No Replacement

by Kuwabara no Miko

The degree of neatness for someone packing in preparation for an extended trip was incredible, yet nothing less was to be expected from Tezuka Kunimitsu. All there was to show that he was leaving for Germany was a steamer trunk set in the center of his room, and vacant drawers in the dresser, all of which were closed, their emptiness hidden from casual view.

Tezuka's bed, however, was occupied, its formerly smooth surface rumpled by the lean body that was sprawled across the mattress. Fuji Syusuke rested his chin on folded hands, watching with hooded eyes as his captain finished the last of his packing. His outwardly placid expression belied the emotions teeming inside, and yet Tezuka was aware of the impending storm, and he moved carefully as he turned the key in the steamer trunk lock and then twisted it carefully onto his keychain.

"Germany is very far away."

The softly spoken sentence was tossed out with neutral intonation, hitting the silence between them like a pebble dropped into a still pond. The waves that radiated out from these words washed over Tezuka, causing him to straighten and turn.

His face was colored with the same baffled expression that he always seemed to sport when he discovered that Fuji was in his bedroom, and Fuji realized with an internal wrench just how much he was going to miss this.

Before the tall, broad-shouldered youth could respond, Fuji spoke the words that he was feeling, letting them out with only a slight wince of regret for something said that could not be unsaid. "There is no one that can replace you. You will be sorely missed."

Tezuka's mouth turned down at the corners and he pushed his glasses up, an absent gesture of unease that did not go unnoticed. "Oishi will make a fine replacement captain in my absence," he said reprovingly. "He has the qualifications to--"

"That is not what I meant, Tezuka," Fuji interrupted, staring at the other youth in something approaching irritation.

The lines between Tezuka's brows deepened. "Then what did you...."

Fuji's eyes and mouth curved in a smile he neither felt nor meant. "Germany is very far away," he repeated mildly. "And there is no one who can replace you."

Tezuka turned away. He was not denying the meaning now, but it was too naked to be faced. His action was not a rejection or a denial. His nature was such that he could not refuse responsibility, but he needed a moment to collect himself.

"I won't be gone forever," Tezuka offered without turning. His deep voice was smooth and devoid of inflectional, but his back was stiff. "I'm going to heal and rehabilitate my shoulder. Once it's better, I'll be back."

"Hmm...." Fuji tilted his head to one side, his expression deceptively bland. "Do you think I am being childish?"

"No." Tezuka turned to meet his forthright gaze over the negligible barrier of the trunk.



"Unreasonable?" Fuji pursued. He could sense that Tezuka was internally squirming at the turn their conversation had taken, and the perverse side of him enjoyed it. But he wanted his questions answered, and he wanted to be treated fairly.

"No, of course not," Tezuka snapped with an impatient shake of his head.

"Oishi will make a fine vice captain," Fuji mused complacently. Then he speared Tezuka with his dark teal eyes, holding him captive at this point in the conversation by the force of his will. When rock met immovable object the result was never neat or tidy. But this was something that needed to be spoken between them. Neither of them could put their feelings into words directly, but they could dance around them in oblique phraseology, each knowing that the other would understand. "But you will be missed. Perhaps more than you know."

Tezuka's mouth twisted as though he had tasted something bitter, but he could not look away. "I know," was all he said in response.

Fuji rose from the bed in a lithe movement. "Do you, I wonder," he queried, crossing to stand against the trunk, allowing it to remain between them as a form of shelter for Tezuka. This was more raw truth than either of them could be entirely comfortable with, but Fuji would not allow Tezuka to leave for Germany with certain things unspoken between them.

"There is e-mail," Tezuka offered stiffly, his glasses glinting in the lowering sunlight that filtered in through his window. "And you have my cell phone number."

"Ah." Fuji rested his elbow on the top of the trunk, cupping his pointed chin in his palm. "I know."

They stared at each other for several heartbeats, the distance between them already feeling as wide as the distance between Japan and Germany, if only in this frozen instant.

"Tezuka." Fuji's voice was barely louder than a whisper. "Is there anyone who can replace me?"

An expression of affront, almost anger, drew the lines taut on Tezuka's face, and Fuji wondered if he had pushed too far. And yet, he had asked. He knew that he was not the only one with claims on Tezuka's time and attention, but he liked to think that they shared something special, that he gave Tezuka something that no one else could.

He didn't ask for much. He was content to be the aggressor -- though not the top -- in their private encounters. Often Tezuka seemed confused as to why he found Fuji in his room and why they often ended up engaged in intimacy. Fuji didn't mind making the effort, because he felt that the time spent with Tezuka was worth it. He was no weepy, clinging girl. They were both males, and they behaved as the men they would be soon.

But Tezuka was leaving for Germany. And there was no telling when he would be back. There were some things Fuji could not leave unsaid, some questions he needed to have answered for his own peace of mind. Then he could let Tezuka go with the calm assurance that one day he would come back; back to Japan, back to Seigaku, and back to Fuji.

Maybe it was the match with Atobe that had shaken him. Seeing that there was someone who could affect Tezuka so much -- even in a negative way. It had bruised his ego, made him feel powerless and out of control. And now Tezuka was leaving, going to another country.

Fuji was perhaps more needy than he liked to admit.

"You are the only Fuji Syusuke," Tezuka said simply. But the resonance in his voice left no doubt as to his regard, and what these words meant to him.

Fuji's smile this time was true and unmasked, his eyes dark and intense as they met and held Tezuka's steadfast gaze.

"Thank you," was all he said.

"I won't be gone forever." The words came more smoothly, now that they had once again reached an understanding. The lines between them were more open than before, and there was a deepening of their unspoken bond. Tezuka reached across the trunk and placed one graceful hand over Fuji's slim fingers in a move that startled the shorter youth. Fuji's eyes widened but he otherwise did not react. "And you have my cell phone number."

Fuji's breath caught as his throat closed briefly, then an even more beautiful smile broke out over his face, his eyes shining.

"I do," he acknowledged, daring to turn his hand under Tezuka's and clasping his fingers around the other youth's.

They remained this way for a long moment as the sunlight poured molten through the window, highlighting the sharp planes of Tezuka's face and the softened expression that had overtaken Fuji's features.

"Tezuka..." Fuji purred, pulling his hand away and sliding easily around the trunk that was no longer a barrier between them. "You're going to be going very far away for who knows how long...."

Tezuka gave Fuji a disgruntled look as the shorter boy sidled up against him. He had thought that they had already covered this ground.

"You don't think that I'm going to let you leave without something to remember me by...."

Tezuka's smile was as easy and genuine as Fuji's. "Don't think I would have let you," he said, enfolding Fuji in his arms in a rare showing of affection.

"Now this is something that Oishi couldn't do for me," Fuji murmured, raising his face to meet Tezuka's.

Tezuka chose to express his outrage over this statement in a physical manner rather than a verbal, very thoroughly staking his claim over a certain infuriating tensai tennis player.

Fuji wrapped his arms around Tezuka's neck, determined to catch and treasure every moment of the pending encounter. Tezuka would return to him, but not right away. Tezuka's shoulder needed time to heal, and Fuji would never have stood in the way of that. Still, it eased the pain of loss to know now for a certainty that he was important to Tezuka. He had pushed for an answer and had gotten one. He counted himself beyond fortunate that it had been the answer he had hoped for.

Germany was indeed very far away. But with determination and understanding, the distance was not so great that two hearts could not meet.