his back to the window, and set his gaze on a brick ledge. There seated on the cold marble were pictures of the Fuji family. He peered at the people held within the frames with such great concentration that he hadn't noticed Fuji come back until he felt the nudge on his shoulder. He accepted the cup Fuji offered and averted his attention to the liquid that held his reflection. He tried a sip. It was black. Just the way he liked it.
Fuji sat on the other end of the seat Tezuka currently occupied and drank some of his own beverage, but couldn't ignore the face his companion had gone back to making. "What's wrong?"
Contemplating on whether he should answer truthfully or not, Tezuka looked at Fuji for a moment and weighed the chances that he would commit to offense. These were things that outsiders such as him didn't really pry into. He saw the ledge again and spoke gravely, "I just thought it wasn't a place for friends or uncles."
Fuji blinked slowly, thinking. He set his cup down, got two frames and this time sat closer to Tezuka. He set both in front of them and stared at them for a while and gestured for the other to do so as well. The one on the left had all the Fuji siblings in their childhood days held by their parents. On that picture, Yuuta clung to his older brother and Syuusuke to his mother. Yumiko-san stood in front of a man in his early thirties, and was playing with the snow. The other was a fairly recent picture of the family. The striking difference would be Fuji Shuusuke's absence and a different man standing beside the Fuji family.
Fuji pointed to the man in the leftmost picture. "This is my father." He said in hushed tones. He moved to the man that had piqued Tezuka's interest, letting his finger graze across the cool glass and the hard carving of the frames. He stopped for a while to mull over which way to best say it and decided to explain it quickly. "This is my step-father." He stood, got the photographs and placed them on their appropriate positions. He held onto the older picture a bit longer, and smiled wistfully. "Sorry, I just never thought it would've been a topic that would come up anytime soon." After a few moments of thoughtful silence Fuji sat on the sofa to Tezuka's right and held his cup close to his lips. " Or at all. It's supposed to be Fujii now, but there isn't much of a difference."
Tezuka's eyebrows shot up but said nothing. It was disconcerting how they were talking about things like this, personal information, when they had never done so before. It wasn't disconcerting because they were talking about it. He felt he should probably be happy he got to know a side of Fuji no one else knew. But it was more of because he felt he wasn't the best person who should discuss these things with. He didn't know exactly what to say and how to handle them. He took a long sip from his cup and Fuji chuckled.
"Don't think on it too hard. I didn't let it get to me so don't let it get to you." They sat in companionable quiet after that as they sat and finished what remained of their drinks.
"Thank you for the coffee."
Fuji brushed it off as nothing, told Yumiko, their guest was leaving and led him outside.
Once Tezuka was outside the perimeter of the house Fuji called out to him again and grinned. "Good night, /Buchou/."
End Chapter 2
1)Tezuka and walking -The Japanese people love to commute and walk. So this does not necessarily mean just a few blocks away or
just across of it. There are usually no hospitals on the business district but it should be close enough.
2)/Shoji/- Sliding screens, of translucent paper pasted against a delicate wooden lattice, are the doors and sometimes the
walls of Japanese houses.
3)Atsuko and Miku -Most Asian countries carry their children on their back so as they can work while they take care of their baby,
as opposed to the 'western way' of carrying it by the arms all the time.
4)THE LEDGE - Sadly, my notes for this are lost, so I can't really remember what it's called, but it's a place where you and your family keep pictures and memoirs. As far as I know only of immediate family relations or considerably important or close people.
5)/FUJII/ -I chose this for two reasons, one: it makes life easier, two, it's as common as Fuji. This might be a mistranslation of the original Fuji and I really don't know the great difference that 'i' makes, but it also serves as a marker to me for formal documents and that if ever it was just a mistype the stepfather and biological father aren't related in any way. On the other hand the children just want to keep their last names, but Yoshiko is already a Fujii. Currently, their name change is already in processing.
Anything else I forgot, leave a message.