AN: I've moved, changed jobs, yadda yadda. I apologize for being so slow, and ask that those of you who have been enjoying this fanfic to please bare with me, as more slow chapters are still coming. This chapter is pretty bland in the sexiness department, but a good relationship can't be sexsexsex all the time. xD Especially a budding relationship. Anyway, there will be more lemons later on, never fear. I won't say when I'll just say… soon. lolz
Ah, whoever it was that left a review with no name: I'm glad you like it. I'm afraid I couldn't see Ryouma as anything but a strong, but indecisive uke, so… -shrug- that's what I wrote. I think it works well with Fuji. ^^
: You really think my portrayals are accurate? Awwwwws. Thankies! I thought I spotted something between them when I watched the show, so I figured since I liked the idea so much I better do something about it, and that's how this fanfic was born. xD
RainDrops-of-Egypt: Ha ha, hate it, huh? Well, for some reason I love Fuji in that role, though you'll find I do give him his own feelings and doubts later on. We just never really experience them personally because I'm not writing from Fuji's POV. Though it might be an interesting idea to write something from his POV one of these days…
XxAlysxX: Ack! This is the perfect opportunity because I have been dying to know: What anime is Sebastian from?
Also, yes, sadistic semes are win, and strong ukes, double win. xD Sadly, Ryouma doesn't stand a chance.
Lady Knight Keladry: I love male pride. It always makes writing stuff so fun! I'm also glad you enjoy my dramatics, and hope that I don't disappoint in the future.
srey nait: Don't worry, there are many more bangs to come in this fanfic. xD Two more planned, and possible others since I haven't finished planning.
erisreigned: Actually, I saw an episode where Fuji was dressed similarly to how I dressed him, it may have been the pool tournament, and I just had to use it, because god, can we say, sexiness? Lolz
I'm going to keep the other tennis schools out of it for now, simply because my knowledge isn't extensive enough, plus I have so much drama going on with the people in it so far, that it seems unnecessary at this point to widen the circle of people in this fanfic. Perhaps later on I'll consider giving some others some starring roles. xD It's certainly food for thought.
EchizenRyomaLover: Your yaoi mind is meant for my kind of writing, it seems. Ryouma has to resist for a bit longer, or else he wouldn't be staying true to his own character, ne? Luckily for you, my dear, your wish will be granted soon. After all, Fuji's losing patience. –evil chuckle-
My next smut scene might meet your standards for strange places, though it's not terribly strange. The one planned for after that is going to be pretty regular though, sadly. Sorry sweetie.
AnniCat: It took me a very long time to differentiate between Momo and Najiroh's characters. I've found PoT hard to write for, simply because the characters are all just a tad shallow, with no real depth to them, so I had to sort of give them some depth without changing the characters.
The sparkling vampires was simply irresistible. I know it doesn't exactly fit with the culture that PoT is set in, but since I'm personally unfamiliar with it, I figured I'd just kind of make it work as I went along. Truth be told, I love the Twilight series, but I'm not so obsessed that I can't see the faults in the books/movies.
The second date is coming next chapter, chapter 6.
BlueMoon: I'm sorry to say, sweetie, that I've a thing for going against the grain and making pairings that are out of the ordinary. That's right, there will be very little golden pair interaction (a little though, mind you), no Kaidoh/Inui, very little Tezuka/Fuji, and only mentioned in passing. Instead, I'm going to take our pairings in new directions. Luckily for you, since this is in Ryouma's POV, there will be little in the way of details concerning other pairings. ^^
JBubbles: Glad you liked the last one, hopefully you'll think this chapter is okay as well. ^^ I admit, it's a tiny bit of a filler chapter, but as I said before, it can't all be about dramadramadrama and sexsexsex. Lolz. Although I guess there is a touch of lime and some drama in this chappie. xD
Loveless0097: I'm glad you like their roles, and I'm excited to fulfill your needs. –wink- I should warn you, the tables will turn eventually. Mwah ha ha ha!
Hippy101: Dearest, I love all of my reviewers for simply taking the time out of their day to say something, and feel they should be accorded the same value that they make me feel upon reading their reviews. Hot steamy mansex is always fun, and drama can be when done right. I hope I haven't overdone the drama for you? ^^
Kawaii hime-sama: Ha ha, now that you mention it, that is how I imagined Kaidoh hitting Momo. I have no ill will towards Momo either, he was just the only one I felt would have strong feelings about boylove besides possibly Tezuka. His personality made it so he was the only one I could pick on in such a way. Poor Momo.
I don't know if you could tell, but Ryouma wasn't terribly fond of New Moon either. I have much love for the books, a loyalty for the movies because of the books, but that doesn't mean my version of PoT characters are going to share my feelings. ^^
Oh dear, I have stories I hadn't updated in years and years. ._.
Kazumakyu: I'm so glad you liked it that much! I hope you'll be as patient as most of my other readers have been and continue to enjoy my fanfic! I'll do my best to provide continuous entertainment through my story… er… slowly. Lolz
Anabellia Hyuuga: I'm sorry that updating quickly didn't happen for you, dearie. Please forgive me. I'm very glad you like it so much though. ^^
ShadowBlayze: Ha ha, liked the sparkly vampires comment, did you? I was really hoping twifans wouldn't take offense to that, but I figured most of them would be able to separate my own opinions from my characters opinions. ^^
PheonixShadow: Well, as you said, the world doesn't work so easily. Someone had to stand up and give them a hard time for going on man-dates. xD. There will be others, too, though nobody closely related to the tennis team. (with the exception of Momo, of course) oh, and you're very welcome!
A GARGANTUAN HUG for all of those who reviewed my story. I deeply appreciate every word written from each and every one of you, and I hope to live up to your expectations of my fanfic, though I can't guarantee there will be any amount of timeliness to it. ."
Without further ado…
It was a rather nice day to be running laps. That was what I kept telling myself as I made another circuit of the tennis court, because it was either that or be mad about it. I'd been late to practice, and even though it obvious why from the circles under my eyes, Oishi had only given me a concerned look and told me to run thirty. I was about halfway through and just getting my second wind.
This was Fuji's fault, of course. I hadn't been able to sleep last night, for obvious reasons, and it was easy to lay the blame for the whole fiasco on him. You could have just taken the problem into your own hands, a little voice joked in my head, and I closed that kind of thinking down viciously. Sure, Fuji wouldn't have known if I had done it, but I would have known, and it would have meant that I had lost to him after all. It might only have been one win amongst many, many losses, but it was still mine, and I had not been willing to give it up so easily.
Not that it had been easy. Not in the least.
I had gotten past the point where my body started to believe we were really going to do this, so my twentieth lap felt pretty solid, pretty strong. My breathing was coming nice and regular, my muscles whispering a slow, steady ache of complaint. It was all a familiar, wonderful thing that I was very glad at the moment I had. It might not seem like much, but like that one win, it was mine, and nobody could take it from me. Well, barring physically disabling me they couldn't anyway.
I didn't miss the fact that Fuji didn't really look any better than I did today, and I wondered smugly if maybe he'd had as much trouble sleeping last night as I had. Lap twenty-one and twenty-two came and went pretty easily with these thoughts. It was on the twenty-third lap, as the other regulars were taking the mid-practice break, that the bantering started with a cute remark from Eiji.
"Hoi hoi, Ochibi, did Fujiko-chan really tire you out so much last night that you couldn't get to practice on time?" Eiji was grinning devilishly as I ran by him, and I stuck my nose in the air.
"I'm sure it went something like that in his dreams last night." I replied casually, and Eiji covered his mouth as mirth spilled forth. Fuji's tired-looking mouth turned up in an amused grin. Oishi wasn't sure whether to be concerned or amused. Kawamura was blushing slightly, Kaidoh was ignoring us, and Inui was writing furiously in his notebook, about who-knew-what. Only Momo looked troubled by this turn.
Fuji was equal to my teasing. "From the looks of things, your dreams were quite similar to mine, ne, Ryouma-kun?" He casually admitted to dreaming of me and accused me of something that was actually true, all in one easy sentence. Defeated, I yanked my hat down low to hide the heat warming my cheeks more than running ever could. My reaction seemed to trigger chorused laughter from the rest of them, and though I tried to be irritated with it, the negative emotion just wouldn't come. Kami, when I had become so optimistic?
I finished my laps up with just enough time to stretch before practice was continued, and I found myself quite suddenly accosted by two of my sempai at once.
Both Fuji and Momo stared at each other as they had both tried to talk to me at once, and I looked back and forth between them. Momo looked like he couldn't figure out how to react, and Fuji was just giving him his usual pleasant expression. After a moment Fuji finally turned to me, obviously ready to say his piece and let Momo speak when he was ready.
"I'd like to practice today with you, Echizen."
"Oh?" I replied, and knew my whole face was lighting up. I did so love to play tennis with Fuji. "You know I plan on winning." I said with a small smile.
Fuji nodded once. "As do I."
"You guys are going to play seriously?" Momo asked, looking torn.
"Didn't say that." I replied, and Fuji grinned, backing me up.
"You know we're not supposed to be playing each other seriously until the next in-house ranking games." And now Fuji frowned. "Or until Tezuka returns."
This had all through of us looking slightly troubled.
"Has anyone asked Ryuzaki-sensei if she knows anything about Tezuka's absence?" Inui looked from face to face, and we all shook our heads. "Perhaps we should inquire with her after practice."
This decided, the pairing up started, and we went to our separate courts. Inui and Kaidoh decided to pair up and work on their doubles skills against the golden pair, while Momo and Kawamura went to work on their strength training against each other. Fuji and I were already volleying the ball back and forth, feeling each other out, because it felt a little different. At least, it did for me.
Finally, I got tired of messing around and slammed a point home. Fuji's eyes flickered open and he gave me a small smile to show he understood; the match started now. He retrieved the ball, served it to me, and I froze mid-swing.
"Echizen." It was a voice I couldn't disobey, and Fuji's serve whipped harmlessly by me. I turned around and sure enough, our captain was standing there with arms folded. I heard another ball clang into the fence, and a third hit the net, and then all went quiet.
"How many laps do you think would be fair for disobeying my direct order?" Tezuka was looking from Fuji to me, and I stayed quiet, because I knew my mouth would only get us into more trouble. Was it possible I was growing up a little? Naw. Tezuka went on. "I've only been absent for two days, and yet the two of you can't seem to resist each other."
There was dead silence, and then a low guffaw. I turned my head in time to see Kikumaru clap a hand to his mouth, eyes wide and shiny with suppressed laughter. Several of the other regulars actually were starting to break up around the edges, and then Eiji lost it, breaking into full blown hysterics. Even Momoshiro seemed to find the hilarity of it, and was laughing right along with the others. Fuji was smiling his usual, amused smile, and I tipped my hat down because I could feel the heat in my cheeks.
Tezuka's sharp eyes swept from one of us to the other, clearly befuddled by this reaction, and it was Oishi who decided to inform him of the date last night. Everyone else seemed to be sharing glances with each other, so it was only Oishi, Fuji and I that caught the twitch Tezuka's jaw gave. Was that intense displeasure I was seeing on my captain's face? I squinted to see better into the morning sun, but by the time my eyes refocused, Tezuka's expression was as devoid as ever, and I wrote what I thought I had seen off as surprise on Tezuka's part. Surely my captain wasn't so prejudiced?
"Fuji, Echizen, twenty laps." He demanded, and now I did speak up.
"But sir, we weren't playing seriously-"
"Thirty laps." Tezuka bit out, and I snapped my jaw shut.
As we changed after practice (Fuji and I still huffing and sweating from running all those laps) the talk seemed to be about Tezuka and where he had been. I had to admit, I was a little curious myself. If he had been sick, surely Tezuka would have said something to us, or to Ryuzaki, who would have told us. Of course, Tezuka had been having trouble with his arm… maybe he'd been resting it for a few days after the match with 'The King'? The talk amongst the others seemed to be following the same line, and I frowned, because there were holes in every idea.
"Echizen." Fuji was at my elbow as I slid a shirt over my head. His voice had been low, and the others didn't look up from their talk. Fuji was obviously looking for privacy, so I jerked my head towards the showers (with some hesitation, there were some… interesting memories of this area alone with Fuji) and we sidled off, unnoticed.
"Fuji-sempai…" I mumbled, the memories a little overwhelming once we were alone. My eyes darted, and I was instantly embarrassed. I hated how easily I was embarrassed lately. It was right there in that shower cubicle that we'd had sex… I shuddered at the memory, the kind of shudder that was part fear, and part excitement.
"Let's do a lunch/study date tomorrow." Fuji said without preamble, ignoring my obvious uneasiness. I was taken aback, and stared at him for a moment, a little surprised he was being so direct. Fuji and direct weren't words I'd usually put in one sentence.
Fuji had noticed my reluctance to agree and grinned. "Well, I was wondering what the others would think if they knew how much you enjoyed the way I touch you. You never did make a peep the whole time in the movie theater… and that kiss at your door when you kissed me back-"
"Fine." I snarled, instantly forgetting my uneasiness in favor of being pissed off. Fuji was manipulating me again, and it was getting fucking annoying, I'll tell you what. "My house, at noon. I'm kicking you out before 4pm." I stated, glaring up at him and daring him to protest. He didn't, instead smiling in that annoying way of his. The only warning I had of the kiss coming was his eyes cracking open, and then he was kissing me, and for a brief moment, I forgot to be angry. The moment wore off though, and soon enough I had my tongue to myself (Bad self, bad!) and had shoved the bigger boy off of me. He let me, looking satisfied, which was getting annoying all by itself, and so I stalked out of the showers so I didn't have to look at him.
Several eyes met mine as I reentered to changing room, but before I could be too much more embarrassed, two things happened at once: Fuji entered behind me, and Tezuka came in through the locker room door, looking authoritative. His mere presence drew everyone's eyes away from us, and I wondered if Fuji was disappointed at the lack of attention. He did so love to embarrass me.
"I have news." Tezuka said, looking from face to face, his voice precise. "My injury was… is bad, and I'll be going away for a while to get it rehabilitated." He was clearly watching for reactions from us, and I was so caught up in myself that I missed their expressions. However, it was impossible to not notice when Fuji's hand went to my shoulder. I sent a glance over my shoulder at him and found his eyes firmly on Tezuka's… and was that possessiveness? I wished he would look at me for a moment so I could properly assess his expression, but he didn't, and my gaze swept to Tezuka.
Who was staring right back at Fuji expressionlessly.
Before I could so much as consider what that little exchange might have meant, Tezuka was going on about his trip.
Our captain was going to Germany, as it turned out. He didn't know when he was coming back, or if his arm would ever heal back to full use. It crossed my mind that he shouldn't have wrecked his arm just to win one match, but I kept my mouth shut and just listened. Tezuka could have been a world class player, and instead he might end up being nothing, all so the school could win one stupid match… or more specifically, so I would win one stupid match. It was all so pointless. I refused to meet Tezuka's eyes for the rest of the discussion, until he came to me and spoke directly to me.
"I need you to be our pillar of support, Echizen-kun." His expression was as dead as his voice, and then he said his goodbyes and left.
And just like that, our team was without a captain. Oishi was sort of temporarily in charge, but all of us knew he wasn't as up to the task as he had told Tezuka he would be. I was sure everyone would support Oishi as best they could in this time, so I wasn't terribly worried, but still, we were one player short. Before, figuring out the pairings and singles games in tournaments had been relatively easy, and was left to Tezuka and Ryuzaki. But now… now it would be different. I wondered how things would work now… would Oishi help with that too? Or would Ryuzaki handle it by herself? And just how long was Tezuka going to be gone?
I hadn't realized what a comforting presence Fuji was just behind me until he moved his hand I was devoid of that gentle touch. I fought off mourning it in favor of pulling a sullen apathy around me like a big cloak. The whole room felt sober and slightly suffocating, so I grabbed my stuff and launched myself out of there before it choked off my breath or made me say something stupid. Fuji didn't offer to walk me home, and Momo didn't get the chance, so I was alone as I turned the corner from the school onto the sidewalk.
I knew that voice. I considered ignoring it, but instead spun around to see Ryuzaki's granddaughter waving at me and trotting down the sidewalk after me. Great. Just great. I turned on my heel but walked slowly enough that she should be able to catch up and kept my eyes mostly forward as she talked to me.
"Hey Echizen, my grandmother told me about Tezuka leaving. That's pretty bad news, isn't it?" She asked gently, shyly, just as she always did. I won't lie, I didn't mind the girl much, and she was sort of interesting, but kind of boring, too. I simply couldn't see her doing anything passionately. Besides, I thought arrogantly, her tennis sucked out loud. It was kind of ludicrous, kind of silly, and terribly shallow of me, but in all seriousness, how did the girl end up being such a bad player with an awesome coach like her grandmother?
"Betsuni," I answered nonchalantly, and then grudgingly added, "We'll be fine. We have an extra player still."
She seemed satisfied with this answer, and walked along with me for a few minutes, looking jittery. I let her work her own words out, and finally she did, sort of blurting them out all at once.
"Is it true you had a date with Fuji?" She asked, so quickly and in such a high, squeaky voice I almost didn't catch it. My step faltered slightly, and I huffed out an annoyed breath. Who in the world was running their mouths to Sakuno? And how should I answer? I didn't have many choices. I could either lie, which she would figure out eventually, or I could brush her off, which would be rude but doable, or tell the truth. I wasn't exactly ashamed, but I wasn't big on everyone in the school knowing I'd gone on a date with a boy. At least, not yet. This annoyed me all by itself, because it shouldn't matter, right? I shouldn't give a damn who knew what about me. I shouldn't. Of course, that didn't change the fact that it did matter.
"Don't go blowing up the school with it." I mumbled, keeping with the ambiguous answers. I was awful good at them, as it turned out. I registered Sakuno's shocked expression out of the corner of my eye before she disappeared from view, her step faltering.
I ignored it.
She trotted a few steps to catch up to me. "I-I would never say anything." She mumbled, her voice full of hurt. I didn't glance her way again, but I got the feeling she was staring very hard at the pavement in front of her feet, still striding along next to me for some damned reason. What else could she possibly want?
After a few restless and annoying moments more, she told me.
"Echizen, do you only… have you made your choice then?" I shot her a confused and irritated expression and she swallowed and clarified. "About boys and girls?"
Since this was a question I had no answer for, I shrugged. "Who says I have to choose?"
I caught the edge of her movement as she gave me a surprised look, clearly taken back by my answer, before a strange kind of relief filled her eyes. "No one. No one says that." And there was a small smile on her lips.
I nearly hit myself. Of course Sakuno hadn't come to me looking for idle gossip. The hurt look hadn't been entirely about me not trusting her with the information… part of it was that Sakuno had thought she would have to give up on me. I should have said yes, I should have made it clear she had no chance with me, because that was truth, plain and simple. I hadn't meant to give her hope. It was cruel of me, and it was even crueler that I didn't stop her from waving and sprinting down the road towards her house. I should have said something, and I knew it right that very moment, but I didn't.
This was totally going to come back and bit me in the ass.
The phone rang, as expected, around 5pm.
"Eh, Ryouma-" Nanjiroh had gotten to it first, and I had quit the fight for the phone for obvious reasons. No point in hiding things anymore, right? Still, my teeth clenched and there was a slight temptation to hit my father when he gave me a lewd and teasing expression before handing me the phone. "Guess who it is."
I didn't need to guess.
"Is there something else you needed, Fuji?" I hissed between my teeth.
"Only you, Echizen." Even through the phone, the sensuality in Fuji's tone was clear, and I felt my cheeks heat with the thoughts behind it. I was quite suddenly very glad my father had retreated hastily to the kitchen for dinner. "I simply missed the sound of your voice, if you're looking for a reason for the phone call." He went on casually.
My cheeks grew warmer still, and my hand clenched the phone tightly. How did Fuji do this to me? How could he so easily say these things to me, without even a hint of embarrassment? Was everything he said to me a lie? I was torn between wanting to believe that to make some kind of rational sense out of his interest in me, but I simultaneously clung to the tenuous hope that Fuji actually had some interest in me as a person, and not just as a conquest. I was being young, naïve and foolish, I knew, but I could grudgingly admit to myself that just like any other person, I longed to be loved.
Coming to this realization pissed me off more than anything Fuji could have said, and my voice was cool when I spoke. "Maybe it would be better if you got used to not hearing it."
Normally, Fuji would have brushed that off and kept right on with his flirting, but something about my tone gave him pause, and his voice came uncertainly over the line. "Echizen… did something happen to upset you?"
I started to form a smart alec reply ("Yes, you called"), but then stopped to think about it. Had something upset me? Maybe a little. That thing with Ryuzaki-san had made me think a little bit about whether I should be making a choice between boys and girls, and if I did, what my choice would be. I knew there were people who claimed to like both, but I couldn't imagine making that choice myself, it just didn't jibe right with me. If I chose boys, as it seemed I would, then I would be giving up any kind of normality in my life from here on out, because to be frank, most people considered being gay abnormal. If I chose girls, then I'd be giving up on my feelings, and on Fuji. The idea of giving up on Fuji lit something inside of me and my hand trembled where I gripped the phone.
"Nothing happened." I lied, my voice full of contempt. "Now if you don't mind, I'll be getting back to dinner now." I was about to slam the receiver down, but Fuji got one last remark in before I could.
"Alright, Ryouma. Sweet dreams." The amusement filtered over the line let me know that Fuji understood just how close to home that one hit, and I dropped the phone in the cradle in disgust. Stomping in the Kitchen to eat dinner, my eyes found two glinty eyed family members, obviously amused as hell by my latest phone call.
Over dinner, my father was waving his arms unnecessarily and teasing me, and it was all I could do not to launch myself across the table and throttle him. Nanako was attempting to remain expressionless in the face of my embarrassment but was failing miserably, hiding giggles behind her hand and nearly choking on her food. My appetite was gone. I pushed back from the table, about to excuse myself, when I saw something innocuous, impossible, taunting me with its very existence.
"That's not…" My voice died in embarrassment and anger. It was a cordless phone sitting mostly hidden on the kitchen table. I blanched. So my father and Nanako had been listening to both sides of the conversation? The room spun and for a moment I wasn't sure if I was going to pass out, throw up, or ignore how I felt physically in favor of committing patricide.
I finally did the only logical thing: I snatched up the cordless phone and brought it to my bedroom, heedless to the words directed at my back as I trundled up the stairs. I hid it away under the loose floor board in my closet and that was that.