Chapter 07

Chapter Seven

Fuji was in a good mood when he got home. He hadn’t expected Saeki to forgive him and the turn the conversation had taken, while unexpected, had been a welcome one. He was surprised he hadn’t seen the darkness in Saeki before. He frowned. That didn’t feel right. If he hadn’t suspected Sae had some of his own dark desires, he doubted he’d ever have suggested the plan to get back at those girls.

He stored his equipment and went up to his room, acknowledging the call from the kitchen that dinner was ready with a return yell of his own. It was rare for his family to be together for a meal, so he was going to give Ryoma a quick call and then go downstairs. It seemed like an eternity had passed since he’d last seen his parents.

Fuji dialed Ryoma’s number from memory, surprised when Nanjirou answered the phone. “May I speak with Ryoma?” he asked.

“Who is this?” Nanjirou asked.

Fuji blinked. Was this really the first time he’d spoken to Ryoma’s father over the phone? “It’s Fuji,” he said. “Can you give him the phone?”

“One sec.” Without covering the mouthpiece, he yelled “Ryoma! Phone!”

Fuji flinched away from the phone. Damn, but Echizen’s father could scream. He heard Ryoma’s answering yell from upstairs before he heard another click and Ryoma came on the line. “Syuusuke?” Another click told him Nanjirou had hung up.

“Hey, Ryoma,” he said. “Did I interrupt anything?”

“No. I just got out of the shower. It’s why Dad answered. Sorry, by the way.”

“For what?” Fuji raised an eyebrow; as far as he knew Ryoma hadn’t done anything he needed to apologize for.

“Dad screaming in your ear. He forgets to cover the phone every time.”

Fuji chuckled. “It’s fine. My ears have already recovered.”

“So where did you go?”

Fuji was silent. Could he tell Ryoma? He wanted to; the desire to trust his lover the way Ryoma trusted him burned in him. But telling him everything that had happened with Saeki…he wasn’t sure he was ready to get into that yet. Maybe not ever. “To a friend’s,” he said. That, at least, was true.

“Oh,” Ryoma said. “I thought Eiji was going to see a movie with Oishi after school.”

Fuji winced. He’d forgotten about Eiji recently. He really needed to spend more time with him before their surface friendship fell apart. That was one image he needed to maintain. But lately he’d been so caught up in Ryoma, his social persona had taken a backseat. Now that their relationship was firmly established, he could give some of his attention back to that. “I didn’t see Eiji,” he said.

“Inui, then?” Ryoma asked. “I thought he was going to watch a practice match to gather data.”

“No,” Fuji said. “I went to Saeki’s.”

Ryoma was silent. “Who is Saeki?” he asked, voice small.

Guilt ate at him. He didn’t want to lie to Ryoma, but he couldn’t tell him everything about Saeki. It was too much. “He’s an old friend,” he said. “We were just catching up.”

“Oh,” Ryoma said. “You’ve never mentioned him before.”

It was hard to ignore the accusation in Ryoma’s voice, but Fuji did his best to pretend it wasn’t there. He hadn’t done anything wrong. “He’s part of the team we’re playing next. I wanted to make sure there were no hard feelings.” And hey, that was at least part of the truth. Fuji had wanted to make sure there were no hard feelings, just not about tennis. Hopefully, it would be enough to get Ryoma’s mind off it.

“You could have told me,” Ryoma said.

Fuji pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to find patience. He couldn’t tell Ryoma to stop acting like a brat, even though that’s what he was doing, because he had a right to know where Fuji went and who he was hanging out with. “I’m sorry, Ryu,” he said, tone soft. “I didn’t think it was important.”

“I have to go,” Ryoma said. “Dad’s calling me for dinner.”

“Okay,” Fuji said, trying to ignore the queasy feeling in his stomach. Ryoma had successfully skirted around accepting his apology. He wasn’t sure what that meant for them. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Love you, Syu. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Love you too,” Fuji said, hanging up the phone when the dial tone sounded. He hadn’t done anything wrong. He’d just gone to see a friend. But he still felt like he was betraying Ryoma, somehow, and that didn’t sit well with him. He was going to have to figure it out later, though, because his own parents were calling him down for dinner.

Fuji couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen his father. It felt like years, but in reality was probably only a couple months. The man stayed busy in America and didn’t get to come back home often. When he was home, Fuji usually missed him due to tennis practice. If he stayed for dinner, it meant he’d be there for the weekend.

“Syuusuke,” his father said, pulling his attention across the table. “I hear you’ve taken a lover?”

Fuji nearly choked on his food. He knew both Yuuta and his sister knew, but hadn’t realized they’d told his father. But he shouldn’t have been surprised. They were a close family. And his phone call to Yumiko had probably worried her enough to go to their father about it. “Yes, sir,” he said.

“Tell me about him.”

Fuji blinked. He’d never taken a lover before, but he’d been present for the conversation between Yumiko and his father when she’d been in relationships. If he wasn’t careful, he’d find himself in a trap. Despite their close ties, navigating a conversation with his father was difficult. After all, Fuji’d learned everything he knew about emotional manipulation from the man.

“He’s one of the regulars at Seigaku,” Fuji said. “And he’s a masochist.” There. He’d cut right to the point. Doing that meant it would be more difficult for his father to manipulate him. Not impossible, of course, because the man was a genius, but it was the best defense he had.

“A masochist?” His father raised an eyebrow, fork poised halfway between the plate and his mouth. He thought for a moment. “Doesn’t that make it more difficult for you to control yourself?”

Fuji flushed. His father was one of the few people who knew about America and what he’d gone through there in order to get his thirst for physical torture under control. “No,” he said. “It helps me keep control.”

“I find that difficult to believe.”

“I went to Saeki’s earlier,” Fuji said, changing the subject. He didn’t want to discuss his need for torture with his father.

Yumiko gasped; Yuuta and his mother stared at him in horror. Fuji’s father tilted his head in consideration. “And?” he asked. “You don’t seem to be injured.”

Fuji smiled. “It went better than I expected.” At the expectant looks on his family’s faces, he continued, “Saeki apologized to me.”

“What?” Yumiko asked, voice shrill. She got herself back under control. “Why?”

He shrugged. “Saeki said that the reason he lashed out at me back then was because he couldn’t handle his own darkness. That I showed him something inside himself he wasn’t ready to face.”

“I assume that’s changed in the last seven years,” Fuji’s father said.

“Yes,” Fuji said. “We agreed to put the past behind us and start over.”

“The two of you were always good friends. I’m glad that you’ve re-established that connection.”

Fuji inclined his head towards his father. As dinner conversations went, this one wasn’t going too badly. Still, he was relieved when his dad turned his attention to Yumiko. He’d barely managed to avoid an interrogation about Ryoma; he didn’t want to get into the details of that relationship with his father.

After dinner, he went to his room and tried to sleep. But all he could think about, as he tossed fitfully throughout the night, was the edge of hurt he’d heard in Ryoma’s voice.

Chapter 6     Chapter Index     Chapter 8

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