The first part is in past tense, because it's like a background story. The segments after that are all in present-tense, because this fic refused to stay in past tense, heh.

And the thing is, I don't like it when Gakuto is shown to be a weakling who's so desperate for Yuushi's love that he gives his life away. He's stronger than that. Which is why I ended up writing this.

Disclaimer: Prince of Tennis isn't mine. :)

It was after the ninth month Yuushi came home smelling like someone else that Gakuto decided it had to end.

It was the second time he actually saw them together that he actually ended it.

These days, he spent his free time (which he had a lot of) reading. It wasn't a Gakuto thing to do, but living his life for somebody else wasn't a Gakuto thing to do, either. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. He could identify with all of the characters, all of them, so he read it many times. It surprised him somewhat that his favorite character was Katie, the mother, who was madly in love with a handsome, charismatic, but unreliable man named Johnny. She gave her entire life away to him, but regardless of the first few years of happiness, her life spiraled downward.

Eventually, Johnny died. Katie wasn't the one to leave him, and by then, she was completely poverty-stricken, with three children to take care of and no husband for support.

Gakuto didn't want that.

It relieved him to know that she eventually married a well to do man, even though it surprised him that she wasn't in love with him. She admired him and had a quiet respect for him. It was a smart thing to do, probably. She would always love Johnny, but there was a difference between loving somebody and knowing somebody was right for you.

The man was Sergeant McShane, dedicated, wealthy, reliable, and faithful. Gakuto, in his childhood, had known that it was smart, but wasn't sure if it was right. How could Katie marry somebody she didn't love? How could she move on from Johnny Nolan, the love of her life?

Now Gakuto understood. It was a painful realization.

Ten p.m. Yuushi sometimes didn't arrive home until sunrise. He didn't know exactly who this mysterious lover of Yuushi's was, and frankly, he didn't care much, either. Gakuto knew he had plenty of time to pack his things and leave. He wasn't sure where to go.

Not to his parents' house. They hadn't been fond of the idea of Gakuto having no career, few friends, and depending on one man (a man, not a woman). One former doubles partner. They'd accepted that Gakuto was madly in love with him, but grudgingly. He knew he couldn't go back to them the way he was.

He wanted to blame Yuushi for his having no career, nothing to do with his life, and nobody to depend on, but he couldn't. It was his fault for getting swept away.

He took a few things, not any money. He had enough of his own, and his bank account was still perfectly intact, thanks to sharing a bank account with Yuushi. Wryly, he noted that that was the only good part of his and Yuushi's entire relationship, if it could even be called that.

He took A Tree Grows in Brooklyn with him, if only to serve as a reminder.

"You're going to catch a cold."

Gakuto looks up at the sound of the voice. It's winter, close to spring, but still bitterly cold. His clothes are Yuushi's clothes, and Yuushi's clothes are his. He wants nothing that belongs to Yuushi, and brought only the shirt on his back and the jacket he'd had before Yuushi had taken over his life. He knows he should have dressed warmer, but leaving had been a serendipitous decision. He notes that he still has enough time to go back without Yuushi realizing that he'd ever left. "Yasui," he acknowledges.

Yasui Kameko. She is an old friend, a childhood friend. Quiet and shy, very reserved. He hasn't seen her since high school, and although the pair of them used to be close… Yuushi had changed that.

Gakuto smiles at her, a little bitterly, and she smiles back. "How are you?" she asks.

"At a loss," he replies.

Yasui looks at the empty glaze in his eyes, the dull blue. "Has Oshitari-kun broken up with you?" she asks, sounding spiteful. He knows that she strongly dislikes Yuushi, but never asked why.

"I left," Gakuto corrects. The words leave an uncomfortable taste in his mouth. He repeats them. "I left."

She looks thoughtful, then nods her head. "Why?"

"A lot of reasons," he mutters.

Her expression darkens. "Where are you heading, Mukahi-kun?"

She is exactly his height, and stares directly into his eyes. He stares back. "Nowhere," he says, sounding deceptively casual. He keeps his tone frank. "I'm wandering."

Gakuto turns to leave. There's no point in conversing with an old friend. He tells himself that, but part of himself is bitter, a little angry. He has nobody left, because he thought it would be worth it to depend on Yuushi. He hates that, and he hates that he was so gullible. He's also remorseful, contrite. There were so many people he could have taken the time to know. And now it's too late.

He blames it on Yuushi.

(He loves him.)

More on himself.

He wonders if Yuushi has realized that he's missing yet. It's almost morning. He glances briefly at his wrist, only to realize he hasn't brought his watch. Yuushi's watch.

But judging from the sunlight, he assumes it's nearly five or six a.m. He realizes that Yuushi must have returned home by now, and considers returning home (no, not home. Yuushi's house) to see his former lover's expression. Because he is fairly certain that Yuushi does love him. Gakuto decides that yes, he would take a sadistic amusement in it. He is still considering it when his friend says:

"Why don't you come over?"

"When did you realize he was cheating?"

Those are the first words out of Yasui's mouth when Gakuto sits down and takes the offered cup of tea. The porcelain is warm against his cold hands. He rubs them a little and murmurs, "Quite some time, now."

It's true. The first time Yuushi came home late, smelling like somebody else's body, somebody else's soap, somebody else's home, Gakuto put it off as a trick of the mind. The second time, Gakuto decided that everybody was allowed to make mistakes.

But then the instances became more frequent, and Gakuto had steadily realized that he was losing him.

He still wishes for Yuushi's words, those sweet nothings.

Sweet lies.

But it's not until nine months later that he finally leaves.

Gakuto smiles a wavering smile at her when she asks, "Then why leave now?"

"Why not?" he replies honestly.

She likes his answer, he realizes, when the smile on her face becomes less stiff and more approving. "Finally," she tells him. "I thought you'd stay with him forever."

"I thought I would, too." He still doesn't like saying it.

"It's brave of you," she says. "That's some willpower." She sets down her teacup delicately.

He murmurs agreement.

He glances at the clock. It is almost seven a.m. He hasn't brought his cell phone, and wonders about Yuushi's reaction, when he calls Gakuto's cell phone again and again, only to realize that his cell phone is ringing haplessly by the nightstand. Gakuto amuses himself with the thought, and resists a smile. He's smiling an awful lot for someone who's just abandoned his lover.

But it's all well, because the smiles are fake, anyway.

"He's good at weaving illusions," his friend agrees.

Gakuto doesn't say anything.

"Nice book," she says, gesturing to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

No reply.

Yasui says, "Why don't you stay here?"

She makes use of his degree in design, and in only a month's time, he's running a small fashion design industry under a different name. "Christophe Lesueur" is incredibly successful. She explains to him that she's always had a passion for the art of design, and that she'd love to help him. She explains that she is the assistant director of a very high class, very well known department store, and that she'd be very happy to help him get his name known in the fashion industry. Gakuto thanks her and accepts her generosity.

He also wonders what the hell had possessed him to get a degree in fashion designing.

It is oddly successful, and Gakuto has always been a good artist. His business blooms, and by the end of the second week, he's gotten many offers to design for some relatively well known companies. Yasui tells him not to, that with his abilities, he can open a company of his own. Gakuto listens to her advice.

He is rather lucky, he thinks, to have met up with her on the street. He's also rather lucky that almost none of his friends know about her. He's very well aware that Oshitari, with the help of Atobe and their other tennis friends, have organized a huge search for him.

(When did he start calling him by his surname?)

He knows this because there is an article about Atobe's efforts almost every day in the newspaper. He wonders if Oshitari is still going to that mysterious lover of his. He hopes so. He hopes somebody gets something good out of it.

His friend is kind to him. They alternate between doing the dishes and cooking, and through this, Gakuto becomes a very good cook. He stays at her house for the time being. It has a spare bedroom, and she lets him remodel it however he likes. He's surprised by this offer, but accepts it.

He suspects that she knows why he can't go back to his parents.

She probably also knows why he can't—refuses—to go back to Yuushi.

She respects that. And so he respects her.

When Christophe Lesueur's name first hits the newspapers, they celebrate by having coffee in a fairly isolated café. He laughs for the first time he has in weeks at a small joke she makes. Their laughter attracts the attention of a blonde napping in the corner of the café. His strawberry blonde hair covers part of his face, but his bright brown eyes are wide when he exclaims, "Gakuto?"

Gakuto and Yasui pretend not to have heard. Jirou bounds up to them and gives Gakuto a hug. "I missed you! Where were you? Who's this? Your girlfriend? Yuushi's so sad! He misses you a lot, why did you leave?"

Gakuto pulls away from Jirou's embrace and replies, "Sorry." His voice cracks a little. Yasui drags him out of the coffee shop before he can get around to crying.

He feels bad about deceiving Jirou, but decides that it's what must be done.

He hopes that Jirou won't report what he's seen to Oshitari, but knows that he probably will.

Gakuto resigns himself to it.

"I still love him," Gakuto said quietly.

It is night. He has spent a two and a half months with Kameko. His business is going well. He's opened up a shop, and it's manned by Kameko's cousin. He has yet to show his face in public, he has yet to announce himself as the designer of Christophe Lesueur.

"I know," Kameko replies. "It's okay."

"I'll always love him." It's not a plead, just a statement.

"I know," she repeats. "It's okay."

"Is it?" This is a plead. She knows what he wants to hear. He knows what he wants to hear.

"It can be."

He knows what she means. He wonders if he'll be able to hold out that long. "I want to shock him," he whispers. "I want to make him envy me."

"Do it all at once," she says. "Don't be reckless. Plan it."

He shoots her a grateful smile. She knows.

He spends more time with Kameko than he does with anybody else now. He hasn't seen Oshitari or any of his former friends in four and a half months.

So he's slightly surprised when Kameko suggests he goes out on his own. "You can't hide here forever. Take a walk. You'll have to speak to your old friends eventually."

She tells him to look happy. He assures her that he doesn't need to pretend to be happy anymore. She smiles at that. He smiles back.

He will never fall in love again, he knows this. But he is happy, regardless.

He half expects to see Jirou or one of his old teammates again when he leaves.

He does.

Jirou is out with Choutarou and Shishido. They are walking in the park that Gakuto is passing by, and catch his eye. Jirou and Choutarou wave wildly. Shishido gives him a long stare. Gakuto meets his gaze for a moment.

Shishido is the one he's known since he was in grade school. Shishido knows him. Shishido knows why Gakuto left, and he knows why Gakuto will never go back. So all he does is give him a nod and drag Choutarou and Jirou away. Gakuto's lips twitch upward in a smile, which Shishido returns for the slightest of seconds.

Then they're gone.

Gakuto continues his walk.

When he returns, Kameko asks how his walk went.

"Did you know?" he asks.

"There was a good chance," she admits.


"You can't run forever," she points out.

He shoves the thought to the back of his mind and continues working on his newest design.

Christophe Lesueur is officially a high class brand. There are dozens of stores all across Japan, and it's only been seven months. Still, reporters are rather miffed that the designer himself has yet to show up for an interview. Many celebrity talk shows have offered to interview him, but Gakuto has always denied the opportunities.

"You should go," Kameko says one day. "Shock Oshitari. Isn't that what you want?"

"Weren't we going to plan it?" he asks.

"I have planned it," she answers. "The question is whether or not you'll agree."

Gakuto tilts his head to the side in question.

She smiles at him. "You see…"

People are excited about Christophe Lesueur making his first public appearance. They are surprised, nonetheless, when a handsome young man with striking red hair walks onstage. They had expected somebody older, but the crowd loves him, loves this charismatic, not broken young man with confidence in his stride and a firmness in his bright, intelligent eyes. He has one hand in the pocket of his dress pants, and the girls seem to find this charming.

Watch this, Oshitari, he thinks. Watch me.

He imagines Oshitari's eyes widening as he walks across the stage, head held high. He imagines Oshitari bringing a hand to his mouth as he says, "Good morning, Okui-san."

The questions start. Why did you use a fake name? Why did you hide from the public for so long? Gakuto tells one smooth lie after another about how he's been shy, how he hasn't been doing much with his degree in fashion, and how it was his friend who finally inspired him. He doesn't mention Oshitari's or Kameko's name, because both of them were people who'd initiated the process, anyway.

He wonders if Oshitari is crying.

The women in the crowd have fallen in love with him. It's an enticing feeling. Gakuto decides that this must be the feeling that drew Oshitari to cheat so many times. He wonders if it was worth it, for Oshitari.

"So tell me, Mukahi-kun."

Gakuto smiles obligingly and leans forward a little.

"Do you have a significant other?"

He's expected this question.

He pictures Oshitari leaning forward in anticipation. Is he wondering whether or not Gakuto will say his name? Will he say that he's in love with him? That unfortunate events happened, but he's ready to go back?

Gakuto smiles to himself. This is a cruel form of satisfaction, and of revenge. He likes it.

He pulls his hand out from his pocket to show off a gold band on his finger.

A wedding ring.

He's engaged.

"I have a fiancée," Gakuto says pleasantly. "She's helped me through a lot."

Listen, Oshitari.

"She brought me back from the darkest hours of my life."

Hear that?

"I have learned that there is a difference between loving a person and knowing a person is right for you."

This is revenge.

And he never knows it, but Oshitari does exactly what he imagines. He leans forward in anticipation, wonders those questions. He gapes at the sight of the wedding ring. Atobe and Jirou, who are sitting with him, offer their sympathies, but Oshitari can do nothing but listen.

Maybe cry.

Gakuto never knows it, but he does it, anyway.

Christophe Lesueur is even more popular, now that the women know how handsome the designer is. This marks the first time a Japanese clothing brand has been considered on par with the great designers, like Prada and Versace. Gakuto is very proud of it, and has finally spoken to his parents, who are proud of him as well.

They are curious as to how he met this Yasui girl, and want to know exactly how he proposed.

He doesn't tell them.

("You have a plan?"

"You can marry me."

"You don't mind that?"


"…I don't love you."

"I don't love you, either. But I admire you, and I respect you. I'd be a faithful wife to you, and I could help you."

"I admire you, and respect you, too. I can promise the same."


"Let's get married.")

He doesn't tell them that he's only loved once, and that he will never love anybody again. He will love Oshitari, will always love Oshitari.

However foolish it is.

He doesn't tell them that Kameko and he are simply very, very good friends. They joke around, laugh, and act the way two best friends would. He is grateful to her for doing this for him, but he won't love her. She won't love him, either. They're okay with that.

They are marrying for convenience.

They can each be proud of the other, depend on the other, and assist the other.

This is what a marriage is composed of.


Gakuto is scared to turn around.

Because that's Oshitari's voice.

And that's his name.

"Gakuto." A pair of strong hands grip his shoulders, and Gakuto almost gasps. "Why are you doing this to me? Getting married—are you an idiot?"

This brings his voice back. "No, I'm not." Gakuto pulls himself away from Oshitari's grip and spins around to look at him. "I'm not."

"Then why?"

The tensai's eyes are dark, but liquid and pleading. Gakuto wonders if he's had his heart broken, too. "Because I love you too much," he whispers.

"You love me?" He laughs a sharp laugh. "Then why get married to a complete stranger in seven months' time?"

"She's not a stranger," Gakuto defends. His voice turns sharp as he says, "She's the one who took me in after I left you."

This silences Oshitari for a few moments. Then he says, "I'm sorry. I love you. Those two times were accidents, I—"

He still has the audacity to lie? Gakuto nearly bristles. "Nine months. I've known for nine months. And I caught you twice. But I've known for nine months. Don't lie to me, Oshitari." He softens his expression a bit to take away the sting.

Then Oshitari kisses him, and all sympathy is gone.

He realizes they're still in love. That kiss is familiar, not soft, but violent. Gakuto feels the familiar churning in his stomach, that woozy feeling in his head. He doesn't want to pull away, but he does. "I'm not sorry," he says firmly. "You're not either. I'm doing something with my life. I gave it all to you, and I'm taking it back."

"No." Oshitari pulls that face, the one that works on every single woman, every single lover. It used to work on Gakuto, too. "I love you, Gaku. I love you, I love you. Come back to me." He leans in to kiss him again.

Gakuto pushes him back, gently but firmly. "No, thank you," he says politely, and leaves.

"You can go back to him anytime," Kameko assures. "Really. If you want to."

"I don't," Gakuto says, kicking a chair. "It's not worth it."

She shrugs. "Friends with benefits works, too."

"Nah." Gakuto shakes his head. "It's really just… not worth it." He's made such a turn around, after all. He doesn't want to give it all away.

He and Kameko have remodeled the modest home, and both are considering moving abroad. Their parents both approve of it.

(Neither of their parents realize that the two of them aren't in love.)

She'd offered to be Sergeant McShane, after all.

He respected her, and she respected him. They had a quiet admiration for one another. Gakuto had always (will always) love Oshitari.

But it's not worth it.

Maybe in another lifetime, he decides. If Oshitari makes a turnaround. If Oshitari ever loves him the way Gakuto loves Oshitari. He would have willingly given his life away. And he did.

Now it's over.

Maybe in the next lifetime, Oshitari will be the one chasing after Gakuto.

Gakuto decides he won't make Oshitari suffer the way he did.

But for now, he is content.

He smiles, and Kameko smiles back.

This… basically sucks. It's a controversial issue, and it is NOT Gakuto x OC because they're not in love and they don't get together at all. Gakuto is in love with Yuushi, and will always love Yuushi.