Longing. Wondering. Forgetting.
European Studies:Chapter 3
Good night, Buchou
Tezuka's left eye was twitching and he was tapping on his desk non-stop. Something about last night's farewell didn't sit with him nicely no matter what angle he looked at it. Fuji didn't call to him like /that /unless he was planning something. He didn't like a calculating, mischievous Fuji on his back. Not now. He was too busy with work and school. What was it like anyway? Why did it bother him so?
He looked at the papers on his desk and scowled. In spite of all the work laid out he wasn't getting any of it done at all. A low growl from his stomach reminded him that lunch hour was coming in soon, and that made him react the way only Fuji could make him. He cursed. He had just spent half of his day worrying about how to face the tensai, and it put a halt to his work. He slapped his hand to his face in frustration and wished for a miracle to come. Then he pursed his lips in determination, thought about their situation more than the incident and concluded that nothing short of disaster would come his way any time soon. At least not until Fuji let go of what he kept holding onto last night. Slightly feeling better he sighed. Lunch sounded very appealing to him. A tennis match too.
The other offices were still occupied with whatever the older members of the firm were doing. Thinking it was okay; he stalked over to the secretary's area and notified her of his decision to bring his entire work home for the day and continue there. He'd probably get in trouble with the higher-ups, but neither cared for nor adored the job of a business economist in this particular company. It was as if you had lived with a knife pointed at your throat your whole life. This stint wouldn't make a difference. Besides there was no way she'd say no after all he's been working over-time for the whole six months, hadn't he? To prove that thought she agreed and had that strange look of hers that he only saw glaze over her when she was with him. (Or was that his imagination running wild to the path of the unknown and the doubtful?) He grunted a thank you, bowed out of politeness and propriety and walked away. She was a nice eager to please person, but he was having suspicions hard-working wasn't the only adjective she thought of whenever he talked to her, especially when she did stunts like that.
It didn't take that long for him to reach the nearest sports center. Outside of it, he bumped into Tachibana Ann. The time that it took him to open his mouth in apology was all she needed to run away to the horizon. "So much for that." He grumbled as he entered the center.
Someone bumped into him again, and he grimaced. He could already feel the bruises accumulating on his body. "Tezuka-san!"
"Yuuta-kun." Tezuka peered at Yuuta and the boy's companion and nodded in acknowledgement to both of them. "Mizuki". A throbbing ache was starting to make itself known to him as he looked at the man across him. Mizuki seemed to have a twisted idea that since Fuji was so against him then Tezuka would be against him as well. But that was beyond his concern right now.
Yuuta spoke to him for a few more seconds before he sped off towards the courts. He realized a little later that Mizuki was still with him and that they were blocking the way. A bit annoyed he moved to what passed as a cafeteria for the place, chose a table and sat down. By that time Tezuka had concluded that, Mizuki was by far, more annoying than Inui. At least Inui didn't hound him like a dog, visibly that is.
"So." Mizuki had started, and Tezuka all but spared him a look. "It's a surprise you're here." An expectant look passed Mizuki's face. When he had realized he wouldn't be answered he made clicking sound as if to reprimand Tezuka.
Tezuka shrugged, taking pleasure in the fact that he wasn't a man who explained himself. Besides who was he to choose where the most convenient stop was? A competition with the ground to see who would first blink seemed almost appealing and for a moment Tezuka thought he would win it. An awkward silence loomed over them, second by second, overthrowing, overpowering the sound of balls hitting rackets and/or walls. The heat Tezuka had not felt before came at him with a vengeance. His grip on his left hand tightened as he immersed himself more to the sound he was so familiar with. That's when he became aware of the teacher's laughter and he couldn't help but asking, "What's so funny?"
The people within range were staring at Tezuka's companion, probably thinking he had the escapee from the mental hospital who had been announced in almost every news channel he knew. The thought that they were not that far from the truth took a place in Tezuka's mind. Gone was the familiar surrounding he had been in, the atmosphere and the feeling all with it. Uncapping a bottle of water, he offered some to Mizuki.
Mizuki took the bottle, downed it greedily and slammed it down so hard that the table shook from the force. "Well now! That was a hearty laugh." Mizuki said as he inched closer to Tezuka. "Ever try doing it?" He earned an incredulous look from the former Seigaku captain.
As though forced to say something, Tezuka answered slowly, "Not to my recent memory."
Mizuki on the other hand found this to be some sort of a wonderful joke. "Ne, Tezuka," Mizuki forced him to stand, take his bag and walked him to the entrance. He said things that Tezuka nearly could not understand since talking like a speeding car was not his forte and only caught snippets on things concerning St. Rudolph, Seigaku, college and whatever else. They moved so fast that it took him a while to realize that they were already on the sidewalk. There, Mizuki pulled him back and spoke to him so closely that he could feel the hair on his nape standing on end. "Take it one step at a time, /Te - zu - ka/." The slur on his name was uncannily familiar yet a different thing altogether. Something Tezuka didn't think he'd ever get used to.
He was released from the other man's grip. If he wasn't already surprised by the turn of events a while ago then he was now. He had stood there gaping for a few minutes, when he had turned back, the glass door was already closing and Mizuki's mop of hair was disappearing from the periphery. With conviction, he turned around and headed back to his office. The sad thing was by the time he would arrive there, lunch hour would be over, he'd get an earful from his boss and his stomach was still rebelling.
It was mid-afternoon when Yuuta came home. He called into the house and took of his shoes as per tradition. It was a welcome change in his life when he actually heard someone reply. He had passed the entrance hall, when he saw his brother shifting to hold two boxes better in the living room. "Aniki, how's Saeki-san?"
"He's fine." Syuusuke answered as he walked towards Yuuta. There was a look of thoughtfulness that passed over the older Fuji's face before he broke into a smile. "I was just about to unpack my stuff. Would you...?"
Without even bothering to give it some thought, Yuuta cut in his brother's request and replied eagerly. "Of course!". Fixing the strap of the duffel bag on his left shoulder, he ambled towards the older man and met him midway. "Let me help you with that." He took one of the boxes his brother was carrying and went ahead to the rooms with Syuusuke following closely behind.
They laid things out on the floor, worked through the things en masse and finished in less than an hour. Yuuta's reaction was much like a child as compared to when they were still in England. First dibs on the souvenirs. Yuuta had just managed to ask for some chocolate and was currently choosing by the table which he'd take with him when Syuusuke spoke unsure of himself, "Ne, Yuuta, do you think kaasan would mind if I started looking for a job?" He sat on the floor by the bed and was poking a cactus plushy a European girl gave him.
Yuuta seemed to freeze for a second as he retracted his hand from the chocolate pile and his eyes were focused on something on the tabletop close to the little brown temptations that teased him silently. He shrugged in answer to Syuusuke, faced him and sat on the floor cross-legged. "What makes you think she would?" When he received nothing in reply he tried changing the topic. "I heard you went to Sumire-san's send off party. You probably met everybody and Tezuka-san there, right?"
Yuuta's eyes thinned into slits as he stared scrupulously at his brother who seemed to draw a blank when he heard the question. He was now a hundred percent sure that something wasn't right with his brother. It should have been expected due to the fact that the older boy had been away for four years, but it was just odd. He stared at his brother's ever so young looking face and scowled at the unresponsiveness of the other. Life didn't revolve around the previous tennis captain, but Fuji Syuusuke being Fuji Syuusuke would have been able to give justice and respect wherever it was due, even if it was in the form of odd playful sadism. He closed his eyes for a long while and when he opened them again, Syuusuke had already edged towards him, ogling at him, up close and personal. Yuuta was about to make his brother get away and off of him when the older boy had nuzzled his cheek like a dog reacquainting itself with the master who had left it alone for far too long. Yuuta flamed up.
"Mmm, Yuuta, you smell like milk."
"Baka aniki, get off!" Yuuta said, placing his right hand on the other's chest and his left hand on his brother's face preventing anymore similar close contacts. This lasted for a while since Yuuta was panicking beyond reason and Syuusuke was acting much like the previous allusion - very much like a dog who wants more attention. When it was apparent that his older brother would not give up he tried rolling away. He was too naÃƒÂ¯ve. Yuuta was left as a helpless heap with the older Fuji straddling him by the legs. In a futile attempt he tried flailing his limbs which looked more like bucking than anything else. In summary Yuuta was scared out of his wits.
"Saa, Yuuta, I was just complementing you. It's not as if I'm going to do anything harmful, /or /hurtful, to you." Syuusuke stood, and just at that moment the door swung open to reveal Yumiko panting heavily.
"What happened?" She asked, heaving in all the air she could get as she stood, placing her weight mostly on the doorknob. She raised an eyebrow at the spectacle before her. Rumpled clothes. Tousled hair. A flushed Yuuta lying prostrate on the floor. It was very ungainly to say the least - not with the two boys' history of liking men more than the female species. The scene was beyond disturbing. She scowled when no one had given an explanation. Finally Syuusuke went to her side.
"Yuuta, let's play longer next time, ne?" Syuusuke said as he maneuvered his sister to face the other side and pushed her back. He cocked his head to glance if but briefly at his brother and beamed, eyes closed in his usual habit.
Yuuta grabbed the nearest thing he could hold onto (a book) and threw it with all the power he could muster. The door closed right before it hit the tensai. The frustration made him scream.
The experience of having to be stared at because of something on your face was not a pretty one. Fuji walked away from the convenience store, his heels clicking against the pavement and sighed. Yumiko slapped him so hard that it still hurt. It was true it was his fault, denying any explanation, but she didn't have to do it that hard. He shifted the plastic bag to his right hand and brought up his left to touch his cheek. The thought of ice made him itch with want.
With a new plan in mind, he took a sharp turn to the right, heading for the park and jogged to the nearest drinking fountain. He was glad it was late into the night; it meant almost nobody was left commuting. He set his things down, splashed the cold water against his cheek and nearly moaned in relief. When he had heard footsteps approaching from somewhere, he stood and turned to leave. He tripped on his bag of groceries in doing so and had to hold onto the fountain for balance.
Uneasiness settled in his stomach. The darkness made him squint to see clearly who the man with glasses and at least two meters away from him was. One second seemed to be an eternity when something had suddenly clicked together. "Tezuka-buchou." He stood straight, nodded his head in acknowledgment and suddenly felt the cold air touching his skin.
The taller brunette closed the space in between them. When he had stopped, they were barely an inch apart and, just as suddenly, he bent low to pick up the groceries which almost caused Fuji to flinch. There were some words he whispered with an emotion Fuji couldn't place but heard with a distinct clarity. "I thought I saw you." Tezuka stood straight again and gazed into his eyes for longer than what comfort would allow them, searching. He seemed pleased when he turned away. He gestured to a bench not too far away and as an afterthought he said, "I'm not your captain anymore, so stop calling me that."
After getting his bearings back Fuji grinned and walked behind the man he had always looked up to before passing him. "I thought you liked the power play." He stuck his hands inside the pockets of his jeans and whistled. "Well fancy meeting you here." He was the first to sit on the bench, leaning against the back rest. He closed his eyes, half expecting the other to talk more and for him just to listen, the other half somehow knowing that this would be something short.
"Well I moved out." was Tezuka's curt reply.
Suddenly Fuji felt the air warming up, took out his hands and clasped them together. He set his lips on a firm line and examined the man who still stood before him. The lamplight shined down on the many things he would have missed if they kept standing by the fountain. There was a small slouch in the proud stance he had always associated with the captain. The pleased look he had seen a while back was now gone only to be replaced by a frown. His hair looked absolutely unkempt for an office worker, and his clothes were like the unruffled feathers of a bothered bird. "You look like the world's about to end." He deadpanned.
Surprise - a common feeling he would be getting from now on, Tezuka deduced - washed him as he hadn't realized that he we as putting up as such. He took the seat beside the Fuji. It was true though. He fixed his glasses and combed his hair in an attempt to right things. The confidence bit will have to be answered to later. Sparing a few seconds to think whether to answer the question or not, Tezuka explained as he carefully omitted the details that would entail teasing from the other. "My boss got mad for my leaving early for lunch today."
Fuji's brows had knitted for a second when he registered what the other had said. "But I thought you were studying law!" He exclaimed, remembering his conversation with him last night. There was another pregnant pause between them. Fuji stared at Tezuka openly as if to decide whether the other guy was joking or saying an actual fact. Juggling school and work was hard, more so for past-graduate studies such as law or medicine. As far as Fuji knew Tezuka had no reason to do all this, taking away his time from his studies. He'd rather it really was the first, but instinct told him it was the latter.
Tezuka shrugged. "I just took the test this August, and school doesn't start until next March. So I gathered I'd take a contractual job." When he realized what it was Fuji was so against he explained further. "I'm the one paying for rent and everything that needs upkeep, but my parents are still funding me. They will be, once school starts. Mother kept giving me offers I normally wouldn't have been able to say no to, but I wanted to stop being dependent. So I left, got a contractual job, but I'm not so cold as to cut off family ties." He sighed and shook his head. "She still gave it all. The month after I left, our old family car was in front of the apartment, with jii-san handing me some money they were lending me for a few months." By the time he finished speaking, Fuji's shoulders were shaking with mirth and his back was now turned to him. He tried understanding what the smaller brunette was saying in between gasps of air but couldn't understand it at all. Somehow he felt deja vu pass over him. "What's so funny?"
Fuji tried to settle down and smother the last of his laughter but couldn't quite do it. He had shaken his head and inhaled a huge gulp of air and spoke. "It's just that... I suddenly realized that you would never...express to me these kinds of things. I guess I've been proven wrong twice, /captain/" Fuji looked very happy at the time and Tezuka could neither question nor admonish him more than that.
The main attraction of the park sprayed water and gushed generously, filling in the now comfortable silence they were in. This would be the second time in many years that they would experience such. It didn't take much to get used to it, and both took pleasure in it. Fatigue seemed to have left the taller of the two, and the pain that stung Fuji's cheek was now bearable. Fuji slowly closed his eyes and listened, listened to everything: the cars, the people, the chimes, everything. It was the end of the day, no more bustling, honking and other harsh sounds you'd hear in the distance, just a slow murmur of everything. Tezuka watched his companion and shifted to follow the other's lead.
Wanting to keep the security they had found, Fuji spoke in a murmuring fashion. "Speaking of a boss, I'm actually looking for a job. Working with familiar faces would be nice."
Tezuka grunted, almost like he snorted, immediately wanting to dismiss any of those kinds of thoughts. "You wouldn't want to work at our company. The treatment is bad. I have my own office there, but my opinion doesn't really matter. The women there are...for lack of a better word, sluts and annoys me beyond comprehension."
Fuji laughed again and at this Tezuka smiled. When someone had decided to turn of the water taps for the fountains, they stood up stretching. The water thinned until it was no more than a trickle. The clouds had cleared up and the moon was now visible in the sky. Snow wouldn't be an issue tonight. Both felt it would be a nice walk home.
"Well I'll see for myself."
"Maybe.", Fuji grinned, cutting Tezuka off, patted the other man's hand and took the plastic bag he had nearly forgotten. "Thanks for the company, Tezuka. I hope your car gets fixed soon." He moved past him and towards the general direction of home, noting that the clicking of his heels seemed 'happier' as of it was transposed to an octave higher. "Bye."
Tezuka called after him, groping for what seemed like his last opportunity. His face was stricken with confusion that he couldn't repress any longer. "Fuji!" The smaller brunette slowed to a stop, but did not face him. "You didn't forget...did you?" Something constricted in Tezuka's throat, preventing him from saying what it was that person could possibly forget, preventing him from saying 'me' and clarifying his statement.
Fate played weird and honest-to-goodness annoying jokes on humans most of the time and if Tezuka weren't unsure as to the nature of these pranks he would have barked a command to make it stop. Something similar to giving a million people their real lives for instance since laps would hardly do anything to something metaphysical. The switch in their position was somewhat disconcerting. He couldn't gauge Fuji's reaction clearly but he heard his answer, and that would be enough for now.
"Of course I didn't."
There was an incessant flashing of red that caught Tezuka's eyes as he entered his apartment that night. He closed the door as he hung his coat, flicked the light switch on and toed his chooes off. Without much thought to it, he set the answering machine to play /(You have four messages), /went for the kitchen and laid his things down on the counter. After all that he'd been through, he still hadn't eaten properly.
The apartment was small. It was neither flashy nor really minimalist in nature. It was something in the middle. It held the basic necessities for everyday living and a few other things for his wont pleasures. In what would pass as a dining room cum kitchen cum living room, sat a low table in the middle minus the coal. A television set, present as it was, sitting on the counter to the far right, was there for the sole purpose of bringing the news in. Fishing gear was situated at the farthest corner from the door, but was within easy reach. Beside that were two bags containing hiking equipment, with the easily corrodible items packed with layers and layers of cloth for protection. The kitchen part, though rarely restocked had a complete inventory and was spick and span, the same with the other rooms of the apartment. The tidiness and the immaculate cleanliness of the place made it look as if it was larger than what it really was. Two other doors were always locked upon leaving the apartment, one of which was the bedroom. Also like any other cheap apartment, it had poor plumbing and very thin walls. It didn't bother him that much, not yet that is.
An ear-piercing sound had filled the air, lasting for at least five seconds when he started looking for food in his refrigerator. For a moment he thought that was all there was to the tape. You know, those people who actually wait for the person called to answer before speaking up and when faced with an answering machine actually freak out, then they call again and speak up? He was getting that a lot recently. Or maybe they were scared of him in general. Soon enough the voice of his mother reached his ears. He should have known better really. (Ah, Kunimitsu-san, do you think that's an appropriate message?) /After acquiring something that would suffice for the meantime he jumped onto the kitchen counter, and while shaking the bottle he was holding, wondered on what was wrong with his message if he could just feel the amused smile on his mother's face. /(Anyway, please don't forget Thursday! He's looking forward to it, I'm sure. After all you're his favorite. Keep well, Kunimitsu. I also look forward to that day.)
Another beep and it was soon followed by Atobe's annoyed and exasperated voice. Tezuka drank greedily as he listened with half a mind to the business man. (Tezuka!//Stop being childish!) /Tezuka smiled at the success he achieved in those few seconds. /(Speaking of childish, I just risked my position by actually trying to save your ungrateful neck. To think I even got you a job with your own office! Your own office. Try not to anger my father's partners too much.) /There was this small voice in his head that said he probably should be sorry, but he wasn't. The office thing certainly wasn't Tezuka's idea, and it wasn't Atobe's even. So mind you it wouldn't have mattered because he really is just filling in for an on-leave staff...Okay maybe he could reconsider changing the message, shaking the bottle again, he smirked. /(This is maddening...Why do I - nevermind. I have the tickets. So don't forget Thursday! And change your message before anyone else hears it!)
Tezuka leapt from the counter, drank what was left in the bottle and put it aside. Unbuttoning his suit, he headed for his room. When he had unlocked the door, he left it open and scrunched his nose up as the warm air made its presence felt. He couldn't feel any of winter's greeting in this particular room. Letting a baleful glare slip towards the sliding glass windows, he was beginning to reconsider trashing them as they were beginning to get to his mental and physical health. Reason always winning over him, he opened the window.
(Ara Tezuka-san... you're not with Atobe-san are you?Ah nevermind...)
That bit made Tezuka snap back to reality. He didn't know whether he should laugh or not. Weighing the pros and cons of not changing the message, he decided to leave it as it is. Life was more interesting that way. The silence that loomed for the next few seconds made him worry if his answering machine had finally conked out. When he had finally dressed in something more suited to his taste, he checked the contraption and was glad to see it still running.
(This is Fuji, Yuuta, Tezuka-san. If you're free tomorrow, could you pass by the same sports center at lunch time? If not please tell me A.S.A.P., and I'll try to pass by your office.)
That was odd.
Taking a small notebook out of his back pocket, he checked his schedule. There was the car and work, aside from that there was nothing else. "Well if it's important..." The fourth beep interrupted his train of thought. As he waited patiently, he buttoned up his polo, grabbed his keys and went to put on his shoes. When he had already gone outside of his apartment, leaning on the doorframe just to see what was left of the day's messages, he heard that shrill piercing sound, long and annoying which indicated that the tape had ended.
Now, that was weirder.
End Chapter 3