Prince of Tennis/X fusion, TezuFuji(Ryo). See title.
Sakurazukamori: an assassin who uses onmyoujutsu to kill. Victims are fed to a demonic cherry tree, whose white blossoms are dyed pink from the blood of the bodies buried beneath it. It's a position handed down through the generations, with each Sakurazukamori killing the preceding one to receive the title. There Can Be Only One.
For a variety of reasons too lengthy to get into, Tezuka the humorless actuary (unwillingly) becomes sixteen-year-old Fuji's guardian shortly after they meet. Fortunately, he's not squeamish.
From the Sakurazukamori!Fuji AU: Tezuka set just one rule before Fuji moved in -- "I don't want to know," he'd said, flicking on the living room lights so Fuji could see what he was arm-twisting himself into, clean functional lines of genuine leather sofa and a widescreen TV, polished wooden floor gleaming. "You don't bring your work here."
"I can do that," Fuji had promised, equably, too easily, but Tezuka expected to drive the point home when necessary. "Do I get my own room?"
How Fuji the Sakurazukamori Lost Something and Found It Again
Tezuka didn't keep tabs on Fuji; he had no inclination in the first place, and in the second, there was no point.
For his part, Fuji rarely made waves. When Tezuka returned home after work he could usually find the boy cross-legged on the living room sofa in front of the TV, a plate of sandwiches on the coffee table, close at hand. Sometimes dinner would be waiting, eminently untrustworthy; others, Fuji would stretch and tilt his head back and smile, all the soft contours of his face conspiring to say /feed me/.
But the monotony of peace never stretched too long, and though Tezuka soon learned the skill of spotting suspicious discolorings, frequently no skill was required to spot the dark stains blooming across the navy uniform; Fuji was a tidy killer, except when he got playful (which only happened on alternate Thursdays or when the moon waxed fat or another war broke out in the Middle East or somebody on the sidewalk sneezed, so that was all right.)
Wardrobe crises aside, there were other nasty surprises scattered throughout the calendar: Fuji in a sailor fuku, for instance, staring intently into a mirror, Fuji playing with a stray puppy that disappeared as quietly as it appeared, and one pleasant week when Fuji didn't show up at all, while Tezuka wondered if he'd botched a job or simply found some other poor dupe to latch onto.
He'd almost decided on tossing Fuji's belongings into the recycling bin when Fuji showed up the following evening, a bit more tanned, a lot more smug.
"Did you miss me?" he'd said, looking too knowing for someone with baby fat still clinging to his cheeks, and Tezuka had answered by ordering sushi with none of the flavors Fuji preferred.
"You could pick your own sushi," he said after the meal, "if you stayed away."
So Tezuka wasn't completely unprepared to look up from his laptop when the door creaked open near midnight and see Fuji stumble in, a hand over the right side of his face, as white as the blossoms of his tree never were. He stopped under the dim light of the foyer, tilting against a wall.
"Don't bleed on the carpet," was the first thing out of Tezuka's mouth.
"If I could stop bleeding, I really, really would." Fuji sounded sincerely regretful, for once. "Could you get me a towel? If you don't mind me dripping all over your carpet getting it myself, I mean."
The next few minutes found Tezuka grabbing a towel from the bathroom and the first aid kit that had seen more use since Fuji moved in than it had the preceding five years.
Fuji's eye, once he got a good look at it, turned out to be a gruesome mess that reminded Tezuka of some of the worse specimens of cafeteria food. "It's worse than it seems; I put some spells in place to slow the damage," Fuji winced while Tezuka tried to apply a makeshift bandage. "I suppose this is a lesson against getting careless while facing rookies."
"He's dead?" said Tezuka.
Apparently it was still possible to look offended with blood dampening half your face. "Of course not," said Fuji. "He's going to have plenty of time to repent his mistakes."
Once the compress was in place, Fuji started to rise; Tezuka quirked an eyebrow at him and, to their mutual surprise, he sat down again. He was still frowning over it when Tezuka flipped open his cell phone.
Atobe was still number nine on speed-dial.
"I need you to do something for me," he said immediately after Beethoven's 5th Symphony stopped playing and before the usual I am a very busy man spiel could begin. There was a cough on the other side, which segued smoothly into a gratified sniff.
"/Ah, so you finally come crawling back from the gutter of the working cla--/"
Tezuka cut him off. "I have a boy with an injured eye on my hands. I'd like to see that he gets the best treatment. Immediately."
"/Boy?/" Some static, the creak of a chair. "/What have you been doing with yourself? Could this be that famous ward you don't want anyone to know about?/"
"There's no time for this. I'll expect a call once you've finished with the arrangements."
"/Is this the proper way to request a favor of someone, hmm?/ Atobe's voice was its usual lazy purr, but distracted, as if he wasn't quite giving it his all.
"It's the polite way to say I'm asking for a favor repaid," he said, and hung up.
Fuji was studying him with one thoughtful slitted eye; as a patient in dire need of professional care, he was playing the part very badly. "Tezuka, I didn't know you cared."
"Timely treatment is important," said Tezuka shortly. He rose and switched off the laptop before starting to gather the documents they would need.
In the living room, Fuji turned on the TV.
Dr. Oshitari Yuushi, though not advanced in years, was one of the best. He was equipped with the best as well, more testimony that money could, when pressed, procure everything swiftly, from efficient staff to corneas fresh off the presses.
"He's a very brave child," one of the younger nurses murmured as Tezuka waited outside, wondering if it was too late to grab something with caffeine. "He didn't seem frightened at all."
"No," said Tezuka. He had a magazine on his lap, which he'd expected to be taken as an indication of cold-hearted callousness and a reason to stay far away from him, but the staff seemed more than willing to accept that he was trying to drown his sorrows in Schumacher's latest victory.
"Don't you worry, it'll be fine," said the nurse, translating his curtness readily into concern. "I wouldn't be surprised if your brother came out of this as good as new."
Tezuka wouldn't, either, though it was because he knew what Fuji thought of physical disfigurements rather than any overwhelming faith in Dr. Oshitari's skill with a scalpel.
The results of the operation were that Fuji retained sight in both eyes, gained a few scars on the right side of his face that faded with unnatural speed, and struck up a disturbing acquaintance with Atobe, who'd made it over to be present for the latter part of the surgery.
"I was thinking of handing you over to the authorities for child abuse," said Atobe sadly, "but he doesn't make it a likely case, does he."
"Goodbye, Atobe," said Tezuka.
Fuji spent a few days at home, recuperating with the assistance of a rakish eye-patch, before he disappeared another week and came back with new clothes, looking very satisfied with himself. Tezuka didn't inquire into what had happened to the old ones, but he did suspect that the rookie was a rookie no more.
It turned out, though, that both he and the doctor had been underachievers.
At first the problem wasn't apparent. Fuji seemed to have taken school leave on his own authority, but considering the injury he'd sustained, a vacation wouldn't have been out of place even for an ordinary student. Sometimes he'd blink very quickly while he was talking, as if trying to get rid of an annoying mote of dust, then catch himself and smile, showing teeth.
He started watching tennis. It was Wimbledon season, and the games were constantly broadcasting on ESPN, which never seemed to grow tired of announcing that Echizen Ryoma looked set to win his second title in the two years since he'd been playing professionally.
Tezuka took to working inside his room.
"Did you play, once?" Fuji asked him one night over Chinese take-out.
Tezuka frowned at him, shelling a shrimp with his teeth.
"You realize I could just google it up."
He bit off the shrimp's legs in one mouthful, then spit them out. "I assume you already have."
"Am I getting that predictable?" For an instant, Fuji looked genuinely stricken, a girl who'd just stepped off the scales. "You're a corrupting influence, Tezuka-san."
It wasn't surprising, he thought while showering later, that Fuji had picked up on it. It wasn't a well-kept secret, after all: the rise and fall of Tezuka Kunimitsu, former star of Japan's tennis scene, an oft-played tragedy. He would have gone far, said the magazines after he left, before they stopped mentioning him at all.
What Fuji couldn't know was that he'd met Echizen once, been accosted at his favorite coffeehouse by a razor-edged boy with tennis raquet slung across one shoulder and fierce, brilliant golden eyes, long before the kid's own star had risen.
"I hear that you're thinking of coaching," Echizen had said, while Tezuka looked around for the cameras.
"Where did you hear that?"
"Guy with a mole, flashy car." "Beauty mark!" a voice sniffed in his memory, and Tezuka closed his eyes.
"You were misinformed."
Echizen shrugged. "Then I'll kick his ass."
Somehow he ended up buying Echizen a latte that the kid sipped slowly, like something to be endured. He learned that Echizen had recently moved there from America, that his high school tennis team was a joke, and he was looking for a coach " -- who isn't an irresponsible old lecher," said Echizen, which made Tezuka wonder about the coaches he'd had in the past.
"I should think there are plenty of candidates that fall into that category," was all he'd said.
"I saw you play, a few years back. You were good." This said grudgingly. "Better than most of 'em."
"I'm not who you're looking for," Tezuka had said before leaving, while Echizen glared at him with all the scorn of youth and never tried to make contact again.
He remembered Echizen Ryoma, though, enough to watch his first game on TV, the first tennis match that had ever played on the new widescreen. Echizen had made a name for himself that year; now, his face was plastered all over billboards and the televisions in electronics stores, often next to a can of Ponta or pricey Reebok sneakers. Tezuka had never regretted turning him down.
Fuji could know none of this, but every day he watched tennis, and more often than not it would be Echizen playing on-screen.
Another week passed before Fuji's homeroom teacher called, all flurried concern and apologies. Is Shuusuke doing well? Will he be able to return to school someday? The finals are approaching, you see, and he's such a good student, we wouldn't want to see him held back...
"Your teacher wants to know when you'll be returning," he told Fuji, who was sprawled across the sofa on his belly, chin on his folded arms.
"I don't want to go to school like this," said Fuji, almost crossly. He'd been in an ill temper since the surgery, which made no sense, since by all accounts his recovery was an amazing one. "It's not getting better."
"You didn't mention any problems to the doctor."
"I did; is it my fault if he ignored me? He said there was nothing he could do."
Tezuka paused. "About the fact that the replacement's not as good as your old one?"
Fuji screwed up his mouth, which Tezuka took as confirmation.
"You're an idiot," he said.
Fuji looked at him. If he'd been more attuned to the world of mysticism, it would probably have been very intimidating. Instead, he tossed over a plum, which Fuji caught without enthusiasm and bit into vindictively.
It didn't take long to grow inured to the changed state of affairs. Fuji was almost always at home when he returned nowadays, almost always sitting in a pile of arcane texts that glowed when Tezuka approached, and zapped him once when he tried to clear them away after Fuji had fallen asleep on the couch.
"It's research," said Fuji when Tezuka finally broached the subject. "There must be a better way to handle transplants than submitting to the hamfisted treatment of modern medicine."
"Apologies for not leaving you to bleed it out."
At that, Fuji looked up at him, wide-eyed; in the strong light and from this angle, there was something about the right eye that seemed wrong, weaker, but Tezuka wasn't about to mention that. "Oh, I don't want you to think I'm not appreciative. I'll repay the debt, you'll see," which was enough to give Tezuka several nights of uneasy sleep.
Soon work swallowed him up again, and he had to admit that this new arrangement was slightly preferable to the previous one, when it was always possible that he'd return home to find his apartment redecorated artistically with organic materials. Supposedly Fuji still went out on jobs, but Tezuka wasn't in a position to know, and that suited him perfectly.
The Wimbledon games neared their conclusion, with Fuji tuning in every night, Echizen mowing his opponents down like grass. Tezuka saw his face in the news every day until he started throwing the sports section away unread, but there was no avoiding the headlines when Echizen won his second Wimbledon trophy, and Fuji kept tossing meaningful looks at him that night, one after another. He ignored them all.
It was his own fault, he'd realize when looking over the situation in hindsight: for growing complacent, viewing the tiger cub as a kitten; for treating Fuji as harmless, as human.
The short hand of the clock was dallying with two by the time the door clattered open. Tezuka glanced up briefly to frown before returning to his figures, but twisted around for a second look moments later. Something was off.
Fuji seemed happy enough, beaming and incandescent, more animated than he'd been since the surgery. Nothing too out of place until he came closer, and Tezuka stiffened.
"What did you do?" he said tightly, wondering for a brief, hopeful second if this might be another nightmare.
"It worked," Fuji announced, still lighting up the room like a sunbeam gone astray, "worked like a charm. Well, I suppose it was a charm; they're weak and have relatively limited uses, so I never paid them much attention, but there are still tales of the Sakurazukamori title transference during Armageddon -- the last one, long story -- and of course if you take those into account -- "
"What did you do?" Tezuka repeated.
Fuji peered at him more carefully this time. Tezuka's lack of sympathy seemed to have finally pierced his cheer. "I didn't kill him, you know. I'm not bloodthirsty on my private time."
"He might have preferred that," said Tezuka, which earned an indifferent shrug.
"In that case he can take care of it himself."
His fingers curled; he relaxed them consciously. "If you wish to continue staying here, go back there and change it back. Change them back."
Now Fuji looked off-balance, eyes narrowed, lips tugged down with the weight of his questions. "That's not an option. My powers don't exactly lend themselves to healing others, and why should I?" He paused, and when he spoke again, there was genuine bewilderment in the tilt of his head. "I thought you'd be pleased."
Tezuka pressed on the power button of the laptop until the lights flickered and died, before turning and heading back into his bedroom.
He went and knew it for a retreat, one from Fuji's joy and his obliviousness, his amorality, /He would have gone far/, and Fuji's beautiful, beautiful eyes, one as blue as the sea, one as gold as the sun.
When Fuji called out "Tezuka," before he shut the door between them, he heard two voices.