Chapter One

Eiji's desk rattled back and forth as his leg shook nervously. He stared at the stream of people passing by the open doorway, hoping that he would be able to pick out Oishi's footsteps from the crowd at least ten or fifteen seconds before he made it to the doorway, like he always could. That will give me enough time to get this look off my face…and…

It was strange. He never had to worry about being able to smile around Oishi. The thought almost made him laugh out loud, until he realized what it meant. Usually, the smile never left his face when Oishi was around. Unless they were in the middle of a match, of course. Even then though… Even when they argued, or when he was frustrated with Oishi's seriousness, he was never actually unhappy. But today, Eiji was seriously considering forcing a smile when he saw his friend.

Not seeing Oishi for almost a week was doing strange things to his mind, he figured.

"AH!" Eiji jumped up, hitting his knees on the desk absentmindedly, as he rushed out into the hallway. He had miscalculated slightly, and Oishi was halfway down the hallway already. He had to shout to get his attention. As he opened his mouth to say Oishi's name again, he realized what it was that was bothering him.

Oishi always stopped by Eiji's classroom on his way home, or to practice…and today he hadn't even hesitated at the doorway, nothing. In fact, his steps seemed quicker than normal…

"Oishi!" This time there was a slight catch in Eiji's voice. When Oishi finally turned around, he was relieved that he didn't have to force his smile, but the closer Eiji got to his friend, he found himself wondering if the amiable look on Oishi wasn't just the slightest, tiniest bit…

"Eiji, why are you still here? Tezuka…"

"Oishi…" Eiji ignored the question, his voice quiet, and slightly impatient. He closed his eyes, hiding from the open stare of his friend. "Are you…mad at me?" Usually he would add a little whine to the end of a question like this, but today it seemed somehow inappropriate.

Oishi didn't miss a beat, and his answer was matter-of-fact. "Of course not. What do you mean?"

When Eiji didn't answer, his friend studied him, confused, wondering why he seemed so flustered. At the same time, Oishi couldn't help but notice how this question had caused his breath to catch slightly. His most immediate thought though, was that something else was going on, something that had nothing to do with him. He was able to put aside his underlying feelings for this reason only…

"Eiji…" his voice softened. "Did something happen? What's wrong…"

For a second, Eiji was relieved. This tone of voice, this meant that Oishi really wasn't mad, that maybe he would forgive him, even when he told him the truth.

"Oishi, I wanted to come...to the hospital. I…I really don't know why I didn't. I'm sorry."

"It's ok." Oishi answered briskly. His first impulse was always to appease Eiji. Even now, when it was all he could do to maintain his composure. He wondered if Eiji would be able to read any part of the lie in his words.

"You really don't have to explain…", Oishi tried again, and this time his effort was even more unconvincing.

After a second, he wondered why Eiji wasn't saying anything, wasn't even looking at him. It was unnerving. Oishi found himself wondering for the millionth time what the real reason was that he hadn't seen his friend in a week. At the same time he reminded himself forcefully that he had no right to even notice something like this.

"Eiji? I said it was ok, ok? I'm back, so let's just forget about it."

Eiji's head was lowered, and his voice was shaking. "No. Everyone else came… I know. And I know you must have thought it was weird, but…I couldn't. I don't know why, but…I just…I'm weird, right?" This time his voice did curve upwards slightly.

At first Oishi's eyes had widened in surprise at this confusing attempt at an explanation, but for some reason, he found himself growing more irritated the more he listened. He really, really didn't want to hear one of Eiji's excuses this time.

"Enough already, alright!" Oishi was surprised to find that he had to fight to stop his voice from turning into a shout.

He glanced around nervously. The halls were still filled with people, getting their things together, going off to after-school clubs. Though there was no good reason why anyone should have been paying attention, Oishi could see out of the corner of his eye, the heads turning, as usual. He watched Eiji, who was uncharacteristically shuffling his feet nervously, and biting his lip. For a second he realized he was terrified of what might happen next. But the words slipped out despite all of this.

"Stop going on about it! I said it was ok!"

All the thoughts that had been running around in Eiji's head for a week suddenly froze, and whatever he had planned to say next vanished from his mind. He hated when Oishi raised his voice. But part of him was glad. Oishi had noticed that he hadn't been there. Maybe he had even missed him. He wondered suddenly if a reaction from Oishi hadn't been his goal all along in this conversation.

Eiji leaned in to get a closer look at Oishi's face. It was something most people found annoying when they were angry, but it usually worked on Oishi. He was sure he wasn't able to mask how badly it hurt him when the glare in Oishi's eyes didn't flinch.

"Oishi, I'm sorry!"

"It's ok, really." Oishi smiled, but his voice was undercut with only slightly masked bitterness. "I know how you are, you don't have to say any more."

Eiji blinked, honestly surprised. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"Eiji is Eiji. That's all." He smiled again, wondering where this had all come from. He hadn't expected to feel so much anger towards Eiji. If that was even what it was. It was hard for him to tell anymore.

Eiji felt a tightening in his chest as he watched Oishi smiling at him. It was all he could do to stop himself from crying. He could feel the tears threatening, just below the surface. He blinked several times and took a deep breath, concentrating on keeping his voice steady, the words streaming out despite the warnings going off somewhere inside of him…

"You don't know anything about me, Oishi. You think you know everything, but you don't even know one single thing about me, about how I feel…." Eiji's voice had trailed off. He wasn't sure what he was trying to accomplish by saying this. Maybe he was partly testing the words for himself, to see if he could actually say them. Eiji had always believed that Oishi was the one person who knew everything about him.

As he listened, Oishi found himself shocked, truly surprised that his friend hadn't turned this into a joke by now, hadn't bounced off to talk to someone else. Eiji hated conflict, after all. Somehow, though he knew it was a mistake, he couldn't help but want to take advantage of the fact that he had captured Eiji's full attention.

Oishi's voice cut through the silence between them. "How you feel, what about how I feel? I'm in the hospital for a week and my best friend can't even be bothered to find the time to come and visit me, even once! Everyone else, people I don't care about at all, they're there. But you? You're always off in your own world…But like I said, I know how you are, I'm used to it."

Eiji gritted his teeth. "You don't know ANYTHING!" He shook his head, frowning to the point where it hurt. He didn't want to be here, having a screaming match in the hallway anymore. But it seemed like the words wouldn't come out any other way. They had come from somewhere deep inside of him, and the volume was almost involuntary. Or maybe he just wanted to make absolutely sure Oishi would listen.

"YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT ME!"

People were definitely looking now. And whispering. Some of them were even pointing, and moving quickly into their classrooms. To escape the scene, or to tell their friends what had captured their interest, Oishi couldn't be sure. The funny thing was that usually he enjoyed it. He enjoyed being paired with Eiji, he enjoyed that their names were rarely mentioned separately. Suddenly he snapped back to reality. He was still angry. Really angry. He realized that Eiji was facing him, waiting for his reaction. He measured his words.

"Tell me, what is it Eiji, what is it that I don't know?" Oishi watched as a mixture of hurt and something else flashed in his friend's eyes. He took a step closer, so that his face was inches away from Eiji's.

"WHAT DON'T I KNOW? What could possibly explain how you could be so selfish and immature all the time!!"

Oishi immediately regretted his words, as he watched Eiji's eyes widen. He watched, frozen, as the light behind Eiji's eyes disappeared, and the color drained from his face.

The words seemed to penetrate Eiji's entire body. For a second, it seemed like everything had died inside of him, it hurt so badly. Everything he was been feeling, and all of his emotion, had been crushed under the weight of these words. How can he not understand what he's asking me? As his vision clouded over with tears, he thought he saw a flicker of regret in his Oishi's expression, as Eiji watched as he reached out his hand. He immediately closed his eyes, waiting.

But Oishi's hand paused in midair for a second before returning to his side.

Eiji wasn't sure which was worse, that he had expected Oishi to touch him, or the fact that he hadn't. He turned away, embarrassed. I'm such an idiot. After a few seconds, he wiped his eyes.

"Never mind." Eiji mumbled the word almost inaudibly.

Oishi watched him, not knowing what to think. Maybe something really did happen.

He couldn't stand seeing Eiji upset. Sometimes he resented Eiji's cheerfulness, but he realized now how horrible it was to see him anything but happy. He had seen him frustrated, angry even, but this was different. If he didn't know better he would say that he seemed depressed, but this was Eiji he was talking about. Whatever the situation, he could always count on Eiji to be smiling, oblivious.

Another thought flickered through Oishi's mind, but he quickly halted its progression. There was just no way that Eiji would have missed him. After all, if he had, he would have come to see him, right? Oishi shook his head inwardly, as he had many times in the past week. I have no right…to be angry…

"You're right, let's just forget about it, ok? I didn't mean what I said. I'm sorry, ok?" When he received no response, Oishi reached out his hand and touched Eiji's shoulder, this time with only the slightest hesitation.

"Come on, let's go. Are you hungry?" Oishi tightened his grip on his friend's shoulder slightly. "Eiji?"

The sun had begun to set already, and the halls were empty now. Even the last of the buses had left. Funny, Oishi was thinking, that he hadn't even noticed how the school had thinned out, and that they were alone now.

Eiji closed his eyes, concentrating on the warmth of Oishi's hand on his shoulder for a second before he jerked away suddenly, startling both of them. When he spoke, the words that came out surprised him.

"No. No, I have to go. I have some things I need to do before I go home, so..."

"Can I come with you?" Oishi offered. This is strange. This whole thing is just strange.

"No. I mean, I'll be in a hurry so…"He could hear his voice, but the words seemed to come from somewhere outside of himself. He wondered briefly if it seemed strange to Oishi too.

"Ok, if you say so. See you at practice tomorrow morning then?"

It's over. Just like that… It didn't seem right, somehow, but he couldn't deny it. The conversation had been over for a while now, Eiji realized.

"Sure."

The word resonated inside of him, hollow, yet filled with a strange weight. Eiji watched as Oishi turned down the empty hallway, waiting until he was almost out of sight, before he forced his feet to move forward again.

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A/N: Ok, so this is the end of Chapter One! Please let me know what you think. This is my first attempt at something like this, and so any comments/criticisms are greatly appreciated! Thanks for reading!