Fuji and Tezuka were walking back to Fuji's house, as it was closer than Tezuka's. There was something that was bothering the captain, and he wondered if he should ask it. While he was glad to know the information, he wondered about what Fuji had told him earlier.

They reached the tensai's house rather quickly, and Tezuka didn't say anything until they were safely in Fuji's room.

"Fuji… you said that you weren't going to betray Eiji's trust, but you told Arai and myself what happened," he finally got out. He stared at Fuji.

He smiled back. "I wasn't speaking to you two. I was speaking to Tatsuha," he let out. His smile grew slightly. "Were you in the room? I didn't notice. Oops."

Tezuka sighed. He would never understand how Fuji's mind worked, and he was fine with that.

Fuji came over to him, sitting next to him. Their shoulders were touching. Fuji lay his head down on Tezuka's shoulder.

"I think things will work out for them, don't you?"

Tezuka merely nodded. They sat in silence for a moment.

"Do you think things will work out for us?" Fuji asked suddenly.

Tezuka looked down, only to be met with Fuji's azure eyes. "What?" he inquired.

Fuji didn't answer vocally. Instead, the smaller man reached up and grabbed Tezuka's head, pulling the tennis captain down into a kiss.

When they broke apart, Fuji was looking at his captain seriously. This wasn't a joke, or a whimsical thing. He was absolutely serious.

Tezuka had an expression of complete disbelief. Fuji sighed. Tezuka was a smart man, that was no lie. However, he could be incredibly dumb about certain things.

This was one of those things.

"Well?" he finally prompted.

Tezuka felt a small smile pulling at the corner of his lip. "We'll see," was all he answered. Fuji smiled again, his eyes opening slightly. He knew that was the best he was going to get from Tezuka at this juncture. However, he also knew that it was probably a "yes" in the end. He didn't move from his spot of leaning against his captain, and Tezuka didn't push him away either.

Eiji's eyes were wide. He was stunned that Oishi could be doing this, could be kissing him. Wasn't it just three days ago that the boy had punched him for doing just this? What could have happened that could make Oishi kiss him? Did he… was this just for pity? Did Oishi find out what had happened to him and was just giving him some sort of strange sympathy?

No, he couldn't have found out. Yes, Eiji had let slip that he had gone through some type of punishment, but he didn't go into specifics. He wasn't sure he could. It was bad enough that Fuji already knew. He still… he couldn't drag Oishi down with him. What he had now wasn't a pure touch anymore. He wasn't innocent anymore.

He couldn't taint Oishi.

Once he realized this, the redhead shoved his doubles partner away from him. He couldn't do this! He had to get out. Quickly, he launched himself into the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind him.

Eiji leaned against the door, hugging his knees to his chest. He couldn't believe Oishi would want him, not after… that.

He gritted his teeth and shoved himself over to the sink, looking into the mirror above it. How could he be selfish enough to drag Oishi down with him? He wasn't that stupid. He was already falling. He knew that. He was already going down. He couldn't clip Oishi's wings.

Oishi… he had always been together with him. Even when they fought, they were together. But this… this was something that had to keep them apart. This was something that Eiji had to protect Oishi from. Oishi had always protected him, in his own way. It was time for Eiji to repay the favor, no matter how much it would hurt him.

"Eiji?" came Oishi's frantic voice. It was close. The black-haired teenager was probably hovering just outside the bathroom door. Eiji grimaced. Why did this all have to be complicated? Why couldn't he just have a normal relationship?

"He knows he's unnatural, don't he? He knows he deserves all of this! He ain't even fighting anymore or nothing."

"Go away," he whispered softly, staring deeply into his own reflection. He didn't want the memories. Fuji had told him that there was nothing wrong with him. Others had perfectly normal relationships. Others had been together for a long while.

Oishi and him… they just weren't meant to even have a chance, he supposed. It didn't matter how much he loved Oishi or how much Oishi cared for him, they didn't have a chance. He wouldn't endanger Oishi… he couldn't do a thing like that.

"Eiji?" Oishi called again. Eiji bit his lip harshly. His best friend sounded forlorn, lost almost. He couldn't just leave Oishi there. He couldn't! But he couldn't take him either.

You could always tell him the truth, a snide little voice whispered. It sounded like Momoshiro. He didn't have time to really fathom whether he should or not as he made up his mind to go and open the door. He wasn't sure why he did. It was instinctual, it was something that he did without fully comprehending what he was doing.

He wasn't expecting to see that lost, hurt look on Oishi's face. Nor did he honestly expect Oishi to wrap his arms around him.

"Oishi… I… I can't," he whispered into the taller boy's shirt. "I can't."

Oishi drew back, taking Eiji's hand in his own, bring it close to his chest. "Why not? I'm sorry for my rejection of you… I was confused. It was sudden. I didn't know how I felt, how I should feel. I know now, but I can't apologize enough for how I acted then. I'm sorry. I'm very and truly sorry."

"Don't apologise!" Eiji let out. He couldn't stand it. "It's not you. It's never you. Just please… don't apologise." He stared intently at his hand, which was encased in Oishi's. The other boy felt so warm, so good, and they were only holding hands. He wanted to keep Oishi, never let anyone else have him, but he couldn't. He slipped his hand from his best friend's, allowing it to fall to his side lifelessly. There was still the lingering warmth on his fingertips.

"Eiji?" Oishi asked very softly.

Eiji couldn't stand the softness of that tone, so comforting, so warm, and he didn't deserve it at all.

It's only punishment if you let it be, Eiji.

Fuji's words came back to him.

He sucked in a long breath as he stared up at Oishi, determined.

He had to tell him. Oishi, barring all of this love stuff, was his best friend and had been for years. He couldn't allow that to go. Then the judges would have won and that couldn't happen, could it? Oishi and he had been through far too much in order to have it all destroyed because of those men.

"Eiji?" Oishi asked again, his voice warm and comforting.

Eiji gritted his teeth, looking at the floor. He didn't want to face Oishi's eyes – those eyes that cared far more than they should have for someone as filthy as himself. "I'll… I'll tell you. Fine, you… you win, I'll tell you."

Oishi breathed out a soft sigh. He couldn't help the smile pulling at his lips. Eiji was letting him inside again, and that made him happier than anything else. It had been three days since this had all begun, but it had been weeks since he felt this close to Eiji.

"Y-you may want to sit down for this one, Oishi," Eiji told him seriously. Oishi felt the seriousness underlining Eiji's voice and did as he was told.

It took a few minutes for him to begin, but when he did, Eiji managed to get all that had happened out – in soft, halting tones. He was hesitant to spill this story, in such detail as he was allowing now. He didn't want anyone to know, but he didn't want the judges to win either. His voice caught on many occasions, but Oishi didn't care. He said nothing while tears flowed down Eiji's cheeks and the redhead's hands wrangled nervously.

Eiji didn't so much as glance at Oishi once. He didn't know if he could face his best friend as he was right now. He wasn't sure if he could possibly do anything like that. He wasn't sure that now that the secret was out, he could ever even hope to face Oishi again.

Oishi said nothing. He didn't think that was anything that he could say that would mean anything to Eiji. He couldn't think at all. Eiji… had gone through that. How could anything he said mean anything to the boy? It wasn't as though words could put someone back together. Tennis could, but he thought that would be a callous thing to say. "Hey Eiji, I know something that could help – let's go play some tennis." It didn't quite sound right, even in his head.

"Eiji…" he began, but cut himself off uncertainly. What could he say? Was there anything to actually say in this situation? He wasn't sure. He couldn't be sure.

"Now do you understand why I can't have you?"

Oishi was confused at this. "No. I don't."

Eiji chanced to look at his friend. The boy wasn't lying. He didn't know. It was so obvious though. How could he not realize?

"Because I'll drag you down too," he nearly screamed, appalled at the raven-haired boy's stupidity.

Oishi gave the redhead a tiny smile. "Only if you want to," he whispered softly.

Eiji stared at his best friend of six years accusingly. He saw the soft smile that graced Oishi's lips, the slight twinkle in the other boy's eyes and he couldn't help but smile too.

Kikumaru Eiji was far from healed. He would be the first to tell anyone that. What they had done to him was… unforgivable. Yet as Oishi leaned in to steal another kiss from him, Eiji answered him willingly, kissing back with all he had.

What they had done had changed him in more ways than he could imagine, but he could still smile. He could still love. He could still be loved. And Oishi loved him.

In the end, that was all that mattered.

Author's Note:

I know that I didn't go into what happened to the three OCs. I figured I could leave that to your imagination. Like I said last chapter, that entire part between Tezuka, Fuji, Arai and Tatsuha wasn't in the original story and I don't like it being here, but you all deserved an explanation.

I know it's kind of a mean thing to do, but I don't know where I would fit it in either. It would mean that I would have to write another entire day into the fic, and I feel that that would take away from what I have already written.

I also added the Fuji/Tezuka bit. I don't know if it's OOC or what for this story, but I figured they deserved some loving. Everyone else is getting some love – and I realized that I had been dropping hints about them. I'm silly like that.

I know it's been a short ride, a mere eight days, but I'm glad of all the reviewers who stuck with me through it, especially since I made a major screw-up. Thanks to you all. I enjoyed reading each and every one of your reviews.

The ending is kind of… saptastic, but I like it. It's cute.

Many thanks!