A Summer Afternoon

by Talya Firedancer

The first wash of morning sunlight spread over the fishing gear laid out with ruler-precision on the spread: tackle, gleaming tufts and glints of lure, barbed hooks jutting wickedly as if ready to pierce water. Tezuka Kunimitsu finished coiling his rod and placed it alongside the fishing kit, then checked his watch. It was about time.

He gathered up his fishing gear and slipped through the morning silences of a house not fully awakened. Opening the door to the fresh-dew smell of morning, he stood sun-dazzled on the threshold, holding up one hand against the glare.

"Morning," a voice greeted him mildly.

"Good morning," Tezuka responded with formal inflections. This person, this one person had to be held at bay with the barrier of politeness. Yet this one person was the only person who could see past Tezuka's silences. Such a contradiction, yet he put himself in a position like this.

"Heh." Fuji Shuusuke smiled at him and brushed back a strand of hair. He was limned golden by the sun as he approached. He had a bag over his shoulder, gear, towel, the case of a camera within easy reach on top. "Leaving at such an early hour...I suppose it's the best time to catch fish?"

"Sometimes," Tezuka said shortly. "Other times, it's to reach a spot before the other fishermen."

"Then let's go."

The best place that Tezuka had found was two line stops from his home and involved a great deal of hiking. This Fuji accepted with equanimity, having worn the hiking boots and long pants that Tezuka had recommended to him after his unconventional request of the day before.

"You like fishing, don't you? Tezuka."

"You know I do," had been Tezuka's half-brushoff response, for Fuji had been to his room before, had handled his lures and hooks with careful hands and commented on the sport with a knowledge that, considering Fuji, shouldn't have surprised him.

Fuji had merely smiled as he did when he meant to disarm, and shouldered his tennis bag. "I need some pictures for an upcoming exhibition. For contrast, I want something like that."

"Fishing pictures?" Even Tezuka could be taken off guard.

It seemed that this person had the ability to do that to him more than anyone. Fuji hadn't asked him; Fuji implied and smiled. So Tezuka had asked, knowing the question was expected. And so they were here today on an off-day, traveling along the hiking trail that cut indirectly to the riverbank that Tezuka had found on a trip some time before. Fuji had his camera in hand, snapping pictures as they moved deeper into a wooded area that had nothing to do with the close-lying city they had left behind.

There was a place where a lip of rock swept back from a dip in the river, a place Tezuka had found to have a deceptively swift current beneath the slow-moving skin of the water. They settled there, and Fuji took several pictures before stowing his camera and accepting the fishing rod that was handed to him.

"You've done this before?" Tezuka queried, lifting a brow. They sat on the grassy embankment side by side, a handspan of space between them.

"Yes," Fuji confirmed, casting out and dropping his line neatly below them. "With Yuuta and an uncle, a long time ago."

They fished in silence for a time, because that was how they were.

The silence of the morning, the light glimmering off the water, the slight plop as they returned their lines to the water again and again...for a time Tezuka could almost believe he was at the riverbank by himself. The subtle difference of the presence beside him was something that registered only in the flick of the pole beside him, the rustle of cloth when Fuji moved into a better position, the sense of his breathing nearby.

Fuji was the one to break silence first. He was, Tezuka had noted, more prone to doing so, as if the weight of unspoken things between them forced him to speech at last.

"Tezuka, if you hadn't started with tennis, what do you think you'd be doing right now?"

Then again, it could be simple curiosity that moved Fuji to words.

Tezuka thought for a moment, giving the question the consideration it deserved. "If I hadn't played tennis," he said reflectively, "I suppose Grandfather would have started me on kendo. He wanted to, I remember, but I started with tennis and wouldn't consider dropping it."

"That's very Tezuka," Fuji said with a chuckle, reeling in his line, setting his pole beside him for the moment.

Tezuka gave him a sidewise glance and began to reel in his own line. It was getting later, close to nine to judge by the angle of the light. It skimmed trees and bounced off the water below them, reflecting a later part of the day. He wondered if Fuji had brought a lunch, and knew without asking that he had. "What would you do?"

"Heeeh." Fuji rocked back from the bank and clasped his knees. His considering eyes reflected the lazy ripple of the water. "For me, I don't think there was any option but tennis."

Tezuka flicked his wrist and cast again.

He wondered what it would take to get a straight answer out of Fuji. On the other hand, he knew that the main lines of communication between them weren't verbal at all.

"Nothing, then?" Tezuka said aloud. He tried to imagine Fuji playing volleyball, soccer, perhaps even baseball. The images wouldn't come. He had seen a picture once of young Shuusuke, trophy in one hand, racquet in the other. He'd been playing for a long time, the prodigy, as long as the time Tezuka had first picked up a racquet.


Tezuka could sense, rather than see, Fuji's smile. "I don't know about that," Fuji replied, "I think...an instrument, perhaps. Or maybe the manga club. But tennis is the only thing for me."

"I see," Tezuka said at last, after a few false nibbles gave him pause.

Breath caught beside him. "Do you?" Fuji shifted, sending a skitter of rocks to the edge of the embankment. "Tezuka."

With consideration Tezuka wound his line in a bit and set his pole to the side, bracing it with a stand of handy rocks. "I see you," he replied directly. "Fuji Shuusuke. Is there something else?" I've been watching you. I know your silences. I know the words behind your smile.

"I'm tired," Fuji said, "of waiting for the right moment." He smiled, eyes wide shut. Disarm.

Tezuka grasped his wrist. Some part of him knew that; he had known the clock was ticking since yesterday and Fuji's query. It will be soon. "You're in the moment now." He saw, for an instant, the glint of cerulean blue in the space between their faces; behind Fuji's eyes ran a current deeper than the river beside them.

Their lips met.

Skin on skin, it was the barest brush, a butterfly-winged hum of warmth between them. It could have been merely that -- just the chaste kiss of friendship -- until Fuji's breath caught between them and Tezuka opened his mouth to swallow the gasp. He kissed Fuji's lips, no other contact between them, just the sensation of summer-warm skin against his mouth. He was sucking on Fuji's bottom lip. An unexpected thrill ran through him, a kind of contact-shock; he sat back, adjusted his glasses, took stock of himself.

He was still...discrete. There was a place where this person ended and he began.

"Yes," Fuji said thoughtfully, licking his bottom lip. "I am in the moment." His eyes were open and his amiable look was more dangerous than any calculating glance.

There was never any part of Tezuka that had to think consciously, "I must concentrate on grades," or "I'll play tennis to the very limit." It was the way he was, conscientious in every aspect of what he did. He never had to be told to be careful or do his best; that was simply how he behaved. Now this, the feeling of someone special, of someone surpassing his barriers... He didn't need to think that past a certain point, his interactions with this one person would mean something different, venturing into a place of mature feeling and sensation.

He just knew.

By the same token there was never a part of Tezuka that had to think, "I will refrain from relationships until high school." The appropriate situational scenario was exactly that, focus on grades, focus on tennis, form an acceptable attachment in high school. That was why...this...

"Tezuka," Fuji said, and there was hesitation in the catch of his breath. Are you sure? This person knew, too, in the space between them that was without words.

Was this something they should do? Would it change their interaction? The Tezuka who could be serious about every aspect of his life -- could he be serious about this one person and not risk the disorder of something else he knew?

He caught at Fuji's sleeve and drew him in close. As their eyes slid shut he thought, this doesn't change a single thing. This is the way we are. This person knew him whether they were alone or not. Yet together in private, they could be more themselves than any other time.

This much of Fuji...this was what he wanted, after all.

Fuji's damp lips rubbed against his and Tezuka hitched up to deepen the kiss -- and collided with Fuji, their noses suddenly awkward; Fuji's forehead caught against the bridge of his glasses. They pulled apart, Fuji with a laugh for the surprise, Tezuka on the point of self-consciousness. And Fuji was smiling, softly, just so, his eyes slivers of river-blue with the sheen of the morning sun behind them.

"Tezuka," he said, quietly, and that was all. His name on Fuji's lips.

He leaned in again to crush the gap between him, hands closing on Fuji's shoulders to reel him in, mouth closing over Fuji's with a jolt that surprised him, echoed in the shiver elicited from the body beside him.

Tezuka pressed his mouth down on Fuji's, sent his tongue in a volley ardently returned, and found he wanted more in the most vital way. No one saw more than Fuji. And Fuji crowded back against him, hands venturing over his waist and settling, closed-fisted, on his back. It was the same, and had been the same since the first no holds barred game they had played against one another -- a game without limits, without the audience of club practice around them, with no boundaries but the border defined by their respective reaches. Fuji saw him. He forgot the warmth of a golden afternoon for the heat to be found in Fuji's mouth. They bumped again, colliding in haste, and Tezuka swallowed the chuckle it provoked from Fuji, irritated with his own inexperience.

I want to be closer.

He licked a line of fire down Fuji's neck, jaw to shirt collar. He pressed against him, lowering him to the embankment they reclined on.

"Tezuka--" Fuji exclaimed against his mouth, and winced.

Abruptly Tezuka was upright, stiff-backed, adjusting his glasses.

"Fishing pole," Fuji said apologetically, shifting away from it, scooting closer to him. His hands rubbed over his long pants and chafed his thighs once, twice.

"You didn't say stop," Tezuka observed keenly. A heady sense of unfamiliar excitement was stirring deep inside him, centering low in his belly. It was reminiscent of strong feeling from a dream, but he knew if he pressed his mouth to Fuji's again this would be no illusion.

Fuji blinked, gave him a guileless smile, and pointed.

To his left, Tezuka's fishing pole was bobbing gently in its cradle of rocks. The line jerked, slackened, then went taut again.

"I see," Fuji began, and his laughter bubbled over into a warm chuckle, "you've managed to catch something, Tezuka."

"Damn!" With that hasty curse he turned his attention and both hands back to his independent fishing pole, taking it up and beginning to reel it in with steady hands.

Fuji watched him for a moment, then cast his own line once more.

They ended up with five mid-sized fish, catching them in quick succession after Tezuka's first bite, until Tezuka called a halt with Fuji's second catch. "Enough," he decided. It was a well-populated stream, but he didn't believe in catching more than he intended to take.

"Will we eat them here, or bring them home?"

"You wanted to take pictures today, didn't you?" Tezuka paused, adjusting his glasses.

"Mm." Fuji turned a look of patent innocence his way. "I think I've gotten what I wanted."

Tezuka coughed. "Then," he said, "I suppose we could take them home, but we could eat them now. It's the right time."

"Yes," Fuji said softly. "I think it is the right time, finally."

Tezuka felt such an obvious sally deserved no response.

They settled into a small hollow several meters back from the stream that had obviously been used for the same purpose to which they would put it. Tezuka himself remembered cooking fish in the depression on a few occasions. While Tezuka began to skin their catches, Fuji kindled a fire with the deft efficiency of a regular camper.

"When you said we left so early to avoid other fishermen, I hardly imagined." Fuji sat cross-legged beside the fire and laid his cheek on one hand. You're serious about everything, Tezuka.

"There were many reasons to leave early this morning." Deftly working his knife beneath the gills now, Tezuka continued to skin his catch. Of course. He'd known, in that place without words, what Fuji intended with his hints the day before. He had acceded in his own way...this afternoon, the two of them, the lines between them blurring into warmth, it wasn't anything that he had planned.

Even so, it was what he wanted.

"And now?" Fuji was looking at him, eyes fully open now. He held up a pointed stick for Tezuka to grasp and slide into the mouth of the skinned, gutted fish.

Tezuka hesitated. He knew that the question hinged around so much more. "We can go fishing again," he offered quietly.

"Fishing," Fuji repeated. He was smiling vaguely. "That's nice."

"Hiking," Tezuka continued, with the oddest sense that he was bartering future freedoms.


"And," Tezuka said, settling on a final offer, "study sessions at our houses."

"Ah." Fuji opened his eyes. "Study sessions." After this point, there are some things you can't take back.

Tezuka thrust the stick into the ground, angling the fish so that it would roast over the fire. "If that's what you want." I know.

"Oh," Fuji said lightly, "I'm in your hands, then."

From that point onward. I know. Tezuka gave him the slightest of smiles, and returned his attention to the fish. The afternoon was theirs...and after.

No one had to tell Tezuka in relationships, one took them as far as two people could go together. He simply knew. Once Tezuka started something, he would follow through until the end.

Are you sure?

He'd already given his answer. They didn't need words to define it.