Fuji stared at Tezuka as they trained. Training day in and day out here in this camp that felt more like prison than a privilege. He smiled nonetheless. He had to.

It was an image already etched in his own persona and the image everyone acknowledged him for. So despite catching the short breaths of exhaustion and the way Tezuka's shoulders tensed as they continued with their weight training, he smiled.

Already understanding the tenacity and determination in that gaze that cut through anyone, he smiled wider not wanting to let bitter words escape from his lips.

One day, we'd play again, isn't that right?

That's what they had promised each other once the nationals were over, that's what drove them together because they were friends and above all else, teammates in the game that brought in more losers than winners. But even in that promise, in those words, he couldn't find hope. Somewhere he knew deep down inside he could never catch up. No matter how many counters he created in his play, no matter how hard he trained, his mind was never settled with whatever he had because there was always someone out there that could break it.

And that in itself should have drove him. Should have pushed him to go against the odds. But to what and to who was he proving? Himself? It was true, he had broken out of that state of mind that led him on into believing he couldn't do it without a motive, without a reason to destroy his opponent and he thanked Tezuka for that...Maybe not out loud. But the other boy knew it.

He glanced at Shiraishi who idly conversed with the speed manic of his team, then fell back to look at Tezuka who had let his weights fall to his sides, head falling back against the headrest, eyebrows furrowed more than usual and Fuji stood up. His eyes briefly glanced at his shoulder ever wondering if he truly was okay.

A worry so great he never knew he'd be trapped in embedded itself within him whenever he thought of his injury. Regardless of the countless times he'd heard Tezuka say he was better, that it was healed, he couldn't help but worry.

His mind drifted back to that match he had with Sanada at the tournament and the weight of carrying him off the court never felt so light, but that didn't bother him as much as the way that Tezuka held onto his arm as he helped him off the court. Defeated, saddened and in pain. Tezuka's eyes held confusion once he looked into them only to have the stoic man look away for the fear of Fuji knowing too much, because he knew that he was displaying everything right then and there. Fuji simply said nothing and tended to him, to the one person that couldn't accept his own defeat and his own state of weakness.

He walked over to the man whose eyes were closed in concentration, catching his short breaths which were shallower as he approached him. Tezuka was struggling to keep up but that had never stopped him. Not even that damn injury. "Tezuka." He smiled handing the bespectacled teen a water bottle.

Hazel eyes softened once he realized it was his teammate and nodded taking the bottle understanding everything with just the calling of his name.

Fuji tried his best and bit his bottom lip as he sat down beside him on the floor drinking from his own bottle. He wasn't tired, not even a little but if he didn't drink from his bottle he knew that he would say something so uncharacteristically unlike him. So he did just that.

He rather enjoyed being next to Tezuka, always had. Yet lately it felt like he couldn't breathe properly because he knew Tezuka was hiding something from him and that just wouldn't do. The distance was almost unbearable. He wasn't used to it. They would tell each other everything before, so what had changed?

Tezuka sat up and began to readjust the weights on the machine again.

Ah, that's what had. He had found his opportunity to excel regardless of the whispers wandering around. That Tezuka would eventually go to Germany at the end of the coming term. He smiled and took another swig of his bottle. He always admired his determination and it hurt because he would have to say goodbye after all was set and done. So he pushed it. He pushed the thought so far from his mind and stood up, not really in the mood for further training and decided to take a shower. "Fuji," He heard and stopped. He turned back to look into hazel eyes shielded by those rimless glasses that were every bit a part of his personality like his own and tilted his head like always when he prompted someone to continue. "Thank you." Tezuka said a notch lower than Fuji was used to.

Fuji stared into hazel eyes for what felt like hours but had only been minutes in hope that Tezuka would say something of what was on his mind. Anything. He saw it in the other boy's eyes, the way he tried so hard to hide whatever it was from him. It pained him as much as he kept it secret. Tezuka looked down before continuing his workout and Fuji took that as a cue to leave.

So that's how it was huh?

He left and rested against the wall just outside the gym. "Tezuka…" He whispered before taking a second to sigh and let his smile drop. Just a second to compose the wild thoughts running through his mind.

When had their relationship gone from its usual comfortableness to this atmosphere filled with unwanted tension?

Probably ever since they had won the nationals, no, since they had gone to train with the club members in Osaka. He remembered the way those walls that had disappeared months after feeling one another out climb back up and he had said nothing. He didn't know what to say and quite frankly at the time he didn't understand until he came to hear from Chitose by chance that his sister had met Tezuka in a library on their free day, nose in a book filled with foreign words.

Making his way to their room, he opened it to find Yukimura with legs crossed reading a book by the window. "Welcome back." His voice was light, soft and full of warmth. He liked the Rikkai captain. He was kind and strict when needed to be. No in between. Yukimura was always kind to him and if anything, respected him as the tensai player he was called.

He smiled at him, smile genuine and he felt his heavy heart ease just a little at the way Yukimura stared at him before going back to his book. No questions, no hiding, just them. Just that comfortable silence he was used to… but with the wrong person. "What's wrong?" He heard Yukimura ask, eyes still on the book, turning a page but not once glancing in his direction.

"Going for a shower." He said grabbing some clothes.

"That's not what I meant." Yukimura's voice was a little more persuasive and just then, Fuji didn't want to be bothered. Yukimura sensed it and immediately looked at him, eyes smiling just that much before speaking. "It doesn't hurt to say what's on your mind, especially when it could change the outcome."

Fuji halted, not really looking at the captain and smiled. "It's not going to." He knew already he had no say in someone's future especially if it was for selfish demands. His own selfish demands. "Besides, the outcome was already there with or without words." Grabbing a clean shirt he turned to face Yukimura.

His violet eyes searched in his despite them being hidden from the world, smile still in place even though he knew it was useless but at that moment he couldn't let it fall. For his own sake. "It doesn't hurt to try." Fuji sighed and left knowing their conversation was over.

He didn't need to hear those words. He knew it already he just couldn't find the will to bring up the words he wanted to. For once he was at a loss at what to do with his own feelings and the situation. Coming to terms with the realization that it was probably the first time he let his emotions run amok without him throwing them back into the box he usually kept them in. It was aggravating and not to mention, tiring.

Coming to a halt not at all knowing that he had spaced out, he looked up at Tezuka, eyes taking in what he held. "I'll join you." He said firmly not at all waiting for his response. Fuji felt his words get caught in his throat and stood rooted to the spot as Tezuka walked past him to go back to the room. There was no room for argument and just then he didn't want this. Not now. Not while he was sorting things out himself.

So there he sat, inside the warm water that seemed to take away all the tension from his mind and body with Tezuka following suit. He laid his head back and heard the dripping water from somewhere inside the large shower room. He felt Tezuka's presence so close yet so far even though he was sitting right next to him, shoulders almost touching and he was certain he felt his leg really close to his. Fuji noticed that Tezuka was trying to fix that bridge, trying to work out whatever had caused this falling. But Fuji knew what it was. For once, he was sure it wasn't his own doing because they had arguments before and he was certain, he had been at fault more times than Tezuka had been. Something he didn't like about himself was misinterpreting the simple nods or the silence the wrong way. It was something he had worked out many times and gradually, he got better at it because that was when they had first met.

Now with all the things they had been through, the light touches, the gentle kisses, he was sure that this wasn't like then. He needed to say something to mask his pain, so he tried it. "How was the rest of your workout?" How's your shoulder?

"It went well." It's fine Simple words telling him everything he needed to hear. He let out a small hum and opened his eyes to peer at the ceiling. "Fuji," Tezuka started, his leg shifting just a little under the water.

"It's okay."

The water moved just slightly and he looked at Tezuka in shock as lips brushed against his just for a fleeting second before Tezuka moved away. So much had been in that brief kiss that that pain that he had tried so hard to ignore drew back and he simply stared at Tezuka wide eyed. "It's not." Tezuka whispered, reluctantly looking away. "I know, it's unfair." Fuji's breath got caught somewhere in his throat. "I'm sorry… I didn't tell you first."

Fuji composed himself once he heard voices at the far end of the shower room and turned his flushed expression to the water. Nowhere in his right mind did he picture something like that would have happened because Tezuka simply wasn't that type of person to do something so damn reckless, especially here. But man, did it hurt. Right then and there he knew it wasn't to reassure him, it was a statement.

It was like being reeled in. He didn't want it. He didn't want to be tied any further than they already had been. This only made everything so much more difficult, much more harder to comprehend. He grew angry and frowned for the first time in his life in the presence of strangers, "You're right. I am being unfair." He said bitterly and Tezuka looked at him but he didn't give him another second to be trapped again, cornered like a deer in headlights.

Fuji stood up and left for the second time today.

He knew he was being unfair, he knew he was being childish. Heck, it was Tezuka's life. He didn't have to know, he didn't have to understand, he didn't need to be told. Fuji didn't need to be told by him of all people.

For the first time since they arrived, Fuji slept with his back facing the other bed.

Tezuka's bed.

He remembered when they first arrived at the camp, he was ecstatic knowing he would dorm with Tezuka just because he was so used to him. He had been to the other teen's house countless times and vice versa so it was nothing new. Often they would share beds and it was nice just being so close without that hunger that used to run through them before. It was more quiet and subtle now, the gentle touches, the soft words that sometimes escaped between their kisses. It was more comforting than that rapid slew of emotions that they couldn't contain when they had first discovered their bond was more than just friendship.

He sometimes caught Tezuka staring at him and he would smile, blushing in the light that would be absent and simply let his eyes close knowing that gaze was on him for just a bit longer before ultimately falling into inevitable slumber.

But not today. Today wouldn't be one of those days. What he had with Tezuka was special and rare and today for once, it was slipping. Slipping right through his fingers. Fuji ran his fingertips along his lips remembering the softness of Tezuka's lips on his. They were softer than he remembered. How he had wanted to kiss the other boy so many times before but he knew it wasn't possible because he didn't want to strip Tezuka of his goal, the goal he knew would stick with him until he achieved it. But here was Tezuka, ripping apart whatever promise he had played so very carefully for himself. All because it had ceased for that time before they had arrived.

He heard Tezuka's bed shift and Fuji tensed just a bit. Tezuka was still waiting for his reply, the unanswered question seeking for his approval. How much he wanted it to be okay, how much did he want it to be so. He kept his back to him and forced himself to fall asleep.

He just couldn't do it.

He was in a daze. Just as he thought, sleep without that gaze, nor that warmth he usually felt most nights was… difficult. When had he begun to depend on him to this extent? He wasn't sure but as he came to a halt at the bulletin board, his breath got caught once again in his throat because right there, he stood planted to the spot and his very skin crawled. Tezuka was to play the former captain, their former captain.

The thought, the whole idea sat very still in his mind and he worked his way away from everyone else, smile once again in plain sight. He couldn't take it anymore. He knew that this match would entail everything and nothing of what he wanted. To see that push, to hear that motivation ring through his ears as loudly as it had once been in their past years together. Stronger.

He clutched his left arm tighter than usual whenever he tried to keep his nerves together, because somehow by doing so he felt closer than he had ever been to the older teen whenever he wasn't at his side.

Fuji stood outside the courts looking at the stairs that would take him to the match yet his feet wouldn't move. He wanted to watch Tezuka shine like he already did in everyone else's vision, watch him grow even more stronger than before, become who he was meant to be and evolve but his feet stood planted as his wavering heart clenched in pain. This match would decide everything. And he knew it.

Yamato-buchou had always cherished his student, his teammate, the rookie that had surpassed him in total defeat. Fuji had been there to witness as Tezuka had beaten their captain, tired and exhausted he stared up at the older teen with accomplishment and achievement. He knew then, that Tezuka Kunimitsu would shine brighter than he did then and even more now.

He could hear the small crowd from the other side as if walls did nothing to silence the turmoil in his heart. If he could grow blind, deaf, anything to allow himself some peace of mind.

The events from the previous night played in his mind like a tape on fast forward and he tightened his grasp on his left arm once again, this time chuckling to himself out of self pity. He had pushed away the only person who cherished him out of spite. He looked up to hear footsteps or rather someone running in his direction and he hid out of sight.

He smiled at the super rookie, their super rookie watch in pure amazement, determination etching itself within him as he continued to watch the freshmen watch their captain go against the former. That's right, Tezuka always did this, always instilled improvement, always seeked for change in others, always tried to evolve them. He was their anchor but not anymore. He heard it clear as day when Atobe had said to leave the team to him and Fuji pressed himself closer to the wall, bringing his hand over his heart. He felt that pain again but this time he smiled.

"Fuji!" Eiji yelled at him once he stepped away from the shadows. It seemed as if his best friend had been running so he smiled and greeted him with nothing but his name. "Fuji! Tezuka he's… " Fuji nodded and walked with him, more like ran, until Eiji caught sight of Tezuka. Uniform and everything in place, but not the camp's; their uniform.

"You're leaving right now?! You haven't told Momo or Oishi yet!" Eiji yelled in disbelief. Fuji watched as Tezuka gripped his Seigaku bag tighter, his eyes knitting together and Fuji knew it was because he didn't want it to end this way but he had to. The resolution he had made was there, that drive had already etched itself and the words that Yamato-buchou had said to him rang in his ears as clear as theirs. He had been there throughout it all, together they had accomplished that promise they had made since they had first met their first year.

He saw Tezuka's eyes glance over at him as he responded Eiji with a low 'yes' and Fuji felt a shiver run up his spine. He was saying goodbye. His eyes said it all and for the first time that day, he took the initiative.

"Tezuka," Catching the other off guard, Tezuka returned his gaze towards him in slight curiosity because he had already said goodbye to him but Fuji wasn't going to accept that just yet. He too, had something he had decided to do. "I have a favor to ask of you." He let the words slip from his lips with a triumphant smile because today he would say goodbye properly to Tezuka and to their promise.

As they walked towards the empty courts he felt Tezuka's eyes on him, strangely enough he felt a blush rise to his cheeks. He felt like he had after a night together with the older teen, eyes glistening with curiosity yet with passion because he had wanted to see him for who he was. Understand who he was and like many of those nights Fuji would smile like he was now, and tilted his head to the side as he glanced at him.

Tezuka must have felt it too because he turned away. He was confused and Fuji could tell he was because his brow was raised up higher than it normally was whenever he tried to figure something out. With Eiji close behind he wasn't sure there was anything he could do to calm the boy, to tell him to forget last night. To forget the fact that he had distanced himself because he didn't want to hold regrets. No, not today. So instead, Tezuka turned to look back at him, worried because he wasn't sure where they had stood since that trip to Osaka.

Fuji patted him him on the shoulder before getting on the court and that slight touch said everything to the bespectacled teen to ease his confusion.

Almost in an instant, Tezuka's demeanor changed into a more serious one as they played. All traces of confusion, gone and instead he gripped his racket. If it was a match, he would play seriously and Fuji smiled. His heart fluttered at the same teen he played, the same teen that had beaten him fairly and the same person who found his passion a game that was nothing but the thrill of it. The one that made him evolve into the person he was now as he stood on the court.

"Fuji, what are you doing? You can't win against Tezuka now."

If he couldn't win then he'd lose. He wanted to lose. He wanted to forget. He wanted to let this be his own way of goodbye to the person that had given him everything, showed him what tenacity meant, what having a goal really meant, what they had together was real. And it was great, it was more than he could ask for but he couldn't stand to watch him leave everything behind, like it hadn't meant anything. Their friendship, their kinship and their relationship was as real to him and he knew it but just now, it was going to end. Abruptly. Not months from now, not at the end of the coming term. Now. So he would erase it.

He returned the ball with a forehand and stopped as Tezuka easily returned it faster than he'd ever seen it. He was angry, he was hurt and he was above all else ambitious to erase what they had. Those countless nights of being with the older teen, those countless times they had stood side by side during long arduous matches, even sharing the same class. He wanted to forget the only thing that connected them because by doing so, it wouldn't matter anymore. It wouldn't matter to him wherever it was that the other boy went. He wasn't going to be involved.

Eiji being the witness to his own downfall and he could see the it in Tezuka's eyes like he had always had until it was gone and Fuji gasped, his eyes widened. Just then he felt it, he knew it. His plan had failed because Tezuka had come to a halt. He could see the realization hit Tezuka just what it was he was up to and a few moments later he was leaving.

His legs gave out and the emotions that weld up within him couldn't be stopped. He was always one step ahead of him. No matter how close they were, no matter how much they had shared, he was always farther than him. The night before drifted into his mind. Now he understood and brought his hand up to his face to shield what little he could even though he knew it was pointless.

That wasn't reassurance, it was farewell.

He couldn't stop the tears anymore. A new found desire to be there, to watch it, to witness and the be on top grew within him. He'd be there like he promised, he'd stay there and support but he'd also entangle himself in the same game. Because theirs hadn't finished and he was determined. He grew more determined to finish his favor. Grant them their wish.

"One day, I will surpass you."

Words he'd never thought he'd say, words he never thought that would hold so much meaning all came to light and everything became clearer. He wanted to prove just how much he too had evolved.

That night was as quiet as any other but the tension was high in the air because as he stared at that empty bed, he felt cold. He felt lonelier than he had ever been. As if he hadn't been there, as if another person had never slept on it. His heart heavy and his very being crushed by the simple collapsing of his lungs. He wouldn't let himself fall this far down.

"You'll meet again." He heard as a whisper and looked up at Yukimura. His eyes not straining the least in the darkness around them but thankful for it.

He turned around. His emotions alive for the world to see and he detested it. "I know." Just when? He'd have to become stronger, become fiercer and to achieve his goal. The one he had found. His hands trembled with adrenaline. "We all meet again by the same thing that connects us." He smiled, foolishly he shook his head. He was thankful for the way Tezuka had ended the match because somewhere deep down inside, he couldn't bear staying away from what they had worked so hard for. "We'll definitely meet again."

We didn't say "goodbye" at that time

It was just a preparedness to live life our own way

We never leave each other forever