The disclaimers are on the first chapter, and they still count(yes, I really was too lazy to write them on the top of every chapter :-p).
Ryoma was being watched, that much he knew. What was making him so uneasy, though, was who was doing the watching.
"Echizen seems 67 percentmore agitated than normal. His power has increased by 17 percent, while his accuracy has declined by 8 percent. The amount of laps he is being made to run has increased by 6 percentsince Tuesday, as has his on-court distraction rate. Hmmmm..."
Ryoma twitched. "Inui-senpai? Do you think you could knock it off, at least where I can hear you?"
Inui looked up form his notebook. "Oh, am I bothering you, Echizen? I apologize." He walked away, but Ryoma continued to hear him muttering about 'confrontational attitude' and 'ball placement.'
And...he really didn't need to have those kind of thoughts right now. It was hard enough to concentrate as it was.
Ryoma was getting nervous. He hadn't heard anything directly from Fuji since their walk home the other night, unless one counted the card with the tulips. No flowers today, either. Either that meant that Fuji was tired of his game and had lost interest, or...
Well, he couldn't really think of an 'or'. Though he couldn't think of a reason for Fuji to lose interest, either. Usually Fuji didn't stop until he got his desired reaction from his "victim." And Ryoma knew that he hadn't really been reacting...overtly, anyway. In his head...well, that was another story.
He had finally figured out his own mind, if nothing else. He, Echizen Ryoma, liked Fuji. In a more-than-platonic way. And...he wouldn't mind exploring his newfound discovery with Fuji personally, without the flowers in the way.
But...it stopped. And he hadn't seen Fuji at all.
Which meant it had probably been a game to Fuji all along. Some sort of twisted, 'let's screw with the kouhai's head' thing. And thinking that...hurt.
Ryoma wasn't used to pain of that sort. And...if that was all that came of liking someone, he wasn't too keen on feeling it ever again. Silently, he cursed Fuji for making him feel this way. For making him feel.
"Echizen, look out!"
The shout made Ryoma's head whip up, but not soon enough to stop the tennis ball from whacking him on the side of his head.
'Such a pretty sky,' he thought dazedly from his new position on the ground. 'Think I'll stay here for awhile...'
"...izen-kun? Echizen-kin, are you all right?" As if from a great distance, Oishi's voice came through to him, and Ryoma blinked, his focus coming back to the present.
"Oishi-senpai." Ryoma struggled to sit up, Oishi helping him only when it became apparent that Ryoma would not remain down. "Yeah. I'm all right...I think." He raised a hand to his head and winced when he touched a sore spot. "Head hurts a bit, though."
"That's not a surprise. Kaidoh hit that ball pretty hard."
"Kaidoh-senpai?" Ryoma looked up, and, sure enough, there was a concerned Kaidoh hovering just out of reach. "You need to work on your aim, Kaidoh-senpai," was the only thing he could think to say.
Oishi waved Kaidoh over, and, with the other's assistance, levered Ryoma to his feet. "I think you need to sit down for a few minutes," he said, steering Ryoma towards a bench. "I should take you to the hospital-"
"No. No hospital." Ryoma shook his head, glad to find that the movement didn't hurt too badly. "I'm fine. Really."
Tezuka joined the three at the bench. "How bad is it, Oishi?"
Oishi frowned. "It doesn't seem too bad, but I can't be sure. I'm not a doctor, and Echizen-kun doesn't want to go to the hospital." He looked at the younger teen critically. "I'm not sure if he should play any more today, though."
Tezuka nodded, trusting Oishi's judgement. "Fine." He looked at Ryoma again. "Stay there. If there's been no improvement in your condition by the end of practice, then you will go to the hospital."
Ryoma nodded, more agreeable than normal to the idea of missing practice. Tennis ball upside the head aside, it would give him more time to decide what he was going to do about his "situation" with Fuji.
If there even was one anymore.
Somehow, the thought that there wasn't anything there, that Fuji didn't care about him, was the most depressing thing in the world.
For once, practice had lasted too long.
Ryoma was tired of people hovering over him. He was fine...his headache was gone, he wasn't dizzy, nauseous, or seeing double. The impact point was still a bit tender, but that wasn't a big deal. In short, he was perfectly fine.
Now, if only he could convince his senpais of that fact...
"Ryoma, are you sure you don't need a doctor?"
"For the tenth time, Oishi-senpai, I'm sure. No doctor is needed. All I need to do is go home and forget this day ever happened." Ryoma rolled his eyes as he picked up his bag, walking out the door.
Oishi and Eiji followed him. "But that was a hard hit, Ochibi. We're just worried about you!"
Ryoma took a deep breath and counted to ten. "I know, Eiji-senpai. I understand that. But I'm a big boy now, and I know I how I feel. And what I feel right now is a need to just go home."
Oishi sighed. "I can't stop you. But I'll feel better if you let us walk you home."
"It's really not necessary, Oishi-senpai."
"Just in case, you know," Oishi pressed.
"In case of what?" a new voice interrupted.
Eiji whipped around. "Fuji! I didn't see you there."
Fuji laughed. "Clearly. But you didn't answer my question, Eiji-kun."
"Oh, it's terrible. Kaidoh hit Ochibi in the head with a tennis ball. And now he won't even let us walk him home." Eiji pouted.
Fuji's eyes opened. "Really," was all he said, but his tone didn't bode well for Kaidoh.
Oishi sensed the danger and rushed to intervene. "It's not like that Fuji-kun," he assured his friend. "It was an accident. But still," and here Oishi shot a worried glance at Ryoma, "I'm not comfortable letting Echizen-kun wander the streets alone. He says he's fine, but..."
"He is right here," Ryoma commented testily. "And he is capable of making his own decisions."
Fuji smiled and clapped his hands. "I think I have a solution-let me walk Echizen-kun home. I wanted to talk to him, anyway."
Ryoma became fascinated with the sidewalk.
Fuji continued. "That way, someone is with him, but since I have a reason, he can't think I'm there just to protect him." He turned his smile on Ryoma. "Isn't that right, Echizen-kun?"
Ryoma tried not to blush as he replied, "I guess."
"Then it's settled." Fuji bent and picked up a bag that was lying at his feet. "I'll see you in school tomorrow Oishi-kin, Eiji-kin."
Eiji threw his arms around Ryoma much more gently than normal. "Take care of our Ochibi, Fuji. He doesn't know when to quit."
Ryoma cleared his throat. "Again, I'm standing right here"
Fuji slung an arm around Ryoma's shoulders. "Don't worry...I'll take good care of Echizen-kun." He steered the younger teen away and they started walking.
Fuji didn't let him go. Ryoma didn't care.
They had walked about halfway before Ryoma, realizing that someone had to break their silence, finally spoke up. "You wanted to talk to me, Fuji-senpai?"
Fuji's stride faltered. "I didn't think you'd want to remind me of that." He shrugged. "I was trying to help you out with your Eiji-situation."
"I see. So...there's nothing you want to say to me." Ryoma's voice dropped and his posture drooped. 'I was right. There's nothing there...why did he have to make me think...make me feel?'
Fuji stopped and looked down into Ryoma's face. "Was there something you wanted me to say?"
And suddenly...Ryoma was tired. He was tired of the games, tired of caring, tired of pretending that this meant anything to anyone other than himself. Standing up straight, he said, "Yes, there is something I want you to say. I want you to tell me why you started this. I want you tell me why you stopped. I want you to tell me what you want from me, and most of all I want you to tell me why I even care!" He turned away from Fuji, not wanting the other to read his eyes.
"Ryoma-kun, I..." Fuji seemed truly at a loss. Then, his eyes opened, and he radiated an aura of purpose. Reaching down, he grabbed Ryoma's hand and started to drag him off. "Come with me."
"And what if I don't want to?" Ryoma tried to pull his wrist out of Fuji's grip, but found it much to strong.
"You asked, and you're going to find out. But not here."
"Then where are we going?" Ryoma stopped pulling, seeing that it was just an exercise in futility.
"To where this all began." Just from the set of his jaw, Ryoma could tell that Fuji wasn't going to answer any more questions.
They walked for about ten minutes before Ryoma realized just where they were heading. "Fuji-senpai? Why are we here?"
"I told you-this is where it all began." Glancing around, Fuji opened a gate, and brought Ryoma out on the Seigaku Junior High tennis courts. "On this court. Do you remember?"
Ryoma smiled. "How could I forget? We never did finish that game, by the way. But...what began?"
Fuji sighed and sat, leaning against one of the net poles. "You were amazing," he said, ignoring Ryoma's question. "You didn't hesitate, you gave it your all.. You always give one hundred percent of yourself. It was...thrilling, seeing that, having it focused on me and me alone. If we had played any later...you might've won." He smiled, remembering. "I had no idea, then."
Ryoma sat as well, sensing that they were going to be there for awhile. "What didn't you know?"
"That I would miss it so much. You left, and I thought you weren't coming back."
Ryoma's eyes narrowed, confused. "But I did. And I never saw you, so clearly you didn't miss me too much."
Fuji laughed. "Would you believe that I was afraid, Ryoma-kun?"
"No, actually. Stop fooling around and tell me the real reason before I leave." He stood up.
"Can? Can you really leave, Ryoma-kun?"
"If I have to." Ryoma sighed. "I can't play your game anymore, Fuji-senpai. You've come into my life and completely uprooted it. I don't know where I stand anymore...with you, or with myself. I don't like it, and I refuse to take it anymore. If that means leaving, I will."
"I don't want you to leave, Ryoma-kun."
"Then tell me, Fuji-senpai. Tell me what this is all about. Tell me what you want."
Ryoma blinked. "You...you're joking."
Fuji smiled. "Maybe. And maybe I'm dead serious."
Ryoma's eyes closed, and he suddenly found himself wishing for his old cap. "That's it. I...I have to go." He turned away, only to find himself stopped again by Fuji's hand on his.
"Why are you running away?"
Ryoma bit his lip. "Because you aren't taking this seriously...because you aren't taking me seriously."
"Ryoma-kun...Ryoma. Look at me." Against his will, Ryoma felt his face turn towards Fuji's, though he still couldn't bring himself to meet the other's eyes. "Believe me when I tell you that I take this very seriously."
"You couldn't prove it by me." Ryoma's voice shook a little, though he camouflaged it well.
"Why does this bother you so much?"
"It...it just does." Ryoma clenched his jaw.
"Ryoma. Tell me...what are you feeling right now?"
It was a defining moment, Ryoma could feel it. No matter what was said, there would be no turning back...everything would change. It couldn't stay the same, even if he said nothing. And, knowing that, Ryoma took a deep breath, bracing himself to do the scariest and hardest thing he'd ever done.
"What am I feeling? Fuji-senpai...I'm annoyed. I'm angry. I'm confused, hurt. And...I want to run. I'm afraid, I want to leave this...but I feel like I can't leave you. Like if I left right now, it would be the worst mistake I could ever make." He raised his chin and, for the first time that day, met Fuji's eyes. "I'm afraid...because I need you, Fuji-senpai. I don't know why, or how you did it to me, or even what it means, but I need you with me." He lowered his head again and whispered "I don't want this feeling...but I can't give it up."
"We finally understand each other, Ryoma." Fuji reached out and drew Ryoma to him, holding him close. "Now you know how I've felt all these years."
Ryoma drew back just enough to be able to look Fuji in the face. "You've...felt this way, too?"
"Since that day. At first, it was just a need to play you, to test myself against your strength. Then it became a need to see you like that, without your inhibitions, free like you're meant to be. It wasn't until you...left, that I realized what I truly needed...it was you."
"Why didn't you say anything before?"
Fuji chuckled. "Because you weren't ready."
Ryoma scowled. "And who are you to be able to decide something like that?"
"I watched you, Ryoma. You never saw me...but I saw you. And all you could see was tennis. Until you began to see more of the world around you, I couldn't move. I refused to taint you."
"And what made you so sure that I was 'ready' now, Fuji-senpai?"
"I think you can drop the 'senpai' for this discussion, Ryoma."
"Fine. Fuji. Now answer me."
"Truthfully...I wasn't. But I had to take the chance now, before you had the chance to slip away from me again."
"Stupid. Don't you know anything, Fuji?" He looked at Fuji and smirked. "I was already bound to you. Did you honestly think that it was only Tezuka-buchou that I was chasing? It was you, too." His smirk softened. "You're not the only one who felt something in our play. Maybe you're right-I wasn't able to face it back then."
"And...can you face it now? Can you handle what it is that I feel for you?"
Ryoma gave Fuji a level stare. "Ask me and find out."
In Ryoma's opinion, he had been brave enough. It was time to let Fuji risk himself.
Fuji's eyes widened in acknowledgement of the challenge he had received. "I care about you, Ryoma. I care if you're happy, sad, hurt, mad...I care about it all. I want to be with you, in your life, in whatever way you'll have me. I don't want to see you in pain, and I'll kill anyone who does hurt you...even if that person is me. I want to be close to you, and I never want to let you go." He took a deep breath. "That is how I feel about you, Ryoma."
Ryoma looked at Fuji...and laughed.
Fuji frowned, hurt clearly written on his face. "I just bared my heart to you...and you laugh. I think it was you not taking me seriously, not the other way around."
"No, it's not that." Ryoma reached up and cupped Fuji's cheek in his hand. "I can say all that you did in a much simpler way." He smiled. "I love you, Fuji."
Fuji smiled and said, "But are you sure? I mean, the other day you wanted to kill me, I think, and-"
Ryoma reached up and took Fuji's face firmly between his hands, cutting off his words. "Shut up," was all he said before pressing his mouth to Fuji's. Fuji tensed a little in shock before letting his eyes fall closed again and relaxing into the contact, parting his lips to encourage Ryoma further, an encouragement that Ryoma hardly needed as he allowed his tongue to touch Fuji's and entwine with it.
Ryoma thought later that it was a good thing that kissing preempted the need for words, because there were none to describe that kiss, or how it made him feel.
Finally, a need for more oxygen then they were getting forced the two to part, faces flushed and chests heaving. "Well," Fuji said, smiling at Ryoma, "you surprised me again. I thought I would have to kiss you."
Ryoma laughed again. "I had to find some way for making up for all those flowers you surprised me with."
"Oh! That reminds me." Reluctantly drawing back from Ryoma's embrace Fuji bent to unzip his bag. "I hope they're not damaged."
"Fuji," Ryoma groaned. "Not more flowers."
"But I had to. Ah, good-they're still fine." He drew out of his bag a bouquet of small blue-purple flower clusters and presented them to Ryoma. "For you."
Ryoma looked down at the blossoms. "But...what are they?"
"Heliotrope. It's how I feel about you."
Ryoma looked confused. "You feel...like I'm a flower?"
Fuji laughed. "No, not quite. It's what the flowers mean that express what I feel about you. Every one of my gifts had meanings like that." He looked at Ryoma's blank expression. "What...didn't you know that flowers had meanings?"
"No. What do they all mean?"
"Look it up sometime." Fuji just grinned at the look of exasperation on Ryoma's face. "Ryoma?"
"You love me, right?"
"I told you that."
"And you know I love you, right Ryoma?"
Ryoma sighed. "Yes. I know."
"Well, then." Fuji rubbed his hands together and grinned. "I guess that means that I don't have take you on a date before we have sex, right?"
Ryoma just looked at Fuji and belted him with his bouquet. And then he kissed him again.
Yes, all the flowers were chosen for a reason...they weren't just some random thing I came up with. And, because I'm not as sadistic as Fuji, I won't make you look them up. Here are all the flowers used in this story with their meanings as I found them-different sources sometimes attribute different meanings to some flowers:
Rose - Love (I think that's obvious, but I had to state it anyway)
Cherry blossom - Spiritual beauty (to show that it's not all about the smut, as much as some people like to think otherwise :-p)
Daisy - Innocence (in regards to Ryoma's worldview and purity of feeling, not any other type of innocence that you might be thinking)
Tulip - Declaration of love Heliotrope - Devotion; faithfulness
No actual flowers were harmed in the writing of this fic :)