disclaimer: not mine

warnings: AU, slash

Chapter 1

He was standing there again. The new student who had joined Seigaku Senior High four weeks after term had started. Every day without fail he would show up at the fence to the courts and watch the team practice, white sports cap pulled low and hands shoved in his trouser pockets.

As soon as anyone approached him though, he vanished, swiftly as his own disappearing serve. He looked delicate and a bit too thin as far as could be determined, the school's uniform doing a good job at concealing one's body after all.

"Oy, Fuji, what are you looking at?" Eiji bounced over to the tensai, curious as a kitten. "Is one of the fan club girls stalking you again?" Looking at where his team mate was gazing, he waved his right hand. "Oh, it's him. Don't mind him; he's a bit peculiar, that one. Doesn't socialize much, but he's nice enough."

Turning Fuji smiled innocently at him. "You know him then?"

"Hai, hai, he's in my class, he's a year younger though. I guess he got promoted, he's really smart."


"His name's Echizen, Echizen Ryoma."

Fuji leaned against a wall, calmly waiting for his redheaded friend to make an appearance. It had been some time since they had had lunch together and Eiji had promised to join him today.

When the door to the roof opened he turned, expecting to see his energetic friend. Instead he was met by a pair of startled golden-brown, catlike eyes staring out of a pale, delicately structured face crowned with short green hair.

Just as the younger boy turned around to leave, the door opened again to reveal a hurrying Eiji. "Fuji, sorry I'm late, but I met Oishi on the way and…oh, hello, Echizen. Want to join us for lunch?"

Fuji's smile widened as Eiji linked arms with the reluctant boy and dragged him along to where he was standing. The redhead was truly a force of nature when he wanted something to go his way.

"Ah, thank you Kikumaru-senpai, but I don't have a bento, so…" the younger boy tried unsuccessfully to free his arm out of the redhead's grip.

"All the more reason to eat with us, we can share my bento then."

"I don't want to trouble you."

"It really is no trouble, my sister always makes my bento extra large because I usually eat lunch with Momo who steals half of it, which Fujiko won't do, so there would be left over anyway."

Upon hearing the young boy's feeble arguments and how Eiji shot them down Fuji's smile widened. Lunch promised to be entertaining today, indeed.

"Fuji, meet Echizen. He's the one who's always watching us train, though he usually hides his face behind his cap." Fuji nodded friendly at the blushing boy.

"Echizen, this is Fuji. We've been friends since forever. He's one of the best players of the team."

"Konnichiwa, Fuji-senpai." Echizen bowed.

Ryoma felt trapped. He did like Kikumaru-senpai well enough, but he wasn't in the mood for company. He hadn't felt well all morning and he knew it would get worse.

For the last year there had only been bad and worse days for him and today seemed to be one of the latter ones. He felt weak and dizzy and his stomach slowly started to cramp up. He just wanted to lay down somewhere and rest.

And he was pretty sure that Kikumaru-senpai's friend was staring at him.

Tiredly he closed his eyes. It wouldn't take long for his two companions to finish their bentos, at least he hoped so. Then he could be ill in peace. He just had to hold out a little while longer.

Just as his stomach was already lurching, Kikumaru-senpai offered him one of his octopus wiener.

Slowly shaking his head, Ryoma fought the bout of violent sickness down that the sight had induced.

"No, thank you, Kikumaru-senpai. I'm really not hungry." he smiled weakly, trying to hide how unwell he felt.

Judging by the looks he got from both senpai his acting skills left a lot to be desired.

Fuji frowned when he boy once again declined Eiji's offered food, this time with a positively grey face. Echizen wasn't simply shy, he decided. Actually he looked like he might be violently ill any second now.

"Echizen-kun, are you feeling unwell? Do you need to go to the nurse's office?" he asked.

Golden eyes that seemed to have trouble with focusing looked startled at him. Yet, the boy stubbornly shook his head.

Eiji didn't look like he believed it either. "Echizen, you are white as a wall. I'm going to get the nurse. Fuji, you look after him." Fast as the wind the redhead was out of the door and down the stairs.

"Echizen-kun, you should lay down."

When he didn't get an answer, he opened his eyes. The young boy lied curled up on his side, eyes closed, trying to breathe deeply through his nose.

Worriedly he sat down next to him, watching as small hands cramped up in obvious pain. He didn't like to see people in pain, well, not this kind of pain, he liked the pain of his unfortunate victims well enough. So he did what he used to do whenever his little brother got sick and started to card through the boy's surprisingly silky hair, whispering all the while variations of "it will get better".

Echizen's forehead felt hot, the boy obviously ran a fever. He really hoped Eiji would come back soon, because the greenhead didn't seem to get better at all.

What had the boy possessed to come to school that ill anyway?

Lost in thought he was surprised when a small hand caught his and interrupted his hair-stroking.

"You can stop now. I'm alright." he was informed by a slightly hoarse voice.

Still feeling a bit weak, Ryoma stood up, dislodging the senpai's hands from his body in the process.

He felt incredibly embarrassed to have been caught in a moment of weakness and been cared for by a stranger. Annoyed at himself he bowed towards the older boy.

"Thank you for your help. I'll be going now."

Ignoring the utter disbelief on the other's face he turned and left.

When a slightly out of breath Eiji ran onto the rooftop ten minutes later he said, still bend over his knees to get more air into his lungs: "The nurse said to go see her later if you feel unusually ill. And what exactly did she mean by that anyway, Echizen?"

"You will have to ask him after class, he has already left, Eiji." his friend informed him.

"What?! He left? How could he have left? He looked really ill, too."

"Actually I think he felt embarrassed."

Fuji's smiling mask was already back in place, but Eiji got the sudden feeling that his younger classmate had roused the tensai's interest.

"Poor soul. Poor, poor soul." he thought.

Eiji didn't get a chance to talk to his kohei at class though. After the bell rang the boy dashed off, displaying a speed that any sprinter would have envied.

"Mou. I really wanted to talk to him." Eiji muttered darkly.

Therefore he wasn't really surprised that Echizen didn't watch their team practice. The green haired boy was an enigma and a very reserved one at that.

Seeing that the tensai had glanced at the place where Echizen usually hid, with for once opened eyes, he was pretty sure that the boy wouldn't remain an enigma for long.

Still, perhaps he should warn him about Fuji.

"Oh, well, it cannot be helped. He already attracted his attention, nyah." he said out loud.

"What are you talking about, Eiji?" Momoshirou, one of his team mates wanted to know.

"Fuji seems to find one of my class mates interesting, is all and I was thinking about whether I should warn him or not, nyah." Eiji answered, crossing his arms.

The three people surrounding him shuddered at the thought of rousing the tensai's interest and said simultaneously: "Poor soul."