By: Liz

Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me. I am using them for fun, not profit. If you sue me, all you'll get are my college loans. There's a lot of them.

Rating: T

Warnings: THIS IS A DEATHFIC! If the thought of a major character dying is disturbing, then it might be best to not read this.

Paring: FujiRyo; vaugely implied Golden Pair, Yuuta/Mizuki, Ohishitart/Gakuto, Atobe/Tezuka, Shinji/Kamio

Author's Notes: One of my students died in a car accident last night. In reaction to the sadness and grief around me, I wrote this during lunch and prep. One person can affect so many people, and grief takes all forms. I was trying to show that. This takes place in the same "world" as "5 Days," but is not meant to be a direct sequel. I'm working on something else in that universe. It just…fit best there, so reading "5 Days" might make part of this make sense, but it's not imperative.

Thisis dedicated to my student. You will always be in our thoughts.

Archiving: Anywhere, just keep my name and disclaimers attached.

Feedback is always appreciated. Flames will be ignored, then sent out to my friends so that I can't be accused selfishly of hogging the joy of mocking them.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. It wasn't supposed to end like this.

It was odd, Fuji mused absently, that the sun was still capable of shining. It shouldn't be so bright when the world has ended.

But the world hadn't ended…no, just his world.

Fuji looked at the people around him and wondered how one person could have touched so many lives.

Tezuka, stern and silent even in grief, though for the first time Fuji could remember, Tezuka's eyes looked broken, lost. Like the supports had just fallen out from underneath his world.

Oishi, his tears silently falling as he held tight to Eiji, who was sobbing into Oishi's shoulder. The Golden Pair looked so dim, as if some of their light had been forever extinguished.

Inui stood there stiffly, unable to hide behind his juices and teas for once, tears falling from behind fogged glasses. His notebook was nowhere in sight; for the first time in his life, there was no comfort to be found in data.

Kawamura wasn't burning anymore. His fire was gone, dulled forever. His eyes shone with tears that refused to fall. Some grief was too deep for tears. Fuji feltKawamura grip his hand, and wavered for the first time, but drew himself up quickly.

Kaidoh looked uncomfortable, standing there in a suit, but he looked heartsick as well. Fuji had always suspected that the two had been closer than they appeared. He stood apart from everyone else, not wanting to need support, but needing it all the same. Fuji wished for a moment that he had support and comfort to spare.

Momoshiro was broken; there was no other way to put it. He was sobbing--great uncontrollable bursts of grief that his body seemed hardly able to contain. Seeing him, tearstained, hunched in on himself, a shadow of his usual personality was almost enough to make Fuji cry. Almost.

The freshmen of old were there as well. Some, like Horio were loud in their pain, while some, like Sakuno, were quiet, almost numb. Fuji couldn't decide which was more appropriate.

There were others there as well.

Shinji stood off to the side, his muttering for once still. Beside him Kamio stood with an arm wrapped around his friend, supporting each other. The Taichibana siblings stood behind them—Ann freely crying—with the rest of their team clustered around for support, all showing their sadness.

Atobe stood near Tezuka, unobtrusively lending his support. Fuji noted that "Ore-sama" didn't seem to sparkle as brightly as he used to. Yuushi and Gakuto hovered near Eiji and Oishi, while the rest of the Hyotei team stood back, showing their support.

Out of the corner of his eye, Fuji caught a glimpse of white hair. Turning, he saw Akutsu, and next to him, a sobbing Dan. Fuji had to look away from him quickly and instead noted that "Lucky" Sengoku looked as if there could never be such a thing as good luck again. Fuji couldn't blame him.

He felt a presence next to him, and turned to see Saeki come to stand next to him, face solemn and steady. On Saeki's other side was Aoi, as demonstrative in grief as he was in joy.

A hand rested on his shoulder, and Fuji gratefully leaned back into Yuuta's touch, accepting support from this source. He could feel Yuuta's sadness, both for the person and for his brother. Mizuki was close by, trying to support both Fuji brothers. Fuji offered up a quick prayer that his brother would be spared this grief. He knew that the rest of the team members from St. Rudolph's was near, and felt their support.

And there were more, so many more. All the teams, all their past opponents were there to remember one they had all respected and, in some cases, even liked.

There was a sound, or a signal, that Fuji, lost in thought, had missed, but he knew. It was time.

He hung back, watching the others say their farewells. One by one, he watched his rivals, acquaintances, and friends cry, hug, and acknowledge the life that had touched them all.

Finally, Fuji was the only one left.

He was afraid to move. A part of him believed that if he stood there and closed his eyes, he could open them again and find that it was all a dream. That this hollow inside of him would be gone, and life would make sense again…that life would be worth living again.

"Syusuke? It's time." Time to say goodbye. Time to let go.

Stepping forward, Echizen Rinko enfolded Fuji in a hug. On his other side, Echizen Nanjiroh wrapped his arms around both his wife and his son's boyfriend. For a few minutes they just stood there, bound by the love they all had for one person.

Crying, Rinko pressed a kiss to Fuji's forehead. "Ryoma loved you, Syusuke. You made him so happy, he…." She choked back a sob. "You're always welcome in our home, Syusuke. You're our son, too." Next to his wife, Nanjiroh nodded, echoing the sentiments without being able to verbalize them, but Fuji still understood.

Reluctantly, he pulled back from the embrace. It was time.

He approached the grave, kneeling and placing a bundle down beside him, clutching at the dirt as he had once held Ryoma's hand. For a moment, he wasn't sure what to say, what to do, but then the words came.

"I want to blame myself, Ryo-chan. If I had waited for your practice to be over, if I hadn't needed film, I would've been there. Even if I couldn't have prevented it, maybe it would've been both of us, or me instead—but I can't wish that. I'd have never wanted you to feel the way I do right now.

"I love you, Ryo-chan. We're young, but I know—I knew—that you were it, the one I wanted for the rest of my life. There's no one but you, Ryo-chan, and I don't want there to be."

Fuji cleared his throat. "I'm not going to promise to never love again—we both know how unexpected love is. I'm not going to swear to follow you into death—I know that you'd want me to live. What I can promise you, what I will promise you is that I will always love you, now and forever. Even if I do find someone else, you will be the only one that I give my entire heart to."

He reached down beside him and picked up the bundle that he had placed there. "I have a last gift for you, Ryo-chan. I had wanted to spend our lives showering you in flowers, but that has been taken from us. But I will lay you to sleep the same way that I woke your heart." Unwrapping the package, Fuji gently laid the bouquet of poppies on the grave, fingers lingering on the red petals, not wanting to pull away.

"I…there's so much I want to say and not enough time to say it. A lifetime wouldn't be enough. I…I love you, Echizen Ryoma, and I always will. Think of me, wherever you are. You're always on my mind."

And the tears came. Fuji doubled over and sobbed, the harsh, body-wracking cries of a broken heart. Of one who had just lost half of himself.

Movement beside him. With Yuuta on one side of him and Tezuka on the other, Fuji allowed himself to be led up and away from the grave. It was only his body, anyway. His heart was in the ground with Ryoma.

Going inside with his family and friends, Fuji Syusuke began the rest of his life…alone.

The End.

A quick note: Poppies—Fuji's flower of choice—mean "consolation". They became closely tied with death and mourning during World War I, when the fields of Flanders where some of the bloodiest trench warfare battles occurred bloomed red with poppies in the spring. Since then, many have considered the poppy a flower for death.

Lives end sometimes, for no good reason at all other than crappy circumstances. You never know how many lives you touch...don't wait until it's too late to reach out, please.