Alright… this is a challenge I got, a long time ago, when my forum wasn't flooded- it was given by darling Chibiko, and it never came out. Until now.
So Chibiko, this is dedicated to you XD (and in this moment of my life, I do wonder if you are dead…)
Ryoma was five when his parents died in a car crash. He didn't understand fully what being dead implied- he was told that they would no longer be with him, that they couldn't, even if they would have loved to, but he did not get a word of it.
His mummy and his daddy looked just fine, a bit pale, but fine, in those big boxes. They looked deeply asleep.
But his mom hadn't comforted him when he cried at the end of the funeral, the moment everything was explained to him. He had called for her, he had yelled, had tried to reach out, but she was still asleep.
Ryoma had felt betrayed.
His dad didn't move an inch either. He had hit the box and pleaded his dad to wake his mother up, he had begged him, he had cried- the man just laid there. He didn't even tease the boy about his tears.
Ryoma learnt that being dead implied not loving him anymore. It implied not teaching him tennis, not kissing him good night, and not hugging him when he fell.
Ryoma hated his parents for being dead.
Two days later, the child was sent to an orphanage. He didn't understand why. They said it was because no one in his family could take care of him, but he recalled perfectly the days he spent at his grandma's house, and the time where his uncles and aunties would take him out.
Yet he was condemned to live in a big house with lot of unknown kids until he turned major.
Ryoma hated his parents even more after that.
Kirihara Akaya was twelve when he moved to Tokyo Orphanage.
He had never known his father, and his mother had succumbed to lung cancer a week ago. He'd seen it coming. He had been explained the circumstances by his mother and grasped what would happen, what would need to be done.
He told himself that was the reason why he didn't cry.
It was with his head high that he entered his new home. He repressed the shudder down his spine when he took a look around- dark would be the best way to describe the place. Dark and cold.
The Headmistress of the place came to greet him, and he grimaced when she showed him around. The kids that would soon be his neighbours- he refused to use the word 'family' as easily as she did- didn't look as happy as his old schoolmates looked.
But then again, they didn't look as full of themselves.
She couldn't force him to make friends so early, whatever good intentions she had. He didn't want to- he didn't need friends. Instead, she took him to his room.
"Why are there two beds?"
He realized it was the first time he had spoken- and it was a selfish question. With a patient sigh, the woman explained that they lacked place and that he will have to share a room.
It felt sad that they didn't have enough place in an orphanage this big, but Akaya kept quiet about it.
Dropping himself on the hard mattress, he wished that some unknown relative would come and take him away from here.
"Welcome to hell."
Akaya looked up from his book to see a kid with dark locks of hair hiding his face staring at him with a disinterested frown.
"Beg your pardon?" Akaya asked, his brows furrowing on his forehead. The boy looked no older than ten.
"I welcomed you," the kid repeated with a shrug, "to this wonderful place I call hell."
Without adding another word, he sat on the other bed, turning to look outside the window.
Since the window only gave a view on the street, Akaya guessed that his roommate was on the antisocial side.
Not that he cared. "I'm Kirihara Akaya. Do you mind if I take a nap?"
Under the messy hair, he saw a slender eyebrow rising.
"You still haven't told me your name," Akaya pointed out after three days of collocation.
The stranger he was living with narrowed his eyes. "You never asked," he retorted.
Akaya could hardly believe the nerve of the boy.
"Were you a normal brat, you would have known that the moment I said my name, you were supposed to answer with yours."
He heard a bitter laugh. "How silly of me. Guess it doesn't make me a normal brat then."
"Well, fucking say it already!" The curly haired boy spat, glaring fully at his vis-à-vis.
The small boy smirked. "If you ask so politely…"
Kirihara stood, anger shaking his body- luckily, as infuriating as the brat may have been, he wasn't blind.
"Echizen Ryoma," he finally declared.
Akaya entirely relaxed and smiled smugly at Ryoma. "Wasn't that hard, was it?"
Ryoma blinked, before shrugging.
"You are actually the first to know who I am, in here."
Akaya stared disbelievingly- he had noticed the kid didn't talk much, but to that extend?
"Echizen… Ryoma," he voiced with a small smile.
The name felt like sweet sugar on his lips.
No answer. Akaya tried a little louder- still nothing.
"Echizen," he tried with an annoyed sigh.
Akaya could feel the smirk in his voice- he could also tell that the boy had not been asleep.
"You're ridiculous," he gritted through his teeth. "I don't care that you're in Seigaku while…"
"While you are in Rikkai Dai," Ryoma supplied with a forced smile. "Is that what you want to talk to me about?"
Akaya nodded stiffly. "Of course it is, you brat!"
"Sadly predictable," Ryoma sneered. "You can do better than that. Mada mada-"
"Don't give me that shit, Ryoma. Don't."
Ryoma didn't answer, stubbornly staring at the ceiling.
"I want to sleep, Kirihara. It's past midnight."
Akaya frown deepened. After two years, it was a pity that they fell back to last name terms just because they were in rival schools. Was Ryoma that shallow?
"G'night," Akaya said bitterly. "God, you are so Mada Mada."
"Fuck you, Aka-"
Akaya smirked. Some things never changed- the taunting felt appeasing when he knew that from this point, their paths would only drift further apart.
"Good night, Kirihara," Ryoma muttered, controlling his bratty temperament.
And that proved it more than anything else.
"What are you doing?"
Kirihara just came back from tennis practice, ready to pass out, when he caught Ryoma folding his clothes and putting them in a trunk.
The boy had cut his hair before entering middle school; Akaya could feel the determination burning in the freshman's golden orbs.
With a feeling of dread, he realized he did not want an answer.
But when did Ryoma ever paid attention to what he wanted?
"Tennis camp?" Akaya asked hopefully, though he would die rather than telling Ryoma he cared that much.
Ryoma stilled his motions to stare oddly at Kirihara. "I'm moving out."
In a swift movement, Akaya hurried toward Ryoma and closed the trunk under his shocked eyes. "You aren't leaving me alone."
It was childish, but Akaya didn't move his hand from the trunk. He didn't want to let go just yet.
"What do you think you're doing, Kirihara-senpai?"
Akaya froze. The brat was always still distance between them, restlessly. "I just said it, Echizen. You are not leaving me alone in this creepy place."
The boy seemed a bit shocked, but the impression quickly faded away. "I do what I want. What do you care?"
Kirihara glared fully at his junior. "Take a guess."
An unreadable look crossed Ryoma's features. The Seigaku regular pulled his cap on his eyes, so they wouldn't betray them.
"Your eyes are glowing red, Akaya," Ryoma whispered after a minute. "You're scaring me."
Out of shock, Kirihara took a step back and watched wordlessly as his… friend left him just as silently.
It was the second time Akaya lost someone he loved. This time, he had no idea it would come…
But he still didn't cry.
Echizen Ryoma was twelve when he joined a tennis team for the first time. It felt quite odd, being part of something.
What felt even stranger was how he was part of something which was against the something Akaya was part of.
Being in competition against the only friend he ever had…
Though they weren't expected to fight soon… nothing was expected from Ryoma at the beginning. He wasn't really great in tennis, but he had it in himself.
When he was accepted in the regulars, he thought he was dreaming. A first year in the tennis team, out for competition…
Even better; they accepted him, called him a tennis prodigy and befriended him.
But then, Tezuka Kunimitsu told him to take tennis seriously- that he would be the support of the team when the third years would be gone.
That, Ryoma hadn't liked.
And then, his new "friends" spied on him. Spied!
They discovered he was Kirihara Akaya's roommate. They fussed over it for hours- Kikumaru Eiji went as far as to say "How can Ochibi be in contact with Rikkai's demon!?"
He had snapped at them all. Explained them that Akaya did nothing wrong to him, and that they practiced tennis together.
They requested of him to spy on Akaya. To get data on him- Inui Sadaharu questioned him about a bunch of useless thing about the curly boy.
To everyone shock, Ryoma found out that he couldn't answer a single question.
When he was back in the orphanage, Akaya felt his discomfort… He had tried to talk to him, but Ryoma had promised he wouldn't tell about his team's plans.
Ryoma had pushed his best friend away the first time on that night. He had closed his eyes tightly and told himself over and over again that it was for the sake of his team.
"Our match against Rikkai is coming," Tezuka had informed the regulars.
Ryoma had felt the panic growing in his chest. He knew he had paled.
"Don't worry, Ochibi! We will win against them!" Kikumaru had comforted him with a toothy grin. "And maybe Kirihara will hurt himself and you won't have to face his anger when he'll see that you gave us important knowledge!"
Ryoma gulped. He had betrayed Akaya…
"Saa, maybe you could hurt him for real," Fuji suggested casually. "During his sleep."
Ryoma's eyes had widened in shock. Racking his brain for a decent excuse, he stuttered that he couldn't; that they moved him in another room due to fights they were picking.
Fuji had opened his eyes and seemed to pierce his soul, but Ryoma had remained relatively calm.
"Don't look so shocked at the idea, Echizen," Momo had said. "You saw what he did to Tachibana-san. That guy is a monster."
"Maybe," Ryoma said meekly, not meeting his senpai's eyes. "Not…"
Akaya had never been violent or bad to him. He never even sounded like the demon his team mates described…
Until the same day afternoon, when Ryoma had decided it safer to really move out of the room, in case one of his senior would drop by.
He didn't think that Akaya would make a big deal out of it.
Yet he did.
And his eyes stared at Ryoma like if he was going to murder him on the spot. Bloody red eyes…
But his voice had sounded so helpless…
Ryoma had hesitated. He had asked Akaya why he cared that much…
But the jerk had told him to take a guess.
A guess, Ryoma didn't need to take. He felt like if he already knew…
Despite his own feelings, Ryoma had chickened out. This wasn't anything like he had hoped it to be.
He had walked away- no, worse than that. He had run away from Kirihara Akaya.
And his mind was too hazy to decide why exactly.
The name no longer sounded like sugar or anything sweet for that matter. Kirihara felt like speaking them wounded his lips.
Ryoma couldn't bring himself to speak the full name. Calling him 'Akaya' now would feel too personal.
And the look on Kirihara's face warned him not to be personal.
"So we meet again," the Rikkai Dai regular stated, his tone cold and detached. "Sooner than I expected."
Ryoma's shoulders tensed. He glared at the boy. "I'm here to win."
To his surprise, Kirihara's eyes fell on the ground and a bitter smile graced the older boy's lips. "What do I care? There isn't anything here I have not lost already."
Ryoma was breathing heavily, back resting painfully on a tree.
"I've won," Akaya reminded him before taking his lips once again. "Doesn't that mean I won you back?"
"No," Ryoma voiced, though returning the kiss with the ardour he lacked during the match. "I've never…"
Suddenly, Kirihara broke the embrace and looked at Ryoma seriously. "You have never what, exactly?"
Ryoma pushed the dizziness away difficulty. "I… You're not… We haven't…"
His words made no sense. Perhaps that was why Akaya had no trouble interpreting them in his own way.
He backed off.
Ryoma gasped at the loss of warm. With a shaky hand, he reached out to grab Akaya back to him. None of this mattered, really. Not now.
It mattered to Akaya, apparently. The rival player was throwing daggers at him. "I thought that you would take the hint… But you are still a stupid brat."
Akaya snickered then walked away, willing to put as much distance as possible between the two of them.
Ryoma felt himself fall slowly against the rough bark, hiding his eyes behind his agitated hands.
Hiding the vision of Akaya leaving him, hiding the tears threatening to fall…
Kirihara Akaya was fourteen when his senpais left him alone in school. He had cheered to the prospect of never seeing Sanada again, but then Yukimura came and asked to have a word with him.
"How are you feeling, Akaya?"
Kirihara repressed the usual groan he used in respect for the boy. "Fine. And you?"
"I must admit I feel sad about leaving," Yukimura said, cocking his head to the side. "But nowhere as depressed as you seem."
Akaya allowed himself a smirk. "Waving good-bye to darling Sanada and knowing I'll never see him again makes my heart bleed, Mura-buchou, you have no idea."
Yukimura chuckled softly. "Don't cry, Aka-chan. You'll see him in high school."
"I won't," Akaya retorted, scowling. "Why would I go to high school? I'll start working after middle school so I won't have money problems when I'll turn major."
Any expression of amusement drained from the graduating student. "This is farewell then."
Kirihara nodded, unable to speak because of the knot that just formed in his throat.
"Want me to kiss you good-bye?
The second year blinked, taken aback. "Kiss me…?"
"Yes," the captain smiled. "Like that."
He leaned forward, gently meeting Kirihara's lips before pulling away slowly. It didn't last more than a second, but Kirihare could feel the soothing effects from it. Gone was the ever lasting burning that Ryoma's mouth had left on his lips, as a reminder of his mistake.
"Thanks, buchou," Kirihara whispered, touching his lips hesitantly.
Yukimura smiled. "Take care of the club and of yourself, Akaya."
Echizen Ryoma was barely twenty-two when he assisted a funeral again. No words had been created to explain the pain shattering his heart.
When he arrived, he knew he shouldn't have come. The silence sent a shudder in his spine. There was no sobs, no broken cries echoing in the huge place.
Somehow, he resented it. If his grandmother's shaken cries were heartbreaking, the complete lack of noise felt wrong.
Only ten pair of eyes turned to fix him. It took all his courage to go onward…
He had not visited Akaya when the latter was in his hospital bed… Nobody had thought it necessary to informed him that the boy was ill.
Worse; Akaya had thought it useless to inform him.
Not that they were still in contact. The moment Kirihara left the orphanage, it was over between them.
At least, that's what Ryoma told himself when guilt assaulted him. Pretending that he had no control over their relationship was nothing more than a beautiful lie.
Truth was that it was over between them because they let it die.
The reason why Ryoma attended Kirihara Akaya's funeral was to apologize.
Between them, it could have been a short passion or a long, heart-warming love. Even just a nice friendship… but they screwed it up.
Ryoma screwed it up.
When he reached the coffin, he gathered every bit of bravery left in him.
"I… am sorry. You aren't here anymore and… We haven't…"
Unable to finish whatever he had to say, he broke into violent sobs. Akaya could interpret it the way he wanted, this time… There was no way he could mistake the sincere and heartbreaking sorrow in every inch of Ryoma.
Ryoma was twenty-two years old when he finally understood what being dead meant.
Being dead meant being too far away to help the people you love up. Being dead meant you left them no other choice than to imagine your reactions… Being dead meant leaving the one you love just as dead.
"I liked you very much, Akaya. I'm sorry," Ryoma said after his body calmed down.
It felt strange, because it was the first time Ryoma was honest to Kirihara. Wiping the tears away from his eyes, Ryoma realized that it was symbolically his first real meeting with Akaya.
And this time, Ryoma hated nobody else than himself.
Ten pages of Microsoft Word! Oo Ending it with a character death was the easy way out… XD I'm sorry that I killed Aka-chan. If you flame me, flame me because it's incoherent or because my grammar is horrible... but not because dear Akaya died of a lung cancer.