Chapter 05

Fuji stood in the club room, watching Ryoma practice as he waited for Coach Ryuzaki. The freshman was working up a light sweat, hitting the tennis ball against the wall from one hand to the other. He knew his lover had been working on improving the control of his right hand after losing the match with Tezuka. He smiled. The determination Ryoma had that bordered on stubbornness was one of the things that had drawn Fuji to him.

“Fuji,” Coach Ryuzaki said from the doorway. “What are you doing here?”

Fuji turned around to face her, his mask back in place. “I was hoping to find out the results of the Rokkaku-Torkaku match.”

Ryuzaki arched an eyebrow. “It’s unlike you to show an interest in things like this.”

Fuji’s response was to keep his smile focused on her. He wasn’t about to show her the anxiety he felt. Rokkaku was the school Saeki went to. If they’d won their match and ended up being Seigaku’s next opponent…he didn’t know what he was going to do. He hadn’t spoken to Saeki in seven years. The idea of facing him again made him queasy.

She walked over to her desk and pulled a piece of paper out from under the magazines that littered the top of it. Looking down at the paper, she tried to gauge Fuji’s expression before she told him who’d won, then gave it up for a lost cause. Try as she might, she’d never been able to read the tensai. “Rokkaku won,” she said.

“I see. Thank you,” Fuji said. “I’ll be going now.”

Ryuzaki stared after him as he left the room. She’d never understand him.

Fuji was numb as he walked down to the tennis courts. He leaned against the fence behind Ryoma and watched, his mind turned to what he was going to do the next time he saw Saeki. If the first time he saw Saeki again after that was before a match, it would throw off his game. He’d spend the entire game obsessing over Saeki’s presence because the guy had been his best friend for ten years.

He had to go see him. He knew Saeki still lived in the same house, because he considered going over there to apologize at least once a year. The guilt over the past ate at him constantly. It was the only thing in his life he’d ever done that he regretted. Even interrogating Jason hadn’t made him remorseful.

But the thing that had always stopped him in the past threatened to stop him now. Once he got to Saeki’s, what would he say? More importantly, how could he guarantee that no harm would befall either one of them?

A sudden thought struck him. Tony. He knew the assassin was afraid of him, but the man also hated his guts. If he gave Tony the opportunity to hurt him, there was no doubt in Fuji’s mind that the man would be all for it. He nodded to himself. That would work. He checked his watch. 5:15. Saeki would be home by now.

Fuji lifted himself off the fence. “Don’t practice much longer,” he said. “I’ll call you when I get home.”

Ryoma caught the ball with his left hand and turned to face him. “You’re not going home now?”

Fuji shook his head. “I have something to take care of.”

Ryoma looked like he was about to insist on knowing what it was, then thought better of it. “Che,” he said. “Another hour here okay?”

Fuji considered it for a minute. Ryoma had been good all week. “Yeah,” he said. “But don’t make it a habit.”

“Thanks, Syu. I won’t.” Ryoma turned back to the wall, his attention focused once more on practice.

Fuji smiled as he made his way to the school gates. The knowledge that Ryoma would have listened to him even if he’d said no helped drive away some of the anxiety he felt. He knew the calm wouldn’t last long, but hopefully it would be enough to get him to Saeki’s door.

At the gates, Fuji stopped and waved Tony over to him. Ever since he’d started attending Seigaku, Tony waited for him after school. He took his job as Fuji’s bodyguard seriously, but Fuji knew that was only because he wanted to get out of Japan as soon as possible. No one liked being close to the Hayashi’s, but Tony hated it more than most. Him and Sora didn’t get along, and him and Sayuri…Fuji shuddered. Sora’s aunt was a nightmare.

Tony frowned. “You look worried.”

Fuji arched an eyebrow. “Since when can you read my expressions?”

“Since Ryoma started teaching me how to do it.”

That shocked a laugh out of Fuji. “I’ll have to get him to stop giving away my secrets. It’s no fun if you can figure me out.”

“What are you worried about?” Tony asked, refusing to rise to the bait.

Fuji sighed. “Do you remember the reason I was in America?”

Tony’s brow furrowed. “Vaguely. Something about beating someone up? But honestly, Fuji, that seems pale in comparison to what happened in America.”

“Yeah,” Fuji said, opening his eyes as he looked at Tony. “But the person I beat up here was my best friend. I had no control over myself and I almost killed him. With Jason, on the other hand, I was in complete control.”

Tony shuddered. “I don’t ever want to think about you being out of control.”

Fuji smiled grimly. “I have to see him now.”

Tony stepped in front of him, halting his progress. His brown eyes, normally dull, sharpened as he searched Fuji’s face. “You’re scared,” he whispered, awed. “I’ve never seen you afraid before.”

Fuji’s eyes narrowed. “I’d suggest you get out of my way.”

Tony didn’t budge. Fuji’s usually sharp tone had dulled. “What is it?” he asked. “Why does confronting this Saeki guy have you so on edge?”

Fuji closed his eyes. He’d known this would happen, but for it to happen so soon. He sighed and stepped around Tony, the assassin falling into step beside him. “Because,” he said, “Saeki was my best friend for ten years. I put him in the hospital over a stupid fight and haven’t spoken to him since. It’s the only thing in my life I regret doing.”

Tony was tempted to say something mean, but he didn’t have the courage to provoke Fuji. Especially not after the sadist had told him something so personal. “Why am I coming along?” he asked.

“Because I’m afraid I’ll get violent with him again and if that happens, I need someone with me I can count on to stop me.”

Tony blinked, then blanched. “If I interfere, you’ll do something to make me regret it. It’s how you work.”

“No,” Fuji said softly. “Not this time. I swear it.”

Tony thought about it a long time. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll come with you. But if you break your oath to me, I’ll go to Sayuri myself.”

Fuji winced. Sayuri was the head assassin for a reason. Tony didn’t like her–in fact, he was terrified of her–but she was the one responsible for all other assassins. If he broke a promise to Tony and he went to Sayuri, Fuji wouldn’t live to regret it. “Okay,” Fuji said. “We’re almost there.”

Once they got there, Fuji’s nerves came back full force and he stared at the door for a solid ten minutes. What if Saeki refused to see him? He swallowed. Coming this far just to be turned away…it was unthinkable.

“If you’re going to do this,” Tony said, interrupting his brooding,”stop thinking about it and go knock already.”

Fuji gave him a weak smile and walked up the three steps to the front door. Taking a deep breath, he let his fist fall against the door three times in rapid succession. Before he could knock a fourth time, the door opened. Saeki stood behind it. “Fuji?” he asked. “What are you doing here?”

There was no fear in Saeki’s voice. Relief washed over him. “Can we come in, Saeki?” Fuji asked. “I have a lot to say.”

Saeki looked from him to Tony, frowning. “Okay,” he said. “But we’ll have to go to my room. My parents have guests over.”

Fuji nodded and followed him inside, Tony on his heels. He’d passed the first hurdle-he’d gotten through the door. Now he had to find a way to talk to Saeki about the past, something he’d been avoiding for seven years.

Chapter 4     Chapter Index     Chapter 6

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