Deception - 945 words by Dudly

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The Seigaku Regulars stared at the girl in front of them with pure shock. The crispy wind bit their stricken faces and the mortified girl's skirt. After a moment, Fuji broke the stillness of the scene by taking off his jersey to throw it on her bare shoulders. She muttered a "Thanks, Fuji-senpai" and stared at the tip of her toes in shame.

They weren't supposed to know.

"She's a girl," said Kikumaru Eiji, his eyes round. "You're a girl."

Numbly, she nodded, and Momoshiro Takeshi joined in the outraged gasp of Eiji. Inui scribbled hastily in his notebook and turned to Tezuka, hoping he could get a reaction to jot down. There wasn't any.

"You're a girl." Tezuka spoke calmly, as if considering the fact. "You deceived us."

Her hands gripped the ends of her skirt and she blinked tears away forcefully. It wasn't supposed to happen like this.

The silence came back, more tense than the first time around. They were expecting her to justify her acts. To apologize, to say she never wanted to trick any of them. But she did. What did forgiveness matter?

"Maybe that's what she likes to do," Oishi tries hesitantly, casting her a worried glance. If what he was suggesting was less ridiculous, she would have jumped on her knees and kissed his feet. But he went on. "Like drag queens. It happens to the best of us, we shouldn't blame her for her… unique tastes in activities."

Inui wrote that too.

How she hated the way they stared. They used to look at her in a friendly, appreciating way. But that was when they were still thinking she was a boy.

"Is your name really Takkei?"

She shook her head helplessly at the data man's question. "That was my father's name. I'm just plain old Sarah."

"Sarah…"

Her head snapped up at the sound of her name. He hadn't said anything until now. Her eyes searched for anger or deception in his angular face. None were found. He looked just a bit weary. Too much information at once, probably. What was she putting him through?

"I'm sorry, Takashi," she whispered, teary eyed again. "So, so sorry. I didn't mean to lie to you…"

"Then why pretend? Why?"

Little daydreams used to pop in her head. Scenarios about the day they would discover- she knew they would. Her plans failed on many points and they were far from stupid. Yet in her dreams, they all gasped and wondered why but cracked jokes as they did so. They even complimented her on it, saying otherwise they wouldn't have become friends and telling her she was rather cute.

She didn't expect them to look so… betrayed. She wanted to reach out, but she could only tighten Fuji's kindly given jersey for comfort. All the confidence in herself she had vanished.

She shouldn't have worn girly clothes. She should have taken another street… She shouldn't have entered the boys' tennis club.

"I'm such a mess," she squeaked finally. "I'm a fake. I have no valuable excuse… None of you deserved this."

Oh, God. She was going to cry. People would start to notice the drama going on. It was a wonder they didn't notice yet.

"I just… wanted to play against you. With you."

In the end, tennis was still the bigger plan. The center of rotation. The sound of Momoshiro and Kikumaru commenting loudly rang through her head, hitting every sensitive nerve. Inui kept noting everything.

"Such a shame, really," chided Fuji gaily. "I consider the girls are quite good. Mari-chan got a strong game. The captain would feel offended to hear you speak that way of the girls' team."

For a second, she glared at her senpai. Nuh-hu. He wasn't going to blame her for thinking girls were weak. She had played with girls before. And girls just weren't serious about tennis.

Except her, of course. She loved tennis enough to disguise as a guy, befriend the team and ending up with them hating her.

Takashi… did he hate her too? She tried to examine her face, but stopped as soon as Tezuka caught her doing so. Cheeks heating up, she went back to staring at her immaculate tennis shoes.

Okay, she had a crush. So what?

"Sarah-san. I, as a captain, can't bend the rules at your whim. I'd like you to quit the club after apologizing to every member."

Biting the inside of her cheek, she bowed slowly. Half hoping someone would speak in her defence. No one did.

"Buchou, you did bend the rules for me," Echizen remarked. A grateful tear ran down Sarah's face. Forget about the fact the two freshmen didn't exactly get along. She misjudged him. 'Thanks', she mouthed. He ignored her, still looking at Tezuka.

"Yes," the brunet admitted, his tone dead serious. "One exception. If you wish, you can give up being a regular."

Echizen snorted. That was the end of it. She fell to the ground, defeated. This was a nightmare. That wasn't how her life worked. They couldn't treat her like that. She was like their sister- only they thought she was like a little brother. Takashi didn't even seem to care.

That was not how it was supposed to be. Too surreal. Or too real.

Wake up, Sarah. Wake up!

And she did wake up. The birds were chirping happily, the sun high in the sky. She smiled. Her smile turned into a grin when her cellphone beeped, indicating a message had just came in.

It was from Takashi.

Of course it was a dream! Her present life couldn't crumble.

She was a Mary Sue, after all.

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