Categories > Anime/Manga > Prince of Tennis > European Studies

Emperor's Birthday

by Johin 0 Reviews

You are my enemy, my friend.

Category: Prince of Tennis - Rating: PG - Genres: Angst, Drama, Romance - Characters: Fuji Shuusuke, Kikumaru Eiji, Oishi Syuichirou, Tezuka Kunimitsu - Published: 2006/12/28 - Updated: 2006/12/28 - 6742 words

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Disclaimer: see prologue
Warning: see prologue

A/N:
It is in this chapter where I thought:Girl. No, girly-boy. No, teenager with issues. So forgive me but that's how everything turned out. -insert sweatdrop here-. And if you guys start hating Yukio I will cry because I nearly did(hate him I mean. nearly is okay just not completely please). Aheh but I still love him. I really do. If there is something culturally relevant that I didn't explain please tell me. I didn't notice it.

Lastly anything between "--this--" is in English.

Thank you to Clam.Clam, yoshikochan, yamatoforever, Aleana Flame Dragonstar and tampabayrocky. I dedicate this to all you, your insights and your kindness.

To Clam.Clam I will try hard to find all those "to"s and "too"s I just haven't gotten around to doing it yet. Mainly because I'm lazy and because I didn't know about them but regardless your comment is much appreciated, hope to hear from you again. Please leave your email so I can send you a message - big smile -.

Thank you too reader and to all my previous reviewers.
European Studies:Chapter 7
Everyone in the family had gone about their business when dinner had ended. The two cousins were in Fuji's room getting comfy but it was doubtful that the younger would wake up anytime soon.

Fuji himself remained in his place in the dining area. He laid his head on top on the wooden surface with coffee to his side, motionless for a few moments. His legs hurt so much that if anyone could give him a massage or a therapy effective enough to take it away he'd gladly pay ten times over. All that running was too taxing on his still recovering body. A door opened, and he spared a glance at the staircase to his far right. Tezuka, giving the impression of despondence, descended from it. Fuji sat straight, propped his head with an arm and beckoned for the other man.

"I was wondering if you needed any help."

Sighing and wishing he could take him up on that was Fuji's only reaction to it. "Everything's fine. How's Yukio-kun?"

"Resting well."

"...Forgive me for my previous hostility. It's a case of mistaken identity." Tezuka's eyes averted from his for a split second before rewarding him with a nod. His avoidance of the issue was painfully clear for anyone who cared to see. Pressing for such things would create no good so Fuji deliberately delayed their talk . "Do you want to use the furo? Yuuta just finished."

"I'd be imposing."

"No, not at all. I'd be happy to oblige." Fuji led him to the bathroom and pointed to the pile of clothes and toiletries that he had the foresight to prepare earlier. "Those are some clothes that might fit you. It might be a bit snug since you definitely have a bigger build, but you'll endure. There's a set for Yukio-kun as well."

An awkward pause between them. Fuji was having a steady escalating sense of foreboding but refused to have it show. He stared at his fear straight in the face with grin. "If you need anything else, I'll be upstairs." Stepping out of the senmenjo, he closed the door behind himself, cleaned vestiges of his coffee break and proceeded in his dreaded scaling of the stairs.

Hoisting a leg up one step, he recoiled with the pain shooting to his spine. He clung onto the banister and let the electricity pass completely before attempting another. It wasn't the intensity of shocks that had him clutching the wood for life but the long lasting reverberations throughout his body, small and subtle vibrations that came in packages of twos and threes. If he moved a limb it triggered hair-raising jolts to his other extremities effectively numbing about half of his body.

"Might I ask what you're doing?"

He froze when he had felt eyes zone in on him. It was Yuuta. "Having fun with the banister?"

Yuuta clucked at the idiocy, sat on his hind legs and pored over the aforementioned fun. "That seems boring to me."

He wondered if this was a form of exacting revenge or genuine interest. Furthering that idea, he internally debated if there was any decent come back for that at all. "Not really. Banisters are interesting things. Slide atop them. Swing under them. Things like that."

"Right. And you were doing...?"

"Picking out where I should carve the 'I love Yuuta' mark I recently designed."

Yuuta gazed at him expressionlessly, stood and quickly ambled over to his right side in the narrow stairway. He didn't give Fuji the leisure of processing what he was up to. He ducked, slung an arm over his brother's shoulders and took the other arm in an assist to walk. They barely fit between the wall and the balustrade.

Shaking his head, Fuji whispered. "I'm not hurting as much as you think. Just beaten for the day, I guess." A realization came to him as he observed his younger brother. Yuuta wasn't as gruff as he usually was. His trademark frown wasn't deep-set with annoyance. It had a passive disapproval but nothing more. So maybe just maybe Yuuta had been able to forgive him, accept him.

"That may be true but," Stopping abruptly, Yuuta tugged on his older brother's sleeve. "...just come on already. You're heavy!"

Fuji didn't mind the insult thrown at him and angled himself to have a better view of Yuuta's face. "You're blushing!" Yuuta sputtered, tugging harder. They clambered over the flight of steps as fast as they could and upon reaching their destination, both sighed as a weight had been taken off. "Thank you." He barely heard the grumbled reply but the thought was enough to make him swim in happiness. After which his younger brother went about what he had originally planned on doing.

Entering his room, Fuji was greeted by the sight of a sleeping boy sprawled across the bedspread he had instructed Tezuka to prepare. Nostalgia took over him. The imagery put forth the memory of a five year old who had always snuck under the blankets of Fuji's bed. And with this second personification of his younger brother, they still got off on the wrong foot. He frowned. It was a truth that he did not like facing but had to welcome. He was inclined to believe this was changing.

His eyes flickered towards the kid who resembled Tezuka uncannily. It was out of curiosity and paranoia that he had decided on following him. And of obscure longing. Inexplicable at the moment but the comfort whenever he was around Tezuka was something he wanted. Especially since this morning. He stepped up to the boy, carefully collected him from the floor and transferred him to the western style futon. Brushing off a stray lock on the youngster's forehead, he gently tucked him in for what may have been the nth time today.

"Mmm, okaasan, don't." Yukio stirred however when he had burrowed under the new found comfort of Fuji's bed he was back to sleep.

When Fuji had set for his study table he was surprised to find Tezuka sitting there with his arms and legs crossed donning the old clothes if his father. He stepped back to sit on his window sill. "How long have you been there?"

"About a minute or so. The door was open." Tezuka answered quietly as he seemed to be weighing his options heavily.

Patience was a virtue Fuji was proud of haveing but the more Tezuka didn't speak, the more he felt the complications of these problems. He barely had a week of stay and these hindrances kept popping out of nowhere. Like with Mizuki and Yuuta the other morning. The fact of his memory failing him recently was worse far more than he was willing to admit. Mizuki was an old rival, he knew that much. Just not precisely how he knew him to be. He had confessed to Eiji just this afternoon but not all of it. This wasn't only about Tezuka or his biological father. There were many gaps in the spaces where his cherished moments should be but he couldn't find them no matter how long he explored the murky depths of yesterday. Tezuka was a complete stranger to him every time he caught a glimpse of the man. If not by inference he would not have known him to be his former tennis club captain.

One thing was obvious; though unfamiliar he was still most comfortable with him. He drank the details that defined Tezuka - the firm jaw line saying of his strict stoicism, the slight tan he'd acquired from rigorous exercise most probably, the dark coffee tinted hair which was wet from the bath prior, the thin rimmed glasses that framed deep brown eyes. Tezuka was like chocolate, and he wanted more. His gaze followed the movements of the hand coming up to pinch the bridge of Tezuka's nose. If it was to relieve stress or to distract himself from the agonizingly close scrutiny he was receiving, Fuji didn't mind.

"I have an inkling that you will start flashing at me your eyes that set fear to the bravest of men I know if I tell you." Tezuka voiced.

It was valid. He had done it a lot in college as well. Fuji chuckled. "Don't worry I won't throw you out whatever it is."

"That's what scares me."

"I'll take that as a compliment."

Tezuka assiduously wiped away the nonexistent fog on his glasses. Upon finishing he professed his reasons. "I did have someone follow you." Fuji gaped at this information and the temperature in the room dropped to sub zero. Tezuka explained in such a deadpan manner that it was slowly infuriating the slightly younger man. If he could he would have placed some tape over the newborn motor mouth which had gone beyond simply irksome to horrendously abominable in a split second. "It wasn't for a malicious cause. I saw your file in the merger. There was a name you kept referring to who is extremely dangerous to deal with."

Fuji glared for all it was worth and picked up a cactus, toyed with it. "Rowe. I know about him. You had no business reading my file in the first place."

"I do. Atobe requested me to make an assessment if you were to become an...asset to his company." The tone in Tezuka's voice was self-righteous and self-admiring. To Fuji, Tezuka saw neither flaw nor offense in his own actions. To Fuji, Tezuka mutated into an annoyance he wanted out. "Someone else has been following you, Fuji. I received it in the preliminary report yesterday."

"Preliminary. So you're not sure." He stood from his place on the window sill and stalked towards the door. If Tezuka expected him to take this standing and be his punch bag then he was deathly wrong.

Tezuka blocked his pathway and refused to budge. "You said you wouldn't get angry."

"Did I now? I said I wouldn't kick you out." Fuji said icily as he tried pushing the taller man away. He gave up after having found out that he lacked the strength to do something as strenuous as that. "Who are you anyway? I don't even know you!" He had almost punched Tezuka in the gut with a bout of adrenaline coursing though him when Yukio screeched.

The whole family came running when they heard the little boy. Yuuta arrived first at the scene and having been warned earlier on, ushered his mother and sister away from them.

"I could actually throw you in jail for invasion of privacy!"

Fuji had been on a warpath when Yuuta came hurrying back. Without warning he abruptly interrupted the heated conversation. "Aniki, then get mad at me too."

"Yuuta..." Fuji stopped his train of thought as he felt betrayal land a second blow. Tezuka asked his cousin to wait for him downstairs, and the younger Fuji shut the door behind him.

"I admit to these - I asked for your file from Tezuka-san and did my fair share of snooping in your room."

The energy seeped away from him little by little. An invisible force seemd to push him back to the sill. His knees felt weak, and the little shocks of electricity came back. He shuddered from the cold and focused his weight on the hard cement of the window. He had gone from blind rage to utter resignation. "I would have preferred you asked me."

"You wouldn't have known if you were in danger." Tezuka stated matter-of-factly. He stood where Yukio had been just moments ago, and Yuuta was right in front of him. Oddly, with just the three of them alone in the room, it was very crowded.

"You don't actually think the Rowe mafia would fly across the world just to get rid of their boss's son's boyfriend, now do you?" Fuji bit back, crossing his arms. "Besides Leon's father, who I'm sure you're intimately acquainted with now that you've read my file, didn't delve into that part of the family business. The older brother did."

Tezuka visibly flinched and backed away.

Fuji made eye contact with Tezuka and snorted. He may have gone and went mad for all the wrong reasons but that didn't stop him from feeling betrayed. And this was brought on by Tezuka of all people. He turned his attentions to Yuuta and shook his head. "You must have been really worried, Yuuta. I'm sorry but I can handle myself."

It was a dismissal, and Yuuta recognized it for what it was. He took it gratefully albeit somewhat anxiously. It must have been plainly seen on his face since Tezuka gave him a reassuring pat on the back. "Then, I'll have Yukio-kun sleep in my room."

Minutes passed slowly afterwards. The two stared at each other and neither wanted to yield. "I feel I should be more angry but both of you aren't giving me the chance to." Fuji snarled and without warning sprawled unto the floor mattress. Wrapping a blanket around himself, he turned his back against Tezuka. A change of clothes seemed to be the last of his worries. "It would be an insult if you didn't take the bed Tezuka-san. Don't add any more than I can take."

When it had been evident that Fuji refused to face Tezuka or the problem at hand, he sat on the proffered bed with a sigh. "Would it be correct to assume that whatever I do from now on you will consider it an insult?" Getting no answer he himself turned in for the night.
The following morning Tezuka got up to find Fuji gone without a trace. Knocking on a random door across the room, he rudely roused its occupants. As luck may have it, Yuuta groggily peeked at the intruder and was reminded that there was a train to catch at 5:50. He let him in, soon reclaiming his bed as he lightly pushed its small invader away and off of it. Yukio complained at the sudden impact but kept on sleeping. It was a marvel at how strange bed-fellows the two made to be. Taking all of their things, Tezuka wrote a note of thanks on Yuuta's desk and picked his cousin off the floor.
Traversing from Fuji's house to his apartment at the ungodly hour of four was troublesome to say the least. Commuting methods except for walking was impossible. Neither bus nor cab could be seen in the roads Tezuka had trudged along. At some point Yukio started coming to but that proved as a problem of its own since the growling of the boy's stomach grew louder every few minutes. It was therefore another blessing that he had moved out of his parents' house else he might have a farther destination to reach.

Half an hour had passed when he entered his apartment complex. From this point it was another twenty or so minutes to Tokyo train station by car. Oishi should be passing by presently with a taxi they had reserved for the morning. He let Yukio continue his sleep in his room and set off to do the last of his preparations. Breakfast would have to be easily cooked and packed away. Bananas, yogurt and ham sandwiches were the best choices. With that done window and door locks were double checked. His landlord had already been notified of the weekend trip with a special favor of checking in on his apartment every now and then. Setting off to do the last on his agenda he inspected the things he had arranged two days prior. Everything was kept intact despite his absence. He shouldered the heaviest of their bags and nudged the younger boy awake. Upon receiving an intelligible response they set off for the entrance where the black car slowed to a stop as scheduled.

Oishi scrambled out of the back and helped with the loading of the trunk. He crouched down to meet eye to eye with Yukio and beamed at him. "I'm glad I finally get a chance to meet the Yukio Tezuka's so proud off." Half asleep in the chilly dawn the boy nodded and offered to shake the friendly man's hand. He bowed his introduction and bumped his forehead on their linked hands. This amused both adults immensely. Once amiable to being steered away from his new bear like play thing, Yukio got in the cab followed by his guardians.

The ride to the station was uneventful. Yukio had nodded off again, and Oishi was fishing around his medical books. Tezuka had put some thought into bringing a law book as a jumpstart on the number of things he'd have to read once school began but laughed at the preposterous idea of studying plus his five year old charge. It would never happen. As they approached the station, Tezuka could see the red bricks of the classic styled building. The bright night lights of yesterday were shining from every corner you looked as the sun had yet to make itself known. Closer now to the Marunouchi gates, he could see Eiji with his flaming hair, wailing impatiently at the curb. It was a nice change to see the station almost deserted in contrast to the congested everyday hustle and bustle you'd have to experience there on normal hours. The redhead greeted them immediately after they alighted from the car and made his introductions to the boy as well. When the taxi driver had been paid and their things brought down, they were set to leave.

Eiji's greeting shook Yukio awake completely. He had trouble keeping his head steady from the up and down movements the acrobat did. And when one plus one equaled to two he let out a yip and gawked at him. "You're the animal doctor's brother!" The redhead grinned and hollered for Fuji to join them.

Tezuka's eyes nearly bugged out when he heard that. He tried to conceal his shock by fixing his glasses but it was unmistakably useless. Payback was a bitter pill, and those plotted by the tensai were by no means discreet as they were subtle. The pain Fuji inflicted on his right toe made him give out a strangled yelp. "Hello wanwan-chan." Fuji mussed the boy's hair and drew back, stepping on Tezuka's foot again.

The little boy frowned and gave making his hair obey a shot. "I'm not wanwan-chan, and please stop hurting Mitsu-niichan!"

Unfazed Fuji moved aside with a half-hearted turn and the ever present smile. He made it a point to let them all know of his intentions wholly which was to ignore Tezuka all day if possible. "Ah, I didn't see you there. How's the weather?"

Tezuka frowned. "Dreary I believe."

"You don't say."

Eiji distributed their train tickets as the only damage control he could think up of. "Well let's hurry. The train should be arriving in a minute and we leave in ten. Nozomi 49 stopping at Hakata-ku!" He exclaimed, posing for effect. Stumped on his next course of action, he unpremeditatedly dragged Fuji inside the station. Holding his friend close as they walked he whispered, "Can I just say that something weird is going on between you and Tezuka-buchou?"

"No comment." Listlessly Fuji picked up their bags where they had left them and ditched him as Eiji became dumbstruck with his reaction. He had no intention of explaining more than he already had in this week. A vacation was meant to be just that.

"Wasn't asking for any." Eiji muttered. He nearly jumped out of his skin when someone had poked him from behind. Goose bumps crawled all over his skin and his hair stood on end at the soft touch. Getting himself together, he chased his friend. "Wait up!"

Tezuka looked at Yukio's extended finger then to Oishi. "I never knew Kikumaru was that ticklish." Oishi shrugged it off as well.

Pulling at his arm, Yukio ignored the comment and pleaded. "Mitsu-niisan, let's hurry. We might get left behind." With a nod from Tezuka he followed the two others at break neck speed. This would be a first for the youngster to travel via bullet train which is why Tezuka couldn't let him out of his sight. Yukio waved a hello to the conductor who kept watch on the open window of the sleek white metal. They took a picture together and the kindly old man gave him a Shinkansen ruler in turn. Thanking him profusely, Yukio then brandished his new item to the Tezuka who doted on him like a proud father would.

They boarded the train with Tezuka trailing behind the little boy as he searched for seats 20B and C. A two-seater on the left and a three-seater on the right - their group took up an entire lane. Quickly he stowed their luggage on the overhead bins except for their packed meal and ushered Yukio to the middle. He had not realized 20A had already been taken by none other than Fuji himself until it was too late. A bag lay across his lap, and he was currently boring holes on the glass windows. He had expected to have Oishi sit there but was wrong.

Freakishly and without looking Fuji had been able to deduce who he was. "I hope you don't mind. I like window seats, and Eiji just took the other one"

Not one to look at a gift horse in the mouth, Tezuka acquiesced but a migraine had hit him regardless. It was going to be a long ride. In the background he could hear Yukio asking for his breakfast and the usual announcements. (/This train's final destination is Hakata. We will have a brief stop in Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Odawara.../)
It was with Eiji's prodding and conniving that he had come to sit beside Tezuka. /Sort things out he says but these things aren't that easy to/. He fingered the blue upholstery of his chair. Like velvet but not quite. It was warm against his near frozen hand. Resting his chin on his right hand, he riveted the rapid movement of the cityscape in quiet repose. It felt familiar and foreign all at once. He chanced a glance to his companions. The two cousins were too engrossed with themselves and their meal; the other two appeared to be making up for lost time. Noting the hour, he carefully extracted the contents of the bag he'd taken so much care to bring.
The Canon EOS-1V he had saved up for wasn't newest in the recent line of analogue SLR cameras. In fact it was a tad bit old for cameras he usually coveted but he was head-over-heels in love with it. Originally priced at 800 or so British Pounds it was a steal at 400. Taking a firm grip of it he positioned himself in wait. He tuned out everything in his surroundings and concentrated. Focusing its lens on his left, Fuji waited for that moment his instincts would tell him to capture.

He studied his friends through the viewfinder. Eiji seemed to have let loose the mother hen instinct in the medical student. For people who kept their space ground they were acting quite intimately, blurring lines they had drawn for themselves. A blush decorated the redhead's cheeks, and an air of extreme worry veiled Oishi's. The most annoying and recently most offending man in the car had a scowl as he fretted over Yukio's undiagnosed ADHD whereas the boy was having trouble eating a sandwich and ogling his camera simultaneously. Any hard set lines on their faces were mellowed by the steady rise of the sun. The timing would have to be exact. He wouldn't allow anything else. Now if that hand reaching for his prized possession would move to the side...One. Two. Three. /Click/.

A tick was forming fairly large on his brow. If that picture developed badly as it most probably had he would have to set an assortment of torture methods before he could be completely satisfied with retribution. Veering away from that dark path in his mind, he patted the boy's crown and asked, "Do you like cameras Yukio-kun?"

Yukio bobbed his head so fast that Fuji wondered if it would fall off. Then as if realizing something the boy turned away but kept peeping at the black contraption in Fuji's hands. Analogue lines were infinitely more interesting than ordinary compact digital cameras mass produced for the layman. So the desire to use it kept twinkling in the boy's eyes. It would be difficult to stay mad with puppy dog eyes like that. Fuji chuckled, refocused his camera and extended three fingers for a countdown. "Say cheese."

It was a smile worth a million to his parents. It stayed on even after the shoot which enlivened the boy's features immensely. Despite the confusing things happening around him lately, his happiness could still be found in the simplest of things. "May I see it please?"

"I'm sorry but it's not digital. We'll have to take the negatives to a camera shop first."

The palpable deflation had Fuji grappling with the kid's dejection when Tezuka suggested nonchalantly, "But he can take pictures right?" And like a flame that was blazing, the sparkle in Yukio's eyes was hard to ignore. Recognizing this as the beginning of what could be an adult's worst nightmare, Tezuka set limits. "He doesn't need to go far. Staying in his seat should be enough to have one or two tries."

Fuji tentatively bit his lower lip, peeking at Tezuka at every chance he got. "He'd also have to finish his breakfast, wouldn't he? No scraps or wastes."

Readjusting his glasses, Tezuka gazed at Yukio for an added measure. "Ah yes. Yukio, do you promise to do all that?"

"And to not destroy it?" Fuji asked finally.

Unsure of himself, the boy nodded slowly. There were some misgivings in the back of Fuji's mind but it wouldn't hurt to have the child try. With the same smile his godfather in photography had on that fine day, he handed it to Yukio who couldn't help squealing for joy. He struggled to keep balance with the shaky movements of the train as he stood and imitated Fuji's earlier ministrations with the lens.

Fuji's own love affair with photography started similarly. A photographer had set up in the park he and Yuuta always played in. He asked if he could try a go at it, and without hesitation the man agreed. It was a Polaroid. In the end the man gave him the pictures he'd taken. What had fascinated him the most was the ability of the device to capture the feelings he'd had in those moments with no words at all. Tokens in time could be collected with it. Bit by bit his heart fell to the hobby - to its intricacies and its simplicities. The painstaking focusing, speed setting and patient waiting were not inane things he had gone nuts over for obsessive compulsive reasons but because each aspect affected the outcome. One could alter the other and revolutionize the end result into something else. Nonetheless, the most important thing was the emotions that were packaged with it. Someone had given him a Polaroid awhile back but it was stowed away with his other things above them. It would have been too much of a hassle to get it though.

Leaning across the seat between him and Tezuka he hissed. "You do know I'll have to kill you if something happens."

"Nothing's going to."

"And why's that?"

"Because I'm here." Tezuka looked at Fuji pointedly. He smirked and clarified the statement. "He'll behave because I'm here."

There was a mix of emotions that ran through Fuji. He reclined to his seat and covered his face. Then without warning he convulsed with laughter. The two across them were curious as to the sudden turn of events. Tezuka was puzzled and at wits end since he appeared to be the butt of many jokes of his friends and acquaintances alike. He murmured, "I'll pretend you're not laughing at me and I'll laugh with you for austerity's sake."

"And why would it be austere?"

"I'd be denying my pride." Trying to control his outburst, Fuji held onto his sides and shifted in his seat to avoid making any contact that would trigger it again.

Soon the train conductor, same as the one who had given them the ruler, passed them by and asked for their tickets. Congenially he had asked if the sweet child was anyone's. Proudly Yukio answered he was Tezuka's which added greatly to Fuji's amusement. Wiping away the tears that had formed in his eyes, Fuji passed his ticket to the conductor. The man then busied himself with the other passengers.

Fuji suppressed another round of chortles with much difficulty. Surprisingly his enmity towards Tezuka had ebbed away as though it wasn't there in the first place. Even if he tried he couldn't muster enough ill will to remain that way. Impulsively he pointed at Tezuka intent to distance himself from him. "I'm still mad at you." He declared trying to prevent cracking a smile.

"I'll keep that in mind." Tezuka hummed. "So I'm not insulting." It was more of a question than a statement - one that tested the waters between them.

"Never said anything. We could change that though."

There was a slight change in Tezuka's color at the mention of it. He shook his head fiercely, rapt with the excitement that came with it. "I'm in favor of keeping it this way."

Yukio plopped onto his seat and pouted at the jokes the two were having without him. It grabbed both adult's attention instantaneously. He returned the camera intact and bowed gratefully though a bit awkwardly on the chair. Apparently no satisfaction could be had with one or two. The film had been used until only half was free of the thirty six. Yukio formed the invisible barrier for the reestablished friendship the two just discovered. While wolfing down the remainder of his breakfast, he averred, "Mitsu-niichan is mine!"
Things had gone awry after Yukio laid claim on Tezuka. Whatever they had resolved away from the proverbial rock now faced a wall the length of China. Fuji had darted off on the first chance he saw to escape from the pressure needlessly given to him. He deftly exited his place by the window while all his companions were dead to the world.
At the end of the car were the restrooms and phone booth. Stealing away for the purpose of calling he pushed the door to the small compartment and closed it behind him. To his left was the machine for phone cards that sold them with various designs of bullet trains on its face featuring the Nozomi line. He supplied it with a thousand yen and took the one it generated. To his right was the telephone. He passed his hand over the cool digits as he decided who to call up - his brother or Leon. It was all supposition but perhaps Leon had not trusted him enough or perhaps the Rowe family truly loathed his existence but if proven otherwise, he'd be the mistrusting one. Punching the numbers for an overseas call he waited to be connected. Better find out. It was about time he made one anyway.

The British accent carried over to his ears, and he leaned forward to rest his forehead on the gray metal. "--Hello? Hello? Who's calling?--"

"--Hey.--"

"Shuusuke!" He could hear the hurried shuffling of papers and multitudes of pens dropping to the floor. "You haven't returned my calls at all!"

"Sorry. There were many things I needed to attend to."

"Well, that's fine. You're taking care of yourself presumably. Don't overexert yourself now."

"As if." Fuji grinned at the humor in the Leon's voice. "Oh yeah. My high school friends invited me for a trip Kumamoto. Don't bother calling home for a while."

"How long are you staying there?"

"About three days." He heard Leon mumble something like 'perfect, perfect' but he wasn't sure. Phone lines in moving vehicles weren't exactly the best. "--/Nee/, Leon, did you have me followed?--"

"--Pardon? The computer died unexpectedly. Would you know how to fix a short circuit? I think the hard drive fried.--"

A tad irritated, Fuji answered, "--No. Send it to the usual computer shop. Rowe, did you - --" He heard a soft boom from the other side of the line and for a moment thought he had been cut off. "--Leon? You okay?--"

When Leon responded he let out a sigh of relief and relaxed the tight hold he had on the receiver."--Just fine. The computer's gone haywire again. You were saying?--"

"--Nevermind. I'll ring again. I have to apologize to my brother first.--"

"--To Yuuta? You're fighting again? Well I don't know what to say that's pretty evil of you /oniisan/.--"

"--Oh shut up.--"

"--/A - i - shi - te - ru/, wasn't it?--"

"--Yeah love you too, jerk.--" And more softly he bade him farewell. Placing the receiver back, he was about to make his second call when someone knocked on the glass of the door. Some posh businessman in his well tailored suit.

Coming out of the closet like space, he gave space for entry and bowed in apology. He was surprised to find Tezuka waiting languidly by the wide automatic doors of the western styled comfort room.

"Yukio?" He asked, and Tezuka jerked a thumb towards the toilet.

"I'll head first then. We've got some hours to go so I think I'll get some shut eye." He smirked and raised an eyebrow. "With him around, he'd be raising hell beside me."

"Sorry about that. I never knew it was an issue."

"I understand. Somewhat." Fuji's eyes glazed over as he spoke. "Yuuta was like that back when..." When had it stopped again? Tezuka looked at him expectantly but said nothing. Clearing his throat Fuji continued, "...when we were kids. I'll go ahead now." They parted and Tezuka could do nothing except stare at the diaper changing room.

Calling for the boy, he rapped on the divider. With no answer, he pushed the button behind him. Yukio was kneeling on the floor and holding the toilet bowl so firmly that his knuckles had turned white. He stooped beside him, held the child's hair up for him with his right hand and drew small circles on the child's back with his left. When the vomiting had stopped he led him across the toilet and to the changing room that served as a temporary sickbay for the nauseous.

Reaching for his back pocket he produced a pink round tablet. Handing it to him he smiled comfortingly. "Chew on this and swallow. It's for motion sickness. I'll come back with water so stay here okay?" Yukio accepted the pill quietly and stiffly. He was wary of abandoning him even if for a short while. "If you feel like throwing up again just run for the toilet."

He stood and made a beeline for car twelve, row twenty. He took the water from the food bag and the pack of medicines from the first aid kit Kaiya had given him. Excusing himself from Eiji he shook Oishi awake and asked him to come with. He described the symptoms as best as he could to his friend but said it was better to see for himself.

True enough Yukio didn't seem like he was suffering from kinetosis or vertigo. When they arrived no sooner had he squirmed, clutching at his midsection and yelped before running past them. It wasn't to heave what was left of his breakfast but to expel it through his rectum. The boy pleaded that they leave him alone since this was all very embarrassing to begin with.

They hung around beyond the restrooms, near the dresser and sink so as to not cause traffic. "He was well this morning."

Oishi sympathized. "What did you feed him?

"A banana, yogurt and a number of ham sandwiches."

The medical student looked skeptical but continued on doing the history exam. "Did you check the expiry? It may just be food gone bad. Especially yogurt since it spoils easily."

"I can't remember checking actually."

"Did it look like cottage cheese?"

Tezuka drew a blank. He felt constricted with the understanding of this possibly being his fault. "I still have some. I'll get it."

As soon as Tezuka went, Yukio came out. Oishi checked for a fever and was glad to find none but the boy had broken into a cold sweat. "Did you leave everything as we told you?" Yukio nodded. In a quick inspection traces of blood were found but it was no more than a trickle. It was pure sludge, slush and slosh, completely liquid. He flushed the bowl, led the boy to wash their hands and sat back down in their sick bay.

Bottle and bag in hand, Tezuka came back. Oishi opened the container for confirmation and sure enough it had the beginnings of a good brew of spoilt fermented milk - creamy and lumpy. "I'm hardly licensed to diagnose but we'll have you on the BRATT diet for now: Banana, rice, apple sauce, toast and tea only." Yukio nodded weakly. Oishi fixed his eyes on Tezuka and explained in the most considerate manner he could. "This should pass soon so he'd better sleep it off. He'll also need lots of water to prevent dehydration. If he isn't so pale at noon he might as well eat regular food excluding those with huge amounts of oil."

Tugging at Tezuka's shirt, Yukio said with a quiver in his lip and a tremble in his hand, "This room isn't supposed to be this small is it? It was pretty big outside." Tezuka and Oishi looked at each other. To the boy's credit he wasn't admitting defeat to a tummy ache. Volunteering to carry the extraneous things Tezuka had on his person, Oishi gave them their time alone.

Tezuka knelt in front of the boy and opened his arms. Clinging onto his cousin's neck ardently, Yukio felt at ease. "Shh. Sleep. I'll bring you to your seat and you'll feel better when you wake up." Tezuka mumbled into the boy's ear. Touch was a tool for miracles as Tezuka would find out shortly. He rubbed Yukio's back to relax the boy's tense muscles, and soon the child had fallen prey to dream's temptations.

He walked out of the pristinely white room and back to his seat. Fuji had slumped over the armrest. It was, Tezuka assumed, pretty agonizing to be in such a position. Taking Yukio's original place, he lifted the armrest to his left and laid Yukio as comfortably as possible for the boy. Getting something for light a read, he cupped Fuji's cheek and tenderly pushed the other's head to use his shoulder as a pillow. He questioned himself if the younger man would again be infuriated for logic that would escape him but dismissed the thought. His migraine had finally lifted. Yukio would get better, and Fuji wasn't enraged. Peace was something you had to enjoy. Even though it had been by far a day more tiring than any tourney week he'd had, it had been the most serene.

End Chapter 7
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