Ryoma hadn't even known he had an ordinary stovetop kettle. "Fuji-senpai," he said, tiredly. His eye hurt. He couldn't summon much surprise. After all, it was Fuji.
"Ah! Echizen-kun," said Fuji, turning around and smiling. "Would you like some tea? It's too bad that there's not a very large variety, but - "
"No thanks. I'll have a Ponta," said Ryoma, reaching for the refrigerator.
"Oh!" Fuji laughed. "How silly of me. Of course." He moved between it and Ryoma, who gave up and sat down at the table, where he was immediately pinned to the chair by Karupin jumping into his lap. He was sort of tired, anyway. If Fuji wanted to hand him his drink, he was welcome.
"That looks like a nasty cut," Fuji said mildly to the refrigerator. He took the Ponta out, but instead of handing it to Ryoma, he put it on the counter and opened a cabinet.
Ryoma made a non-committal noise and buried his hand in the thick cool fur of Karupin's neck. "It isn't too bad." Actually, it was throbbing faintly, and when he moved his face too much it still responded with a sharp stab.
Fuji took out a water glass and held it up to the light, squinting. "Well, it's a pity," he smiled. The water glass went back in the cabinet. "I haven't played you in a long time." Now he reached for a juice glass, paused and put it back. "I was looking forward to it." His hand hovered over the shelf of wine stems. "I didn't realise professional tennis could be such a dangerous job, ne," he added, and poured the Ponta into the first glass he'd picked up.
Ryoma drained the whole thing in one long gulp; he hadn't had anything since leaving his parents' place, and that was almost an hour ago. "Ah," he sighed, and looked up slowly to smirk at Fuji. "It's only dangerous for my opponents, usually."
Fuji's eyes gleamed back at him. "Is that so," Fuji murmured. "I suppose I escape for today."
"Mmmn." Ryoma studied him consideringly while Fuji poured the steaming tea - black, not green - from the teapot into a teacup. He held the pot carefully and delicately and poured slowly. He moved the same as he always had done.
No one had known where he'd gone when he'd vanished. When they'd all gathered, "I wonder what Fuji's doing right now" had been a favourite topic, at least for those who liked to talk. They still talked about it sometimes, especially Oishi. Eiji hardly mentioned him anymore, which Ryoma figured was because his feelings were hurt, since he couldn't have found anything out without letting it slip at least to Oishi.
Ryoma had realised from the beginning that it was better not to waste much curiosity where Fuji was concerned. It would be like pouring water down a drain. Still...
"Maybe next time," Ryoma said.
Fuji's smile widened at the rim of the teacup. "Sure, I'd like that. Maybe if you're recovered tomorrow, you won't have to go easy on me."
"Don't worry," said Ryoma, "I won't."
Fuji smiled serenely and poured a second cup of tea for Ryoma. Steam still curled gently from the surface and it smelled of blackberry - Ryoma's favourite black tea. "I've followed your career, a little," said Fuji. "Your games are still just as fun to watch."
Ryoma blinked. "Thank you," he said, dryly.
"Hnn," Fuji said musingly, a little puff of laughter.
Ryoma remembered that after five years too. "Fuji-senpai, thanks for the tea - " he started hastily, but it was already too late. Fuji had uncoiled from his perch next to the stove and drifted right to the edge of the table next to Ryoma.
"You should be more careful, ne," he said gently, tilting his head. "You didn't have that bandaged properly, did you? If it's a bad cut, it could scar." Ryoma shrugged, but he felt it as soon as Fuji spoke again - a slight pulling, a tingle of warmth at his eyebrow that swept down over the eyelid, tightening as it went into an unpleasant ache. "You've bled through the bandage."
Fuji's fingers on the edge of the tape were cool and hard with calluses. Ryoma stifled a put-upon sigh, but he didn't bother to hide his frown. Fuji was immune to frowns, of course. "Hmm, I think I know where your first-aid kit is. Drink your tea, Echizen."
Ryoma drank his tea and listened to Karupin purr while Fuji rattled around in the bathroom, opening the medicine cabinet and the drawers under the sink. He wondered what would have happened if he had come straight home from the airport.
After sleeping through a long flight, he'd wanted a game of tennis and a scorching-hot bath in his parents' bigger tub, and it had been too early in the day to come home anyway. This way he hadn't had to fix himself lunch, but if he'd come straight here he wouldn't have got the cut (it hadn't seemed too bad when it happened - he hoped it wouldn't scar). And maybe Fuji wouldn't have been able to surprise him. He sighed. He was starting to seriously reconsider his negative views on coming home to an empty house.
He wondered where Fuji had been for the past five years. Those hadn't felt like tennis calluses on his fingers.
It was almost sunset, and outside Tokyo was muffled in cool fog. At the kitchen window the light was dusky and tentative, heavy with moisture and wistful. Ryoma was never as homesick as right after he came back from out of the country. He stretched across the table for the teapot - a porcelain one from the shelf in the cabinet that he still couldn't reach without standing on a stool - and poured himself another cup right-handed.
Fuji came back before he had time to take more than a sip, though. "There, sorry for the wait," he said, spreading out gauze and tape, antiseptic and cotton balls, salve and scissors on the table.
Ryoma looked at all the paraphernalia and blinked. "Maybe it would be faster to go to the hospital," he drawled.
Fuji seemed to be pleased that he'd brought it up. "Oh, you'll have to, I think. This is just to hold you over. Turn your head a little, please." The gauze was stuck to the cut with blood, and it hurt coming away. Ryoma could feel it starting to bleed again, but when he instinctively closed his eyes, Fuji chuckled, "Echizen, hold still, and don't squint," and dabbed carefully at the cut with peroxide.
Ryoma clenched his teeth and held still. He didn't know enough about medicine to say for sure, but he had a certain suspicion that Fuji was taking longer than he really needed to, especially since he kept pausing thoughtfully.
When he was finished cleaning and had a pile of red-dyed cotton on the table at his elbow, Fuji took a moment to study his handiwork. "It's still bleeding," he observed, after he'd waited long enough to give the blood a chance to start oozing again, and then his eyes snapped open. "Excuse me a moment, Echizen. I'm just going to throw these away." And Ryoma watched in irritation as he gathered up all the bloody cotton in his hands and went into the bathroom again, completely ignoring the trashcan in the kitchen.
Irritation was wasted on Fuji too, he reminded himself, but his eye was actively bleeding, which made that concept a little harder to hang onto. That was when he heard the scrape in the lock and stiffened. What, again? How many people had the key to his apartment? But Karupin was jumping off his lap and trotting to the door, and the deep-voiced "Tadaima" he heard from the hallway was wonderfully familiar.
It was also the best thing that had happened to him all day. "Okaeri nasai," he called automatically, voice smooth even though his throat still tightened, his ribcage still felt too small for his chest, every time Kunimitsu came home to him. Then the kitchen doorway was full of Kunimitsu, his hair looking a little more rumpled than usual, shoulders still slumped from the weight of his bags, Karupin chirping and rubbing against his ankles. Ryoma smiled at him and almost forgot not to move his eyelid. "I didn't expect you so early - "
The rest of the sentence got lost in movement. Kunimitsu was across the kitchen in what seemed like one stride, lifting Ryoma to his feet and turning him so the pale grey light from the window fell on his face. "What happened?" He frowned. He was using both hands to tip Ryoma's chin up, one curling naturally around the side of his neck and the fingertips in his hair, and Ryoma could have ignored the throbbing of the cut and just purred like Karupin.
"It was just a stupid accident. New cabinet doors at Mom and Dad's." The arch of his lips when he frowned like that was exquisite.
"You need to go to the hospital," Kunimitsu said, still frowning, but his hand was so light on Ryoma's face that Ryoma almost didn't feel the thumb brush his eyelid. It came away bloody.
"Fuji-senpai was cleaning it for me," Ryoma said, tilting his head to indicate the table.
No comment, just Kunimitsu dabbing the blood away with a fresh cotton ball.
Ryoma smiled up at him, and whispered "Buchou... ." Because he was looking carefully, he could see the worried tenseness of Kunimitsu's mouth easing slightly in amusement and tenderness at the petname. "I missed you."
"Yes," said Kunimitsu, meeting Ryoma's eyes for just an instant, but there was heat, and his gaze flicked to Ryoma's mouth and he touched the cut with salve on his fingertips then, and that soothing little shock of coolness reverberated all the way down to Ryoma's toes. "But not enough to take care of yourself like you should."
Ryoma couldn't keep from smirking. "Hmph!" He turned his head to brush a kiss on Kunimitsu's wrist. "At least I didn't give Fuji-senpai the key to the apartment."
"Oh," said Fuji, sounding almost more pleased than surprised, "I seem to be interrupting something."
"You are," Ryoma grinned. It was close enough to the truth - Kunimitsu was cutting pieces of medical tape now, but he'd been reluctant to take his hand out of Ryoma's hair. There was no way they were going to the hospital right away.
Fuji laughed softly, while Kunimitsu didn't say anything at all, which was practically the same thing as agreeing with him out loud.
"Ne, buchou," Ryoma muttered, "Hurry up and finish with that bandage so I can move." And kiss you went unsaid. Kunimitsu's left eyebrow lifted just a hair and he got that look of mingled arousal and disapproval that meant he wished Ryoma wouldn't use such intimate nicknames in public. He had never realised that all the suggestiveness was in his head, and Ryoma wasn't about to tell him.
"Well, it was good to see you again, Echizen-kun," said Fuji. "Even better to see both of you together. It seems you're more sensible than I gave you credit for after all, Tezuka. Perhaps it was just Echizen's good influence."
"Probably," Kunimitsu returned, expressionlessly, and Ryoma smirked to himself.
Fuji beamed. "I'll go now. Ne, don't get too carried away and forget to make him go to the hospital, Tezuka. He's promised me a match tomorrow."
"Thank you, Fuji," Kunimitsu said, but Fuji just waved and was gone. Finally. Ryoma sighed with relief, and before he could move Kunimitsu wrapped an arm around his waist and pulled him close. "I missed you too," Kunimitsu said quietly into Ryoma's hair, the words vibrating in his chest and through Ryoma's whole body too, like he was breathing them in through his skin. He leaned in and took another deep breath, and tucked his face into buchou's neck.