Time-lapse

Post-canon. Yukimura has recovered and Fuji has left tennis. They cross paths over art and weave a new acquaintance. Drama with Romance and Porn, I-3, implicit spoilers

Pairing(s): Yukimura/Fuji

Thirteen Months After The End

Seiichi walked slowly from one classroom full of art to the next, scribbling impressions in his notebook. One more session and the workshop would be done; he was still amazed at how much Sumitomo-sensei had fit into one weekend. It had certainly been a good experience for him, and he wanted to give good responses to his fellow students’ work—especially, perhaps, to the media he was less familiar with since that had been part of the project for this workshop.

"What are you thinking?"

It was not the kind of question Seiichi expected to hear out of the blue, but he recognized this voice and so it surprised him less. "Fuji." He turned away from the first piece of the photography section. Fuji was standing at his shoulder, watching him, head tilted just a bit as if to catch a faint sound; he looked relaxed, smiling, but his gaze was sharp. Seiichi had to smile, too. He’d rather missed seeing that expression across the net, this year. "Just considering the difference between a painter and a photographer."

Fuji seemed to turn this answer over behind his eyes for a moment. "And what is the difference?"

"A photographer looks for what’s present, to capture it." Seiichi spread his fingers toward the line of black and white images that flowed down the wall. He paused there, wanting to see what Fuji made of that, and wanting, with a spark of amusement, to prod back at him for having started the conversation so bluntly, so personally.

"I suppose that’s true enough," Fuji finally murmured, when Seiichi didn’t go on. "And a painter?"

Seiichi folded his arms, looking back at the room he’d just come from and the sweep of oil paints down canvas, colors over and under each other. "A painter looks for what isn’t there, to create it."

"So. Photography is merely derivative?" There was an edge in Fuji’s voice, sliding underneath his smile. "I think Hatakeyama-sensei might disagree."

Seiichi’s mouth curved in answer. "Is reality derivative?" he countered.

Fuji’s weight shifted back and Seiichi almost laughed. This was different from a game on the court, but similar enough to draw him. Getting Fuji Shuusuke to be serious was interesting under any circumstances.

And he hadn’t had a chance to on the court, this year, after all.

"Reality simply is," Fuji finally answered.

Seiichi shrugged slightly. "And I would say the same of imagination."

Fuji was quiet for another moment, puzzlement and amusement tangling together in his quirked brows. "A moment ago you were saying how different the two art forms are," he pointed out.

"Nothing is all one color." Seiichi flashed another smile, sharper this time, deliberately provoking. "A painter learns that early on."

"And what does a photographer learn? This hasn’t been a very productive seminar for you if you can’t answer at least some of that," Fuji shot back.

A good shot, Seiichi acknowledged. He had to think about this one more deeply. "Answering that might take more time than we have left," he returned lightly. "Perhaps I should write you instead."

"And buy extra time," Fuji murmured. His smile grew slowly. "If I give you a time-out, I think I should get to finish the discussion face-to-face."

Seiichi had never backed down from a challenge in his life. "How about the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum, then? Next weekend?"

"Two o’clock," Fuji agreed, chin lifting.

Seiichi was looking forward to it.

Five Months Later

"Do you miss tennis so little? Or do you just miss it that much?"

Shuusuke blinked, looking down from the huge multi-media canvas, and his lips curved. Yukimura had gotten him with that one; he’d have to ask.

"What do you mean?"

"You didn’t come to watch any of the matches last year." Yukimura ran a fingertip over the plaque with the title, head tipped as though contemplating the canvas or the question.

"Well, Tezuka is gone, isn’t he?" Shuusuke returned lightly. It was harder to tell how frustrated Yukimura was by that, but you could practically see the steam coming off both Sanada and Atobe whenever Tezuka came up.

Yukimura’s eyes cut toward him, dark. "I hadn’t thought Tezuka was your only friend on that team."

Shuusuke stifled a spurt of irritation. Of course he wasn’t. Eiji was still playing. And Inui. And Taka always tried to watch the matches, himself. And none of that really mattered, because Yukimura was turning the topic. "I’ve taken everything I can from tennis," he said, firmly turning it back.

When he saw Yukimura’s tiny smile he let out a soft breath. So he’d fallen for the false bait, had he?

This was why he liked conversations with Yukimura.

"So Tezuka is part of what tennis gave you?" Yukimura probed, circling back around.

Shuusuke was silent for a moment, moving to the next canvas, this one all in greens and grays and titled Mountain, Sky. He let his eyes follow the curves of paint as he thought. Yukimura reminded him a lot of Tezuka, sometimes. Other times not. Yukimura might just understand his reasons.

"It isn’t as though I found my tennis just for Tezuka," he told the silent presence behind his shoulder. "Not in the end."

Yukimura made an agreeing sound.

"But who is there, now, who can tell when I’m doing my best or not?" Shuusuke finished, quietly.

"We could."

When Shuusuke looked over his shoulder Yukimura’s arms were folded. That was a sign of judgment, he knew now—of suspended patience. He couldn’t help a dry laugh at the thought of how close he’d come to facing that on a regular basis.

"I thought about transferring, you know. For a while." Shuusuke turned around and leaned against the wall. "I decided not to, but—" he broke off, unsure he wanted to share the rest of it. The temptation he felt watching a game, now.

"But?" Yukimura’s head tilted again, dark hair feathering over his cheek. "You still could you know."

Now it was Shuusuke’s arms that were crossed, tightly. Their conversational game was getting too close to the truth. "Tennis isn’t what I’m going to do when I graduate, though. Why should I transfer just for that?" He meant it to come out light and didn’t think he’d managed very well.

Yukimura bowed his head. "True enough." He was the one who led the way to the next painting this time. Shuusuke rested his eyes and mind on the indigo and sleek white of this composition.

They didn’t speak of anything other than artistic technique again until they were choosing sandwiches from the vending machines.

"Whatever it is, you should come watch the matches. Or you’ll never settle it."

Shuusuke glanced at Yukimura to see what kind of gambit this was and stopped short, leaning half over to pick up his lunch. There was no calculation in Yukimura’s expression. Not pushing, not pulling, not lying in wait. Just a simple moment of kindness, and Shuusuke found himself at a loss how to answer it.

Finally Yukimura smiled and shook his head. "So? Where should we go next time? It’s your turn to choose, again."

Shuusuke regathered his wits. "Konica Minolta Plaza will have some new work by Nishigaki Kanako next month."

Yukimura laughed. "And you can scout another gallery location while we’re there, right?"

Shuusuke smiled back, back on balance. "I think about the future."

That got another sober look from Yukimura. "Yes. You do. And that’s good. But we all need something that takes us up completely in the now, too."

Shuusuke thought about that so hard he didn’t taste his sandwich as he ate it.

Five Months Later

Finishing National matches swiftly had a psychological value that Seiichi appreciated. He thought he liked the practical value better, though, getting a chance to scout some of the other teams without having to rely on third parties. In a generation of strong players, lesser players and club hangers on quickly lost the range to judge some games and teams accurately.

Renji made a satisfied noise as they stopped by the fence and Sanada snorted in answer, crossing his arms.

"I’m simply pleased to see Sadaharu playing as I expected," Renji answered mildly.

Seiichi eyed the scoreboard. "It looks like we’ll be seeing them in the quarterfinals. You think he’ll place himself in Singles Two, then, against you?"

"Quite likely," Renji murmured, tilting a brow at Seigaku’s third year captain, standing on the sidelines looking both pleased and stiff while Seigaku’s current singles ace played, and Ooishi and Kikumaru behind him, toweling off and talking together quietly. "He will have made the same calculations I have, and that will be the deciding match."

"No mistakes this time, then," Sanada stated.

Renji’s gaze didn’t leave Inui’s match. "Certainly not," he murmured.

A flash of light on the sidelines drew Seiichi’s attention away from their half teasing, half serious exchange and his own brows rose as his eyes found the source.

Fuji was standing around one side of the court, camera in hand, photographing the match. A tiny smile tugged at Seiichi’s mouth and he resettled his jacket on his shoulders and strolled around the corner. Fuji probably heard him but ignored his approach, completely absorbed, hands moving swift and sure over focus and lens adjustments and he snapped frame after frame. The last one caught Inui’s final shot with what looked to Seiichi like perfect timing. He stood quietly as Fuji snapped a few more of the players’ realization that the round was over.

Finally Fuji lowered his camera with a sigh and surfaced. "Yukimura." He nodded.

"Fuji." Seiichi leaned against the fence, biting back a smile. "I’d heard something about you shooting at the Prefectural games."

Fuji’s eyes glinted for a moment. "Coming on my own terms seemed worthwhile."

"Always," Seiichi agreed, and watched as Fuji’s hand relaxed on the camera case. "I would be interested to see how it all comes out. If you decide to show any of the results."

Fuji actually laughed at that. "I’m sure you would." His eyes turned distant as he looked across the courts. "We’ll see."

Seiichi accepted that with a nod. Some things couldn’t be rushed, and by now he was pretty sure Fuji was one of them.

"I might get some interesting shots of you, I suppose," Fuji mused.

Seiichi’s mouth curled. "Any shots you can get you’re welcome to, of course. It’s a public court."

"No studio shots, then?" Fuji asked with a sly sideways glance.

Seiichi considered that for a moment and leaned back, satisfied, as the answer came to him. "If you’ll sit for me in turn."

Fuji rocked back just a bit himself. Seiichi wasn’t surprised; he had a few reservations about sitting still to be examined that intently and he doubted Fuji felt much different.

"I’ll… think about it."

"Of course," Seiichi murmured. He couldn’t take too much more time aside for this but he couldn’t resist just one last shot. "Perhaps we’ll see you for the next match as well, then."

Fuji gave him back a smile, sharp and slanted and oddly companionable. "Perhaps. It’s a shame you didn’t come by in time to see Shiraishi’s second round match, too."

The teasing malice of the observation drew Seiichi back, turned him to lean into Fuji’s return gambit. "Oh? Is he playing differently this year?"

Fuji gave him a perfectly sunny look, shrugging the camera strap over his shoulder. "Perhaps."

Seiichi’s teeth flashed in a quick smile and he shrugged, casual. "Surprises are no problem. For those with sufficient confidence."

"I’ll ask you how it went in two weeks, then," Fuji tossed over his shoulder as he moved toward the gate to join his ex-teammates.

Seiichi was chuckling under his breath as he rejoined his own.

"What was that all about?" Renji asked, curiously.

Seiichi waved a hand. "Nothing to do with tennis."

He didn’t actually hear what he’d just said until both his friends turned to look at him. Then he had to pause, himself, and reflection tugged his mouth into a more rueful line. "It’s just… something different," he murmured. And that might well be his motto, regarding Fuji Shuusuke. "He did mention Shiraishi," he added, "but I’m not entirely sure he wasn’t just teasing."

Sanada’s brows rose and Renji looked amused. "Indeed? Well, I suppose we’ll see in the finals."

Seiichi spent a moment looking forward to the art-date in two weeks, and then put it aside to concentrate all his attention on the game they were really here for.

Four Months Later

Shuusuke settled into his seat with a sigh of pleasure for warmth of winter sunlight through the window and sipped the Pokka Lemon he’d found in the third vending machine.

Yukimura shuddered delicately. "I have no idea how you can drink that straight."

"I like tart things." Shuusuke chuckled reminiscently. "It’s even come in handy every now and then."

Yukimura raised a brow and clearly refrained from asking. Just as well, perhaps; Shuusuke didn’t know how someone who held his team’s reins as tightly as Yukimura did would take Inui’s wicked sense of humor.

"You’re so serious," he murmured around his straw, following the train of thought. And then, because it was so apropos, teased, "You should smile more often."

Yukimura leaned his chin in one hand, mouth quirked. "I smile plenty often. But I also concentrate seriously when it’s called for."

"Mmm." And that sent his thoughts right back to the gallery they’d just left, and the techniques Shuusuke had observed there. "If I were trying to capture what you are," Shuusuke mused, "I would use black and white, just like that showing. As fine grained as possible. You have so many shadings to you."

"I’ll model for you when you model for me," Yukimura returned, the argument months old and well worn, now. Then he tipped his head, though, eyes dark and curious. "Is capturing what I am something that matters to you?"

He’d never asked that before and Shuusuke answered without thinking, caught up in the usual speed of their exchanges. "Yes."

They looked at each other for a long, silent moment before Yukimura finally looked away, finger tracing a bead of condensation down his water glass. His voice was soft and neutral and undemanding when he asked, "Why?"

Shuusuke opened his mouth and closed it again slowly. Because it’s so hard to find was the first answer that came to his tongue, but… it didn’t feel complete. If the question had been part of their usual sparring that wouldn’t have bothered him. Yukimura had asked this one differently, though.

That difference was owed honesty.

"The challenge appeals to me as an artist." Shuusuke laid out the words carefully, wanting to be sure of their composition. "And being able to see what you are appeals to me as," he hesitated, but the sentence led him to it, "as a friend, I suppose."

Yukimura looked up and this smile was one Shuusuke had never seen before, bright and gentle. "All right, then."

Shuusuke blinked.

"I wasn’t entirely sure, you know." Yukimura took a sip of his water. "Whether we’re going to these galleries as opponents or as friends."

Habit prompted Shuusuke to ask, "How much difference is there?"

Yukimura’s chin was in his hand again and he tipped his head in wry acknowledgement. "For me, sometimes not much. But I think it’s different for you."

The tingle of the alertness that their sharper exchanges always brought brushed over Shuusuke, but this time it didn’t make him brace as he usually did. He glanced down, moving his straw back and forth with a fingertip. "Maybe so." He looked back up. "You’ll really do it?"

Yukimura laughed. "Well, I’ll go first, anyway."

"Thank you." Visions of lighting effects and calculations of film speed danced through his thoughts as he stared off over the plaza, and he supposed he couldn’t honestly blame Yukimura when he kept laughing.

Four Months Later

"So, this is an art classroom, right?"

"Mm," Fuji agreed around the canister top between his teeth.

"Then there must be heaters hidden around here somewhere. Go find them."

Fuji blinked. "Mm?"

"There’s nothing between me and the tile floor but paper," Seiichi pointed out, tartly. "I’m about to freeze something off."

"Mm." Fuji took the top out and closed up his latest roll of film. "Okay, hang on."

Somehow, Seiichi was not surprised when Fuji turned to adjust his tripod instead of rummage in the classroom’s cupboards. "Fuji," he said, low and definite, "either you pull your mind out of the inside of your cameras and get me the heaters or I’ll go look for them myself."

"No, no, no! I just got the shadows right!"

Well, that had gotten his attention, at least. "Then get me the heaters," Seiichi repeated with, he thought, great patience for someone who was freezing his ass off far more literally than was usual.

Fuji sighed and finally went to root through the cupboards. "Last time you complained that the lights were too hot."

"Last time I was wearing more."

"What is it about captains and perfection? You’re never satisfied." Since Fuji was shifting two small heaters over while he said it, Seiichi let that one go. "Happy?"

Warmth radiated from the grilles on either side of him and Seiichi sighed. "Much better."

Fuji looked over his shoulder as he adjusted the tripod again, with a teasing curl to his mouth. "I notice you didn’t actually say you were happy. What did I just mention about perfectionism?"

Seiichi’s brows rose. "And who is it who’s taking fifteen minutes to get the angle just right for shots that are going to take about two minutes, if that?"

Fuji blinked as if it hadn’t occurred to him and Seiichi couldn’t help settling back a bit, vindicated. Fuji put his hands on his hips.

"Don’t move."

"Not moving," Seiichi agreed, letting out a deep breath and holding still again as Fuji slipped behind his camera and the first click of the shutter licked through the darkened room.

Seiichi held himself still, impassive, watching the edges of the lights sliding off counters and stacked desks as Fuji moved around him. This was very odd, really, almost like some kind of meditation. It wasn’t very inward, though. The touch of Fuji’s attention on him was like the heat of the lights—almost a pressure. The focus wasn’t entirely unfamiliar, but he was used to responding to it.

"You could smile, you know," Fuji interrupted his thoughts. "If I wanted a stonefaced model, I would ask Tezuka next time he’s home."

An image of Tezuka, arranged nude on the cold tile and paper flashed through Seiichi’s mind and he snorted helplessly. "Fuji! You can’t tell me to hold still and then make me laugh!"

Fuji snapped three shots, rapidfire, and emerged from behind the camera looking faintly smug. "I certainly can."

Seiichi looked up at him, arrested. "You wanted me to laugh?"

Fuji made a sound of agreement. "Line and texture and shadow are one thing. I’ve got some shots already I think will come out very well. But something that shows how alive you are… well, that’s different."

Seiichi was quiet while Fuji moved the lights for the next pose, and finally asked, "Are you going to turn that one in with your portfolio, too?"

Fuji paused, back to him. "No."

Seiichi tucked the warmth that answer brought carefully away and leaned obligingly on the box Fuji dragged over, stilling himself for the next set of planned, artistic shots, occupying his mind with where they should go for their next outing. Perhaps he would choose something besides art, this time.

Three Months Later

"Shuusuke, you have a visitor."

Shuusuke looked up from arm-deep in a bag of sandy potting soil, expecting to see Yukimura, or perhaps Eiji, and got a surprise. "Tezuka!"

"Fuji." Tezuka stepped out onto the deck with a polite bow to Shuusuke’s mother.

"I thought you weren’t going to be home for another four days." Fuji stood, brushing off his hands and arms and waved his friend to one of the deck chairs.

"I found a standby seat on an earlier flight." Tezuka settled into the second chair and looked with approval at the plate of onigiri Shuusuke’s mother had left out for him earlier. "It’s good to be back."

Having heard Tezuka’s opinions of Western food before, Shuusuke chuckled and nudged the plate over to him. "So it went well."

"Fairly well." Tezuka took a bite and leaned back in his chair a bit. "The final match was close, and I’m satisfied with it. And I have an offer for endorsements."

"Tezuka, that’s wonderful!" Shuusuke knew that an endorsement deal meant more money to travel and enter the important tournaments. Tezuka did not, of course, agree with him, but he smiled faintly and that was just as good.

"Everyone seems to be doing well here," Tezuka observed instead.

Familiar with his friend’s thoughts, Shuusuke had no trouble decoding this. "Yes. I think Seigaku might just be at Nationals this year. It seems appropriate, for our third year again." Well, his third year, anyway, and Inui and Eiji and Ooishi’s. Tezuka was on a different time table now.

Though, even if Seigaku got past Hyoutei, there would still be Rikkai to deal with. Shuusuke and Yukimura weren’t talking about that this week. Instead they had argued about whether Shuusuke’s translation of Mallarmé’s "Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard" for his French class was taking too much poetic license, and how much was too much when translating a poem, after all.

Tezuka was looking at him with a brow quirked and Shuusuke realized he was smiling at nothing. "How long are you going to be home for this time?" he asked.

"At least a month, I think." Tezuka’s fingers tapped on the arm of his chair and Shuusuke read impatience in that kind of fidgeting. "There has to be time for filming as well as training, now."

"Perhaps you can get me in to watch," Shuusuke said, lightly, and chuckled at the dour look Tezuka gave him. "Seriously, though, will it eat into your training time that badly?"

Tezuka’s mouth thinned a bit. "I want to train toward entering the Australian Open, this winter."

Shuusuke sat back, letting out a slow breath. "Aiming for Federer already?"

Tezuka brushed a few grains of rice off his fingers and glanced over at Shuusuke with a tiny smile. "Of course."

Yukimura would get that glint in his eyes when he heard, Shuusuke reflected. He was already annoyed enough that Tezuka had gone on ahead, without Tezuka starting on the Grand Slam tournaments. "This should be interesting," he murmured.

"I hope so," Tezuka answered, and Shuusuke had to shake his head to pull his thoughts back onto the conversation.

"Well, if you do happen to have a day free anywhere, let me know." He smiled cheerfully.

Tezuka gave him a long look. "You have something in mind?"

"I had thought I might visit some of the area botanical gardens, this summer," Shuusuke murmured, which was entirely true. He and Yukimura already had plans for a week and a half on. There were other gardens he thought would do Tezuka more good, though.

"Which one?" Tezuka asked with prompt wariness, undiminished by over two years out of Shuusuke’s immediate range.

"I was thinking an outdoorsman like you might enjoy Atagawa park in Shizuoka." Shuusuke nibbled delicately at a rice ball.

"I’ll see, then."

Shuusuke looked forward to the email he’d get when Tezuka looked Atagawa up and found the bit about the alligators. He grinned behind his snack. He liked to think that, when Yukimura went pro, he and Tezuka might meet at tournaments and have the extra bond of both having been teased by Shuusuke. He’d consider it his personal contribution to their professional rapport.

When Yukimura went pro and Shuusuke’s weekends were reduced to repotting his cacti and buying new lenses without anyone along to talk to who understood why light was important and days without anyone who laughed at his teasing. Without someone who sometimes, lately, touched the back of Shuusuke’s hand in a way that made his breath catch. Shuusuke quashed a sigh. He didn’t want to think about that.

"So, at any rate, tell me more about this last tournament." He settled back in his chair and prepared to listen.

Eight months Later

Seiichi dug through his drawers and frowned. "Do I already have a blue T-shirt in the packing pile?" he called over his shoulder.

"No, just the black one."

Seiichi made an annoyed sound and went to rummage through his closet. "Are you sure you should be helping me pack instead of getting a start on your reading for classes?" he asked over his shoulder.

Fuji shrugged. "I can catch up. You’re going to be gone for five weeks this time."

Seiichi smiled, folding his blue T-shirt. "Maybe you’ll have some new art to show me, when I get back, then, instead of having to go look at other people’s."

Fuji shorted. "In between my coursework."

"Since when has that ever stopped you?"

Fuji shrugged again, and Seiichi frowned a little. "If you wanted to go professional right away, you could have…"

"Like you?"

The question had an edge to it, one Seiichi didn’t often hear from Fuji any more. He tossed the T-shirt into his bag and turned to look at Fuji directly. "What’s wrong?"

Fuji looked away. "It’s nothing."

Seiichi waited, patiently.

Fuji crossed his arms, frowning down at them. "Everyone’s leaving," he murmured, finally.

"Not everyone, surely," Seiichi said softly.

"Both my best friends take up a lot of space when they’re gone." Fuji still didn’t look up.

"You know we’ll always come back, though."

Fuji’s mouth tightened.

Seiichi sighed to himself. So that’s what it was. He laid a hand on one tense shoulder and said, quietly, "Shuusuke."

His friend’s eyes widened a little. It was the first time Seiichi had called him by his given name.

"This is still home."

Shuusuke smiled, but the shadows didn’t leave his eyes. "I know."

Seiichi stifled a snort. No one had ever budged Fuji Shuusuke when he didn’t want to be budged, and he’d clearly decided he was going to lose something. Seiichi had practice overcoming the immovable and impossible, though, and he had no intention of being lost, no matter what Shuusuke thought.

He turned his hand over and cupped Shuusuke’s cheek, thumb stroking over his cheekbone, and Shuusuke leaned into the touch, but those shadows stayed, flavored with a hesitance that made Seiichi’s voice gentle, even in his exasperation.

"This is home," he repeated with deliberate emphasis, and leaned down and brushed his lips over Shuusuke’s.

Shuusuke’s hand closed tight around his wrist, and Seiichi’s mouth quirked. Even after that, Shuusuke wouldn’t reach for what he wanted, wouldn’t hold Seiichi in place, would only ask around the edges. Time to try something else, then.

"Listen," he murmured against Shuusuke’s mouth. "Whatever else is happening, even if it’s a major tournament, even if it’s a Grand Slam tournament, I will be here for your first gallery showing. I promise."

Shuusuke’s breath hitched against his lips, and he stared up at Seiichi, last of the shadows finally wiped away by shock. "Seiichi…"

Seiichi smiled. "I promise."

Shuusuke closed his eyes and laughed, husky, and took a long breath. "All right." When he opened them again, his eyes were clear.

"I believe you."

Three Years Later

"An amazingly good show, Fuji-san, all things considered. I’m sure we’ll all have to keep an eye on you in the future!"

Shuusuke smiled quite insincerely at the woman and murmured his thanks. He resolved to apologize to Yuuta the next time they were both at their parents’ house for dinner; the condescension of the art critics was making his jaw clench in a way he found extremely familiar from watching his brother, and if this was how Yuuta had felt for years, well. A lot of things became clearer.

He passed on, mingling with the respectable crowd, being sure to smile and nod politely no matter how inane the remarks. He wished Seiichi could have been home for this show. He was better than Shuusuke at being charming and imperious at the same time.

In a way, of course, Seiichi was here. Shuusuke smiled genuinely as his gaze passed over the sequence of five photos that had pride of place in the gallery. The fluid arch of Seiichi’s spine, and the shadows that turned the muscles of his legs into an abstract had turned out just the way Shuusuke envisioned, and he had named the series "Edges of Perfection".

His face was starting to ache from the constant smiling, though, and he thought it was time for a break. Slipping past some unused panels into the back room, he rummaged out a paper cup and ran some water. His mouth was certainly grateful, after so long chatting.

"Hiding from your fans?"

Shuusuke’s eyes widened and he had just started to turn when arms slid around him, catching him back against Seiichi’s chest. He laughed softly. "Weren’t you supposed to be in France this week?"

"I told my manager it would cost about the same to fly home and back as to live there for the time until the tournament. I started telling him as soon as you wrote to say you had a showing." Seiichi dropped a light kiss under Shuusuke’s ear.

Shuusuke leaned back with a pleased sigh. "Mm. You don’t have to make it home for every one."

"Just all of them that I can." Seiichi’s lips curved against his neck. "So are you hiding out, back here?"

Shuusuke let his head rest back against Seiichi’s shoulder. "Just taking a break. First one this evening, I should point out." He could feel Seiichi’s laugh against his spine.

"Good. They won’t miss you for a little while, then." Seiichi’s hand slid down Shuusuke’s chest, and further down his stomach. "I missed you," Seiichi murmured in his ear, hand finally coming to rest between Shuusuke’s legs.

"Seiichi…" Shuusuke’s voice was suddenly husky. He could feel the heat of Seiichi’s palm through the fabric of his slacks. "You pick the strangest places."

Seiichi laughed again. "What, you didn’t think the studio was appropriate?" His fingertips rubbed up and down Shuusuke’s length. "It was just the way you were looking at me."

"Through a lens?" Shuusuke teased back, breathless.

"Focused," Seiichi corrected, tongue tracing lightly over Shuusuke’s ear. "Completely intent. I love seeing you that way."

"Seiichi," Shuusuke said, low and insistent, and lifted a hand to twine through Seiichi’s hair, tilting his head back until he could catch Seiichi’s mouth. Seiichi’s hand tightened between his legs and he made an approving sound.

"Since you’re sure," Seiichi murmured, and his fingers worked Shuusuke’s slacks open and slid inside to wrap around him.

"Very," Shuusuke agreed, a bit distracted. The heat of Seiichi’s fingers was taking up all his attention, and the faint roughness of Seiichi’s calluses. "Nnnn…" He leaned back into Seiichi, hips rocking up into the touch. Seiichi’s hands always made him stop thinking, especially when they moved over him slow and hard and deliberate, and he tipped his head back further as Seiichi’s mouth moved down his throat. The wet slide pulled a shiver down his spine; this was Seiichi, present and dense and sensual, and later he would want to capture those things in light on film, but sensation was their medium right now and this picture, this pleasure was too immediate for him to want anything but to complete it. Seiichi pulled Shuusuke back more tightly against him and his hips ground hard into Shuusuke’s rear. The sound Seiichi made, half moan and half growl, made Shuusuke’s stomach tighten, and the hardness of Seiichi’s cock pressing against his ass made him think of sun-warm afternoons draped naked over the velvet arm of their couch, and thinking of that sent a tingle of heat through him so sharp that it condensed pleasure around it. Shuusuke had just enough mind left to bite back the open moan as he came. Seiichi’s mouth covered his again, kissing him fierce and hot as Seiichi’s hips jerked against his ass.

It took Shuusuke a few minutes before he could say, breathless and laughing, "Welcome home."

"Mm. I’m back," Seiichi murmured against his ear.

The visceral proof of the polite phrases left a warm glow in Shuusuke’s bones and he breathed out a soft sigh. They stood together for another moment until Seiichi reached past him to the towels over the sink and Shuusuke had to laugh again, quietly, with genuine amusement, as they cleaned themselves up. Seiichi drew him back for another kiss, when they were done.

"So, have you had enough of a break?" There was a certain amount of mischief in Seiichi’s eyes.

"You want to go back out with me and watch people admiring you?" Shuusuke teased back.

"Admiring your work," Seiichi corrected serenely.

They strolled side by side through the crowd and Shuusuke was amused to watch how many of the critics suddenly found a reason to simply smile and nod at him. They paused by the images of Seiichi, and the original looked up at them thoughtfully.

"I’ll tell you another thing that photographers learn," he murmured.

It was their second oldest game, the only one they both still played, and Shuusuke tipped his head inquiringly.

"Photographers learn that there are two subjects in any photo: the one in front of the camera and the one behind it." Seiichi looked back down at Shuusuke with the smile that was reserved for him, gentle and intent.

A delicate shiver brushed down Shuusuke’s spine. There was nothing he would trade for the way Seiichi saw him, saw all of him.

Nor for the way he saw Seiichi.

He reached out to lace their fingers together briefly, out of sight of the crowd. "If they have subjects that touch them. Yes."

Seiichi’s thumb stroked the inside of Shuusuke’s wrist before he let go. "You didn’t get much of a drink earlier. Come get another, and tell me things."

Shuusuke smiled. "Well, I’ve been asked to teach at a workshop on artistic technique next week…"

End