shiraume_fic: (Hana-san's Shortcake)
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Many happy returns!

PG. Romance/Character Study. 2,372 words. Second one in a series of birthday ficlets written for Fuji Syuusuke's birthday. This is a follow-up to Creature Comforts and takes place a year later in the same storyline. This series is set in divergent future where Tezuka did not go pro immediately after junior high. Please note that this series also disregards the events in Shin Prince of Tennis series.



Time Leap


[February 28, 2011]

It was still dark when Tezuka slipped out of warm bed and padded over to the kitchen. He made a beeline for the kettle and the teapot, not bothering to turn on the light. In a few minutes, he had a steaming pot of green tea brewing.

With a perfect ease borne of habit, Tezuka reached for the bottom cupboard and took out his favorite cup and Fuji’s beloved green ceramic mug. His cup was full when light flooded the kitchen.

“It’s still early,” he said without looking up, and cleared his throat. His voice was still scratchy from sleep.

“It’s my almost-birthday. I can afford to lose a little sleep and greet the sun.” The chair made a muted scratching sound as Fuji pulled it back and sat down. Wordless, Tezuka handed Fuji his mug. Fuji accepted it with softly murmured thanks, and waited until Tezuka took a chair before taking his first sip. “No coffee today?”

“No.”

Fuji yawned, leaning on one elbow. “Are we still on for today?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” Slender fingers curled around the ceramic rim. “You know, you look different when you’re not wearing your glasses.” A sip. “And with your hair sticking out in the back.”

Tezuka barely quirked a brow at that. “You’ve seen me like this before.”

“I guess the novelty hasn’t worn off yet.”

There was a silence after that, but it was a comfortable one. Tezuka finished his tea and rose. “Do you want the shower first?”

Fuji shook his head. “Go ahead.”

Tezuka nodded and headed for the bathroom. After nearly two years, he didn’t need his eyes to navigate through the apartment. Or to find things. He knew exactly where everything was; he knew he’d find his shampoo behind Fuji’s shampoo and conditioner, and there were always extra razors in the cabinet. Tezuka turned on the hot water, and stepped into the shower.

~*~*~*~


Tezuka had always been a light sleeper. And adhered to a strict schedule. When he and Fuji first started sharing a small flat near their university, he had woken every day at three, shaken out of his sleep by a soft but unceasing noise of someone moving around in the apartment. And – unable to go back to sleep – he would turn on his bedside lamp and read until he fell asleep. Which was never. So he always ended up staying awake until five-thirty, when he usually woke up. On the fifth morning, Tezuka was irritated enough to rise from his bed to seek out the source of the noise.

And found Fuji, who looked as tired as Tezuka felt, hunched over a steaming mug. “Hey,” Fuji greeted him without looking up. “Did I wake you?”

“Yes,” Tezuka answered honestly.

“Sorry.” Fuji flashed him a weary but apologetic smile, and Tezuka shrugged. “Where did we put the teaspoons again?”

“Right cabinet,” Tezuka answered immediately, then paused, remembering he wasn’t at home. “Left cabinet,” he amended. “Top drawer.”

“It’s...” Fuji looked down at the mug. “I’m not used to this. I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

Tezuka nodded. That made it two of them, being unused to – this. A quick glance told him several cupboards had been opened and left slightly ajar. “What were you looking for?”

“Honey,” Fuji answered. “When I was little and couldn’t sleep, mom used to make me warm milk with honey.”

The tired confession made him rise, to retrieve the bottle of honey from the refrigerator. “Here.”

Fuji blinked at him, mild surprise on his upturned face. “You put honey in the refrigerator? It doesn’t go bad, you know, even if you don’t.”

Tezuka held back a small grimace. He didn’t like keeping salt and pepper in identical unlabeled containers right next each other, and he certainly didn’t enjoy pepper in his eggs. But he hadn’t complained. “Habit,” he said curtly.

“Whose turn is it to take out the garbage tomorrow?”

“Isn’t it yours?” Tezuka shot back, voice becoming a tad sharper. It was an ungodly hour to be awake, even for him, and five days of little sleep was fraying his patience.

“Actually, it’s yours.” Was it just him, or did Fuji’s tone carry a hint of bite as well? “Since you forgot last time.”

“Fine.” A short pause. “Do you plan on keeping your shampoo and conditioner in the shower?”

“Where else would I keep them?”

So it had been irritation in Fuji’s voice. Tezuka did his best to keep his tone reasonable. “There isn’t enough room there to keep both yours and mine. It’d be better to keep everything in the cabinet under the sink.”

Fuji’s lips pressed together in a tight line. “If I remember,” he said, and Tezuka felt a frown tug on his mouth, knowing that Fuji’s words were anything but a concession. “Sorry to wake you,” Fuji said, and walked back to his room before Tezuka could say anything else.

Left behind, Tezuka fought down a wave of irritation as he stared at the mug Fuji left on the table. Deciding it wasn’t worth the trouble, he put Fuji’s half-finished mug in the sink. Fuji could take care of it himself in the morning.

Two days later, Tezuka came back to the flat and found the couch and the loveseat in a completely different orientation. There was a large print of some abstract painting gracing their living room wall. After a second look around, Tezuke settled for frowning at the new Christmas cactus in danger of spilling out of its pot next to the couch.

“Fuji,” he called, and frowned some more when he received no answer. There was no trace of Fuji in the apartment. Resigned to leaving the living room as it was for the time being, Tezuka retreated to his own room.

By the time Fuji returned, Tezuka had gotten used to the living room enough to read on the couch. Still, Tezuka speared Fuji with a look as he took the loveseat. “I would appreciate it if you would talk about it first,” Tezuka said without preamble, “when you feel the need to rearrange our living space.”

“You don’t like it?” There was a bland smile on Fuji’s face that bothered Tezuka – mostly because he could tell when Fuji’s smile was out of politeness and not out of actual emotion. “If you like, we can change it back. I just thought the living room lacked personality.”

Fuji’s room at home, Tezuka recalled, was decorated in a way that left no doubt it belonged to Fuji. In contrast, Tezuka’s room, aside from the occasional pictures of mountains and the collection of fishing lures, did not contain any object that could pass for decoration. “It’s not necessary,” Tezuka said, not quite defensively, but close.

“No,” Fuji agreed. “Is it bad?”

Tezuka thought for a moment, noting the way the plump green of the cactus stems seemed to bring out the warm color of their rug (which Fuji insisted on; Tezuka hadn’t even planned on getting a rug when he first moved). “No,” Tezuka decided, and saw the politeness lift from Fuji’s expression like a curtain being drawn. After a moment of thought, he added, “I’m not good at it, anyway.”

Fuji gave him a long look, then smiled. “You know, I was thinking about getting us a Benjamin’s fig.”

“We don’t have enough room,” Tezuka answered. Then, at the expectant silence, he sighed softly. “Maybe something smaller,” he suggested, and Fuji chuckled.

“If you’re suggesting bonsai, you’re taking care of those, Tezuka,” Fuji informed him cheerfully.

Three days later, he was greeted by the sight of a tiny pine tree on the coffee table. After a moment of wry amusement bordering on annoyance, he decided to give it a try.

Two months of experimentation later, Tezuka brought home a Benjamin’s fig, ever after kept to a carefully controlled size.

~*~*~*~


Near the end of their sophomore year, when Fuji returned from France, there was a palpable awkwardness in the air as they entered their flat. It had been only four months, but they hadn’t really been talking for longer than that, and there was enough lingering distance to make Fuji seem like a houseguest, not a roommate.

But by then Tezuka also knew Fuji well enough to add two and a half teaspoonful of honey to the warm milk even without asking. And to read the subtle signs of tension in Fuji’s expression under the weariness.

“I changed your sheets,” Tezuka said, and it sounded more like an offer than a statement of fact. “And mine,” he added. Fuji looked back at him, nibbled on his upper lip absently, then nodded.

“I shouldn’t have thrown all my dirty clothes on my bed, then. I’ll take care of them tomorrow.”

Tezuka, in a moment of rare insecurity, had taken the precaution of moving Fuji’s pillow to his own bed, in case his invitation wasn’t clear enough. Apparently it had been, as Fuji changed into his pajamas and came straight to Tezuka’s room. Nevertheless, Fuji hesitated for a fraction of a second when he reached Tezuka’s bed, and Tezuka recognized the same uncertainty he felt.

“You’re tired. I’ll turn off the light.”

Fuji nodded, and slipped in the bed next to him. Tezuka turned the light off, and lay down, only remembering to take off his glasses afterward. Fuji lay motionless while Tezuka settled down more comfortably, and Tezuka briefly wondered about the wisdom of this whole sleeping together business. They had slept in the same bed plenty of times before, but only after making love, never just to sleep. His bed wasn’t that big, so neither of them had much room to move around. And he could feel every minute shifting of Fuji’s body, which kept him wide awake. Fuji’s breathing was still too controlled for sleep, and Tezuka resisted the urge to turn over, not wanting to disturb him.

After half an hour of holding very still, Tezuka was just about to turn to his side, the need to relieve his protesting muscles outweighing polite concern, when Fuji quietly spoke. “Do you want me to go sleep in my room?”

Something in Fuji’s voice told him Fuji wouldn’t be offended if he said yes. He’d asked Fuji to return, though not in so many words, and Fuji had returned. Now they were bound, he thought, by a tacit agreement to try – whatever it was that they should be trying. But it didn’t have to happen overnight.

It didn’t have to start any later, either.

“No,” Tezuka said, then turned over to drape an arm over Fuji, pulling him close so they could lie spooned together.

“Okay,” Fuji answered, and nestled closer. “You need a bigger bed,” Fuji informed him, undercurrent of laughter in his soft voice.

It was strange, trying to fall asleep with the warmth of another body so close to him, listening to the sound of breathing and heartbeat separate from his own. Fuji’s hand covered his, the contact warm and solid, and before Fuji could move his hand away, Tezuka laced their fingers together. When he breathed deeply, he could smell Fuji’s shampoo – which Tezuka staunchly refused to use; it left his hair sticky – and it was familiar enough to make him relax.

Tezuka didn’t remember falling asleep that night. He did remember waking up the next morning with Fuji tucked under his chin and their legs tangled together, the warmth pleasant in the morning chill, and thinking he’d made the right choice. The choice to call Fuji in France, and every choice he made thereafter. The thought pleased him, and Tezuka pulled the comforter around them tighter, deciding to indulge for a little longer.

Oh, and Fuji was right: he needed a bigger bed.

~*~*~*~


This year, for Fuji’s birthday, the former Seigaku tennis club Regulars had arranged to go out for an early dinner. The year before, they had celebrated at Tezuka and Fuji’s apartment until wee hours of morning. But all of them were so busy this year, they didn’t have time to hang out afterward, let alone cook for themselves. The dinner was at a French restaurant Fuji chose (nostalgia, he said), and by the time Tezuka arrived, almost everyone was present except for Kikumaru.

“Echizen sent me a birthday message,” Fuji said as Tezuka slid into the seat next to him. “I had to show it to everyone before they believed me.”

“How is he?”

“Busy,” Fuji said, soft and fond. “And – happy, I think. He says he might visit this year.”

“Should we do presents now or later?” Oishi asked, and Tezuka glanced at the large gift bag with apprehension. It was a hassle to carry large bags on a train, even with two of them sharing the load.

“Later? There’s cake at the end.” Kawamura flashed Tezuka an understanding look. “I can drive you guys home after, if you like.”

Since Kawamura was the only one working full-time, he was also the only one with his own car, though generally he reserved its use for deliveries. Tezuka nodded his thanks, while Fuji smiled at him and thanked him. “Did you order?” Tezuka asked, directing his question at the entire table.

“Yes. But we’re waiting for Eiji to start.”

“Next time, you should just come to our sushiya, Fuji. You know it’s no trouble to reserve a room for us.”

Fuji nodded, smiling warmly. “Next year, then. Thanks, Taka-san.”

“Sorry! Had to go back and get my present,” Kikumaru panted as he dropped into the seat next to Oishi, who scooted over for him. “Happy birthday, Fuji.”

That sounded like a good a start as any. The table echoed the birthday wishes, while the waiter, who was waiting at a discreet distance away, brought out the appetizers.

“To another happy return,” Fuji murmured, and Tezuka felt a tug at the corner of his mouth. Time would bring many, many happy returns, and he had a feeling neither of them would ever grow tired of them. He let his fingers brush Fuji’s under the table, unsurprised when Fuji immediately curled his fingers around Tezuka’s. Happy birthday, Tezuka thought, tightening his own hand around Fuji’s. I’m glad we’re both here to see it together.

“Many happy returns,” he murmured back.

Fin

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-03 10:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] petapepy.livejournal.com
Love your style of writing. I find it a lot more realistic in the way things are never perfect between the two. It takes them time to work things out, but they somehow come together again.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-03-06 04:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sakuran-p.livejournal.com
That was exactly my point, yes~! Plus, I think living together with someone is always hard no matter who it's with. Some of these issues really did come up with my roommates back in college. XD

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