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Quiescence

Title: Quiescence
Pairing: TezuFuji, implied once-upon-a-time OshiAto
Genre: Quiet angst... with fluffy moments forcibly inserted here and there.
Beta: pinksnow1986  for yet another flawless character beta work, hakkai_sensei  for the grammar/character beta, and chilibreath  for the grammar beta work. You ladies ROCK!
Rating: PG
Summary: "...Fuji would understand what the gaping silences in our togetherness were supposed to say." Defining silence, Tezuka-style.
Disclaimer: Prince of Tennis and its (drool-worthy) boys do not belong to me. I did include them in my Christmas wish list, though. But unless Santa takes my Christmas list seriously, they would probably remain Konomi-sensei's.
Author's Notes: A mirror piece to "Understanding Silence". Written for a1y_puffin the recently concluded christmas_cactific exchange. Thanks again to my wonderful betas!

Quiescence

 

            I can’t say I’m all that surprised that it happened this way… that it would culminate in this hanging ending that even now is still begging for closure. But I had thought… had hoped that it would be different this time. I convinced myself that a “happily ever after” was possible—simply because I had something this time that I never had before: Fuji Syuusuke.

 

            Even back in middle school, back when tennis defined the world for us, Fuji was an unpredictable variable in any given situation. No one really knew the true depths of his abilities. Oh, we could guess, and we were reasonably certain that, at the time, we made a fairly truthful estimate of what he was capable of; but time and time again, Fuji showed us tantalizing hints that he just may be capable of so much more than we thought. Despite the number of years we have known him, he still always managed to do something that would make us stop and just stare at him in bewildered surprise. There was also the fact that he could say the most unexpected things at the most unexpected times…

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            “… I don’t want this anymore…”

 

            … or so he quietly whispered as he stopped walking in the middle of the deserted sidewalk. It was almost midnight and what had been a cool, crisp autumn breeze just moments ago, picked up and turned into a cold, biting wind.

 

I, myself, stopped walking and looked back at him… Dazedly wondering where that declaration had come from.

 

I stared at Fuji in wordless silence, drowned in the beguiling softness I found in his face, confused by the small smile that played on his lips and the contradictory sheen of tears edging his lashes…

 

            “I don’t want to be with you anymore, Tezuka…”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            I wish I could say that Fuji had changed… I wish I could say that over the years, he had somehow morphed into a cold, insensitive jerk; that he left me alone and didn’t give me a chance to say the words that could have made him want to stay… But I’ve never been much good at lying, whether it be to others or to myself.

 

            The truth is I grew too comfortable in my silence. I became complacent. I just assumed that Fuji would understand what the gaping silences in our togetherness were supposed to say. I just assumed that because he knew how I felt for him, he didn’t need to hear the words. For far too long, I let my silence speak for me. Until it swallowed us both up and unceremoniously spit us out.

 

            I came out of it dazed and confused… and eventually, deeply regretful.

 

            Fuji came out of it smiling through a pain that he hid all too well…

 

            Between the two of us, I think I got off easy.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            “I thought you enjoyed the tea here. That’s why I asked you to meet me at this café,” Atobe’s subdued voice broke into my thoughts and forcibly brought me back to the here and now. I looked up to meet his sharply probing gaze and offered up a weak, apologetic smile for having been caught with my thoughts miles away.

 

            “You’ve barely touched your tea,” he mildly rebuked and I wordlessly took the teacup he casually nodded to, fully intending to finish my tea to avoid further censure. The teacup was halfway towards my lips when Atobe’s next words halted the action… as well as everything else in my world.

 

            “You miss him.” It was not a question.

 

            With a deep sigh, Atobe tilted his head back and pinched the bridge of his nose, as though trying to keep an oncoming headache at bay. When he looked back at me, his eyes had that same quiet, burning intensity that they did back in middle school—when we faced each other across the net on opposing sides of a tennis court.

 

            “What happened to your words, Tezuka? Where have they gone to? We’ve been here together for almost an hour and I have yet to hear you say something after your initial ‘Hello, Atobe. It’s been a while. It’s good to see you again.’” He looked at me intently before adding, “I know you’ve never been overly verbose, but this verbal constipation of yours is verging on ridiculous!”

 

            I raised an eyebrow at Atobe in mild surprise. Apparently, somebody knew more about what has happened between me and Fuji than he initially wanted to let on.

 

            “I’m just saying that silence can be misleading. And the weight of words left unspoken can be such a burden to bear…”

 

            I cocked my head to one side and considered the striking young man in his early twenties who was sitting across from me. “How is Oshitari-kun doing these days?”

 

            A flicker of pain ghosted his features so briefly that it disappeared only a split second later as though it was never there. Ah. So that’s how it was.

 

            Atobe looked down intently into his teacup, as though the tea within it was the most fascinating thing he had ever seen. And in a quiet, solemn voice, he put into words the things he must have told himself at least a thousand times before but never really bothered to act upon them, “I’m just saying that you should at least try talking to him one last time. It can’t be any harder to stay together than it is to stay apart, can it?”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            “Ne, Tezuka…”

 

            “Hm?” I didn’t even look up from the university catalogue I was browsing through. A few seconds later, the gentle, lilting laughter that reached my ears finally did arouse enough of my curiosity to look questioningly at the touted tennis prodigy who made himself at home in my room and was lazily sprawled on my bed. If any of his legions of fangirls (and his handful of fanboys) ever saw this side of him, I wonder what they would think.

 

            “Isn’t it a little too early to be looking at university catalogues? We just graduated from middle school, after all. There’s still high school to get through before we need to worry about that,” Fuji said as he attempted to sit up properly. ‘Attempt’ being the key word, because halfway through the process of pushing himself up, he decided that it wasn’t worth the effort and he flopped back down onto the bed, rolled over to rest on his stomach, and propped his head up with his fist. “Tezuka, I’m bored…”

 

            I raised an eyebrow at his declaration. “If I remember correctly, it was your choice to come over unannounced. I don’t think I should be held responsible for the fact that I do not have any entertainment prepared for you.”

 

            I was treated to another wave of lilting laughter. “True that,” Fuji easily agreed. “But it’s not like I was expecting you to juggle fire rings for me or anything like that, you know.”

 

            “So what is it, exactly, that you want me to do to relieve you of your boredom?”

 

            A sweet smile. A few heartbeats. A slight glimpse of bright blue eyes. “Just talk to me.”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            I woke up from the memory-dream with a deep sense of longing. I remembered that time when the seasons were transitioning from winter to spring; Fuji often came over just to engage me in pointless conversation. Well, it had seemed pointless at the time. Looking back now, I realize that it was just Fuji’s way of forcing me to get to know him better – to get to know him outside of the tennis persona that most other people can’t seem to get past. It was also his way to get to know me better. It was his way of nudging us past the “really good friends” territory into the “more than just friends” territory. He has always been subtle and sly like that.

 

            I got up from bed and walked to the window, grabbing my eyeglasses from the bedside table along the way, to stare out at the night lights dotting the darkness. It’s been half a year since Fuji left me. And the frequency with which I am subjected to dreams that are more memories of the past than anything has been increasing.

 

            I think I heard a song about this once; something along the lines of, “When I lose you I find that memory, the memory that I once met you.1 I think that, perhaps, everything is involved in a cosmic collusion to slowly drive me insane. To mock the silence that is now my constant companion.

           

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            “Not going home yet?” Fuji asked as he sat down beside me on the clubroom bench, letting his tennis bag drop to the ground before him. “You’re no longer team captain, so you don’t have to stay behind and lock up, you know. But I guess old habits die hard, don’t they, buchou?” he teased me.

 

            “Hn. I’m no longer team captain, but I see you’re back to being the freshman tennis prodigy,” I replied. “I guess there are some things that even being in high school cannot change.”

 

            Fuji shook the dark wheat colored hair out of his eyes as he chuckled. “Just wait until Echizen decides that he wants to go to high school with us after all! Then we’ll see if they would adjust their definition of ‘freshman tennis prodigy’!”

 

            I just shook my head in wry amusement.

 

            After a few moments of quietude, Fuji leaned in to peer at my face. “Is something wrong?”

 

            To escape from his close scrutiny, I leaned forward, elbows resting on my knees. Keeping my eyes on my hands clasped before me, I casually answered, “You were over at my house all the time during the break, but you haven’t visited once since school started. My mother is beginning to wonder if we had a fight or something.”

 

            “Oh,” Fuji paused for a bit before continuing, “were you expecting me over? Is it alright for me to still hang out with you and make you help me with my homework?”

 

            I sat up straight and looked at him. The look I gave him clearly told him that I thought he was the last person in the world who would need help with his homework, but all I said was, “Well, we’re friends, aren’t we?”

 

            “Hmmm…” Fuji hummed pensively as he looked out the window. His eyes seemed so focused on whatever it was that was outside the window that my eyes instinctively sought out what he was looking at. And so it caught me completely by surprise when I felt him lean his head on my shoulder. I looked down at his head in utter bewilderment, but he didn’t even look at me when he said, “Are we friends?”

 

            Of course, I knew exactly what he was asking. And as if watching a movie in my head, I saw our afternoons together during the break before school started. I replayed the conversations we had. I relived the small smiles and the almost knowing looks my mother gave me whenever Fuji was around. I shook my head in resignation. “No, I guess we aren’t.”

 

 Fuji laughed softly at my acquiescent tone.

 

            After a few moments, Fuji raised his head from where it was comfortably resting on my shoulder and with a sweet smile, he asked me, “Ne, do you mind if I called you ‘Mitsu from now on?”

 

            I was fairly certain that I was successful in keeping the horror I felt from showing on my face. But Fuji must have seen something because he broke out into another round of laughter. He stood up, shouldered his tennis bag, and firmly grabbed my hand and pulled. “Come on, it’s getting late. Let’s go home.”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Surfacing from another memory-dream, I was once again forced to confront the stark reality of my present that contrasted sharply with the past. Faced with the silence that I had so foolishly cultivated, alone in this apartment that I once shared with that one person who just overflowed with life, my mind desperately grasped for something to anchor my sanity. As it was, the silence sat on my chest like a crushing weight and it felt like it was sucking me into a void from which, I knew, I would be powerless to return.

 

            I sat up from the couch where I had unknowingly dozed off earlier, and stared out at the snowy landscape beyond the living room window. I wish I could stay in the hospital all the time, fulfilling my residency hours. Maybe then I could forget that it’s almost Christmas. Maybe then I could forget that it’s been one year, two months, one week and three days since I felt the silent devastation caused by Fuji’s quietly voiced announcement that autumn night.

 

            I looked down at my left hand, at the simple white gold band that never left my ring finger even after the one I exchanged rings with had long since gone. I’ve always considered myself a practical, pragmatic person. Never once, since that autumn night, did I wish for time to turn back. Not even once did I hope that I could go back and do things over. I know how hopeless and futile it is to wish for things that you know can never be.

 

            What I did wish for were chance and courage; the chance to meet with Fuji once again and the courage to say the things that have been veiled in silence for far too long. If he were here right now, what would I say to him? How could I make him want to stay?

 

            I’m sorry. I’m sorry I made you feel lonely. I’m sorry for never breaking the silence. I’m sorry for keeping the words all to myself, thinking they were unnecessary. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry…

 

            But you know, during most of those silences, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to talk to you. It wasn’t because I didn’t know what to say. It was because I reveled in it. Because it was in those silences that I most clearly felt what you felt. It was in those silences that I listened to your heart. It was in those silences that I hoped you listened to mine.

 

            I’m sorry, Fuji. I’m sorry I didn’t give you the words that should have come with those silences. I didn’t even notice when the silence changed to the kind that isolated us from each other…

 

            It seemed that Fate had been listening to me. Because not long after I thought those words, the familiar knocking on my door made my heart race in anticipation and dread at the same time. I just might get my Christmas wish fulfilled early this year.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

“Hello, ‘Mitsu,” he greeted me with a small, serene smile on his face. I swallowed against the lump that rose to my throat at the poignantly sweet nickname I thought I’d never hear again.

 

            “Fuji,” I acknowledged him simply with a nod. Wordlessly, I gazed upon his face, intent on memorizing every little detail and burning them within my memory. With my eyes alone, I lovingly traced the curve of his jaw, I took in the playful curl of his hair—willing myself not to give in to the overwhelming urge to run my hands through it.

 

            I wanted to ask him so many things. What was he doing here? Why? Why now? I don’t know how long I stood there, just staring mutely at that beloved face I’ve only seen in my dreams for the past year, until Fuji leaned in to peer up at my face. “Is something wrong?” he asked innocently.

 

            I mentally shook the cobwebs out of my head and stepped aside to let him into the apartment. He offered me a grateful smile, took his coat off and hung it next to mine on the coat rack just like he always did when he lived here with me, and then walked into the living room, his eyes taking in everything. I followed his every movement with my eyes, still not quite believing that he was really here.

 

            Finally, he turned around to face me again, a gentle, teasing smile playing on his lips. “It’s been a while, buchou.”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            The silence was once again very much a real presence in the room. It stretched out, lengthened, making the small space in the couch between Fuji and myself seem like the distance between the Little Mermaid and that human prince she fell in love with—so near that you can just reach out and touch, and yet so far that measuring physical distance is rendered pointless… because the distance isn’t at all physical.

 

            I felt Fuji wordlessly studying my face, as though searching for something, as though trying to read into my thoughts. I stared at my hands clasped before me, desperately trying to string together the words I’m sure he’s waiting to hear. The words I wanted to get out, the words that I hoped would make Fuji want to stay with me were being swallowed by the silence and that same silence was starting to suffocate me. I wanted to shout. I wanted break the deafening silence. I wanted to—

 

            And then I felt Fuji lean his head on my shoulder.

 

            What had moments before been a painfully piercing silence, changed and became a peaceful stillness. I don’t know how long we stayed there like that: Fuji, comfortably resting his head on my shoulder, and me, quietly reveling in the feeling of tranquility and completion.

 

            But after a while, Fuji stood up, and with his left hand firmly grabbed my right hand and pulled, “Come on, let’s go to the kitchen. It’s cold in here.” The sight of that familiar white gold band on his ring finger made my heart clench for a moment. “Make me some hot chocolate, ‘Mitsu, and I’ll tell you all about what I’ve been up to this past year.”

 

            I let myself be pulled up from the couch and led by the hand, but halfway to the kitchen, I stopped and pulled on Fuji’s hand still clasped in mine. He looked back at me questioningly.

 

            “Welcome home, Fuji,” I said uncertainly. And in that statement, I knew he understood what I was asking.

 

            He gave me a bright, reassuring smile, “Tadaima2, ‘Mitsu.”

 

 

~Owari~

La Fuego

10/25/2008

 

Post Script:

1 Lyrics from the song “Supernova” by Bump of Chicken.

2 I’m quite sure that pretty much everyone knows that tadaima = “I’m home/ I’m back”. I think there’s a certain nuance to “tadaima” that just can’t be translated into English, so I left it as it was and didn’t bother translating it.
 


Move on to read Understanding Silence

Comments

( 9 Critics — Leave a Review )
mitsu_syusuke
Jan. 6th, 2009 03:11 am (UTC)
i read this in CC and this is the fic that broke my heart..T^T
but yay for the happy ending! a simple 'welcome home' and 'Tadaima' can be so meaningful for them.. *sigh*

thank you for sharing this fic! ^^
lafuego
Jan. 6th, 2009 07:58 am (UTC)
Oh, sweety! Thank you for the lovely, lovely comment. And I'm glad that you were able to appreciate the quiet angst in this... and I'm glad I was able to mend your broken heart with the happy ending. ^_^ *hugs*
tacuma811
Jan. 6th, 2009 07:02 pm (UTC)
I read this on CC and I loved it! I almost cried when I read about Fuji leaving Tezuka. I'm so glad it has a happy ending. I love the end. It's like Fuji has always been there. I really love this fic ^___^
lafuego
Jan. 8th, 2009 07:22 am (UTC)
Thank you! *hugs* It makes me really, really happy to know that you appreciate this story. It was sort of heartbreaking to write as well... Making two of my favorite boys miserable is not my most favorite thing to do. But with the happy ending, I think it's all good. Thank you for taking time to read and leaving me this nice comment! ^_^
kazeyukiryusama
Sep. 17th, 2009 07:04 am (UTC)
aah, Tezuka's point of view... So, we get to know what did Tezuka have in mind on that day... This is so bitter-sweet
lafuego
Sep. 17th, 2009 09:23 am (UTC)
Indeed, we do get a glimpse of what goes on in Tezuka's head. Thank you for reading and leaving a comment. I hope you enjoyed reading!
ann010593
Oct. 16th, 2010 09:44 am (UTC)
Ma'am!!! You caught me on that again. I almost cried, honestly. I like the part when Tezuka is reminiscing the times when they're together.

But the ending was SO awesome.. Simple words that means a lot. Those words gives me a relief. :)
lafuego
Oct. 17th, 2010 06:24 am (UTC)
Oh noes~! You didn't really cry, did you? But I made up for it with the ending, right? Ehehehe. Thanks for reading and letting me know how you liked this story!!! (I'm still amazed that you're reading my fics! I'm still trying to take in the reality of it! Hahaha!)
(Deleted comment)
lafuego
Mar. 16th, 2011 06:17 am (UTC)
You're lucky that my muse has learned to ease off the uber heavy angst by the time I got around to writing this. Otherwise, this would have had an entirely different ending!

Thanks for leaving me this sweet review! *hugs*
( 9 Critics — Leave a Review )