DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN PRINCE OF TENNIS

This is a challenge by EmInArEvOl.

I know, I know. I'm starting another Royal Pair when I haven't completed my other three PoT stories, but this was a very interesting challenge. Hope I can make it seem believable :) Happy reading

AUTHOR'S NOTES:: : Please remember when reading this work of FAN-FICTION that characters are Very likely going to be OOC . Things are going to be shaped and twisted this author's way.

WARNING: This will be Yaoi / Shounen-Ai– Pairing; Meaning BoyxBoy / MalexMale. Will also have R-rated language. Turn back now if any of this offends you

The cheering from the crowd resonated through his very being as he was tossed in the air by his team mates – no -his friends. They smiled happily up at him and he, Echizen Ryoma, felt like he was floating on a cloud. These people had supported him; treated him like he was one of their own. Gave him a chance to be happy; to love playing tennis again. He felt like he was going to burst from the inside out with happiness. He couldn't help it, couldn't hold it in any longer.

He laughed. "Yatta!"

Ryoma smiled as he zipped up his bag. He just couldn't stop smiling. Their dream of winning the National Cup had come true. He had found people he can relate to, people to call friends.

"Echizen," Ryoma looked up at Oishi-senpai, who was also smiling widely at him. Probably feeling the same way he felt. Oishi, after all had the dream of winning the National for three years now. "Atobe has prepared an after party for us tonight. You should go home and get some rest before heading out to his place. Your head must be feeling the effects of that horrible fall. After all, it was so bad that you had amnesia and forgot all about us and tennis."

He fingered the bump on his head and flinched. Ouch. How could he have forgotten that?

"See, it still hurts, neh?" Oishi fretted. Doing that wringing thing with his hands.

"Nya, Ochibi, he's right. Go home and rest first!"

The deep voice of his captain joined in. "Yudan Seizu Ni Ikou."

The group laughed at Tezuka's phrase delivered in that no nonsense tone and stoic face. "Saa, Tezuka. We just won the National. It's time to party and forget about all that, neh?" Fuji said and turned to Ryoma.

"But they're right, Echizen. You are looking kind pale. Go home and rest."

"Hai, senpai," Ryoma muttered in fake chagrin and walked out of the stadium. Soon as he was out of their sight, he smiled again. Really, his face is going to freeze over with as much as he was smiling in the last half hour. He reached up in habit to hoist his bag over his shoulder and blinked at the lack of familiar weight.

Turning around, he walked back to the stadium. As he neared he heard he named mentioned and slowed down, his face losing the smile he had. A sense of apprehension filled him. He didn't like their tone or their serious faces and he quickly hid from their view, but he could see and hear them clearly.

"You really think Echizen's gone, Inui?" Fuji asked the Data Master, who pushed his glasses up.

"98% that he's already left the stadium, 1% he got hold up by somebody else but still in the stadium but far enough not to hear us, 0.88% that he's outside drinking Ponta and a 0.2% chance of him returning here." Inui listed down his statistics.

Momoshiro laughed. Not the usual easy going laugh Ryoma was used to hearing. This laugh held a cruel mocking edge. "Finally, the National is ours'. All thanks to that little brat. Kami I am so sick of pretending to be his friend and hanging out with him. Isn't that right, Mamushi?" Momoshiro slung an arm over Kaidoh's shoulder. "We're best friends and now I no longer have to pretend Echizen is my best friend."

Ryoma clenched his fists. He couldn' have heard right, right? There has got to be some kind of mistake. This can't be Momoshiro. The likeable hot headed guy that goes around telling everyone to call him Momo-Chan Senpai.

"Fshh, you're right."

"Saa, that was a good plan Tezuka, bringing that Echizen brat into the fold." Tezuka nodded. Fuji tittered into his hand. " ' Be Seigaku's Pillar, Echizen'. He fell for it, hook, line and sinker. Oh my. So funny."

"Hai, it was. I've only considered Kaidoh as the next captain and Momoshiro as the Vice Captain. For him to believe that I will choose him was his own fault."

"Ano, but Echizen still is a teammate. He went through -"

"What, Kawamaura-senpai? You can't seriously think he's one of us!" Momoshiro bursted, glaring at Kawamura. "He walked in with that ' I'm better than you' attitude and acted like he owned tennis!"

Kawamura bit his lips uncertainly. "Nya, Taka's right. Ochibi's earned his place! He's really good, nya, right Oishi?" Kikumura looked at his best friend for support.

Before Oisihi could respond, Tezuka cut in. "Oisihi, wasn't this your dream? To win the Nationals? At any cost?"

"He's right, Kikumura. We cannot be sentimental about this. Echizen was stepping stone for us. That is all." Oishi told him firmly. His usual kind face hard, no warmth like he was used to seeing on Oishi's face.

Kikumaru's eyes widened in disbelief. "But, but .." His lips trembled and Oishi hugged him.

"There, there, Eiji."

"I, I guess you're all right about this," he sniffed. Tezuka looked at Kawamura again, his glasses glinting menacingly. "Takeshi. You do understand, don't you? We have no room for Echizen after this."

"Hai," Kawamura softly responded, eyes flickering away.

With each word that he heard, Ryoma felt like a knife was slowly twisting into his very soul. He must be in some kind of nightmare. That's right! That knock to his head. He must be delirious and his fears must be coming to the forefront because of that.

But looking at them, at his friends, he sneered the word, he knew this was all too real. They had used him. And he had foolishly believed everything and let himself be used. What a fool he was!

Blinking back the tears that threatened to fall, Ryoma deliberately walked out from where he was hiding.

"Neh, senpai-tachi," he mockingly waved to them.

"Echizen!"

"How long -?"

Ryoma smirked, even though he felt like he was breaking with each step he took that brought him closer to them. "Oh, long enough to hear you were using me. Really, if you were going to use me, you could have done a better job. Like keeping it quiet and let me win the National for the next several years. Or aimed higher than just the Nationals." He reached down underneath the bench and hoisted his bag over his shoulder and walked off again. Right before leaving the stadium, he turned around.

"I personally don't care for the title anymore, but any of you could have aimed for the Junior Grand Slam title. Wasn't that a dream of yours, Tezuka? I have many connections in the tennis circuits. Steve Myers being one of them. Mada Mada Dane, senpai-tachi." Ryoma curled his lips at the senpai title, then walked away.

Finally reaching home, Ryoma collapsed on the couch, releasing his brave facade. He felt numb; cold. A cross between a hiccup and a sob threatened to escape his mouth, but he choked it back. He can't cry.

He won't.

He will not allow them the satisfaction of even crying a single tear over them.

"Yo, Seishounen. Finally back, eh? Not going out to celeb...rate?" Nanjiroh trailed off, seeing the cold face of his son. "What's wrong? Is your head hurting? Ahh, I knew I should have taken you to the hospital instead!"

Ryoma shook his head. " No. I want to go back to America!"

"I thought you liked it here? Your friends -"

"They're not my friends!" Nanjiroh blinked, taken aback at Ryoma's snarl. His son was so happy not too long ago. He was even laughing. Sitting down, he tousled Ryoma's hair. "What happened?" he quietly asked.

"I heard them. They used me. To win the Nationals. " Such a detached tone Ryoma was using. Nanjiroh's own heart ache for his son. He thought that by coming here to Japan and meeting new people that didn't know who Ryoma was, that Ryoma would finally have a chance to make some friends. He softly petted his Ryoma's head. "Very well. We'll go back to America."

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UPDATED 8/23/2010

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