Disclaimer: I do not own Prince of Tennis

Beta: finding

A/N: It is quite possible that I am unable to write happy Thrill.

A/N2: I really didn't realize that this was a sequel to one of my first stories (A Smile) until hours after I'd posted this. It was a very strange revelation.

Comments and critique appreciated.


"Buchou, I'm going already. I'll call you later," Ryoma told Tezuka after he'd showered and changed.

"Alright," Tezuka nodded, his attention on the papers in front of him. Had they been alone, Tezuka would have kissed the boy, but with Inui and Oishi still in the clubroom he settled for giving the boy a brief smile. Even that was enough for Oishi to shift uncomfortably and Inui to scribble something on his notebook.

Once past the school gates Ryoma stopped and looked to his right. Fuji, who had been leaning on the gate came to stand next to him and smiled at the boy. "Ready?" he asked.

"Yeah," Ryoma answered and they started walking.

For two months, since the day Ryoma started high school, whenever Tezuka wasn't with him, Fuji had waited for him at the school gates and walked home with him. At first, Ryoma hadn't known what to think about it, but Fuji never explained why he did it and Ryoma never asked. Some part of him felt that he was cheating on Tezuka by doing it, but another part kept asking how it could be cheating, just walking together.

When Fuji's hand clasped his Ryoma stopped and stared at their joint hands. He felt Fuji squeeze his hand and looked up to see Fuji's familiar smile. "Fuji-senpai," he said and swallowed, knowing he should pull his hand away, but Fuji's hand in his felt comforting. He knew he had hurt the other boy and Fuji reaching out to hold his hand was like an assurance that he'd been forgiven.

"We're just holding hands, Ryoma-kun. There's nothing wrong with friends holding hands, is there?" Fuji asked softly.

"I guess not," Ryoma mumbled and they started walking again, hands clasped together.

Every time they met like this, Ryoma wanted to talk about Tezuka, ask if Fuji could forgive him, like he'd forgiven Ryoma, but he never did. Every time Ryoma opened his mouth, preparing to speak Tezuka's name, Fuji looked at him with a harsh look in his eyes, as if knowing what Ryoma was going to say, and every time Ryoma held his tongue, because he wanted to keep Fuji.

Ryoma knew he was selfish, but couldn't help it.

And when Fuji kissed him he didn't pull away. He didn't kiss back, but he didn't pull away.

Fuji brushed a lock of hair from the boy's face and smiled, his eyes twinkling as he smiled gently. "It's just a kiss. There's nothing wrong with giving your friend a kiss, is there?"

Ryoma knew there was something wrong with kissing your friend, but he just shrugged and mumbled, "Guess not." He was a selfish coward, but if he could keep them both, he would.

Conflicted

Ryoma came back to Japan for high school. It wasn't even his choice, really. His mother had decided it was better when Ryoma started skipping school with his friends. His father didn't have an opinion against or for it; he was happy with both. Japan or America, it didn't matter to Ryoma's dad.

First Ryoma wasn't sure if he even wanted to go back to Japan, go to the same school his senpais would be attending now, to see his old classmates, Ryuzaki's granddaughter, Buchou, and Fuji-senpai. But like his dad, it didn't really matter to him if he went to school in Japan or America. Either was fine with him.

Fuji was the first he heard from. He received an e-mail littered with smiley faces and a short re-cap of how everyone that had been a regular was doing. Tezuka was going to be the captain again next year, Oishi and Eiji were still playing doubles, Inui still treasured his data and terrified people with his juices, no one alive could have matched Kaidoh's stamina, and he still fought with Momo who never missed a chance to beg some free sushi from Kawamura, who now worked at his father's sushi store after school, instead of coming to the club. The only one Fuji hadn't written about was himself.

When the plane landed, Fuji was there to greet them at the airport.

The next morning when Ryoma woke up, Fuji was by the door, a tennis bag on his shoulder, asking if Ryoma might want to play.

The game drew out, three sets, a tie break and at the end they were both too exhausted and excited to notice that neither had remembered to keep count on who'd won.

At the back of his house, near the temple bell, Ryoma had his first kiss in Japan from his senpai who just smiled after it and left like nothing had happened, leaving Ryoma with nothing but questions he doubted he would ever have an answer for.

The next day Tezuka came. He didn't ask if Ryoma wanted to play; he just nodded and turned, expecting him to follow. And Ryoma did.

His second kiss in Japan was given over the net, before a single ball was served, from his Buchou who asked if he wanted to date. There weren't any questions lingering in Ryoma's mind when he looked into Tezuka's eyes – it was all there, clear for everyone to see.

The truth of it was he didn't choose Tezuka because he liked him more. He chose Tezuka because Tezuka hadn't left him with any questions without answers.

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The start and the end of practice had become the least favourite times in Ryoma's life. Being in the same room with both, only the other knowing about the other one made him jumpy. He always hurried with showering and getting dressed, waited for Tezuka outside if they were walking home together, hurried to meet Fuji if they weren't. He never went anywhere with Momo or Kikumaru straight from practice anymore. He spent time with his friends later in the evening if they called. Time after practice belonged to either Fuji or Tezuka.

Ryoma jumped when a hand was placed on his shoulder, nearly expecting it to belong to Fuji, but when he turned Tezuka was standing behind him. "Ryoma, are you alright?"

"Yeah, just… Edgy," Ryoma shrugged and caught a glimpse of Fuji chuckling behind his hand.

"You shouldn't be daydreaming when we're getting ready for practice, Echizen-kun," Fuji said, his voice warm and soft, but to Ryoma it sounded almost mocking. His last name didn't sound right coming from Fuji's mouth, not when Fuji always called him Ryoma when they were alone and he was pressed against the wall surrounding his house and it was whispered hoarsely in his ear.

"Do you have a fever? You're as red as a tomato," Tezuka said, lifting his cap and pressing his palm against Ryoma's forehead. Ryoma frowned and pushed Tezuka's hand away and set his cap straight again.

"I'm fine, Buchou," he mumbled, avoiding the other boy's eyes, only to be caught in Fuji's gaze once again. Fuji looked worried and mouthed, 'Are you alright?'

Ryoma ignored both and stormed out, forgot one of his shoelaces was still untied, stepped on it and tripped, hitting his knee and elbow on the floor. Two voices yelled, "Ryoma!" and both Fuji and Tezuka hurried to kneel beside him.

"Echizen, you okay?" Momo yelled from somewhere further inside the clubroom.

"I'm fine," Ryoma claimed, clutching his right knee with both hands.

"No, you are not. You can't possibly go on with practice now and the nurse isn't here anymore. I'll take you home," Tezuka said and prepared to lift Ryoma up, only to be stopped by Fuji's hand on his arm.

"You can't just leave practice, Tezuka. You're the captain. I'll take him home," Fuji said, his other hand - where Tezuka, or anyone else couldn't see it - rubbing Ryoma's back. The sensation of Fuji's hand moving made Ryoma's breathing hitch, sent a thrill through his body, made him scared of raising his head for fear of Tezuka seeing it all in his eyes.

When Tezuka said, "Alright Fuji, I trust you," Ryoma wanted to say no, that he would wait for practice to end. But Fuji's hand pressing against his back felt too good and he didn't want the touch to go away. "I will call you later," Tezuka assured him before leaving the clubroom, taking Momo with him, leaving the two of them alone.

Fuji stood up to stand in front of Ryoma and extended his hands, a far cheerier expression on his face than Ryoma felt Fuji should have when he was hurt. He frowned, but took the hands and with the other boy's help hopped to his locker with one foot. Fuji let go of his other hand so Ryoma could open his locker, but didn't let go of the other. When Ryoma turned to glare at him Fuji suddenly released his hold.

Ryoma, having taken his hand from the locker, was standing on one foot with nothing to hold on to. He staggered and nearly fell, but Fuji quickly stepped closer, swept Ryoma's cap to the floor, placed his hands on Ryoma's hips and forced the boy back to lean against the lockers.

"Fuji-senpai!" Ryoma growled, annoyed. He never finished what he was going to say because Fuji lifted his shirt, slid his palm up the boy's chest, above his heart, leaning in so close Ryoma could taste his breath. Fuji's fingers were rough, just like Ryoma knew his were. But his own fingers never made his skin tingle or his breath shorten and mouth dry.

Fuji didn't speak a word, not even when Ryoma grabbed his wrist as the fingers started to pull on the waist band of his shorts. "No," Ryoma whispered.

He flinched when Fuji narrowed his eyes and closed his own when Fuji slammed his palm against the locker next to Ryoma's head, fingers spread and spitting out his question, "Why not?" He pulled his hand from Ryoma's loose grip. "You let him do more!"

There was a loud crash from outside and Fuji stepped away from Ryoma, eyes pinned to the door, waiting for someone to step inside. No one entered and soon they heard Tezuka order laps.

"Get changed," Fuji said, not turning to look at him as he went to his own locker.

Ryoma stayed where he was, looking at Fuji, who just didn't get it. Kissing was the most he'd done with Tezuka.

It wasn't like they didn't want to, but there was never a time, or a place. It wasn't like Tezuka could take him home, and going to Ryoma's wasn't an option. He didn't know how his parents would react to him dating a boy that was two years older and his senior in more ways than just age, and he wasn't prepared to find out.

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"Ready Ryoma?" Tezuka asked.

"Yeah Buchou," Ryoma answered, avoided looking at Fuji when he closed his locker and picked up his bags. But even without seeing Fuji's face, he knew what it looked like. He'd seen it too many times not to have memorized it, even if only one look would have been enough for him to always remember the hurt and the questions he saw in Fuji's eyes.

Every time they walked home together, they were both fooling themselves. Ryoma told himself there was nothing wrong with holding hands with Fuji, or letting Fuji kiss him, or draping his arm around his shoulder, or moan in his mouth when he was pressed against the wall.

Neither Fuji nor Ryoma ever mentioned Tezuka. Ryoma because he didn't want to see the anger in Fuji's face and Fuji because he wanted to forget Tezuka even existed. He wanted to believe Ryoma was still his, and only his.

"Mom and dad are going to be away tomorrow," Ryoma told Tezuka as they walked. They didn't hold hands like he and Fuji did, but with Tezuka, Ryoma didn't need to. One look from Tezuka was enough to tell him more than any gestures might have.

"I'm sorry, Ryoma." Tezuka said, and Ryoma felt a brief moment of panic. Maybe this was it: Tezuka had grown sick of him, found out about Fuji and didn't want to go on. "I can't tomorrow, we're visiting Grandfather." Tezuka turned to him, and Ryoma saw how badly Tezuka would have wanted to cancel the visit to his grandfather. Ryoma knew that if he asked, Tezuka probably would.

"There'll be other times," Ryoma said instead of telling him to forget going to his grandfather, that it could wait, that it wasn't often Ryoma's parents were away the whole night.

"Father is coming to get me from school, so I won't be able to walk home with you, either."

"I'll be fine, Buchou," Ryoma said, not looking at Tezuka, wondering if Fuji would be there tomorrow, waiting for him.

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The next day, after school, Fuji was there again. He took his hand, smiling, and walked him home.

When his house came into view Ryoma's hold tightened around Fuji's hand and his heart started racing. Fuji, sensing his restlessness, brushed his thumb against his wrist and tried to calm him, but it had the opposite effect. Ryoma's skin tingled under Fuji's touch and he sucked the air between his teeth, making a sound that resembled Karupin's hiss. The sound made Fuji brush his thumb over his wrist again. When Fuji's thumb stayed on his wrist and Ryoma knew Fuji could feel his rapid pulse, it only made his heart beat more violently.

They stopped in front of the house and Fuji let go of Ryoma's hand. He looked past Ryoma at the house, frowning. "It's strangely quiet today. Usually I hear your father yelling, or doing something around the house."

"They… No one's home," Ryoma told him, turned and opened the gate. He stood with his back to Fuji and waited, the gate open. If he turned and looked at Fuji, that would have been like an invitation. If he didn't look at Fuji, and he came in all by himself, he could pretend he hadn't asked Fuji to come.

Fuji brushed the back of his neck with his fingers on his way to the house, making Ryoma shudder. He closed the gate, and didn't look up from the ground when he followed Fuji inside the house, took his shoes off and went up to his room. When he closed the door, he kept his hand on the handle and closed his eyes. He still had his eyes closed when Fuji slid his uniform from his shoulders and opened the button on his pants.

Only when Fuji shoved him against the door did Ryoma open his eyes. "You're not going to be able to pretend this never happened," Fuji said when Ryoma finally looked at him. "I want you to remember this was your choice." Fuji smiled gently and caressed his cheek, leaned over to whisper in his ear, "You can't keep on playing, Ryoma, not anymore. This is real, and you're going to know it."

Ryoma swallowed, his throat dry; whether from lust or fear, he wasn't sure, but it was the same thing really, with Fuji. As much as Fuji sometimes scared him, he excited him just as much – if not more. He never felt the same with Tezuka. Tezuka made him weak on the knees with just one look, made him want to curl on his lap and purr. Fuji made him hiss and claw, made him attack to hide his fear. He never believed Fuji was fooled by it. But it was enough if he could fool himself even for a second.

He grabbed a handful of Fuji's hair in his fist and drew the other boy in to a fierce kiss, keeping his eyes locked to Fuji's blue ones, showing him that he wasn't going to pretend. When he felt Fuji's smile under his lips he knew he'd been fooled, he just didn't know how. And he didn't care anymore when Fuji's arms went around him and he was pulled to the bed on top of a laughing Fuji.

0

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Fuji lay on his side, eyes on Ryoma's back. The boy was facing the wall, but Fuji knew he wasn't sleeping.

"You're not going to leave him, are you?" he asked, but Ryoma didn't answer.

Sighing loudly, Fuji extended his hand to caress the boy's head, his fingers brushing through the dark hair, so unlike his own sandy brown locks. He couldn't say what he liked most, the boy's hair, his eyes, face or body. And maybe it wasn't any of those things, but the way Ryoma always faced him with a challenge in his eyes, even when most people cowered before him. The boy was fearless. "He'd leave you if he knew," Fuji said, and Ryoma turned to look at him, eyes wide with panic. Fuji laughed bitterly and drew the boy's face close to his own. "I guess there's something you are afraid of, after all," he remarked, rising from the bed to get his clothes.

"You won't tell Buchou?" Ryoma asked, pulling the sheet around his waist while Fuji bent over to pick up his shirt. "Fuji-senpai? You won't?"

Fuji refused to answer, wanting the boy to squirm. It was childish to seek a petty revenge like this, he knew, but it was all he could have. Of course he would never tell Tezuka he'd slept with Ryoma, because he intended to do it again, and again, until one day one of them would break. And he didn't care anymore if it was him, Ryoma or Tezuka.

When he'd dressed, Fuji finally turned to look at Ryoma who was up on his knees, clutching the sheet around his waist, waiting for Fuji to answer. Instead Fuji placed his hand on Ryoma's shoulder and his eyes twinkled with a pleased spark when he saw the bruise on the boy's neck. He slid his fingers over it and smiled. "With this on your neck? I won't have to," Fuji said and with one final kiss on the boy's lips he left.