by Talya Firedancer

He is not the type to look it, sometimes, but Fuji Shuusuuke is focused.

He sits quietly to the side, finishing the last of the wasabi rolls that Kawamura's father so-obligingly made for him. Fuji's taste in food runs to what anyone else would call painful; masochistic, even.

The victorious Seigaku regulars are winding down at last from an afternoon of celebrating their championship, and Fuji absently chews on another piece of wasabi roll as he runs an eye around the room.

Kikumaru Eiji has retreated for recovery from stealing and bolting one of Fuji's wasabi rolls, and receives commiseration from his doubles partner Ooishi Shuichirou. Eyes watering profusely, Eiji downs glass over glass of water and Ooshi pats him on the back, making soothing noises.

Eiji, Fuji thinks with some amusement, will live. Anyone who can down one of Inui's special concoctions (which Fuji finds piquant) should be tough enough to withstand mere wasabi.

"Fushuuu." Over in his corner Kaido Kaoru lurks over one the last unmolested platter of mixed nigiri-zushi; for some reason no one quite wants to challenge him for possession of the morsels. It's that, or everyone's appetites are winding down.

Nearby with his back to the wall, Inui Sadaharu has a notebook open and chews on the end of a pen, making notations from time to time as he glances about the room. Inui is far too observant for his own good, Fuji thinks; he has been wary of this senpai on occasion. He hopes the only data that Inui takes today is the response of the Seigaku regulars to their exhilarating win.

Echizen Ryoma, their ochibi-chan and skilled freshman regular, is still vying at a further table with Momoshiro Takeshi for the very last of the sushi. Momo-chan crows with triumph as he snaps up piece after piece while the ochibi-chan falls short. Ryoma, Fuji thinks, is disoriented by his sudden lack of depth perception. It is amazing enough he lasted through the ten-minute remainder of his match.

This leads Fuji to a contemplation of their tennis captain, Tezuka Kunimitsu, seated off to the side at the bar with the adults. Fuji's eyes tilt up in his disarmingly blank look as he considers Tezuka. He knows why their captain gifted Echizen with those extra ten minutes, and it was not Tezuka's desire to see Seigaku win the championship.

He knows this without words, and needs no confirmation.

Continuing around the room, Fuji notes that Kawamura Takashi is already ferrying dishes from the debauched tables into the kitchen area, wiping down dirty surfaces, acting the dutiful son of the sushi-restaurant owner who has hosted their victory party. His wrist is taped and he must still be in pain but his demeanor is cheerful.

Fuji is grateful for that much.

In his head, he still plays the match. If he had leveled a more serious playing style at their opponents earlier, he thinks, his teammate and doubles partner would not have been injured. By the time Fuji recognized the caliber of their Fudomine opponents, it had nearly been too late. He has a tendency to toy with his singles opponents, drawing them out, testing them until he is sure exactly what level of skill to unleash against them.

It had carried over into his doubles performance today, and a friend had suffered for it.

He is not the type to look it, but Fuji Shuusuke sometimes has trouble letting things go.

"Are you ready to leave?" The deep timbre of Seigaku's tennis captain breaks Fuji's introspection. Glancing up, all Fuji can see is the glint the sun strikes off his glasses. "I'll walk you home if you don't mind. Fuji."

"Ehh??" Startled, Fuji widens his eyes at his captain. At Tezuka. Of all the people to look at, Tezuka makes him see. "Walk me home? But you take the bus with Ooishi..." Unflappable calm, he says to himself silently, pulling it around him. He is the center of unflappable calm, the eye of the storm always.

No, he corrects himself, Tezuka is the weight of the storm's eye. There is that sense of stilled energy to him, the heaviness of the moment before the gale strikes.

"I think Ooishi has other plans," Tezuka replies, nodding to the far end of the restaurant where Eiji tugs Ooishi to his feet, his expression animated as he describes something -- he is re-enacting a particular play, by the swinging motion of his hands and the sequence of facial contortions.

"Ah," Fuji says, all unflappable calm. This is not surprising; in fact, he could have expected it. Eiji is still full of fire and energy and doubtless wants to work off the remainder of his enthusiasm with his partner. He slants an enigmatic look at his captain. "You're ready to go, then?" He wonders, without asking, why Tezuka has decided this.

"I wasn't really that hungry," Tezuka replies, and Fuji can't help but wonder, for a moment, if he is speaking of something else.

They say goodbye, and already other regulars are breaking away from the main mass of the celebratory party. Eiji and Ooshi are already half out the door, and Kaido climbs to his feet with an expression of relief as if he were too polite to be first to depart. Momoshiro makes loud complaints about the party just getting started and Echizen calls him an idiot.

Outside the sun is setting, gilding the streets in silent gold, touching everything with fiery fingers that fade with each degree as the sun descends into night. They walk in equal silence, tennis bags shouldered, and Fuji thinks of reasons he should open his mouth and discards them one by one.

They have crossed perhaps three blocks before Fuji gives in. The wall of Tezuka's imperturbability is insurmountable, and Fuji has his curiosity, after all. It means something, this kind of yielding, and he can't quite put his finger on it although he knows it to be true.

"So, Captain, what did you want to talk with me about?" Fuji puts forth, keeping his eyes on their path.

Sun glints off Tezuka's glasses, sparking in the fading sunlight. "Eh?"

"You wanted a word with me, didn't you?" Fuji continues, putting his head to the side. He thinks, briefly, of the possible rescue by his older sister but knows that by this time she is surely home. "I can't think of any other reason you would volunteer to walk me home."

"I--I suppose." Tezuka's hand comes up to adjust his glasses, finger slipping them up the bridge of his nose.

Fuji feels as if he has cast a stone into silent waters.

"Fuji. Your performance today was satisfactory," Tezuka tells him in complete seriousness. "Including the moment you chose to default."

Fuji feels as if he's been lobbed a volley that is barely beyond his reach. "Captain?"

"It wasn't your best performance," Tezuka says critically -- and this is the Captain that Fuji knew -- "but given the circumstances, you did the right thing."

"I did the only thing I could," Fuji murmurs, thinking back to the moment of chagrin when Takashi had flinched under his light touch and he knew his fears were confirmed. Kawamura had taken the shot that Fuji had fully intended to take himself, one that likely would have broken his wrist.

"Then stop dwelling on it."

They stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and Fuji widens his eyes at his captain.

"Fuji. Sometimes you can't predict the weather."

A half-dozen responses spring to Fuji's tongue; he may not be able to predict it, but he can dictate his own response, or something nonsensical about umbrellas, or even a simple childish retort that it shouldn't matter whether he can see something coming or not. He swallows them all.

"You're right," Fuji responds, narrowing his eyes thoughtfully.

They walk the remainder in silence, side by side. Fuji feels at times like testing the weight of the silence, but just as his performance on the court is unpredictable, launching him at times from good enough to be regular into that level labeled tensai, true genius, so too his tongue is unexpectedly tied. Something is shifting. Something has changed.

Reaching the perimeter of Fuji's house, they pause, facing off briefly, and Fuji observes Tezuka with a keen eye. Their captain, so thoughtful, so often remote from the rest of the team and far removed in some lonely place Fuji can sense, but not follow...right now, this captain is a solid presence beside him, and beyond making Fuji see, he is returning his gaze with something forthright.

It makes Fuji look away. He feels he understands what Tezuka is trying to tell him, but there is something stubborn inside Fuji Shuusuke.

Fuji has trouble letting things go.

"Then I'll see you tomorrow," Tezuka tells him at last, adjusting his glasses so that they no longer glint in the light of the vanishing sun. He is tall and self-contained in his regular uniform, hand on the strap of his tennis bag, and he is still looking at Fuji, sizing him up as if he is about to dissect him to his essential components on the tennis court.

"Aa," Fuji responds, pausing with his hand on a gate-post. Tezuka is already turning to go. The loss of his gaze is a release, like breaking a seal that has just cooled.

Fuji watches Tezuka's Seigaku regular jacket recede in the distance and he narrows his eyes and thinks that he is grateful for the things that he has. He does not want the eye of the storm to shift and move, he thinks, because if the pressure drops then things will change.

He is not the type to look it, but Fuji Syuusuke often fears change.

"See you tomorrow," he murmurs his response at last, and Tezuka has slipped over the horizon, and he turns to enter the house where deep within, a single light burns.