K: Well, yet another story posted in, what, a week and a half...? Well, something in that style... Seems the stress for the exames gives me tons of inspiration:) Anyway, enjoy!!

Photographs Fade With Time

By: K

Chapter one

Tachibana's POV

I hold up my camera. Taking the right angle to shoot. The light is perfect. The sun is behind me, illuminating the court.

The four of them are playing. Outside. Two against two. Hitonari and Yamazaki versus Kanemoto and Harumoto. Do we even doubt who's going to win…?

Zooming in, I try to catch his expression. Concentrated. Joy. The will to win and be the best. It's all there. Every curve of his face tells me something about how he feels. His eyes are sparkling. Of course they are. He is playing. And winning for that matter…

A series of fast shots. Trying to capture the blond basketball god while he's running. Sweat is dripping down his face onto his neck and back. His arms and hands are clammy, yet his grip on the ball doesn't weaken.

I click again. Several shots after each other. A lay up. Perfectly captured on paper. The jump, the arms moving upwards, shooting the ball, the descending and the landing.

I zoom out again. Trying to collect the sphere on the court. Taking some general shots. Kanemoto passing to Harumoto. The Big Magnum Three-Pointer. Yamazaki taking the rebound.

Perfect…

Smiling I turn and walk back home. None of them know that photography is a hobby of mine. None of them know that they have been the subjects of my collages so often before. And I prefer to keep it that way.

Dark clouds cover the sky. I look up. It won't be long before it starts raining. Looking back down at the camera in my hand, I sigh and start running. I can't allow it to get wet now, can I?

My key opens the door at the same time as the first raindrop falls down. I slam the door shut behind me. Kicking of my shoes. Dropping my vest wherever it wants to fall. Not really caring about it.

Walking through the living room, passing the kitchen, and throughout my bedroom. Standing still before a black door. A warning sign hangs in the middle of it.

"Danger! Forbidden to enter!"

And I know that 'till now, I have been the only one who has ever set foot in this room. No one else has seen the inside but me. My mother doesn't care about this space. I show her everything when it is finished anyway. As for my team mates and friends, they have never even seen this door. For the simple reason that normally, I hang a cloth before it. So, everybody thinks it's just some decoration on my wall.

I smile and enter. The darkness of the area is complete, and actually, it fits me quiet well. I immediately shut the entrance behind me. Turning on the red light, I place my camera on the table. Carefully avoiding the pictures that are hanging up to dry, I walk to the other side of the room. Photos are lying sprawled over the table. Yes, still the same counter as where I put my camera on. It is a very small room. After all, I do not need a lot of space for this.

I take the snapshot's up and cautiously lay them in the closet on my left.

My hands quickly prepare the baths necessary to develop today pictures.

Reaching out I can just grape my camera. With gentle care I take out the film. Time to set up these afternoons photographs…

- - - - - - -

Walking out of the photo-room, as I tend to call it, I can see through the open doors that my mother is home. And, guessing by the smell, she's making a katsudon…

She smiles when she sees me. Giving me a quick hug.

"Well, what happened today? You're smiling just a bit too enthusiastic…"

I set myself down when she gives me my dinner.

"Made a very nice shoot this afternoon. It was a two against two. Outside. Hito and Yama versus Kanemoto and Haru…"

Her eyes lit up in understanding and she nods.

"Show me later…?"

It isn't really a question. Because she knows I will. I always show her.

Dinner passes by in a comfortable silence.

- - - - - - - -

"They're really good. Did they know you were there?"

I shake my head. 'Course not. Chuckling softly I try to imagine their faces if they find out that I love photographing almost as much as basket. Of course the last one holds the first place without any doubt.

Feeling my mother's eyes on me, I look up. Meeting her gaze steadily.

"I think you should tell him…"

The words are whispered and her voice is soft and caring.

I quickly turn my head away. My eyes closed. I can't. How can I possibly tell him? He's my team mate. My friend. For me he even is my best friend. Even though we do argue and fight quiet a lot…But he's the only one who's that close to me. The first one I have ever allowed to come that close. No, I cannot tell him. He will hate me for that. It certainly isn't an option…

The doorbell brings me back to reality. Noticing that my mother has disappeared into the kitchen.

"I'll open it!"

Within five seconds I'm at the door. He's standing there.

Outside I am my normal self. Yet inside… It's the same as always when I'm with him. Certainly when we're alone… I can't explain. Part of me seems frozen. As if nothing works anymore. The other part is hyper. Thinking everything works.

I'm about to make one of my sarcastic comments when I catch the look in your eyes. I know that gaze…

"Come in…"

Stepping aside, I let him do just so.

He knows his way here, and walks to the living room. Greeting my mother on his way in. But his tone is so flat and everything that I see tells me, that this time, it really isn't good…

We set ourselves on the couch. The same one as I was sitting in with my mother not yet ten minutes ago.

"I hate him…"

Such soft whispered words that I really doubt whether I've heard them correctly. But I know I have. And he knows as well…

I remain silence. Sensing that he needs it. No need for me to drag it out of him. I know he will tell me when he is ready. It's kind of funny. I am the only one he can talk to about those things. He knows I won't judge. No matter how I may act in public. He knows me better by now…

"Why can't he accept my choices?"

Unnecessary to ask who he is… His father is the only one who really hates the fact that Hitonari is here. The others may not be happy about it, but they acknowledge his choices. His father does not…

His voice is incredibly soft. For me it even sounds broken. And that simply isn't right… He's strong. He is the one that brought me back to basket. He is the reason that I still play. The whole team depends on him. It is because of him that we all want to win, that we became better. As well as a team as individual. So… this just doesn't fit.

"He keeps on nagging that I need to leave all this. That I could be so much better, so much more. Ha, he even told me, and I quote, 'that I should take my rightful place next to my brother.' What only means in the shadow of my oh so wonderful big brother… And, I quote again, 'Do not dare to bring any more shame over this family than you already have. If you keep on playing there, for that stupid team, you will have nothing to do with this house anymore. If you stay there, you are no son of mine any longer.' … That's when he slammed down the phone…"

I just sit there. What can I do? I am shocked. And that doesn't happen often, nor soon. But right now, I am at a loss for words. What can I say? What can I possibly say? I for certain do not want him to go. But I can not ask him to stay either. To abandon his family…

He sighs and buries his head in his hands. I crawl closer and hesitantly wrap an arm around his shoulders. I can feel him tense under the touch. And I am about to withdraw when he let his head rest against my shoulder.

My mother is suddenly standing before us. Two cups of tea in her hands. Without uttering as much as a word, she places them on the table. For the first time since Hitonari came in, I notice the photos. They are still laying spread across the table.

I look up to see mom smiling. 'You should tell him…' She's mouthing the same words as she told me earlier this evening. Before she vanishes into the kitchen again… Leaving the two of alone once more.

A small sob escapes his lips and a sudden shaking of his shoulders betrays his tears.

Wrapping both arms around his, I hold him close. Gently rubbing his back.

Does this mean he has already taken a decision?

I close my eyes. No, mom, you're wrong. This one time you are wrong… I should not tell him. I cannot meddle in his decision. It's up to him. Not me…

"I don't want to go…"

The hurt in his voice is obvious and I already know what is going to follow. Already feeling a stab of pain pierce my heart. I don't want him to go either. Yet I can't tell him that, can I?

"I don't want to leave this, but I cannot abandon my family as if they were nothing…"

He looks up to me. Blue-grey eyes asking forgiveness.

I nod.

"I know. I would do the same. Beside… It's just a sport…"

We both know that I didn't mean that last sentence though. He knows I'm only trying to reassure him. Tell him that it is okay. Whatever he decides, it is al right.

He stands up. Looking down at the photos. His eyes widen a little bit and I curse myself for having them left there…

"You made them?"

I can do nothing else but nod dumbly.

His hands are shaking when he picks them up. Leaning my head back on the couch, I close my eyes. Fine, so now he knows my passion for photography. But will he also guess my feelings for him? Most of the pictures are of him. Surely that will look suspicious, not?

I look up at him when his fingers gently nudge my shoulder.

"They're beautiful…"

He's smiling. A small smile and uncertain. But it is a smile.

"You've got more of them?"

For a moment I remain silent and I know that it is as well an answer to him.

Standing up, I beckon him to follow me. We enter my room and he looks at me in non understanding. I grin while I pull away the cloth. Reveling the hidden door. His eyes widen for the second time in ten minutes.

I open the door, motioning him that he has to enter. He steps in the darkness and I follow. Putting on the light. Closing the door behind me. I lean against it.

There are still some pictures hanging up. It's not that they still need to dry. No, they're just my favorites.

He looks closely at them. I can see on his face that he realizes by now that most of them are about him.

"The others are in the closet."

I point at the closet and he walks over to it. Taking them out. Looking through them.

"You're good…"

Surprise is written all over my face and he chuckles softly. But honest, he doesn't easy give compliments. I smile. Nodding my thanks.

He looks around once more. Then at me. Our eyes lock a couple of seconds. Then they move back to the snapshots in his hand.

He may think I haven't noticed, but I have. I have seen the little plea in his orbs.

He doesn't want to leave, yet he has to. I know what he's about to ask, but I can't. Please, don't ask me to do that. Don't ask me for a reason. I can't give him one…

The moment he looks up again, I start speaking.

"If you want some, you can take them…"

I can see his eyes cloud over for a second. I know he understands my inner struggle.

"Yes. Thanks. I would like to have some. I only now realize that I don't have any photos of the team…"

I wish I could help him. How I want to tell him that he can't go back. Honest, I want nothing more than to tell him that. But I can't. I can't take away his family. I can't be the reason for that…

A knock on the door brings both of us back from our thoughts. One look on his face is enough to tell me that we were thinking the same.

I open the door and we walk out. My mother is standing before us.

"It's already late and dark. Are you staying tonight?"

Shaking my head unnoticeable, I smile. Knowing exactly what she's up to. But it won't work. I won't tell him…

"If it isn't to much trouble."

Mom shakes her head. She has always loved him.

I quickly prepare the guest room. It's right next to mine.

- - - - - - - - -

For the thousandths time this night I turn on my other side. I can't seem to get to sleep. So many things are on my mind. He's leaving. Tomorrow… It's so soon. I don't even get a fair chance to say goodbye…

He called Minefuji this evening. Explained her everything. She said she'd tell the guys at training tomorrow.

A deep sigh escapes my lips. I don't want him to go. I don't want to say goodbye. And believe me, I will not say that word tomorrow afternoon. I will not. I refuse to say "goodbye".

Even though I'm deeply lost in thoughts, I can hear silent footsteps approach my room. Before the door however, they halt. I frown and close my eyes. Listening very intently for the slightest of noise. Nothing… Am I imagining things?

My eyes shoot open when some one enters my room. Hitonari… What's he doing here?

Stopping right beside my bed, he sets himself down on his knees before it. His arms resting on the mattress. His head on his arms.

"Sorry I woke you up…"

Shaking my head softly I answer in the same whispering voice.

"I wasn't sleeping."

He remains silent, yet he keeps looking at me. And I find myself unable to tear away my gaze. Knowing that if this goes on any longer, I will not be able to hide my feelings.

"Sorry I came in here… It is in the middle of the night after all…"

Once again I shake my head.

"It's okay…"

Although I do not question him, I know my orbs do.

He sighs softly and looks away.

"I just didn't want to be alone…"

I stare at him. Did I just hear what I think I heard? I can't believe he actually said that.

Rolling over to the farthest side of the bed, I fling away the sheets. A silent invitation. He crawls in next to me. Face to face. I pull the cover over him.

This can't be happening. Are my dreams, my fantasies turning into reality? Or did I fall asleep without noticing?

He closes his eyes. Giving me the perfect opportunity to observe him. The outlines of his face. There is so much to look at. So much that captivates me. So much that's intriguing me. I know what I want to do. I want to bring my hand up and touch his face gently. I want to caress his hair. I want to kiss those lips. Lips that are slightly parted… Like an invitation…

No, come on Akane, stop daydreaming… Well, more like 'nightdreaming'…

He shivers and tries to curl up a bit without disturbing me. I can feel a smile tug at the corners of my lips and I inch just a little closer to him. Hesitantly I drape my arm over his waist. Curious to his reaction.

His eyes open. He just looks at me. There is a whirl of emotions in his blue-grey eyes. Going from surprise to joy to something I can't place. Why would he be happy? Could it be…? No, stop, don't allow yourself to hope Akane…

His breathing caresses my cheek and my sight focuses on the man before me. I haven't even noticed him coming closer… What is he…

My trail of thoughts is cut of abruptly when he brushes his lips over mine. Soft. Gentle. Way to short.

Our eyes lock and I can see little sparks dancing in his. A twinkling mixed with a far distance presence of fear. I smile and close the gab between us again. Lips meet once more. With more pressure this time.

I can't believe this.

Mouths open. Tongues meet. It is a dance. Unknown by both of us. Yet very familiar. My hand finally reaches up. Leaving his waist. Gently touching his cheek. Traveling upwards from there to caress his hair. His own palm is resting against my heart.

We break of. Foreheads touching each other. Arms around one other. Just holding each other. For the moment we need nothing more. Just to be near each other is enough. For now at least.

Because all of a sudden the painful reality kicks back in. He'll leave tomorrow…

- - - - - - -

Five minutes. Five miserable minutes for me to stand next to him. Five minutes where my heart is slowly dying.

"When I've sent the message that I would return, I could almost see his superior, victorious grin…"

I look aside. His voice sounded rough and now I can see why. He's holding back tears… My Hitonari is close to crying…

And suddenly I don't care. I don't care we're at the railway station. I don't care that there are lots people here… I don't care about anything but him. And to see the beautiful person close to shedding tears…

I take his hand in mine. Squeezing it gently. Support without words. I don't trust my voice to speak just yet. Afraid that it might break. Afraid that it will ask him to stay. Knowing he'll do just that.

The speakers crackle and his train is announced.

I can feel him tense. Without thinking I reach out and hug him. There is nothing I can do now but to live this final moment with him. I don't want to let him go. Our eyes lock and my brown eyes silently ask permission. His smile is the only answer I need. Slowly I lean closer to capture his lips in a bittersweet kiss.

We break of and the truth crashed down on me once more. A truth that is cold and real. He's leaving. Now. And I can't stop that from happening.

The train arrives next to us. Standing still after a couple of seconds. The doors opening.

I want to hold him back. Tell him not to go.

Instead I take out an envelope and push it in his hand.

"Just in case… Don't forget…"

Hugging him one last time. One last quick kiss before I push him backwards. Turning my head away. I don't want to see the tears that have escaped my eyes.

I look back up when the whistle blows and the doors close. He's sitting next to the window. A couple of tears on his cheeks. I hold up my hand. Matching his hand that rests against the glass. The train starts moving.

"I love you!"

I know he can't hear me. However I also know that he has known what I've said,

Even ten minutes after he has been out of sight, I still stand there. Some tears are still rolling down.

When another train arrives I'm snapped back to reality. And I walk over to one of the benches. Setting myself on it.

Has he already discovered it?

After another ten minutes I stand up again. I sigh deeply as I turn to walk home.

Alone…

&TBC.&

AN: well, be kind to a girl who's really stressing for her exames and leave me a review:) Anyway, I hope you all liked it!