Disclaimer: If I owned PoT it would be PoS (Prince of Swimming).
Title: Zutto Soba Ni (I believe that means 'always by your side'. If I'm wrong please correct me.)
Words: 1488 (it's getting longer!)
Warnings: Eventual Golden Pair. Possible character death. (Because I'm a sadist.)
A/N: In case you somehow forgot: this is a cancer fic, but not a leukemia fic. Chapter has been edited because my beta has nothing to do with her summer. I'm sorry it takes so long for me to get these out! I really have no control over them: they write themselves. My hands just do the work. :P (Honestly, I hadn't planned for anything like this to happen in the story. Itt just kind of does...)

Much thanks to 'TheLovelyLizzy' a.k.a. Lauraness, my beta!

Dedication: Joanna (because you're amazing), Sara P., Devin, Melissa, Amanda, and Peanut.

Today was what Oishi would call "the worst day ever."

Eiji wasn't at school at all that day, and his friend was currently the only thing on his mind.

He hadn't even noticed that their rookie had looked as if he were about to faint until Tezuka had sent the younger boy home.

No, without Eiji he just wasn't complete. And it seemed the rest of the team realized it too. After missing an easy shot for the fourth time in his practice match against Momo, he had been called over by Ryuuzaki-sensei.

"Oishi!" she called and he quickly jogged over. "It's obvious tha-"

"Gomen sensei. I promise it won't happen again," he interrupted knowing that he had to ignore the fact that Eiji wasn't there and try to play well. She sighed.

"Look, we both know that you're not going to be able to play with Eiji gone, so you might as well just leave. Go visit his house – see if he's home. All I know is that he wasn't in school today."

Oishi nodded, "Arigatou sensei." He headed towards the clubhouse to pack up his things and change, trying not to feel guilty that he was skipping practice. Zipping up his bag and buttoning his navy blue school jacket, he headed out of the club house in a brisk walk and towards Eiji's house.

Ryoma mentally sighed as he tried to keep from nodding off while walking to his house. He had made it through the rest of the school day okay, but the strenuous activities involved in tennis had been enough to get him sent home.

As he was closing in on his house he heard sirens – probably an ambulance, since fires were rare – and as he turned the corner to his house he saw that it was indeed an ambulance -parked in front of his house. Slightly worried, he hurried over only to find that it was just his idiot father who had hurt himself somehow. He was just about to head inside the house when Nanako grabbed his shoulders and steered him the other way.

"Ryoma-kun, you have to come to the hospital."


"It won't take that long, I promise. Uncle was just ringing the bell with his foot again when he slipped and got caught in the ropes. They think he might have broken it."

"That's nice."

"Please Ryoma-kun?"

"Yadda." And then, despite the fact that all Ryoma really wanted to do was head upstairs and sleep, he was forced into the ambulance alongside his father (who was screaming, the idiot.) and his cousin.

Oishi was speed-walking towards Eiji's house when an ambulance passed. Praying it had nothing to do with his friend, he picked up his pace so that he was near-sprint.

Coming to a halt in front of a white door, Oishi stopped to catch his breath, gather his courage, and ring the doorbell, hoping Eiji was fine.

When nobody answered, he pressed the glowing rectangular button again, before rapping his knuckles against the door a few times.

Only as he had turned to leave did he hear the door open, and turned around to see the red eyes and face of the youngest Kikumaru girl, Chieka.

Trying not to act worried, he smiled nervously.

"Ah, Chieka-san, is Eiji home?"

Chieka's eyes became large and started to water, which Oishi could only take as a bad sign. He took a step or two back, suddenly realizing how close to the door he was, and was going to apologize for asking such a stupid question, when all of a sudden the door slammed shut. And if he knew one thing about the Kikumaru's it was that they were always polite, especially Chieka, so having a door slammed in his face was almost enough to send him into a state of panic.

He began walking down the front path, trying to calm and reassure himself, when, all of a sudden, he heard his name called out.

Turning around, Oishi was met with a pair of sad blue eyes that belonged to Daiki.

"She…never mind," Daiki trailed off. "Come in, will you?" Daiki put on a small smile and opened the door a little bit wider. Oishi nodded mutely before following the red-haired boy in.

Upon entering the house, Oishi toed off his shoes and followed Daiki into the living room where, much to his relief, Chieka was no where to be seen.

"Sit," the older boy commanded and Oishi knew that whatever he was about to be told would be extremely bad news.

"Eiji, he…we were…" The boy struggled to find the right words. "He..he's in the hospital," Daiki finished flatly. Oishi was shocked. Sure, he had known that his partner had been ill, but it was that bad?

Daiki's voice interrupted his thoughts. "Eiji…he…after school yesterday, Akina says she came home and, well…he just kind of collapsed and passed out. She couldn't get him to come to, so she called 911.

"H-he was rushed to the ER where he was just diagnosed as 'unconscious' and given a room. Then we were all called.

"T-they wanted to know if we had any idea as to what might have caused Eiji to black out. Nobody knew.

"A-after t-that they walked away for a bit, conversing by themselves, b-but then they came back and…well, they hadn't run any t-tests or anything, but they s-said that it was most l-likely c-c-cancer, and p-possibly a-"

At this point Daiki couldn't go on and instead broke down when, all of a sudden, the quiet voice of Chieka came from the doorway.

"-brain tumor."

Ryoma tried to keep from dozing off in the waiting room, but it was hard. Waiting rooms were boring and tiring enough without the added fact that he was sick. He was just about to spread out on the bench and take a short nap when Nanako came back, saying that his father had just broken his ankle and that they should have finished setting the cast and be ready to leave in about half an hour.

Ryoma got up and stretched slightly, before asking for some change and heading down the hall in hopes of finding a vending machine that sold grape-flavored Ponta.

Wandering down the white halls and following the sighs that said 'Cafeteria', he was almost to his beloved drink when he heard a somewhat-familiar voice coming from the room he had just passed.

He did a slight back-track to find that the voice was coming through a slightly open door. Deciding that he was not a cat and therefore would not get killed, he let his curiosity get the best of him and peeked through the door a very little bit.

Inside he was three people: a man who had black hair and seemed to be the oldest, a girl with bright red hair tied up in a pony tail, and his hyper red-haired senpai, Eiji.

His senpai was chatting with the other two quite naturally, so Ryoma guessed they were probably siblings or cousins, because they looked too young to be parents.

He looks fine. I wonder why he's in the hospital anyway, the younger boy thought and was just about to leave when he suddenly heard a call of "O'chibi!"

Attempting to make an escape, Ryoma turned to run down the hallway, but then felt somebody grasp his shoulder.

Turning around and trying not to show how nervous and embarrassed he was, he saw that it had been the black-haired man who had grabbed him. The man smiled warmly, before Eiji spoke again.

"O'chibi why are you here?" his senpai questioned, though he didn't seem upset, merely curious.

"Ah, my idiot father broke his leg."

"Oh, that's horrible!" The red-head seemed to genuinely mean it.

"Che, it was his own faul-" Ryoma was cut off by Nanako's voice calling for him. She spotted him through the door, which was now wide open, her face and voice worried and frantic.

"Ah, Ryoma-kun, there you are! We have to lea-" she stopped, suddenly realizing there were other people in the room. "Ah, um, hello," she said, looking flustered. The Kikumaru's smiled at her.

"Nya, are you O'chibi's sister?"

Nanako smiled and visibly relaxed. "Ah, no, I'm his cousin, Meino Nanako. Who's your friend, Ryoma-kun?"

However, before the short boy had a chance to respond, Eiji took over and said "Kikumaru Eiji, nya." It was then that Ryoma realized the cheer in the other boy's voice, while seeming somewhat genuine, was definitely semi-forced. Of course, he was in a hospital, why Ryoma still did not know, so it would make sense. Still, the thought of an un-cheerful Kikumaru-senpai scared him.

"-we'll be going then." Nanako's voice broke his thoughts as she dragged him out of the room and down the hall.

A/N: Yeah, I told you what he has. So you can stop making me feel guilty. XP Anyway, please review! Whatever it is, if it shows up on my review page I'll take it! And if you see any mistakes, please point them out!

Well, you might notice there are a lot more people this chapter is dedicated to. If you were curious, this is why: they were on my Relay for Life team. We had Relay for Life from Friday (6 pm) to Saturday (6 am, but we left at 5 since it was raining) this past weekend. It was wonderful, and I fully encourage everybody to go to www(dot)relayforlife(dot)come and find a relay near you! You can even start a team:D