Process, by kishmet. Inui/Fuji, PG.
"Something new for you." Fuji holds out the envelope. Inui's name is written across the front of it in graceful handwriting that doesn't look at all like Fuji's. Inui doesn't yet know if Fuji is just capable of writing in numerous different ways, or if someone else writes it for him. It's one of the many seemingly inconsequential mysteries that Inui is going to solve someday, if there is a solution.
"What do you have in that envelope?" Inui asks, amused despite himself. He knows what's in it already, of course, but with Fuji it's better to ask even when he's sure of something. It's when he's confident that he'll fail, because Fuji sets everything up that way.
"Pictures," says Fuji with a smile. "What else?"
Inui can see the shape of the photographs faintly through the paper of the envelope. That means nothing. They could be pieces of cardboard cut into the exact size and shape of photos, for all he knows. Fuji's never used that strategy, and hopefully never will now that Inui's thought of it. "Pictures," Inui says. "Indeed."
Pictures from Fuji are always interesting. Sometimes they're irrelevant in the most fascinating ways. Once the envelope had contained photographs of Inui's house from every angle; one of the front door, several of the side windows, several where the camera had been tilted upwards to capture images of the second floor. Inui had never seen Fuji outside the house, and neither had his parents.
Sometimes they're highly relevant to Inui particularly. It still drives him crazy wondering how Fuji had gotten such artistic photos of Kaidoh's calves, of his ribs, of his throat. No one would have been able to identify the subject besides Inui, who'd spent so much time studying those tiny details. Those pictures are in a special file in the double-locked secret drawer of his desk. He tells himself that he won't look at them again until he knows how Fuji had done it. He's always lying.
Sometimes, too, Fuji will give him what seems to be an entirely innocuous set of prints with a meaning Inui doesn't discover until he comes to the end of the roll. Once it had been photos and photos of red silk, close-ups on the various ripples and shimmers in the fabric. Inui had gone through all of them, mildly bemused, until he'd come to the photo that finally captured the entire scene, one of Ryoma and Atobe spooned together in Atobe's bed, swathed in the silk, only their heads and tantalizing slices of skin showing. Inui had been compelled by curiosity to ask how Fuji had managed to take that one. Fuji had only smiled, saying, "I was lucky."
Even with these inexplicable photographs that Fuji should not be able to acquire, the pictures are telling. Inui has them all neatly catalogued by description in a notebook devoted to them. There are no common subjects, but there are common absences. Fuji Yuuta is never featured in them, for instance. Inui doesn't have a single picture of Yuuta taken by Yuuta's older brother. Fuji is undoubtedly aware of this lack, but he won't remedy it, obvious and revealing as it is. Fuji Yumiko, on the other hand, has been a part of these photos, but always she's looking at the camera. Fuji seems to prefer candid shots, but seems unable or unwilling to take one of his sister.
Tezuka is rarely a subject; Tachibana, never. Inui doesn't doubt that Fuji photographs them, but there are things Fuji is willing to share and things he isn't. He accepts this, and takes the missing photographs along with the ones he's given. Although he's interested in Kaidoh, in Ryoma and Atobe, and in Tezuka, he's realized that the reason he accepts the photos is that he wants to learn more about Fuji.
He opens the envelope at home, in his room, with the door safely locked. There's no telling what will be a part of today's collection, but more than that, Inui is as unwilling to share some things as Fuji is. Inui tears open the envelope slowly and calmly, refusing to give in to the impulse to tear it open like a child given a wrapped gift. It's just a show for his own sake, of course, because the feeling is much the same and just as immature.
He likes to think that his tastes are somewhat more refined, however. There's no promise of a toy, either, and that's part of the thrill. Possibly they'll all be perfectly mundane photos of the school, or of the regulars, or of rabbits. Fuji had done that to him once, although that time had been squirrels. Once Inui had gotten a roll of photos of the inside of a lens cap.
The first picture gives Inui a shock. It's a picture of Fuji himself, and it looks almost as though someone has managed to snap a candid picture of the master of candid pictures. It's a closeup of Fuji watching television, nothing special, except that it's Fuji watching television. He's sitting on the floor with one leg stretched out and the other with the knee up. He has an arm draped over that knee, his chin resting on the arm as he watches the screen. It's an amazingly normal pose, made even more amazing because Inui knows Fuji must have set up the shot himself. There are few people who can set up such an appearance of carelessness.
The next pictures are all the same; photos of Fuji brushing his teeth, or eating a meal, or of Fuji setting up another camera, on camera. Fuji with his hair mussed in the morning, or Fuji with the phone tucked under his shoulder and his schoolbooks under one arm. Inui is something like mesmerized, flipping slowly from one picture to the next, noting every single "haphazard" detail of them, from the pajamas Fuji wears to the subtle, perfect angles of the light in each picture.
At the end of the roll is an extreme closeup of Fuji, a startlingly high contrast struck between Fuji's pale complexion and the dark background, in which nothing is discernable. This one couldn't be mistaken for a candid photograph by anyone. Fuji smiles into the camera, blue eyes open. It's like a signature attached to the rest of the pictures, a teasing sign that the photographs, in fact, are not at all candid, that they were all set up by this same genius, this mastermind.
Inui's first reaction is to call Tezuka. He's halfway through dialing the number when he hangs up. Tezuka isn't the person he should be calling. He dials Fuji's number instead. Fuji picks up halfway through the first ring. "Hello, Inui."
"Fuji." Why did you do it? Inui thinks, or, What is the meaning of these? or even How did you know what I wanted? "Thank you."
"No need for thanks," says Fuji with a chuckle. "Enjoy, Sadaharu."
When Inui hangs up, he still doesn't know what had been going through Fuji's mind when he'd taken those pictures. He smiles to himself and glances at the stack of them again. But then, half of the pleasure comes from not knowing...yet.