Chapter 08

Chapter Eight

Fuji was tense during the afternoon practice the next day. It’d been a long time since he’d felt like he’d done something wrong and it wasn’t sitting well with him. Going to see Saeki yesterday…that wasn’t wrong, was it? After all, Sae was a friend. He knew that was true, but it seemed like Ryoma disagreed, but the freshman wasn’t saying anything.

The others hadn’t noticed it, of course. Since Ryoma spoke rarely, when he was silent it went unobserved by anyone but him. Well, and maybe Inui. Fuji sighed and hit the ball back towards Eiji, who’d agreed to be his practice partner. He hated pulling Eiji away from Oishi, but he needed to start rebuilding their friendship. Not that it had fallen apart, exactly. He’d just been neglecting him because of Ryoma.

He did his best to keep Eiji’s attention off of the fact he was upset–even though the redhead was obnoxiously energetic, he did have good eyes. He was difficult to fool, and getting close to him in the first place had been a battle Fuji never wanted to fight again. Despite his outgoing personality, Eiji kept his own problems to himself. In fact, there’d only been a few times in the past couple years that Fuji had seen the acrobatic player lose his cool. And it always had to do with Oishi.

Fuji smiled. The two of them made a great doubles team. They rarely argued and were so in-sync with one another it sometimes made him miss doubles himself. He and Saeki had been a great team too. He shook his head. That had been a long time ago. It wasn’t good for him to get caught up in the past, not when he had problems of his own to deal with right now.

He glanced over at Ryoma, who’d chosen to pair up with Momo. That was normal and the two of them were playing as hard as usual, but Fuji didn’t miss the tense set of his lover’s shoulders. Something about his visit with Saeki yesterday had really bothered him. But Ryoma hadn’t said anything about it and Fuji was hesitant to bring it up. He didn’t want to make the situation worse, especially when he didn’t understand what the situation was.

It made him anxious, not knowing what was going on. Usually, his observation skills kept him out of trouble. But being in a relationship was a new thing for him and he hadn’t seen many couples. The few men his sister had dated didn’t count, since none of them stuck around for long. Besides, Ryoma wasn’t a girl. A relationship between a girl and a guy was completely different than the relationship they shared.

Fuji walked home after practice by himself. He’d wanted to ask Ryoma to come over for the weekend, but something in him had held him back. Part of it was that his father was home–there was no telling what kind of games he’d play if he got to met Ryoma. But Fuji knew that wasn’t the real reason. No. For the first time in his life, he was scared.

At home, he stored his equipment and went to his room. He laid on the bed, staring at the ceiling trying to figure out what he was supposed to do. Ideas rolled around in his head, but none of them seemed to be the right answer. Should he have taken Ryoma with him? He flinched at the idea. Saeki had been his first real victim. Fuji didn’t want Ryoma to see how dark he really was. He didn’t want to scare him off.

He sighed and turned onto his side. Ryoma hadn’t really freaked out when he’d learned about Jason, but that was a completely different story. Jason had been involved in illegal slave trading–even pacifists would have trouble finding fault with what Fuji had done. He’d been violent, which they’d hate, but he’d saved at least a dozen lives because of it. That alone was enough to warrant forgiveness.

But Saeki…that was different. Sae had been his best friend for years. And he’d had no real reason to hit him, but he’d done it anyway, because he couldn’t abide the horror he’d seen in his friend’s eyes. Of course, he knew now that the horror had been directed at Saeki himself, rather than at him, but that didn’t make what he’d done any better. In a way, it made it worse. Because he’d misjudged the situation, misread the intent, and created a problem where there wasn’t one.

And now Ryoma was acting cold towards him. No one else would catch on, but Fuji picked up all the nuances of his lover’s body language. Ryoma had refused to meet his gaze since they’d hung up the phone and his answers were curt and just shy of being disrespectful, so Fuji couldn’t call him on it. And Ryoma had kept his back turned to him during practice and hadn’t said more than a handful of words at lunch. And that conversation had been stilted.

Fuji buried his head in his hands. He had no idea how to fix the mess he’d created. And still, in his mind, he’d done nothing wrong. He didn’t understand what Ryoma was thinking. He sighed. Maybe he should go to Ryoma’s house and talk to him about it. Laying here wallowing wasn’t going to help anything.

“Syuusuke!”

Fuji started. It’d been a long time since his father had called out to him like that. The last time….he swallowed hard at the memory. The last time had been the day his father had sent him to America to live with the Hayashis so that he could learn to control himself. He rolled off the bed and made his way downstairs to his father’s study, which was where the shout had come from.

The door was slightly ajar. That was good. It meant he wasn’t in trouble. Before the trip to America, it had been shut. He’d had to wait outside for five minutes until his father unlocked the door. The waiting had been worse than the punishment. He hadn’t gotten trouble for the fight with Saeki, either. No, the trouble he’d caused was reputation-related. Dragging the family name down with him over a schoolyard squabble–shame burned in him as he recalled that lecture. It was the reason he worked so hard on maintaining his public persona.

“You called?” Fuji asked, pushing the door open and walking in. It wouldn’t do to show the trepidation he felt, though his father probably knew already. If there was one man he couldn’t fool, it was dad.

“Yes,” he said. “Close the door. Take a seat.”

Fuji turned and shut the door before taking a seat on the opposite side of his father’s desk. The man pushed his computer to the side and stared at his son for a long time. “Tell me about Ryoma Echizen.”

Hadn’t they already had this conversation at dinner the other night? “I told you, he’s a regular on our tennis team and a masochist.”

“Yes,” his father said. “Now tell me why he can hold your interest.”

He should have expected he wouldn’t get off the hook so easily. When his dad wanted an answer, his tenacity was impressive. “Ok,” Fuji said, sighing. There was no point in trying to play manipulation games against his father. He would never win. “He had my attention the first day he walked onto our field. He has presence. I wouldn’t say he’s charismatic, because he makes people want to challenge him instead of gather around him. But he has a certain appeal.”

“You mean, when you first met him, you wanted to break him.”

Fuji winced at the harsh words coming from his father. They weren’t inaccurate, but it sucked that he could be read so easily. “Yes,” he admitted. “But that changed.”

“I’d hope so,” his father drawled. “Considering you’re dating him now.”

Fuji flushed. “After one of my matches, he came up to me and told me he was interested in me because he could tell I liked hurting people.”

His father raised an eyebrow. “I find that difficult to believe.”

“So did I.”

“But?”

“But then he told me he enjoyed being hurt and that he wanted to date me.”

“And you just agreed?” his father asked, staring at him.

“No,” Fuji said. “I told him I couldn’t be in a normal relationship and he…do I have to tell you this? It’s kind of embarassing.” Fuji looked down. He hated admitting his weaknesses, but to have to tell his father, of all people, was worse. He had no desire to tell his dad that he needed his lover to obey him in order to keep his self-control.

“You’re telling me that you’re in a relationship with him because he wants to be hurt and you hurt him and he lets you?” The disbelief in his dad’s voice was unmistakable.

“Yes,” Fuji said. “He enjoys pain. There’s no force involved.”

His father gave a slow nod. “I’ll have to see this for myself. I can’t take your word on something like this, considering everything that happened in America.”

Fuji flushed, but didn’t object. His dad knew about the torture Sayuri had inflicted on him–in fact, he was the one who’d given her permission to do it. But he couldn’t hate his father–if he hadn’t gone through that, he was sure he would have become the monster he’d feared.

“Ask him to dinner tomorrow night. I’d like to meet him,” his father said. He brought his gaze even with Fuji’s. “And I need to make sure you’re telling me the truth.”

Fuji ducked his head. “Yes, sir,” he said, taking the dismissal for what it was. Now on top of having to sort out the mess his visit with Saeki yesterday had caused, he had to introduce Ryoma to his father. His hands clenched as he made his way back to his room. Before he brought Ryoma over here, he had to sort out why his lover was upset. The thought of introducing an upset Ryoma to his father made his stomach roll over. If he couldn’t get this sorted out…he shuddered. Things would not be good.

Chapter 7     Chapter Index     Chapter 9

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