Chapter 09

Chapter Nine

After breakfast, Fuji dialed Ryoma’s number.

“Hello?” Echizen’s father answered.

“Good morning, Echizen-san. Might I speak with Ryoma?” Fuji asked, twining the cord around his hand.

“One second.” The phone clicked against the hardwood table. A minute later, Echizen’s father was back on the line. “He said he didn’t want to speak to you.”

Fuji’s eyes snapped open. His hand stilled. “Excuse me?”

“He doesn’t want to speak to you.”

“Echizen-san,” he said, “please tell Ryoma I’m coming over.” Ryoma had never refused to speak to him. It scared him. No, it infuriated him.

“That’s not a good idea.”

Fuji forced his mask back in place. “Saa,” he said.

“You’re coming anyway, aren’t you?”

Fuji noted the resignation in Echizen-san’s tone. He tilted his head, considering how to avoid disgracing himself in Echizen-san’s eyes. “You know the type of relationship we have.”

“Yes, though I don’t understand it.”

“Tell him to come to the phone,” Fuji said.

“He’s already said-”

“-that he didn’t want to speak to me. I know.” Fuji knew that the meeting with Saeki the other day had strained their relationship. But it didn’t warrant this. Not when he hadn’t done anything wrong. He forced his shoulders out of their tense set. He needed to be calm to deal with Ryoma.

The phone clicked as Echizen-san relayed the message to his son.

Fuji curled his fingers around the cord, splaying them as he let it run through them. He stared at the clock in his room, watching it change from 10:32 to 10:33 to 10:34 before someone picked the receiver up.

“Hello,” Ryoma said, voice flat.

“When I call you,” Fuji said, “I expect an answer.”

Silence.

“Do you understand?”

Silence.

Fuji nodded. He could play this game. “You will answer me when I ask a question. Consider that a rule. Understood?”

“Yes,” Ryoma said, tone bitter.

He pushed down the anxiety that threatened to overwhelm him. He couldn’t afford to question Ryoma’s feelings for him right now. “Why didn’t you come to the phone?” he asked.

Ryoma’s breath hitched. “I,” he started.

“Yes?”

“I,” Ryoma said. “I thought-”

“Thought what?”

When Ryoma spoke again, he was close to inaudible. “That you were keeping secrets from me.”

Fuji’s gut clenched. He was keeping secrets. Vital ones. But that wasn’t what Ryoma meant. He was talking specifically about Saeki. “You mean because I didn’t tell you about Sae?”

“Sae?” The jealousy in Ryoma’s voice was unmistakable.

“It’s an old nickname,” Fuji said, ignoring it. There was no reason for Ryoma to be jealous of Saeki.

“Oh.”

“Ryu-chan, Saeki is a friend. Nothing more.”

“Then why didn’t you tell me about him before?” Ryoma burst out. It seemed he’d gotten over the shyness that had held him back before.

His toes curled. Should he tell him? At least part of it? Hadn’t that been one of his first lessons-to tell part of the truth to avoid telling all of it? He gripped the receiver so hard his knuckles turned white. “I have,” Fuji said.

“Che. I’d remember.”

“I’ve mentioned him,” Fuji said. “Just not by name.”

Ryoma was silent.

“Do you remember me talking about the person I hurt when I was a kid?”

“Vaguely. That person was your best friend, right?” The pieces fell together. “No. Saeki?”

“Yes,” Fuji said. “Saeki.”

“Oh.”

“So you have-”

“Wait!” Ryoma interrupted.

“What?”

“You went to visit him!”

Fuji held the phone away from his ear. Echizen’s father wasn’t the only one that could scream. When he was sure his lover wouldn’t deafen him, he brought the receiver closer. “Yes,” he said.

“Why?”

Fuji blinked. “I told you. He’s from Rokkaku. They’re our next opponent.”

“Che.”

“I wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t necessary.”

“Necessary?” Disdain dripped from Ryoma’s voice.

“Yes,” Fuji said. “We parted on bad terms. I’ve regretted that for years.”

“Che.”

Fuji smiled. Whatever issue Ryoma’d had seemed to have resolved itself. “We reconciled,” he said.

“You said you beat him up. He’s not a masochist, is he?”

Fuji snorted. “No,” he said, shaking his head at the smidgen of jealousy he’d heard in Ryoma’s voice. “That’s why we reconciled.”

“Huh?”

“We talked about the fight. Turns out it was a misunderstanding,” Fuji said. Relief rushed through him. Ryoma had been jealous of Saeki. He was glad that was all it was. The few secrets he held from his lover he wasn’t ready to divulge.

“A misunderstanding?”

“Yeah. He’s a sadist,” Fuji said.

“Oh.”

Fuji fell silent.

“What? No warning to stay away from him?” Ryoma joked.

“No,” Fuji said. “I’d like the two of you to be friends.”

The disbelief in Ryoma’s voice was palpable. “You’re telling your masochistic lover it’s okay to be friends with another sadist.”

“Yes,” Fuji said. His eyes snapped open. “I’m not worried about you being friends with Saeki. I’m more than a match for him.” And that was the truth. During the visit, he’d been assessing his old friend even as Saeki had assessed him. It was why Saeki had lowered his gaze first, even if he’d used a clever twist to maneuver out of admitting it.

“Che.”

“Oh,” Fuji said, “before I forget-my dad’s in town. He asked me to invite you to dinner tonight.”

Ryoma swallowed. “What time?”

“Seven.”

“Ok,” Ryoma said. “Do I need to do anything?”

Fuji chuckled. “No,” he said. “Just be yourself.” He hung up the phone, humming. Now that he’d worked out the problem with Ryoma, dinner would resolve itself.

Chapter 8     Chapter Index     Chapter 10

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