This story takes place sometime after nationals...



The wind felt cold against his back as he stared aimlessly out into the streets. He'd just won his final match of his last school year at Seishun Gakuen, but he felt lost. He'd worked so hard, so long with this team of his, and now they were all going to disappear. What was he supposed to do now? Now that he had to move on with his life, find a new team and get to know new teammates. Maybe he just wouldn't play tennis anymore. What harm could it do? He'd nearly destroyed his arm during his years there so what should it matter now?

He closed his eyes and let the rushing winds brush across his face. He was probably just over thinking things. There was always Echizen. He would become Seigaku's pillar of support. He swore he would. Slowly, he let out a deep sigh he'd been trying desperately to suppress.

"Tezuka," Said a familiar voice. "You're going to catch a cold out here if you stand up here any longer." Tezuka felt pressure on his back as someone leaned against him.

He turned his head to the side, to see his long time friend, Fuji, leaning against him. "Fuji," He said, as if he were surprised. Everyone had been worried what this last match was going to do to him. Fuji leaned in to gently press his lips against the others. Tezuka frowned slightly, but didn't protest.

"Everyone is worried. Come. Celebrate with us. It can't hurt."

"Not physically but mentally. I let my guard down. I moved backwards not forwards and I feel like I'm back where I started." Tezuka sighed, his composure slowly slipping. His eyes were downcast, staring at the rushing cars below them. "I'm not ready for a new team. I've put in so much work and time with them and now it's the end. I don't know how to deal with that. I don't know how to deal with the stresses of life, because I've always put on a fa├žade, pretending to be Mr. Calm."

The pressure on his back lessened as Fuji straightened himself out, pulling Tezuka up with him. He turned Tezuka around and wrapped him into boa like embrace. He ran his hand gently through his hair, and whispered into his ear, like a secret that everyone already knew, "Tezuka, you did well. Now it's time to let someone else in on it. They all appreciate it, and the new captain and vice-captain all have to get used to new regulars, new faces, new game styles. You're not the only one suffering Tezuka, although you may think you're all alone." Fuji felt tear drops on his neck, as Tezuka's composure finally collapsed in on him. Tezuka's strong arms wrapped around Fuji, his hands gripping onto Fuji's jacket like he wasn't ever going to let go. He cried till his heart hurt and his eyes felt like they'd been lit on fire. His breathing was sharp and ragged, like he had just done hard, physical exercise

Fuji had been quietly trying to comfort him, his hand running through Tezuka's soft, chestnut hair. At one point, Tezuka had begun to hit his head lightly against Fuji's chest, and afraid that his glasses were going to break, Fuji had removed them, and pocketed them. Finally, Tezuka's grip loosened. He straightened himself up a bit, lifting his eyes to meet Fuji's. For the briefest of moments, Fuji opened them, to reveal his piercing blue eyes. They weren't angry. They looked kind, and as if they were going to reel Tezuka in like a fish on a line.

"Kiss me?" Tezuka heard himself ask quietly.

Fuji smiled slightly, and leaned in, pressing his lips against Tezuka's. Tezuka's eyes closed, his arms wrapping once more around Fuji, but without the desperation they'd had before. Fuji's grip had loosened on him as well, and he took the chance to slip his hand up Tezuka's shirt, feeling at his well defined muscles.

The kiss was salty, but neither of them cared. They broke apart, and Fuji stared into Tezuka's eyes, making sure that he wasn't going to cry anymore. It'd been a long time since he cried, and last time it was because someone, who he had loved dearly, had broken up with him to go out with another guy. It had broken his heart. With his thumb, Fuji wiped away the last of his previous tears, and handed him his glasses.

"Are you ready to go meet with the others Tezuka?"

He nodded, placing his glasses carefully in place. He reached down and grabbed Fuji by the hand and started walking towards the familiar sushi shop. After tonight, it wouldn't be the same, eating there as celebration. Momo, Kaidoh, Echizen. None of them would be there anymore and it just wouldn't feel the same. But what could you do about graduating? It couldn't be helped.


At Kawamura sushi, noises of celebration could be heard, coming from inside. Fuji slid open the door, and almost immediately, the noise stopped. Every pair of eyes in the room, turned to look at the two figures standing in the doorway. None of them seemed to breathe as they stepped into the shop, closing the sliding door behind them. A sign at the back of the shop read Congratulations on winning Nationals! A sign below it read You'll be missed senior tennis players! Good luck!

Tezuka felt like crying again. How could he leave these people?

"Bucho," Tezuka turned to look at the person talking to him, "congratulations. You've lead us far, but now there are people who you can lead even further. Don't dwell on the past, look at what's coming in the future." Echizen looked at him with his golden eyes, his glass held high in front of him.

"Yeah Bucho. We've learned a lot from you, and you've kept us going for these past couple of years. You've given o'chibi a great year, and the rest of us a great Jr. High experience. Don't dwell on the past, welcome to the future!" The most eccentric of the group chimed in. He held up his glass as well, putting on his famous goofy smile.

"You're strong Tezuka. You've lead us far. Without you, we'd never be where we are now. We all give you thanks for the things you've done for us." Oishi held up his glass, giving Tezuka a reassuring smile.

"You kept us from killing each other a few times over!" Kaidoh and Momoshiro said in unison, and then turning to glare at each other.

"I was going to say that!" Momo said, grabbing Kaidoh by the front of his shirt.

"What did you say bastard?!" Tezuka couldn't help but smile slightly. At least he'd always have something to remember those two by.

Well the two of the were squabbling, Kawamura came out from the back of the shop and said, as he dried his hands on a towel, "You kept me from quitting many times before, telling me that my power was something to be admired. If you hadn't been there, I'd be a whole different person."

"Hai. Taka-san." Fuji reached behind him and pulled out a raquet, handing it to Kawamura.

"BURNING! Thanks for all your hard work bucho!" He flailed the raquet a bit until it slipped, falling with a loud thunk to the ground. "Arigato gozaimus." He said sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head.

"You've done well Tezuka. Now it's time to move forth." Tezuka turned his head slowly to look at the newest voice speaking. "You've come far Tezuka. Getting your shoulder fixed, leading your team to victory, losing and then gaining the same member back. In your two years of being captain, you've had some of the best times of you life with these people. Now it's time to show all your appreciation to them. They've been put through hell with you, but not one of them regret it. Ne, Fuji?"

"Ryuzaki.... Sensei??" Tezuka said, surprise coating his voice, his eyes pressing with unwanted tears again.

"Hai. He's done well in these last few years. I'm not sure he wants to give you guys up." Fuji said, trying to lighten the heavy mood.

Catching the slight drift Echizen said, sipping at his drink that he'd gotten tired of holding up, "Obviously. He hasn't let go of you since you got here." Fuji smiled a little wider.

"Are you jealous?"

"Zenzen." Echizen muttered, glaring at Fuji.

"Whats with the sparks flying everywhere?" Kikimaru asked, showing a beaming smile. "Hoi hoi!" He jumped up, and started to do cartwheels across the room, nearly flying into the wall.

Tezuka wasn't paying any attention. He was still staring at Ryuzaki Sumire. This woman, the one who had been there from the beginning. The one who had done so much for him, only asking him to lead as a captain in return. After every thing else, after everything he had thought he would miss, he knew he would miss her most.

He shook his hand gently from Fuji's and walked towards her. When he was about a foot and a half from her, he bowed as deep as he could without looking foolish and said, "Domoo arigato gozaimus sensei. You've done more for me than I could have ever asked. You helped me heal my arm, and you've supported my decisions every day since I became captain. I'm very grateful for that, and hope that you treat the new captain as kindly as you've treated me."

"Tezuka, how could I not agree with your decisions? Look to where they've led us!" She smiled. "Now stop bowing and enjoy yourself! It's your last party with this team so enjoy it!" Tezuka straightened, giving a small smile before going into captain mode.

"Thank you all for all the work you've put into this year. It was enjoyable to see you all progress as the year went on. We've made new friends from different schools, and have become stronger not only as individual people but as a team. Be on guard, never look back, and make progress. Dismissed!" There was a huge uproar from the team and the party was lively again. The whole team was smiling, and laughing, enjoying their last party as a team. Tezuka sat at the counter, sipping at his drink, his heart still heavy with burden. Had he done all he could for his team? There wasn't anymore he could do for them, and he was leaving them as they were? Were his leadership skills really all that bad?

"You're stressing again bucho. Didn't she just say to have fun?" Echizen came up behind his captain, startling him.

"It's hard not to stress when you have to leave your prized possessions in someone else's hands." Tezuka answered almost bitterly.

"You don't trust I'll do a good enough job bucho? I'm hurt." Echizen said sarcastically, sitting in the seat next to the captain.

"Oh I'm sure you'll do a great job. But of all the tennis players still left, none of them make as solid of a team as we do."

"That can't be helped. I'm sure the others are just as worried but you'll just have to leave it be." Tezuka turned to see Echizen smiling, and staring at him with his golden eyes. He knew he could trust those eyes. He knew he could trust the person who those eyes belonged too.

Tezuka smiled. "You're much too cocky Echizen Ryoma. But maybe that's what I like about you." Ryoma gave him a small smile before letting his face slide once more into an emotionless state.\

Fuji sat down next to Tezuka, his hand lightly brushing against his. "Don't you think it's almost time we left? Remember you promised you'd help me look over my high school papers."

Oh brother. Echizen thought to himself, nearly blushing as he though about what they were really probably going to be doing. As the year had progressed, they had both become a lot more open with their relationship, finally towards the last of the year confessing to the team. Not one of them were shocked. They'd all seen the fleeting glances at each other during practice, or the intentional brush against the others hand. In fact, they'd been thoroughly congratulated.

"Right. Goodbye Echizen, and good luck with the new team." Tezuka said, turning and giving him a stern stare. "I leave Seigaku in your hands."

He turned to leave but was stopped when Echizen asked in an unfamiliar feeble voice, "Bucho, is it alright to hug you? I mean... I know it may seem weird and all but-" He was stopped in mid-sentence as he was brought into Tezuka's steel grip.

"Good luck." He whispered this quietly into his ear, letting go as the tears filled his eyes again. "Fuji, let's go."

Fuji grabbed him by the hand and weaved him through the crowd, being stopped at the door by Oishi.

"Tezuka Kunimitsu, thank you." He bowed deeply, and then wrapped his arms tightly around him. "Good luck to you." He let go, and turned away, wiping away tears that had started streaming down his face.

"No. Good luck to you all. Succeed in all you do." No longer being able to take it, Tezuka dragged Fuji out of the shop and all the way back to his house.