i n   p h o t o g r a p h s

Fuji brings the camera out around their fourth time together. Ryoma has never liked having his photo taken. When he was a little kid the adults would try to make him smile and he’d always get in trouble when he wouldn’t. There are a hundred photos of him at three and four years old, blank faced in his overalls and baby blue cap.

Fuji doesn’t ask him to smile.

He’s been in this room three times now. The first time they’d done it in Atobe’s garden, in a manicured clearing far from the house. Ryoma had the impression that Fuji had been there before, with some other boy at some other party. He’d lain back on the grass with Fuji’s warm body above him and stared at the stars, half listening to the dirty things Fuji whispered into his neck; half ignoring him, because Fuji was talking about Tezuka, and Ryoma didn’t want to think about that.

Fuji always talks about Tezuka. He’s trying to tell Ryoma something, as if he doesn’t already know.

The Fuji household is always empty in the afternoons. They walk home from practice together and Fuji leads him through the quiet halls, past the photos of the Fuji siblings as small children on the walls. Fuji is smiling in all his portraits. The photo outside his bedroom door is Yuuta at three or four years old, sucking his thumb and wearing a t-shirt with a cat on the front. Ryoma thinks that Yuuta would probably be appalled that he’s seen it.

The bedroom is large and white and the sheets are soft when they rub against Ryoma’s bare back. He always tries to look unaffected by Fuji when he walks towards him, school shirt unbuttoned to the waist, but he is aware of every piece of his exposed skin, of the muscles that shift subtly in his small body. He is conscious of his elegance and the precision of his limbs. If he were unaffected, he wouldn’t keep coming back. His eyes follow the fabric as Fuji’s shirt drops to the floor, and then back up Fuji’s fine wrists and the line of his forearm as it reaches out and slides down Ryoma’s chest.

Later, when he gets out the camera, he smiles at Ryoma and straddles his hips. “You’re so pretty, Ryoma-kun,” he says. He only ever calls him Ryoma in bed. Ryoma only ever calls him Fuji-senpai. “I could sell these to closeted American businessmen.”

“Gross,” Ryoma says.

“If your life as a pro falls through,” Fuji murmurs, holding the camera aside to lean down and press his lips to Ryoma’s cheek and the line of his jaw, “you could always find work as a rent boy. You’re so talented.”

Ryoma rolls his eyes. “Che,” he says. Fuji is always trying to shock him. After the first time Fuji told him about fucking the strangers he meets at pool halls, it stopped working. Ryoma doesn’t believe half the stories Fuji tells him, but Fuji doesn’t expect him to.

The camera clicks and whirs three times and then Fuji flops onto his back at Ryoma’s side, turning the dial. He uses an old fashioned camera with real film, though there’s an expensive looking digital camera on his desk. Ryoma’s never seen him touch it. Fuji holds the camera high above their heads, stretched tall on his long arm. Their bodies are touching shoulder to shoulder and the sheets are a tangle of legs. Ryoma’s head rolls a little when Fuji’s comes to rest beside it. Fuji snaps another photo and then leans across to kiss Ryoma’s cheek.

“I could send these to Tezuka,” Fuji murmurs, his lips catching and dragging on Ryoma’s skin. Ryoma scowls up into the camera as the flash goes off.

“Shut up, Fuji-senpai.”

“You don’t think he’d like them?” Fuji smirks.

The only thing Ryoma doesn’t like about hanging out with Fuji-senpai. He thinks he’s so funny. The thought of Tezuka seeing these photos is horrific. He imagines an A4 yellow envelope arriving in the mail, Tezuka’s long fingers pulling the photos out. Ryoma half naked in black and white. Buchou never speaking to him again.

Ryoma thinks Buchou already knows about he and Fuji-senpai. Sometimes during practice he catches Tezuka staring at them with serious eyes behind his glasses, arms crossed rigidly against his chest. Ryoma doesn’t know how this is different from the way Tezuka usually looks, but it is. He wonders if Tezuka is ashamed of him. He hopes, secretly, that he’s jealous. Fuji says that he is. He says that his Sunday afternoon matches with Tezuka are different now. He says that Tezuka hits the ball like he wants it to slice through Fuji’s skin.

The thought isn’t as satisfying as it should be. He’d feel bad if he hadn’t already thrown himself at Buchou and been ignored. Fuji says that Ryoma isn’t nearly as obvious as he thinks he is. Ryoma feels like he’s been hitting twist serves into Tezuka’s face for months.

Sometimes, when they’re lying in bed together and their bodies are tired from the sex, Fuji will tell Ryoma the things he thinks he needs to know about Tezuka, the things Ryoma is too close to understand. He says that it might be easier for everybody if Tezuka loved him less. He says that Tezuka pined when Ryoma was away, but Ryoma thinks Fuji might be mocking him. In bed together, Fuji combs his fingers through Ryoma’s hair and says that Tezuka will try to run away.

“I’ll just catch him,” Ryoma says, and kisses Fuji so he doesn’t have to hear him laugh.

-

Fuji leaves copies of the photos in Ryoma’s cubby in the club house, shocking him when he moves aside his blazer. Their faces in black and white and Fuji’s sheets.

“People could have seen them,” he grumbles when Fuji comes up behind him. They’re alone in the room so Fuji slides his hands onto Ryoma’s hips and presses his lips behind Ryoma’s ear.

“Nobody is here,” Fuji says and takes the photos out of Ryoma’s hand, shuffling through them. “They’re beautiful.”

“Che,” Ryoma huffs, hiding his embarrassment in the brim of his cap.

“You shouldn’t ever smile in photographs,” Fuji tells him. “This way I can see what you’re thinking.”

Ryoma’s face, scowling and irritated with Fuji’s lips pressed against his cheek. In this photo they look like brothers, squabbling children. Ryoma can see his hidden affection in the grimace on his lips.

He turns to look at Fuji, his gently curved smile and eyes shut up tight. Ryoma almost never knows what Fuji is thinking, though he has some sense of how he feels. “Coming from you,” he says, and touches the rise of Fuji’s cheekbone where his smile lifts it.

“I know better than anybody,” Fuji says. How blank a smile can be. Ryoma doesn’t think Fuji would admit that to anybody else, but he holds all of Ryoma’s secrets in the palm of his hand. Ryoma couldn’t hurt Fuji without Fuji hurting him back, worse.

He lets Fuji kiss him in the clubhouse, lets him push him down and strip off his shirt. It’s dark in here, and safe. Fuji’s hands in his hair and his lips on his neck. Ryoma wants to make him cry out, to make him smile genuinely just once. He wants to surprise him.

Every time they’re together, they know that eventually, Ryoma will leave. Each kiss now feels shorter, Fuji’s hands on his body less solid. When they’re together it’s like Fuji is teaching him to swim in the middle of the ocean. He lets him go a little each time, pushing him further toward the shore. One day Fuji is going to leave him in the shallows and watch while Ryoma clambers up the beach to drag Tezuka into the water. It’s a convoluted analogy, but it’s the only way Ryoma can explain things.

He knows that he’ll leave soon, but it’d be easier if senpai were happier.



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