BORDERLESS
By: Angel (Adlina)
Disclaimer: Not mine, so no suing. I'm already poor as it is TT
Rating: PG-13 (Actually, I'm not really sure myself…)
Pairing: Tezuka x Ryoma
Word Count: 3560 words
Answer to pillarchallenge (at livejournal) Challenge #9 : Horizon.
Written under the influence of the songs 'Yakusoku', 'Fly High' and 'Hikari no Saki'.

AN: First tenipuri/ tezuryo fic. Pardon the OOCness, if there's any.

The racket fell to the floor with a loud thump. The sound it made as it touched the hard ground delivered a dreadful sense of finality. They had won, but did it mean anything now?

He ran, and ran, and ran towards the fallen figure before anyone else could. The same words echoed endlessly in his mind. 'This isn't happening!' Cradling the boy in his shaking arms, he received a sad smile. When a delicate hand touched his cheek, he couldn't fool himself anymore. He finally realised that everything was real.

It was then that he noticed that he was crying for the first time after so long. The words that seemed like they were said just a minute ago resounded in his mind.

"So long as my eyes can see the distant horizon and far beyond…

I will always love you…

And even that doesn't compare to how far my feelings for you truly extend."

Angel presents
" BORDERLESS "
A Tezuka x Ryoma Story

"Ne, Kunimitsu…"

"Hmm?"

"What do you think lies beyond the horizon? How far do you think it stretches?"

"What's with the sudden questions?"

A shrug. "Just curious. Really, what do you think?"

". . . I think. . ."

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Tezuka Kunimitsu's eyes fluttered open at the sudden brightness invading his personal space of a bedroom. His grandmother offered him a gentle smile just as Tezuka sat up straight on his bed and put his glasses on. "It is rare for you to wake up this late, Kunimitsu. Come down soon. Your breakfast is getting cold." Tezuka only answered with a simple nod and watched as the warm-hearted elderly lady left his room. He took a good look at the small calendar on his study table. He didn't know why but he felt like he had forgotten something very important. He had this strange ache and hollow feeling in his heart that just refused to go away.

It was Sunday. He didn't have anything scheduled for this day, not even a tennis practice. His exam was over just two weeks ago, so Tezuka didn't really have much to do. Maybe he could ask his boyfriend out for a change. It was always the other boy who initiated their dates. It was almost 9.00am, so Tezuka had better change soon. Reaching for his cell phone, Tezuka quickly dialled the number he had already memorised by heart.

A ring…

Three rings…

Six rings…

Click! A bored voice sounded after seven rings. "Hello, you've reached the mailbox of Echizen Ryoma. Leave a message after the beep ONLY if you have something important to say."

- Beep! -

Tezuka almost released a chuckle. It was so like Ryoma to be that curt even in his answering machine. "Ryoma-kun, I was wondering if you'd like to spend time together with me today. I'll be waiting at our usual spot. See you there."

With that said, Tezuka put his cell phone back on the table and changed. Before leaving the comfort of his room, he noticed that his tennis racket was nowhere in sight. 'Ah, right. I put it in Ryoma's bag before.' He greeted his grandparents downstairs and took his Japanese breakfast. His grandmother had reheated his meal before he came down. After breakfast, the feeling of emptiness in his heart remained. Tezuka was at lost as to what he should do. Could it be that it was because he hadn't played tennis for three days?

The now 18-year-old shook his head, answering negatively to his own question. Contrary to popular belief, his life did not revolve around tennis. He had his fair share of affairs which were not related to tennis too, and that included a seventeen-year-old tennis prodigy known otherwise as Echizen Ryoma. Truthfully, Tezuka couldn't remember how their relationship started. He couldn't even remember how they changed from Tezuka-buchou and Echizen to Kunimitsu and Ryoma. Day by day, the amount of words they spoke to each other grew. It wasn't long before they shared their first kiss. It was so easy for Tezuka to smile with Ryoma around. The younger boy had an invisible calming air gyrating around him, which unknowingly affected everyone around him in a good way. It made Tezuka happy just to think about Ryoma, his Ryoma.

What was this hollow feeling, then?

Tezuka always did the dishes after his meal. Just as he finished, it started to rain. Eyes narrowed, he sighed. It started as small drizzle before settling into full-blown rain. There was no way they could go out in such heavy rain. The bespectacled young man headed back to his room. He reached for his phone and dialled a number so familiar to him for the second time that day.

"Hello, you've reached the mailbox of Echizen Ryoma. Leave a message after the beep ONLY if you have something important to say."

- Beep! -

"Looks like we have to wait until the rain stops. I'll see you there later."

Tezuka hung up. He uncharacteristically fell back onto his bed with both hands crossed behind his head. Something felt wrong but Tezuka wasn't able to pinpoint it.

What did he miss?

What did he forget?

The unsettling emotion annoyed him to no end. Wasn't he the one who always reminded his team to never let their guards down? Somehow, it felt like he had let his guard down and he didn't know how or why it happened. Sighing audibly, Tezuka closed his eyes. He had to find the source of his disconcerting emotion. It did not do to meet Ryoma in such mood.

. . . . . .o

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The sound of his cell phone vibrating plus the loud ringing tone brought Tezuka back from his reverie. Reprimanding himself inwardly for letting his guard down, he answered the phone without looking at the caller ID. He knew who the caller was from the assigned ringing tone.

"Ryoma?" he asked carefully.

"The rain stopped."

"Eh?" Blinking in confusion, Tezuka looked out of the window. Indeed, it had stopped raining. Maybe he had fallen asleep thinking. "I didn't realise that."

Ryoma chuckled. "Hmm, that isn't like you. Are you sure you're okay, Kunimitsu?"

Tezuka smiled, he knew Ryoma could feel his smile even though they couldn't see each other. "I'm perfectly fine."

"In that case, you'd better be here before I change my mind and go home."

"Where are you?"

"Where do you think I am?"

He heard the sound of birds merrily chirping in the background and immediately knew where his boyfriend was. Before Tezuka could say anything, he heard another chuckle from the other boy before the call was disconnected. It was so like Ryoma to do such a thing even to his boyfriend. The ex-captain of Seishun Gakuen Tennis Club took everything that he thought was necessary before setting off to his and Ryoma's special meeting spot. It wasn't really a secret place. The rest of Seigaku regulars had been there once, led by Oishi Syuuichiro. They had had the privilege of watching a beautiful sunrise from there.

When Ryoma came back from the US, it somehow became their favourite place when they're not so hung up on tennis. It was comfortable to just sit next to each other, just watching the passing clouds or sometimes, the scenic setting of the sun.

Tezuka being Tezuka, he wasn't even panting when he reached the top to find Ryoma flashing him a cheeky smile. "You're 15 minutes late," the boy stated; a look of challenge was in his eyes. The older boy said nothing. He greeted Ryoma with a chaste kiss on the lips before they resolved to sit side by side to watch the bright blue sky like they always did before.

"Look," Ryoma exclaimed softly and pointed. A beautiful rainbow stretched wonderfully across the horizon. Both of them watched in silent awe. Such little wonder of nature could mean so much if one truly appreciated life. "It's wonderful, isn't it?" Tezuka only nodded. He did not trust his words to express what he truly felt. After all, Tezuka Kunimitsu was not at all strong when it came to expressing his views verbally.

They sat in silence, admiring the view. The wind was exceptionally friendly towards both of them that day though it still carried a distant chill from the rain a while ago.

After a few moments of just sitting and watching, Ryoma decided to break the silence. "Ne, Kunimitsu…"

"Hmm?"

"What do you think lies beyond the horizon? How far do you think it stretches?"

The questions surprised Tezuka. He couldn't help but feel a strong sense of Deja Vu at the questions. Was it just him or had they been through this before? He had this distant feeling that he had had this conversation with ryoma before. "What's with the sudden questions?"

A shrug. "Just curious. Really, what do you think?"

Tezuka didn't know how to answer the questions. Didn't he mention before that he was never good with words? He knew Ryoma expected nothing but truth and honesty from his answers and he seriously did not want to disappoint his younger boyfriend.

". . . It's a total mystery, I think. Just like we'll never know where rainbows start or where they end. It's just like we'll never know how far we can truly go in tennis (Ryoma snorted at the comparison, saying that Tezuka really couldn't be separated from tennis.) even though we seem to hear others talking about us here and there every now and then. The horizon is borderless, Ryoma. There are so many possibilities that lie beyond. It would be impossible for us to precisely predict what's waiting for us out there."

"Which means that we should never ever give up, right?" asked Ryoma.

Tezuka nodded with a smile. He surprised even himself with his lengthy answer. The pleased look on Ryoma's face was worth it, though. Without warning, the young prodigy buried his face in Tezuka's chest. "Then promise me one thing, Kunimitsu."

"What is it?"

"Promise me that you will never give up no matter what happens; that you will pursue your dreams in life even though things threaten to bring you to tears against your will."

Ryoma was clutching his shirt now, causing Tezuka to tighten his hold on the smaller boy. He had never seen Ryoma like this before. He looked so fragile. It almost felt like their role has been reversed. The unsettling feelings he felt before returned to reside in his suddenly constricting chest. Holding the boy close, Tezuka whispered into his ears. Just because he rarely spoke much didn't meant that he couldn't be romantic once in a while. "I promise you that. And I promise that so long as my eyes can see the distant horizon and far beyond, I will always love you. And even that doesn't compare to how far my feelings for you truly extend."

Ryoma snorted, but Tezuka knew the boy was touched. "That sounded cheesy but I love you too anyway." They broke their hold on each other and Ryoma stood. He took a penknife out of his pocket and carved something on the nearest tree trunk. Tezuka raised his eyes questionably.

"That's a crime against nature, you know."

The other paid no heed to his boyfriend's playful remark. He tugged Tezuka's sleeve to come forward and view his masterpiece. The latter smiled as he read what Ryoma carved onto the wood:

Kunimitsu,

Reach further beyond the horizon!

- Ryoma. E. -

"When I'm not by your side, Kunimitsu, I'll watch over you from there," Ryoma said, pointing the sky. He took Tezuka's tennis racket out from his bag and handed it over to the latter. "You should keep this by your side all the time. One's tennis racket is his and his alone."

Without warning, the soothing wind turned aggressive around them. "What the - - Ryoma!" Everything was blurry in the violent wind. Oddly enough, Ryoma stood unaffected in front of Tezuka. He was staring at the sky in wonder as the wind continued to assault them. "The horizon is borderless… ne, Kunimitsu?" As he turned to look at Tezuka, the latter was shocked to find tears trickling down Ryoma's young cheeks. His face bore the saddest smile Tezuka had ever seen.

"R…Ryoma?"

"You know what? My love for you is borderless too."

The wind was so heavy that Tezuka found it hard to open his eyes. He blindly searched for his boyfriend through the rough wind to find nothing. "Ryoma, where are you!"

"I'm here," a distant voice answered. "I'm always here. And I'll always be here."

Why did Ryoma's voice sound so distant? "Ryoma!"

"Open your eyes, Kunimitsu."

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Tezuka opened his eyes with a start, and looked around. He was lying on his bed, in his room, at his house – alone. It was still raining outside. He was panting so heavily that his chest hurt. Jumping unusually out of bed, he reached for his cell phone. He checked for any call that he might have missed during his unexpected nap.

Nothing.

His hand shook as he checked his phone's record of received calls.

Received calls: 10 Entries
01 – Fuji
02 – Oishi
03 – Ryuuzaki-sensei
04 – Momoshiro
05 – Kikumaru
06 – Kawamura
07 – Inui
08 – Atobe
09 – Kaidoh
10 – Echizen Household

There were no calls, e-mails or text messages from Ryoma. The last call he received was from Fuji, and that was three days ago. Cold dread gripped Tezuka. The unsettling feeling increased tenfold, before finally morphing into a painful realisation.

Tezuka ran.

He paid no heed to his grandparents' worried yell. He needed to run fast. He didn't care that it was raining, nor did he care about the chilling breath of air continuously assaulting his drenched form. He just knew that he needed to go the place he and Ryoma usually spend their time together in comfortable silence…

Because he remembered…

He finally remembered what he had forgotten…

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"ECHIZEN WON! WE WON! THE CHAMPIONSHIP IS OURS!" Students of Seigaku High screeched with joy. Ryoma's victory against Rikkai High's Yukimura signalled the victory of Seigaku High in the tournament. They'd won the Nationals Championship! Everyone was clapping and cheering; it was hard to tell which voice is whose.

Drip…

Drip…

Drip…

One look at the victor and the stadium was plunged into silence.

Blood was dripping from Echizen Ryoma's nose and mouth.

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The intensity of the rain started to subside; Tezuka kept running.

. . . . . .o

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"E.. Echizen…" Momoshiro stammered, his feet glued to the floor. Even Fuji had his eyes open at the traumatising sight.

Ryoma's racket fell to the floor with a loud thump. The sound it made as it touched the hard ground delivered a dreadful sense of finality. The boy's body followed his racket on the ground.

They had won, but did it mean anything now?

Tezuka ran, and ran, and ran towards the fallen figure before anyone else could. The same words echoed endlessly in his mind. 'This isn't happening!' Cradling the boy in his shaking arms, he received a sad smile. When a delicate hand touched his cheek, he couldn't fool himself anymore. He finally realised that everything was real.

It was then that he noticed that he was crying for the first time after so long. The words that seemed like they were said just a minute ago resounded in his mind.

. . . . . .o

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By the time Tezuka reached the top, the rain had stopped completely. Colourful rainbows stretched across the brightening sky as if to show off in front of the panting Tezuka. The young man's eyes, however, were not paying attention to the rainbows. His eyes were trained to one of the trees. His white racket was leaning against the tree like someone had just left it there. It wasn't even wet. With shaking hands, Tezuka took hold of the racket.

It was the same racket that he had forgotten for almost three days.

He brought his gaze back to the tree before him. His other hand slowly caressed the surface where words were hastily carved. His hands were shaking violently but Tezuka refused to let go of his tennis racket. As he silently read the words, drops of warm clear liquids started to spill from his hazel eyes.

Kunimitsu,

Reach further beyond the horizon!

- Ryoma. E. -

The more he remembered, the more he cried.

It was brain tumour, a fatal one at that. They never did diagnosed Ryoma with the illness beforehand. Ryoma himself never felt anything wrong with his body. If he did, he had done an excellent job hiding it from everyone else. The doctor could do nothing. The tennis prodigy stopped breathing a few hours after he was rushed to Tokyo General Hospital.

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"Tezuka!" Fuji tried to stop his friend from leaving. Everyone else had left the cemetery after the funeral. The only ones remaining were the Regulars of Seigaku High Tennis Club. Tezuka shrugged Fuji's hand off of his shoulder unceremoniously. Not even a single word escaped him. "Tezuka, Echizen wouldn't want you to do this."

Oishi and Momoshiro also tried to reason with him. They were all mourning the loss of the one who was so meaningful to them. Tezuka said nothing. He ignored his friend's reasoning and left the cemetery. On the freshly covered grave was a white tennis racket Tezuka used to treasure so much.

He got to know Ryoma because of tennis…

and tennis had betrayed him by taking Ryoma away from him.

Their dreams were shattered into millions of irreparable pieces.

Tezuka Kunimitsu never wanted to play tennis again.

. . . . . .o

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Tezuka was so blinded by his pain of losing Ryoma that he forgot what had happened. He forgot that fateful day. He forgot the last time Ryoma's cold hand touched his damp cheek. He forgot the sorrowful smile the boy gave him before surrendering to eternal darkness. He even forgot his promise to the younger boy.

"Promise me that you will never give up no matter what happens; that you will pursue your dreams in life even though things threaten to bring you to tears against your will."

Ryoma had appeared in his dream to remind him once again of the promise he once made. He had made Tezuka make the same promise to him all over again. Tezuka was ashamed for he almost broke his promise to his precious. He had to stop running from the truth. For the past few days, Tezuka had been living in delusion. His broken heart blinded his mind from the truth. He even turned off his cell phone for the past three days to shield himself from the pain he felt. From this moment on, he would go on. He would pursue his dream in tennis for himself and for Ryoma.

Tezuka brought his gaze up to the bright sky. Indeed, the no one can see beyond the horizon. It was borderless.

"You know what? My love for you is borderless too."

Tezuka knew it now, and he vowed to never forget. It would take him a long time to heal but he refused to forget no matter what happened along the way. Maybe it was impossible for one to see beyond the horizon, but Tezuka knew what lies out there.

"When I'm not by your side, Kunimitsu, I'll watch over you from there."

Beyond the horizon was his beloved, watching over him with warm hazel eyes. He might be so far away, but he would always be so near. As Tezuka closed his eyes to feel the chilling air brushing his skin, he thought he heard a small sound whispering to his ear. "I'm here," a distant voice echoed from somewhere. "I'm always here. And I'll always be here."

Echizen Ryoma would always live in Tezuka Kunimitsu's heart for as long as eyes could see the horizon and far beyond.

"So long as my eyes can see the distant horizon and far beyond…

I will always love you…

And even that doesn't compare to how far my feelings for you truly extend."

- Finis -

I have long since resigned to the fact that I am no good at writing stories outside the genres 'Angst', 'Drama' and 'Tragedy'. I can't write humour even if my life depended on it XP. This is my first real (not counting the drabbles) TezuRyo fic. I'm sorry for killing Ryoma TT Please don't kill me for that! I just want an emotional Tezuka for a change.

As for how the tennis racket could be there… Well, I'll just leave it to your imagination.