Ok... a long one-shot boring drama fic _ read if you want ^________^;

Disclaimer: I don't own tenipuri or it's characters @_@ if I did... trust me, the anime will not only involve tennis rackets, but whips and shackles and chains and whipped cream too! Er... @_@

Another tribute to the yummiest seigaku pair... Tezuka and Fuji!!! XDDDD


False Beginnings

By anek

It was not until dusk when he finally decided to leave the empty court. The match had been good, nothing remarkable though. He won 6-4... although he could have easily won the game without letting his opponent score even one point, but that would be rather boring... more boring than it already was.

It was almost dark, the settling sun casting a faint orange afterglow that made the sky above the stadium seem like on fire.

"Ah... I should have brought my camera, a very nice view," he said, nodding as if to confirm that that would indeed have been a good idea.

"Fuji-san! Another good match today!"

He turned to the young man who was holding a rather large broom, waving enthusiastically. A few others were with him, holding similar brooms and other cleaning equipments. They must be cleaning the stadium after a whole day of Pro matches and thousands of spectators... not exactly an easy job, he thought sadly, eyeing the cluttered plastic bags and soda cans scattered all over the benches and seats.

Fuji turned his gaze back to the young man, widening his smile guiltily when he realized he couldn't remember the boy's name although he was sure the young man had introduced himself to him more than once.

"Thank you," he waved back, "and thank you for cleaning the stadium," he added before bowing slightly and indicating that he had to get going.

He walked past the exit, walking silently along the paved path lined with short bushes on both sides.

"Yeah, good game."

Fuji knew that voice too well.

"Thank you, Echizen," he replied, stopping in front of the Sakura tree where a boy was leaning.

Or perhaps he should say 'young man'... but 10 years hasn't done much to Echizen Ryoma, looks-wise at least. He still wore a white cap, pulled down so that it almost hid his sharp but strangely wide eyes. Ryoma hasn't gained much in height and build either, although those have become increasingly sensitive topics, but Fuji enjoyed bringing up the sore subject.

"I almost didn't recognize you, I thought it was a junior high student," he added, his smile widening a notch when Ryoma stiffened and narrowed his eyes.

"But your match is not as good as mine, of course," Ryoma countered, voice laden with the same arrogance it had 10 years ago when they first met, "and your height is not much different than mine, by the way," Ryoma added, snorting as he took another sip of his Ponta... another thing that never changed, Fuji thought with fondness.

He grinned.

True, like Ryoma, he was fine-boned and had a small body-structure to begin with, but unlike Ryoma, he never took such matters seriously. But still, he was taller than the younger man, and he liked rubbing the fact much to Ryoma's annoyance.

The street lamps had been lit and Fuji realized that the sun had completely settled and it was already past seven.

"Saa... I'm hungry, let's go home," he announced as he started to walk down the path again.

"Uisss," Ryoma murmured as he fell into step beside Fuji.

They walked in silence, the breeze mildly rustling the bushes and the crickets had started to make noise. The street next to the narrow path was busy with cars, their headlights occasionally casting white light on the path where they walked in companionable silence.

"Jaa, what do you want to eat for dinner?" Fuji asked, glancing at the younger man beside him.

Ryoma tilted his head as if to give it a thought.

"Hmm... anything, except your cooking."

Fuji feigned a look of surprise.

"Eh? I thought you liked my special noodle recipe."

Ryoma gave his cap a slight tug.

"Fuji-senpai... you just added curry and ketchup to instant noodle," he grimaced, shuddering at the memory of having eaten the thing. Fuji wasn't bad at cooking, he admitted mentally, but Fuji has an occasional habit of experimenting on things, probably because Fuji had mentioned in more than one occasion that he missed Inui's juice and he would have liked to find out how Inui had made it.

Ryoma grimaced again at the memory of that foul liquid.

"Jaa, then you cook," Fuji declared.

"Iya da," was Ryoma's quick reply.

They ended up ordering sushi from a sushi bar they passed on the sidewalk. Fuji didn't complain when Ryoma refused to carry the small sushi boxes, and made an effort to shift the duffel bag he carried to his right hand so he could carry the plastic sushi bag on the other. Ryoma walked with his usual uncaring expression, one hand holding a tennis racket carelessly slung over his left shoulder, and the other holding a can of Ponta.

It didn't take long for them to reach a rather big and expensive-looking apartment complex.

"Hello Ikeda-san," Fuji called out to the snoring guard, who had obviously fallen asleep on his duty.

The guard gave a start, before hastily standing up and giving a salute before he could open his eyes, and effectively hitting his head on a wooden plank that read 'Tokyo Apartment Complex'.

"You left the gate open again," Fuji continued, but the guard only gave a mumbled apology before nodding off to sleep again.

"Interesting guy," Fuji stated, eyes crinkling in amusement. He turned to Ryoma who hasn't said a word.

"Echizen, take this. I'll go check if we have any mails... today."

Ryoma slightly raised his brows, noting the small, but noticeable pause on Fuji's voice.

He gave his senpai a meaningful look before taking the plastic bag.

"Sure, don't be too disappointed if I don't leave anything for you though," he said with a smirk, indicating the bag of sushi.

"Ah, but I'm not worried. With a small body like that, you can't possibly eat all that anyway," Fuji countered, his smile widening when he noticed Ryoma stiffening and narrowing his eyes again. The guy is just too fun to tease.

After a slight pause, Ryoma turned on his heels and headed towards the medium-sized building a few feet away.

"Cheh, and don't be too disappointed if you don't get any mail from HIM today."

It was Fuji's turn to stiffen, a slight frown marring the constant smile he wore.

But staring at Ryoma's receding back, his smile came back. Just as he knew how to break through that cool exterior of Echizen Ryoma, Ryoma knew how to crumble the smiling façade of Fuji Syusuke.

Of course.

Almost as soon as he went through the sliding door, he heard his name mentioned by a familiar voice. He wasn't too surprised when he found his own image being shown on the television on the lobby where about 4 or 5 people had gathered around. A broadcast on his match earlier was being shown.

"Ah, congratulations Fuji-san! Another good match today!" a girl called out, slightly flushed on the cheeks.

Fuji nodded and smiled. When the girl realized that he wasn't going to say anything else, she turned her head dejectedly back to the screen. The announcer went on about the detailed accounts of the game. After a few minutes, the broadcast moved on to show Ryoma's match.

"With an amazing display of his Twist Serve, Echizen Ryoma won 6-0," the male broadcaster announced animatedly.

"Echizen-san is really amazing ne?" the female announcer seconded.

"Both Fuji-san and Echizen-san haven't had any losses on their records so far, except for those they played against each other. Fuji-san seems to be on the lead, he's currently on top," the male announcer continued, giving his fellow newscaster a meaningful glance.

The anchorwoman giggled. "On top? Does that have any hidden meaning to it?"

There was some laughter both on the studio and the lobby.

Fuji ignored the glances around him and walked to the mailboxes.

It was nothing new, after all, the whole country pretty much knew that he and Ryoma lived together, and when they were obviously rivals in tennis, and not to mention the two top tennis players in Japan, it wasn't a surprise that their living arrangement would attract such rumors and suspicions, in the tennis world at least.

Laying down the duffel bag he still carried on the floor, he took out his keys from his pocket and opened one of the mailboxes. It was empty.

He closed the box carefully before picking up his bag. The voices in the TV faded as he walked out of the building.

Fuji was surprised when he felt a cold snowflake land on his nose upon stepping outside. The weather had been nice all day, and it seemed rather impossible to have suddenly started snowing. The winter just barely began and a snow was certainly unexpected.

He walked briskly towards their apartment. He was wearing the jersey he wore on his earlier match, but it wasn't much protection against the sudden cold. He knocked on the door, but when no one answered, he took his keys out again. Maybe Ryoma had gone to take a shower.

The lights weren't on either.

Fuji dropped his duffel bag on the carpeted floor and strode to the kitchen. Flicking the lights on, he noticed the sushi boxes on the table, untouched.

"He said he was going to eat without me..." Fuji said in a slightly puzzled tone.

From Ryoma's room he recognized faint voices from a children's television show he used to watch. Picking up one of the sushi boxes, he walked over to Ryoma's room and knocked.

"Echizen, aren't you going to eat yet?" he asked softly, yet firmly enough for Ryoma to hear above the noise the television was making.

When Ryoma didn't answer, he knocked again, but no reply came. The door wasn't locked so he went in.

The TV was on, but Ryoma wasn't even looking at it. He held a tennis ball on both hands, his gaze fixed at the window... an empty expression on his face.

"Echizen...?" Fuji began.

Ryoma turned to him with blank eyes.

"He called."

Fuji's smile faltered... and when Ryoma's words sank in, he opened his eyes and his smile vanished.

"Momo-senpai called... he said he... and his wife... are getting a divorce" Ryoma continued, before fixing his eyes on the window again.

After a long pause, Fuji sat on the bed, laying the box of sushi on his lap.

"I see..." he finally spoke, picking up a wasabi sushi with his fingers and biting off half of it. He offered the other half to Ryoma. "Want some?"

Ryoma didn't say anything but took the half-bitten sushi from Fuji. He never liked wasabi sushi, but for once, he didn't mind. For some reason, his mouth had suddenly gone dry.

"I'm taking a shower," Ryoma declared, picking up a towel from the bed and locking himself up in the bathroom.

At the sound of running tap water in the shower, Fuji stood up and went out of Ryoma's room and into his own just across the narrow hall. Just as he was about to turn the doorknob, the doorbell rang.

Ryoma's news and hollowed voice still echoing on his mind, he crossed the living room and absently opened the door, shivering slightly at the sudden chill that rushed in.

He almost dropped the box of sushi.

"Tezuka..."

He almost staggered back, tempted to shake his head and scream in denial... but all he could do was smile. For that was all that he was... the always-smiling tensai Fuji Syusuke. Even the chilly air felt nothing to his numbing senses. The snow had begun to fall heavily, the wind carried snowflakes through the door and into the carpet, but all he could see was the tall figure that blocked the doorway.

It was when he saw Tezuka's face when he realized that seven years had been very long indeed. Tezuka still wore similar glasses perched proudly on the bridge of his nose. The chestnut hair looked no different than it was seven years ago when they last saw each other. Although Tezuka never had the boyish face he and Ryoma had, all traces of boyish features were gone, replaced by a stoic mask of a grown man. He still possessed the same tall and lean build but had gained more height so that the difference in their height was now more pronounced than it had been back in their Seigaku days.

A sudden rush of chilly air reminded Fuji that they had been staring at each other too long in the open doorway and that snow had started to gather in the threshold. Keeping his shaky smile in place, he motioned for Tezuka to come in, not saying a word in fear that his voice might betray his emotions that were in turmoil.

Tezuka stepped inside and Fuji walked past him to close the door, but before doing so, he caught a glimpse of the dark night, patches of blinding white snow covering the bushes and the green lawn. He opened his eyes... why is it, that in the snow, fate always liked to play a cruel joke on their lives?

Seven years ago, there was a similar night.

The weather had been exceptionally good during the day so that the High School Tennis Competition Nationals went well (for the most part)... but all of a sudden, seemingly from out of nowhere, it started snowing as dusk approached. They would have been surprised at the sudden change of weather, if it weren't that they had a bigger concern on their minds at that moment.

They huddled in the hospital, Oishi pacing nervously back and forth, Eiji on his heels occasionally wringing his hands. Kaidoh sat silently on the hospital bench with Inui who maintained no expression on his face but one could notice how tightly he was gripping the edge of the bench. Kawamura leaned against the wall dejectedly, and across him was an equally silent Echizen.

Fuji stood right in front of the room where Tezuka was in, unconscious, although he could hardly make out anything through the small thick glass window on the door. There weren't any tears in his blue eyes, but his vision blurred just the same... from too many emotions he felt all that once... anger, shock, fear...

They had been very lucky so far... lucky enough that the whole Seigaku team lasted throughout Junior High and throughout high school. Even he had been surprised at first when he found out that everyone had chosen the same high school... the same tennis team, except for Kawamura who had decided to take over his father's business right after Junior High... but the rest of them made it through the district tournaments... the regionals... and then to the nationals.

And they won.

Their victorious cheers still rang on his ears. They thought it was over... they had won after all... until it happened... right in front of everyone's eyes.

Tezuka had offered to shake hands with the captain of the opposing team after a long heart-rendering match, both looking exhausted... but just when everyone thought all was all over, the Captain of the opposing team went berserk, smashing his tennis racket right on Tezuka's left arm, hard enough for the handle to break.

Everyone had stood frozen then, even Tezuka who looked as if he didn't understand what just happened... after all, it was only a high school tennis match... who would do such a thing...

But as if it wasn't enough, the other boy gave another shrill scream before jabbing the tennis handle right on Tezuka's side. Tezuka had fallen back, bringing a hand to his side... and it was not until Tezuka held up his hand and stared at the blood with a confused expression that everyone realized that what had happened too fast, was indeed... too real.

There was a scream from somewhere in the crowd, but it all faded into a frenzied faint noise, for all Fuji could see was Tezuka's body in the middle of the court... and the blood...

A few hours later the doctor came out and talked to Tezuka's mother, who was clinging limply to her husband's side, a man who wore a similar stoic expression as his son. Fuji wanted desperately to know... know how Tezuka's condition was, but he knew it was unreasonable for him to cut in the conversation... after all, they were only teammates... and nothing more, but when he saw the relief on Mrs. Tezuka's face, he heaved an audible sigh.

Tezuka was safe, and that was all that mattered.

He walked slowly to the bench where Kaidoh and Inui sat, inserting himself in between. His legs had suddenly gone almost numb that he could hardly stand. He leaned back just when the doctor approached them.

"You are Tezuka-kun's teammates, aren't you?" the doctor asked, but before any of them could nod, Oishi was already wringing his hands.

"T-Tezuka? How is he?"

"Yeah, how's Buchou?!" Eiji seconded, clasping Oishi's arm nervously as they expectantly waited for the doctor's answer.

The doctor smiled, "He's alright. His condition is not life-threatening."

After a heavy sigh of relief, Oishi fell back that everyone thought he was going to faint, but he only staggered towards the bench, almost sitting on Inui who moved hastily just in time to make room, but the sudden movement had shifted Fuji along, dislodging Kaidoh on the other end who made a muffled thud as he landed on the floor.

"Oishi! Are you alright?!" Eiji fretted, fanning his hands over Oishi's ashen face.

With a hiss, Kaidoh corrected his position on the floor, sitting cross-legged and crossing his arms.

"Ah Kaidoh! What are you doing on the floor?!" Eiji asked, and without waiting for Kaidoh's reply, he turned back to Oishi. "Mou, Oishi! Get a hold of your self! Buchou is ok! He's ok! And Momo! Where is he at a time like this nyah! Oishi! Oishi! Fuji, say something!" Eiji finished his tirade, casting an imploring look at Fuji's direction.

Fuji smiled, it was nice to see everyone back to themselves again.

Tezuka was safe... the thought rang in his mind again. He closed his eyes, but the smile wasn't back yet... not just yet, he was still worried...

"Fuji-kun? You're Fuji-kun, right?"

Fuji opened his eyes again to see the doctor looking at him questioningly.

"Aa..." he trailed off, not quite sure why the doctor was looking at him expectantly.

The doctor smiled.

"Tezuka-kun was calling your name... perhaps you'd like to come with me?" the doctor offered, indicating the closed door that lead to where Tezuka lay, still unconscious.

Fuji stood and absently followed... Tezuka called out his name... he didn't understand why... but somehow, it brought his smile back again.

"He's only sleeping now, so don't worry, his condition is stable," the doctor stated as they entered the room, pulling out a small chair and setting it beside Tezuka's bed.

"Go on," the doctor continued, motioning for Fuji to sit on the chair. Fuji obliged silently.

"I'll be going then, call if there is a problem or if he wakes up."

Fuji nodded.

"Thank you, sensei."

With another smile, the doctor closed the door behind.

Fuji let his gaze roam around the small room before slowly bringing it to Tezuka's face. Although paler than usual, Tezuka's complexion indicated that not that much blood was lost after all. He reached out to brush a stray strand of chestnut hair and tucking it behind Tezuka's ear.

Fuji thought with a smile that he had never seen Tezuka's face in such a close proximity before. Suddenly, Tezuka didn't seem as stern as he normally was. And without the glasses... 'boyish' might not be the right word, but for sure, no one would ever mistake him for a teacher.

"Fuji..."

Fuji gave a slight start when he heard his name being called, and realized that it was Tezuka.

"Are you awake Tezuka?" he asked hopefully, leaning closer.

Tezuka didn't answer. With a worried frown, Fuji checked Tezuka's pulse... it was normal. The rhythmic heaving of Tezuka's chest indicated that he was still asleep.

Fuji smiled.

"Ne... Tezuka... I don't know why you're calling me... but I'll be right here," he whispered, taking Tezuka's uninjured hand on his own and resting his head on the bed.

He woke up to find a woman staring at him.

He brought a hand over his eyes, the sun was already glaring, it must be past 8 o'clock already, he thought. He flinched when he realized his neck had gone stiff... after all, if he remembered correctly, he had slept through the entire night on the same position, halfway sitting on the chair and half leaning on the bed.

"Your cell phone rang last night, I'm sorry I answered it, it was you sister," the woman spoke.

Fuji realized that it was Tezuka's mother.

"Thank you... she must have been worried."

The woman smiled.

"Yes she was... but don't worry, I told her what happened."

Fuji gave a polite bow.

"Did Tezuka wake up?" Fuji asked, glancing at the still-sleeping Tezuka.

The woman brightened.

"Yes he did, only for a few minutes though before he fell asleep again. He must be really tired because of the match and the blood loss..." the woman trailed off upon remembering what had happened to her son.

"I'm glad. I must be going now, Tezuka-san," he smiled at the woman, politely excusing himself with a slight bow. He stood, only to realize that he was till holding Tezuka's hand... or rather, Tezuka holding his... although he remembered that wasn't the case last night.

He gently extricated his hand from Tezuka's grip.

"Fuji-kun, right?" the woman continued conversationally as if she would have liked for Fuji to stay a little longer.

"Ee."

"Are you friends with Kunimitsu?"

Fuji paused.

Was he friends with Tezuka? Yes they were teammates. They had known each other since Junior High, and throughout High School. But... he wasn't sure if he considered Tezuka a friend... or if Tezuka considered him as one. They talked about tennis... they talked about the weather, they talked about their teammates... perhaps they even talked about small mundane things on several occasions, but he and Tezuka always lacked that air of 'friendship' that Tezuka and Oishi shared... or he and Eiji had.

But why was it that it was his name that Tezuka called in his sleep?

He didn't know the answer, so he nodded.

"Aa, we're friends," he replied with another smile.

He was three hours late for school, though it wasn't surprising when Tezuka's mother had so enthusiastically talked to him about random things, about how Tezuka was such a stubborn child, persistently denying the necessity to wear glasses when he was only 8 years old, or when Tezuka practiced tennis until his hands bled, much to his mother's distress, or when Tezuka fell in the river while fishing, and getting mad at the caretaker who rescued him, insisting that he didn't need any help. Tezuka had only been 10 back then.

Fuji found himself laughing, unable to leave the woman, until she finally apologized for keeping Fuji too long and that he must be late for school. Fuji excused himself then, offering that he would come to visit again when school was over. Tezuka's mother gave him a delighted smile.

As soon as he got himself to school, Eiji latched unto him, bombarding him with questions faster than Fuji could answer.

"Ne ne Fuji! Why we're you the first one allowed to see Tezuka-buchou last night? UNFAIR! We were all worried nyah! But you know, the doctor said we could see Buchou if we were quiet so we did. And Buchou's dad had this funny face when he saw you and Buchou holding hands nyah!"

"Eiji!" Oishi interjected, but Eiji only gave him a puzzled look, obviously not knowing what Oishi was upset about.

Although Fuji's smile remained unperturbed, he did feel rather uneasy at the thought of him and Tezuka holding each other's hand, sleeping while everyone else looked. He shouldn't have fallen asleep that easily...

"And Fuji! You know, Momo showed up today with these bruises and all. He probably got into a fight. I yelled at him nyah! I mean, he was out brawling and he missed yesterday's Nationals match, nationals! Good thing we were able to register with another club member, or we would have been disqualified! And he totally paled when he learned about what happened to Buchou! He's probably chewing his soul right now!" Eiji finished dramatically with a childish snort.

"Eiji! It would have been better if we were disqualified," Oishi pointed out.

Eiji gave it a thought. "Oh yeah... you're right Oishi... THAT wouldn't have happened if we were disqualified..."

On the way to the third-year hall, Fuji noticed Ryoma and Momo under one of the Sakura trees on the schoolyard. Momo had his back to the school building and Ryoma had his cap pulled down... lower than usual.

But Fuji walked along with Eiji and Oishi... although he was later to know that if he hadn't been too worried about Tezuka at that moment, he would have probably realized sooner that someone else would come to suffer as much as he would.

It became his daily routine-- a brief visit in the hospital everyday after school. Fuji reasoned it was more because Tezuka's mother had so enthusiastically welcomed his presence although he could only count the occasions when he and Tezuka talked, and when they did talk, he never brought up the subject about that night... that night when Tezuka called out his name and held his hand. Fuji concluded it was simply an impulse on Tezuka's part... and that their Captain most likely didn't remember anything about it at all.

Fuji had guessed that Tezuka's father would be somewhat like his son... but he still found it rather amusing that they were indeed alike... very much so. The older Tezuka never stayed in the hospital long, and when Fuji came across him on several occasions, they would only nod and exchange a polite word or two.

Fuji also took it upon himself to bring Tezuka's schoolwork to the hospital since the term was ending and Tezuka refused to drop out of school and repeat the whole year, and since Oishi was busy being the temporary Tennis Club Captain in Tezuka's absence, Fuji welcomed the responsibility.

After a month, the sight of Tezuka's beaming mother giving him a hug greeted him. He stood in surprise, although he couldn't help returning the hug when the kindly woman informed him that according to the doctors, Tezuka might be completely healed within another month.

"But I'm really glad..." Mrs. Tezuka beamed, handing Fuji a glass of orange juice and offering him a seat across hers.

"Aa, that's a good news, ne Tezuka?" Fuji smiled at Tezuka's direction.

Tezuka nodded before returning his attention to the book he was reading.

Mrs. Tezuka rolled her eyes.

"Well never mind him Syusuke-kun," she muttered, and from the corner of his eyes, Fuji caught Tezuka giving an upward glance... that was probably as close to rolling his eyes as Tezuka Kunimitsu could get... Fuji almost laughed. But his suppressed laughter didn't escape from Tezuka, which earned him a glare.

"Oh by the way, Syusuke-kun. Tomorrow I won't be able to come, would you mind if I ask you to stay later than you usually do?"

Fuji shook his head... but before he could nod, Tezuka scowled.

"You don't need to Fuji, I'll be fine."

Mrs. Tezuka frowned.

"Be quiet Kunimitsu! That's not how you should talk to someone who's been working hard in helping you!"

Tezuka visibly stiffened. Fuji suppressed another urge to laugh... this time, Tezuka gave him a glare that usually sent his tennis opponents quivering even before the match could begin. But it only made Fuji's smile wider. He lifted the glass of juice at Tezuka's direction in a mock toast. It obviously was a rare sight for THE Tezuka Kunimitsu to be scolded... and Fuji delighted at the thought.

"Do what you want..." Tezuka mumbled, returning his attention to the book again.

The day after, Fuji came to the hospital later than usual. He was greeted by Tezuka's slightly-annoyed-slightly-worried expression.

"You didn't have to come," Tezuka began.

Fuji smiled.

"It's alright Tezuka, I have to give you these anyway," he reassured, setting down an envelope and a few notes on the table next to the bed.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome, and just ask me if there's anything you need," Fuji offered, settling himself on the chair next to the window and began reading a book he brought with him.

There was a slight rustling of papers as Tezuka sifted through the notes and envelopes Fuji brought.

"What's this?" Tezuka asked, pulling out a sheet of paper from a brown envelope.

"That's a college survey," he answered, opening his eyes. He knew what he was doing... and knew that 'college' and 'future' would definitely bring up a subject that no one else dared to mention since the 'incident'. The truth was, the survey had been given to them a few days back, but he simply couldn't bring himself to show it to Tezuka... not when Tezuka's mother was around.

Fuji brought his gaze down to the book but continued speaking.

"We are seniors in high school after all, and the school year is ending. We have to decide what to do in the future pretty soon..."

He heard a slight creak on the bed as Tezuka stiffened.

It was a moment before Tezuka spoke in a small voice that Fuji had to strain himself to hear.

"Fuji... what do you want to do after High School?"

Fuji looked up and fixed his gaze on the swaying tree branches outside of the window.

"I think... I want to be a Pro Tennis Player," he stated, not daring to look at Tezuka. "But I think I'll go to an Art College too... Photography is interesting," he added, forcing himself to smile.

"I see..."

It was while before Tezuka spoke again.

"Fuji... what happened to that guy?"

Fuji's forced smile disappeared in an instant. It was the first time Tezuka talked about that incident, and Fuji knew the guy Tezuka asked about was the one who had caused his injuries.

"He's getting what he deserved. That was an obvious criminal act and too many witnesses for him to get off. The school might get in trouble too. They knew the guy wasn't too stable psychologically and they let him be the captain since he was a good player," Fuji explained, feeling a sudden surge of anger. He felt Tezuka's pain and rage. Tezuka had worked hard, all his life, for his dream... yet it was all shattered in an instant. His left arm had been fractured badly, and although the doctor had assured them that Tezuka could still use his left hand, he would never be able to strain it again... let alone play tennis with it.

Tezuka muttered another "I see..." before turning silent again, but Fuji knew Tezuka didn't want to stay silent. Too much anger, too many pent up emotions that Tezuka kept to himself within the month...

He walked slowly and stood close to the bed where Tezuka was sitting, leaning on the headboard.

Tezuka didn't look in his way, but Fuji noticed how tightly Tezuka gripped the blanket that it was almost ripped.

"Tezuka... I told you, didn't I? Just ask if you need anything," he whispered.

Tezuka gave him a look devoid of emotion... but it didn't take long before the mask started to crumble. He leaned his forehead on Fuji's chest; Fuji's rhythmic heartbeat loud on his ears... synchronizing with his own.

"Fuji... I'm mad... I'm so mad I want to kill him..."

He was one of those who watched and admired Tezuka Kunimitsu. To Fuji whom they called a tensai, though he possessed the skills, he never had the same passion and stubbornness Tezuka had in the sport. He questioned many times why it had to happen to Tezuka... Tezuka who once practiced tennis until his young hands bled. Fuji remained where he stood, his hands limp to his sides. If Tezuka wanted to take out his anger at him, he probably wouldn't move still... it was all he could do for Tezuka.

But what came was a gentle embrace instead. Fuji stood immobile as Tezuka's right arm held him in place.

"Fuji..." Tezuka called out in a small voice.

Suddenly Fuji was reminded of a night a month ago... when Tezuka had lain unconscious, but it was his name that Tezuka called.

"Ne... Tezuka... I don't know why you're calling me... but I'll be right here," he repeated the same words he had said, but this time, he answered with his own call.

He lowered himself on the bed, bringing his arms around Tezuka's shoulders. Tezuka answered by pressing Fuji's lips to his own. What started as hesitant, almost shy nibbling on the lips grew into a deep fierce kiss, each of them lost in a sea of newly discovered but yet to be explored passion. The kiss held so much conviction that neither of them had to ask the meaning of it... nor did they need to. It was almost as if it was to be expected, that it was only a matter of time before they realize what they had been missing in their relationship all along. They were never just friends... yet they were never quite mere teammates either. He and Tezuka... they always had that almost tangible understanding between them, but there was an invisible line, a line that neither one of them could figure out, but once breached, the flood of emotions came rushing in and everything became blindingly clear.

When he felt the bed shift as Tezuka pulled him closer so that he was halfway sprawled over the taller boy, Fuji opened his mouth to point out the such a position was probably not good for Tezuka's injuries, but it only gave Tezuka an opportunity to explore Fuji's mouth with his tongue, drowning Fuji's words into a muffled sound.

When Tezuka's lips left his, he opened his mouth again, but no words came, only surprised but pleasured gasp when he felt Tezuka's hot lips tentatively running over the sensitive skin on his neck. He burrowed his face on Tezuka's chestnut hair. The proximity was blinding, heightening his senses yet strangely, he felt numb and limp, helpless... and Fuji Syusuke was never helpless, but it was only to Tezuka Kunimitsu that he ever admitted defeat to, both in tennis and everything else... and this was no different. His chest felt tight, so tight that his breath became short ragged gasps...

It was not until Tezuka dared to pull him closer when he heard the low growl of pain. Tezuka flinched, freeing his right arm from Fuji's back and clutching his injured side.

Fuji pulled away, straightening his shirt.

"I hate to say I told you so... but I told you so," he smirked, giving Tezuka a reprimanding smile.

Tezuka frowned.

"Just when did you say you told me so?"

Fuji smiled innocently.

"Hmm... probably when you were busy eating my tongue."

Tezuka glared.

Graduation was something that he both looked forward to and resented. Tezuka got out of the hospital two weeks prior but against everyone's stern advice, he had not been allowed to resume his normal activities. But Fuji knew there was something else that needed to be solved. Although Tezuka's mood had improved greatly (in private at least) after they got together that day in the hospital, he never brought up the subject again about college and tennis.

The ceremony dragged on with speeches and special presentations that none of them were really interested in, but Fuji managed to keep himself distracted by occasionally letting his gaze roam around, noting Eiji's stifled yawns, Oishi's efforts not to nod off to sleep, and Inui's repeated smirks... probably mentally conjuring up some new juice recipes. Tezuka remained pokerfaced as always.

They celebrated thereafter, in the clubroom... just like always. It was almost nostalgic how not much had changed even after three years. Taka-san even joined them despite not being a fellow student of the school. Although Ryuzaki-sensei was no longer with them, and some missing freshmen faces, they were still the same happy bunch that they were in Junior High.

Their years together might have ended, but they were determined to make it a night that none of them would forget. They laughed, joked and bickered with each other like they used to. College was definitely one thing that would separate them no matter how much they all tried to stay together. The years had been good, and they let the memories comfort them before the imminent, fated partings.

When the celebration ended, and voices started to ebb, Fuji made his way through the crowded room, a couple cans of soda in hand. The night was dark, but the schoolyard was dimly lit with incandescent lamps. He made his way to the tennis court.

"I knew you'd be here," he approached a tall figure who stood motionless in the middle of the court.

He offered the can of soda to Tezuka who took it without a word.

"Hmm... I didn't know you were the sentimental type," Fuji continued, pressing himself closer to Tezuka's side.

Tezuka answered by snaking an arm around his waist.

"I'm not," the taller boy denied firmly.

Fuji smiled playfully. "Sure you're not," he teased, raising his soda can to Tezuka's still un-opened one in a toast. "It's a nice night, I wish I had my camera," he continued.

Tezuka nodded.

"Aa"

It suddenly occurred to Fuji that it must have taken a good deal of determination for Tezuka to stand there in the tennis court, after all, tennis had occupied a good portion of Tezuka's life, and he knew that it still did. But even after the incident that crushed his dream, Tezuka still had the courage to stand there in the court, drinking soda and holding him, talking about the weather. He pressed his smaller body closer. Tezuka's overwhelming strength, he wanted to share it.

"Fuji, thank you. I don't think I would have made it if you weren't here," Tezuka suddenly blurted out.

Fuji grinned.

"That's right, you owe me one," he replied lightly, expecting Tezuka to scowl at his flippant reply, or even to glare... but none came.

Instead, Tezuka broke their embrace, and walked a few feet away. Fuji suddenly felt cold, as if the light early summer breeze had suddenly become frozen.

"I'm going back to Germany," Tezuka declared in one breath.

Fuji froze, but reason came back to him and he smiled, although a bit shaky.

"I understand. You need to get your arm treated just like when you went to there in Junior High, right?"

Tezuka brought his right hand around his left elbow.

"The doctors told me that even Germany can't completely cure my left hand this time. I'd never be able to use it like I used to."

Fuji opened his eyes, the smile completely gone. It was a while before he spoke again.

"Then why..." he whispered.

Tezuka fixed his gaze on the ground, his back to Fuji.

"I'm going to college there," he continued. It took all his effort to keep his voice as flat and emotionless as he could. "And I don't know when I'll be coming back."

The air suddenly felt so heavy that Fuji wanted to succumb to the pressure, but he managed to stand immobile and cold. He didn't know how long they stayed silent, or how their conversation ended, but he vaguely remembered voicing a quiet "I see..." before slowly walking out of the court, absently walking to nowhere in particular but wherever his numbing feet carried him. For once he wished he was capable of crying, but no tears came, only a tightening in his chest until he felt almost suffocated.

He found himself in the school garden, surrounded by short bushes and herbal shrubs that he didn't recognize in the dark, but he stood there, staring at something that was not visible. It was a while after it occurred to him that his name was being called.

"Fuji-sempai, you'll catch a cold if you stand there all night," the flat voice reminded him of so much Tezuka that Fuji almost blurted out Tezuka's name.

He focused his eyes to recognize a smaller figure wearing a white cap, a striped shirt, dark shorts and white sneakers.

"Echizen..."

Ryoma gave his cap a slight tug in answer.

"What are you doing here?" Fuji finally managed to ask the boy who sat on a rock, almost hidden among the shrubs.

"No reason," the younger boy replied dryly.

Fuji took a few steps closer, stopping on his tracks when he noticed a small parchment on the ground. He bent to pick it up.

"A wedding invitation?" he asked, eyeing the paper curiously.

Ryoma shrugged.

Fuji opened the envelope. There were only a few things in the world that fazed Fuji Syusuke... and this one certainly did. 'Momoshiro Takeshi' was written right next to some unfamiliar girl's name.

He shifted his gaze to Ryoma, speechless.

Ryoma shrugged again.

"Aa, the idiot went ahead and blew up a girl," Ryoma curtly explained in the same flat dry voice.

"How come we didn't know?" Fuji asked when he finally found his voice.

"Saa... he said he didn't want anyone to know."

"When did you know?"

Ryoma pulled his cap lower so that it almost covered his entire face.

"The day after the nationals."

A sudden realization came to Fuji.

"Then... was that why he missed the match?"

Ryoma nodded.

Fuji sat next to the younger boy.

"The bruises?"

Ryoma threw him an annoyed look.

"The girl's brother beat him up, ok? Something about taking responsibility or something, and stop asking me questions," the dark-haired boy snapped, standing abruptly with full intensions of leaving the tennis tensai behind.

But Fuji grabbed Ryoma's wrist before he could do so.

"Then... why are you telling me?"

There was a long silence and that the sound of cricket noises and tree branches swaying suddenly seemed louder than usual.

"Saa..." Ryoma whispered, making a weak effort to free his wrist from Fuji's grasp.

Fuji didn't know what it was that made him unthinkingly pull the smaller boy to himself, embracing him tightly. Ryoma gave a gasp of surprise as his cap fell to the ground at the sudden contact. He struggled weakly, but Fuji's embrace was unrelenting.

"Sorry Echizen, I wasn't a very good senpai, wasn't I?" Fuji whispered against Ryoma's hair.

"I don't know what you're talking about so let me go, Fuji-senpai," Ryoma gritted out, making another effort to push his senpai away.

"I was so caught up in my own world, with Tezuka, that I almost forgot about everything else," Fuji continued, "but now he's leaving me and it hurts so much it's even hard to breath. But you're strong Echizen, keeping this all to yourself for months. You're really strong..."

Ryoma fervently shook his head in denial.

"I don't know what you're talking about... I don't know... let go..."

But Ryoma's protests have become small whispers, as he repeatedly mumbled the same words, over and over.

Until the wall finally crumbled and Ryoma burrowed his head in Fuji's shirt.

"He... he told me he loved me," Ryoma whispered, "he told me..."

His shirt muffled Ryoma's words, but Fuji understood. He tightened his arms around the smaller boy.

Perhaps it was the need for warmth in that night that suddenly brought them together, but they welcomed each other's comforting embrace. He who hid his emotions with his flawless, untroubled smile, and Ryoma who hid all his insecurities with his arrogance...

... and they were both broken.

They silently clung to each other.

Ryoma was there when Tezuka left... and he stood by Ryoma when Momo did. Suddenly, there was an unbreakable bond that bound them together, that neither of them expected to have only a few months back.

Summer ended, almost too quickly. Fuji had been admitted to an Art College in Tokyo and he eagerly accepted it. On his first year he lived in the dorms, but moved to his own small apartment the year next. He wrote letters to Ryoma every month, and insisted that Ryoma do the same. Ryoma had pointed out that emails and telephone would have been more convenient, but Fuji reasoned that it was more romantic that way (to which Ryoma choked).

He was on his third year when there was a knock on his apartment door. He expected it to be Yuuta or a visiting classmate, but it was a dripping-wet Echizen, carrying a medium-sized luggage, sauntering inside before Fuji could say a greeting.

"Fuji-senpai, I'm going to college here too and I'm going to live here," Ryoma declared, dripping rainwater all over the floor and into the leather sofa where he carelessly flung himself.

After the initial surprise, Fuji smirked.

"Are you sure about that? I have a habit of taking advantage of stray kittens, you know."

Ryoma waved a hand. "Oh? But this kitten might just bite you, you know," he mumbled before proceeding to fall asleep, wet clothes and all, which earned him a rather bad cold the next day.

Fuji had managed to balance college and tennis. He had decided to wait until he graduated before becoming a Pro but Echizen didn't have the patience. But eventually, the both got there, to the Tennis Pro world.

And without realizing it, their lives have become completely entangled with each other.

And seven years had passed since that fateful night, when he and Tezuka ended, and he and Ryoma began. Fuji finally closed the door when he felt that his bare feet had almost gone numb from the cold.

He finally turned to their tall visitor in a dark trench coat.

"Ah, it's been a long time Tezuka," he began, motioning for the taller man to take a seat on the sofa.

Tezuka obliged.

"So... did you need something?" Fuji asked, a smile in place.

It was then when Ryoma chose to walk out of his room, hair tousled and wet, a towel around his waist.

"Fuji-senpai, who is—" Ryoma stopped when he recognized Tezuka. After a long pause, the younger man nodded.

"It's been a long time, Tezuka-buchou."

Tezuka gave him a polite nod.

"It's good to see you again, Echizen."

There was something about Tezuka's tone that was rather cold and impersonal that Ryoma excused himself, mumbling something about getting dressed.

"I heard, you and Echizen lived together," Tezuka asked when Ryoma was out of earshot.

Fuji smiled.

"That would be rather obvious, don't you think?"

"I see..." Tezuka answered as he stood. "I must be going now."

Fuji watched Tezuka's receding back from a slit between the window blinds. He turned to Ryoma who was leaning silently against the wall across the room.

"Eh... so many things happening today. Momo's call and now Tezuka's visit... an interesting day indeed."

When Ryoma didn't say anything, Fuji leisurely strode to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water.

The next day on his way out, he noticed an unfamiliar silver car parked across the street. Although it had stopped snowing, the car was covered in snow. It must have stayed on the same spot since last night.

Fuji turned to resume walking, his dark boots making soft sounds against the snow. A tall man fell in step beside him.

He looked up to see a familiar face.

"Tezuka..."

Tezuka gave him a silent nod.

Fuji forced a bright smile. "How can I help you this early in the morning?"

Instead of answering, Tezuka stopped, which forced Fuji into a halt, giving Tezuka a questioning smile.

"I knew you would make it, Fuji. You've become one of the top Pro tennis players in Japan. Good job."

Fuji's smile disappeared in an instant. Suddenly, rage came to him, rage so great that he wanted to lash out and cry at the same time. He balled his hands into tight fists. Good job? Was that all Tezuka could say? Good job! Was he supposed to celebrate at being complimented by their dear captain? Good job!

He narrowed his eyes, sharp gaze piercing on Tezuka's impassive expression.

"Thank you for the compliment, Buchou," he stated coldly, before turning around and resuming his pace. But what Tezuka said next made him stop on his tracks again.

"Fuji... would you have become a Pro if I had stayed?"

Fuji froze, when he couldn't utter a word, Tezuka took a few steps forward so that he was standing right behind Fuji.

"I wasn't blind Fuji. I knew my injury weighed greatly on your mind. You even felt guilty. You probably questioned yourself, 'why did it happen to Tezuka and not me? Tezuka had much more passion and determination for tennis than me'. You did, didn't you?"

Fuji still couldn't say a word. That was true... everything Tezuka said was true.

With another step closer, Tezuka continued.

"And would still have pursued tennis then? With me by your side, knowing that I was one who also had the same goals, but whose chances had been crushed... would you still have pursued tennis then?"

Fuji stared at the snow on the ground, speechless. Suddenly, he felt a pair of strong arms around him, arms that he hadn't felt for seven years, yet they felt so familiar and comforting that it seemed everything only happened yesterday.

"I left because I wanted at least you to reach your goal... one of us had to..." Tezuka trailed off in barely a whisper, tightening his arms around the light-haired man.

On that day, in the middle of the street where white snow spread around them like a gleaming carpet, Fuji Syusuke's tears, which he had held for seven years, flowed.

Finally, he spoke with a croaked voice.

"Why... why did you come back then?"

Tezuka released Fuji from the embrace, took one of the shorter man's gloved hands into his own and started walking down the street again.

"Selfish reasons, I suppose. I thought I could make it, but it seems seven years is as long as I could hold out," Tezuka answered. After a slight pause and giving Fuji's hand a small squeeze, he glanced at a Fuji's pale face. "Because I couldn't forget."

Fuji stared at his hand engulfed in Tezuka's bigger palm. Suddenly, he was reminded of a certain night, a long time ago, when Tezuka had held his hand. He had been slightly puzzled then... but it had felt right. And after seven years, he realized, that it still felt right.

Fuji didn't say anything, but let Tezuka hold his hand. Once again, he found himself absently walking, reminding him of a moonlit night when he had walked in the school yard... not knowing where he was going... but this time, perhaps there is somewhere he needed to go to.

Tezuka fell silent, his snow-covered car fading in the horizon, but they continued to walk. He once lost sight of something important in the past, but...

He cast a glance at the smaller man who walked beside him.

But... he was never going to lose sight of it again.

What they once had might have been lost... and what they once shared might have been over... but they could always start something anew... and this time, Tezuka knew... that it wouldn't be just another false beginning.

~~::OWARI::~~


a/n: waah, I finished it *dies* I hope you read through the whole thing and didn't fall asleep halfway ^_^;

anyway, I hope you guys don't hate me for making our seigaku cuties suffer in angst and all... and yeah, please don't hate Momo for that whole girl-getting-pregnant thing (or me for making that the case!!! @__@ ) there IS a reason... but gyah, the fic had dragged on longer than I expected and I didn't get the chance to explain that part. Besides, I wanted this fic to focus on tezuka and fuji. But I'm planning to write momo and ryoma's version too and explain what happened to them more (well... if I ever get around to it anyway *hits lazy self* )

and yeah, I purposely made Fuji and Ryoma's relationship vague... that's up to you to decide. Were they lovers? Or just close friends? Saa... =P

thanks for reading!

~anek