“Would you like to go to a garage sale with me?”
Tezuka glanced over at Fuji. “What?”
“Well,” said Fuji. “A garage sale is where a family, or sometimes more than one, decides that it has some things to sell. They clear out their garage and mark everything at low prices so that-”
“Fuji,” said Tezuka. “I know what a garage sale is.”
“I know.” Fuji’s eyes sparkled with the mischief he’d been repressing while he’d spoken. “So would you like to come with me?”
Tezuka hesitated. He needed a new pair of shoes before the next day’s practice; the day before his own had been demolished by an unfortunate incident involving Kaidoh, Echizen’s cat, and Inui juice. He’d worn them to this afternoon’s practice, but he would have been better off wearing no shoes for all the good they did him.
“You’d be amazed by what people sell at garage sales,” said Fuji persuasively.
Tezuka was relatively certain that they didn’t sell brand-new Pumas of the kind he wanted. Still, he’d been given the choice between a bland afternoon of shoe-shopping by himself, or an afternoon of searching through people’s old things (junk, he would have thought, if he’d been less polite) with Fuji.
“I’ll come with you,” said Tezuka.
“Oh, look at this!” Fuji roamed among the tables, exclaiming delightedly over each new bauble or trinket he found. He’d come upon a box of tools this time, old tools that probably weren’t used anymore even by the most traditional of workmen. Fuji showed him something that could have been a wrench, if it had been shaped a little differently.
“Hm.” Tezuka couldn’t imagine what use the thing would have in this day and age. He didn’t comment.
Fuji set the wrench-thing down and picked up something else, a huge metal thing that looked most like a pair of gardening shears, except that the blades were smaller. This tool was longer than Fuji’s forearm, and Tezuka could see the effort Fuji had to put into lifting it. “This has to be at least seventy-five years old, just look,” said Fuji happily. He manipulated the shears, which creaked hideously and made everyone else in the garage wince, and turn to look pointedly at them.
“Fuji,” said Tezuka. “What are those?”
“I don’t really know, but I’m sure there are plenty of things I could do with them. Don’t you think?”
Knowing Fuji, the answer was probably yes, so Tezuka nodded slowly. Fuji had his hands full, carrying the enormous shears, a pair of geode bookends, a moth-eaten stuffed bird, and an ancient-looking book that sprinkled a shower of dust to the ground with each step Fuji took. “That will be one thousand, five hundred and eighty-two yen,” said the old lady who was minding the cash register. She was chewing something, either gum or tobacco, and seemed spry for her age. She didn’t even blink at Fuji’s choice of purchases. She squinted at Tezuka, though, and then nodded at Fuji. “Hold onto that one. She’s pretty, and she looks like she’ll keep her looks.”
“He isn’t-” Tezuka began carefully, not wanting to cause offense to anyone involved.
“Oh,” said the old lady wisely. “Well, the advice holds either way. He’ll still be pretty when he’s past my age, you just watch him.”
Tezuka gave it up as a lost cause. “I’m sure he will be.” The old lady grinned, and Fuji beamed.
“Those are too heavy,” said Tezuka, as they walked out of the garage and into the bright sunlight.
“Hm?” Fuji looked over and up at him.
“Let me carry something for you.”
Fuji’s smile nearly outshone the sun. “Thank you, Tezuka.” He would have given Tezuka the lighter things, but Tezuka silently refused them and took the bookends and the shears instead. Fuji hummed a merry dancing tune to himself as they turned onto the sidewalk.
As it turned out, going to a garage sale really meant going to all of the garage sales, at least all of the ones in the area. Fuji pulled Tezuka along, saying something about another sale on the next block over
It was during this walk that Tezuka noticed that they had company. Predictably, Inui was following them, wearing that cap that he really thought disguised him enough that he wouldn’t be noticeable. Tezuka would have advised him to take off his glasses next time he tried sneaking around, but it wasn’t his place to interfere with Inui’s stalking habits. To ignore them, yes, and to hang up when Inui tried to call him about them, but anything else, no.
Tezuka saw Inui step behind a bush that wasn’t nearly full enough to hide him completely. A second later, Tezuka’s phone rang. Tezuka stopped and shifted the bookends so that he could pull his phone out of his pocket. Fuji held out his hand as if to take one of the geodes, but Tezuka shook his head and flipped his cell phone open. “Yes.”
“Tezuka, I have observed that Fuji seems to be on a date with- oh.” Tezuka heard the rustle from behind the bushes as Inui shook his head. “Never mind.”
So he was still first on Inui’s speed dial.
Inui coughed. Tezuka heard it from behind the bushes, and then heard it an instant later, delayed because it had to go through a tower and come back to the phone. “As long as I have you on the line, what is the purpose of this-”
“Goodbye, Inui,” said Tezuka firmly, and hung up. He knew better than to hope that Inui would give up and go away.
Just then, Fuji’s cell phone rang. Fuji didn’t even glance over at the bushes before answering the phone. “Hello?” He listened for a moment, and then he hung up. “Wrong number,” he told Tezuka cheerfully.
They headed on for the next garage sale, their tall, bespectacled stalker following them with all the stealth of a ninja dressed in a bright pink jumpsuit.
“Do you like this one, or this one better?” Fuji held first one beaded necklace, then the other up so that they caught the light. The beads on one were round and shimmering, the beads on the other were faceted and almost transparent.
Tezuka would never ordinarily have cared much about necklaces. Tezuka Ayana didn’t wear much jewelry, and what she did wear had been purchased long ago, probably before Tezuka had been born. “That one,” he said, touching the faceted beads with his free hand. Those beads were pale blue, so pale that no one would have noticed that they weren’t plain and clear if they hadn’t been looking closely.
“Oh, good. I like that one too.” Fuji draped the strand of beads around his neck and set the other one back in the jewelry box. At this sale he’d found a signet ring, a tiny lampshade, and of course the necklace that complimented his eyes. Not that Tezuka knew much about jewelry that complimented the eyes, but he knew enough to see that they did compliment Fuji’s, or possibly Fuji’s eyes complimented them. He wasn’t sure.
“Inui, move over, I can’t see!”
“I must have the best vantage point in order to collect the most accurate data, Kikumaru.”
“But I can’t see!”
“Eiji-senpai, Inui-senpai, you’re squishing me!”
Sometime during their perusal of this sale, Fuji and Tezuka had acquired a wider range of stalkers. After all, they were the first two on Inui’s speed dial, but there were seven other number buttons on a phone. Tezuka paid no attention to them, as was proper. Fuji paid no attention to them either, except to remark, “I think Eiji would like this,” when he picked up the signet ring.
Eiji poked his head around the corner of the garage, much to the surprise of the homeowner working the cash register. “I would, Fuji, nya!” He was promptly dragged back around the corner and shushed loudly.
Fuji bought two thousand yen worth of merchandise at this sale, because the lampshade, of all things, was a little more expensive.
“You two look so young to be married,” said this seller, a middle-aged mother with a little boy running around her chair with a toy airplane. “But you look happy.”
“Thank you,” said Fuji. He smiled and waved at the little boy, who gave him a gap-toothed grin.
“We look happy, Tezuka. Isn’t that nice?” Fuji said, as they walked to the next sale, their gaggle of followers as inconspicuous as a group of ninjas in pink jumpsuits riding elephants and go-go dancing.
“Yes,” said Tezuka, instead of telling Fuji that they weren’t married, that they weren’t dating, that Fuji wasn’t even a girl, for goodness’ sake. “It is nice.”
“What do you think?” Fuji studied an axe that looked as though it would be very good for chopping wood, though it was a bit rusty.
Tezuka thought that his arms were already full of heavy things, and that the afternoon was hot and didn’t make carrying all those things any easier. “What will you use it for?”
“Well, it goes nicely with the ice pick,” said Fuji, and laughed. “I’m not really buying the axe, Tezuka.”
Tezuka almost smiled. “I know.” Of course, Fuji held onto the ice pick, even if he wasn’t going to acquire the matching axe, if an ice pick and an axe could be said to match.
There was a muffled crash from the other side of the garage, from behind a table with a conveniently draping tablecloth. “Stop running into things, you idiot!”
“I’m not an idiot!”
“He’s right, Momo-senpai.”
“Shut up, stupid mamushi!”
“Now, both of you, just calm down…”
“Momo, Kaidoh, you’re going to knock something else down…”
“They’re not listening, Oishi-senpai, Kawamura-senpai.”
Another crash. Tezuka sighed inaudibly. Fuji heard him anyway. “Maybe it would be nice to have some time to ourselves,” he suggested.
“Yes,” said Tezuka, and meant it. “It would be.” He walked over to the other side of the garage.
“Hey, where’d buchou go?”
“D’you think he left, Inui?”
“Data suggests only a three point five percent chance that Tezuka would simply abandon Fuji in the middle of a-”
“Laps. All of you.” Tezuka couldn’t cross his arms, not with bookends, shears, a large tome on the proper way to can pears, and an ice pick in them.
They stared up at him in dismay. “They dragged me out here, buchou,” said Echizen. “Do I have to run laps?”
Tezuka shook his head. “No. You can go.” Oishi, Kawamura, and Kaidoh probably weren’t particularly guilty, either, but none of them complained, just looked faintly sheepish.
Momo let out a pained wail. “Echizen, you traitor!” Echizen didn’t seem too bothered by this, and left the garage, jogging in the direction of his house. Momo managed a weak smile. “So, buchou. Um. Laps around where? The, the garage?” he asked, waving hopefully around the tiny room.
“I think the neighborhood would be better,” said Fuji, who had come up behind Tezuka.
“Fuji!” Eiji protested.
But Tezuka had already nodded his approval. “Ten laps around the neighborhood,” he said sternly. “Now.”
“Yes, buchou,” they all muttered, and set to it. Inui was still mumbling and scribbling in his notebook as he disappeared around the corner.
“That’s better,” said Fuji, and it was.
“Oh, this is lovely!” Fuji’s eyes lit up, and he put down his book, his camera, and his lampshade in order to pick up a delicate set of windchimes. They looked to be made of glass or something equally breakable, and they reflected tiny rainbows onto the table, and onto Fuji’s face when he held them up and turned them.
Tezuka didn’t know exactly why, but the sight made the entire garage sale experience worthwhile. “You’re buying them?”
Fuji was looking at the expression on Tezuka’s face, and he smiled a little. “I think I am.” He hooked the windchimes carefully onto his finger, the one that had the signet ring for Eiji on it.
He put the things he was carrying down beside Fuji’s other items and started perusing the shoebox next to the one Fuji was sifting through. Tezuka picked up what looked like a kaleidoscope, but when he looked through it he found that it split the world into an insect’s eye view, splitting the pieces and copying them over and over again.
Fuji noticed, of course. “What have you found?”
“This. Look through it.” Tezuka handed the fly’s-eye-view kaleidoscope over. Fuji looked through it, turning it around to see a different piece of the garage sale reflected through it. Then he looked at Tezuka and chuckled. Tezuka raised an eyebrow.
“Fifty of you at once,” Fuji explained. “It would be terrifying to hear so many of you assigning laps.”
Tezuka couldn’t resist, because it was Fuji, and because they were at a garage sale anyway, and so doing something else he might never have done didn’t seem so bad. “Forty laps!” he commanded, and Fuji started laughing. “Terrifying?” Tezuka asked wryly.
“Not to me, Tezuka,” said Fuji, still laughing. “But just imagine what Momo and Eiji would think.”
Tezuka came very close to chuckling himself at that.
Fuji picked up his other purchases, and then curled his fingers around the kaleidoscope. “I’ll buy it for you.”
“You don’t have to-”
“But I want to,” said Fuji, and that was good enough.
They were at their fifth garage sale of the day. Tezuka was carrying two books, the ice pick, the geodes, an old newspaper, the kaleidoscope (in his pocket), and the windchimes, since Fuji had found a small porcelain frog statue that he also liked, and it was only safe to carry one extremely breakable thing at a time. Fuji had the porcelain statue, three rings (all of them enormous and gaudy), two necklaces around his throat (though one of them was so long that Tezuka had had to help him fold it four times before it would hang above Fuji’s waist), the pinhole camera, and a long, slim blacklight that had worked perfectly when Fuji had plugged it in, though the bemused previous owner claimed it had broken a long time ago.
Strangely enough, Tezuka never once felt the urge to call a halt to their little expedition.
At this sale, Fuji was searching for something in particular. He hadn’t proclaimed his attentions straight out, but Tezuka saw it, the way he saw it when Fuji was setting an opponent up for one of his counters. Finally, as always, Fuji was successful. “Tezuka, look what I’ve found!” He held up his prize: a shoebox containing a pair of new Pumas. They were in Tezuka’s size, and were just the type he’d wanted. “Only forty-five hundred yen.”
Tezuka’s jaw did not exactly drop, because Tezuka’s jaw didn’t do things like that. He did, however, fix the shoes with a level gaze that bordered on disbelieving. “Fuji…”
He could have said that it was incredible, Fuji finding shoes that generally cost fifteen thousand yen at the store for only forty-five hundred, a pittance in comparison. He could have expressed surprise at the fact that the shoes were in the style he wanted, and the size he needed. He could have wondered aloud if Fuji had known that these shoes would be here, at this garage sale, on this day, and more to the point, how Fuji had known.
But Tezuka didn’t say any of those things. He stepped forward and leaned over and around his armful of garage sale purchases and Fuji’s shoebox and he kissed Fuji, making very sure that he didn’t break the windchimes in the process. “Thank you,” he said gravely, pulling away.
“You’re always welcome,” said Fuji, a slow smile spreading across his face.
When Tezuka’s phone rang late that night, he answered it, as he always did. “Yes.”
“Tezuka, on one of my circuits around the neighborhood I happened to note that you and Fuji were kissing in some anonymous person’s garage. Does this indicate that today’s events did indeed qualify as a da-”
Tezuka hung up.