Ok, I'm really sorry for having just disppeared without warning like that. Its just that...my life has taken a rather sad turn lately, and I kinda lost my muses...

My grandfather had been battling with stomach cancer for about 4 months, and just 2 weeks ago...he...was finally at peace you could say.

And I apologise once more for neglecting my other stories, since I just wasn't in the mood to do those happy and fluffy things, and I decided to work on something slightly more angsty. I personally think I have improved in writing it since the incident.

Disclaimer: And Rikkai Dai has the most sane team in the entire series. Who's with me?

Warning(s): Angst, like the genre stated. Yaoi, and hospitals. OOCness if you see it that way. There are also some slight changes here and there…but the explanation will come in due time.

So please, if you found this crappy, I understand. I didn't write it with the best of moods.

Story time then.


The Trickster of the courts.

Niou Masaharu.

Yes.

His perceptive playstyle was his forte and his life, his tricks and pranks defined his identity, who he was. That and his disguises as well as the rule of Rikkai's tennis regulars- Losing is not allowed. These made him, him. The prankster.

Too ironic, too flashy, Yagyuu thought. But inside, right now, he was just so dead worried.

He wasn't the only one though, no he was not. To say that would be the understatement of the century. The entire Rikkai regular team was present too. Everything had happened too fast, no one had expected that this would or could happen. The whitewashed and imposing walls of the hospital corridor did nothing to comfort the lot of them. In fact, it made their wait all the more tense and scary, if anything.

Yukimura, their bluenette captain, had on his gentle expression as always. He looked almost normal and serene. Keyword being 'almost'. Worry decorated his effeminate features annoyingly.

Sanada, their ever strict vice-captain, was just his strict and stoic self. No one had really seen him put on any other expression other than that trademark (and yet again stoic) pokerface. But now, even an idiot would be able to see that shock (and worry) was evident on his face. Here he was now, sitting beside Yukimura, a hand on the captain's shoulder, providing what little comfort he could.

Yanagi, their hardcore data master, still had his eyes closed and his expression firmly set in place. Still, he was…fidgety? Well, if that constant murmuring and muttering of data was anything to go by, then yes, he was worried. It wasn't everyday you saw such an obvious frown on him too.

Jackal was probably the most decent looking one out of all of them right now, though no one knew what he was thinking inside. His outward aura spelt calmness, though it did little to achieve the same effect on the nerves of his doubles partner, who was leaning on the wall just right beside him. Marui wasn't responding to anything around him, and Jackal just continued his pensive look.

Marui, their volley specialist, was, as said earlier, at the wall beside the Brazillian, and staring into space. His dull violet orbs blank and devoid of any emotion. Even his bright red vermillion hair had seemingly dulled a little.

Akaya, Rikkai's dear sophomore ace…would not stop pacing about the corridor. And if one did not know any better, he would have thought the boy had paced a hole of a size that would bring the Grand Canyon to tears by now.

Then there was also…Yagyuu Hiroshi. The Gentleman of the Rikkai tennis team- Niou's doubles partner, as well as his best friend.

The slight humming sound stopped, and the light for the examination theatre turned off. The effect was immediate, as all the other 7 regulars of the team scrambled to their feet, all too ready to corner whoever was in charge in that theatre to find out what was wrong. And so they did.

The doctor adjusted his coat. His years of experience in the profession having rendered him immune to these sort of situations. That grim expression wasn''t helping matters at all. He started to speak.

"About your friend, he…"

xXEternallyXx

Akaya's and Yagyuu's hands were shaking, trembling violently. Their hands, which had been holding some of Niou's belongings, could take it no longer and the objects fell to the floor.

"Thump!" "Fwmp!"

"What did…you say? I didn't hear anything wrong did I? " For the Gentleman to be asking such a question, it was unusual. Far too unusual.

"I'm sorry sonny, but apparently he had been bearing with it for a long while. The chances of him actually living through this…"

No, no one wanted to hear these words, no one wanted to believe this reality, no one had the heart to. There was so much tension in the air. Niou's trademark hairband, and his power weights… they lay forgotten, on the cold, hard tiles…

xXEternallyXx

Within mere milliseconds, the regulars were gathered round the single bed in the ward, hearts clamped in pain as the limp form of their once active and annoying prankster of the team lay there. In fact, the silver-haired boy himself was barely keeping awake, the rise and fall of his muscular chest looking so forced.

Those sea-green, turquoise tinted eyes looked…empty, as he turned to regard the visitors.

"Hi guys, thanks for being here."

Niou? Their Niou? Saying something like this? Denial overwhelmed them in full blast, but the players knew enough discipline not to let it show. The silence that followed did not last long, however.

"Baka Niou-senpai! You scared the hell out of us!"

"Damn it Niou… here I was, waiting for you to steal that gum from my locker…"

"Ah…its good to see that you are fine, Niou…"

"Sorry, Akaya is being too noisy…"

"99.99 percent chance that Genichirou is worried sick about you…"

"TARUNDORU! Niou needs peace and quiet!"

Silence, absolute silence in a snap. Such was the authority of Sanada-fukubuchou. Then there was some more silence before Yagyuu spoke.

"Niou-kun, are you ok? Do you remember anything?"

"…mpf. Nothing. Head hurts to think about it."

Right, everything had happened too quickly. It was no wonder the said boy could not remember anything since he was the victim this time. The bespectacled teen decided not to pursue it further.

Visiting time was spent in jokes, laughter, questions, and Sanada looking like he was barely holding in his anger considering Akaya and Marui were playing around with his beloved black hat- uh, that is another story altogether, so lets move on. Soon, it was late and everyone left, except for Yukimura and Yagyuu.

Yagyuu had stayed to pass some study notes and such to Niou, then shook his watch as he frowned at the little black digits.

"I'm sorry Niou-kun, Yukimura-buchou, but I will have to be going. My family is expecting me."

Yukimura smiled, nodding his approval since he would be staying longer and Niou by some miraculous means, managed to summon enough strength to wave the Gentleman off.

However, the moment the door shut, the atmosphere that had been sustained for the entire time so far dropped abruptly. Yukimura reached out to hold Niou's left hand, silent and worried tears slowly dripping, making paths of wetness along his cheeks. His head was tilted low, those blue locks barring his expression from the other's line of vision.

Niou's gaze softened, and he smiled weakly.

"Sei-niichan…"

Then his head suddenly shot up, before his eyes turned towards the door. He gulped a little.

"Within 4…3…2…1..." Niou murmured…

It was pretty amazing how the door still stubbornly gripped onto its hinges in spite of the force that Niou Sachiko utilised to burst it open. Said woman was panting heavily, the other male members of the Niou family a little weary as well, silently following behind her.

There was momentous shock and surprise in Yukimura's eyes, but it was gone as soon as it had come.

"Niou-obaasan, I-"

He cut off mid-sentence as Sachiko literally flung herself onto her eldest son, sobbing. Niou could only stay there and pat her back assuring her he was still good, however much he could with his weakened strength.

Things stayed that way for a few minutes, before the woman finally detached herself, seemingly having convinced herself that Niou was fine. She wiped off remaining tears, then turned suddenly to glare at Yukimura- a glare so piercing and with so much fury that Satan would have cowered and whimpered like a puppy dog under it. Needless to say, the bluenette flinched very visibly, also surprised at being looked at so suddenly.

"You…"

Just then, Niou's father, Niou Masahi, had thought that he had better jump in before his wife did anything regrettable. As far as he knew, his better half tended to take things a little too far when she lost her temper- ESPECIALLY issues regarding her brood. To call it over-protectiveness would be an utter understatement.

"Let go of me Masahi! I will teach that boy a lesson, its all his fault! Why didn't you notice earlier? You are his godbrother, goddammit! I trusted you to take care of him!"

Backtracking, it seems that Yukimura's parents had been asked to be Niou's godparents when he was born, and as such the boy was his technically part of his family- as his older godbrother. In addition, Niou was originally supposed to be go to another school in their district, but it was under Yukimura's (and Niou's) persistent begging that Sachiko finally relented and allowed for him to be sent to Rikkai. Of course, the bluenette was forced to swear that he would put Niou's safety above all else (Yukimura still shudders to think about it up till this day).

When she had somewhat calmed down and had stopped struggling against her husband's grip, Masahi let go. Yet, no one could have predicted that she would suddenly step across to Yukimura and deliver a hard, stinging slap across his face.

Some stray tears flowed down the effeminate boy's cheeks messily, from the owner trying to stop them flowing. He truly felt immense regret at his ignorance, and just stayed silent, not knowing what his tears were for anymore. Niou Masahara (younger brother) snuggled against his older brother.

"Haru-nii…I'm scared…"

A hand moved to stroke his short, neat silver hair.

"It will be fine Hara…it will be ok…" The older boy buried his face in the younger one's hair.

xXEternallyXx

"So that's it. I knew something was up."

"Who would have thought…"

"Seiichi, you didn't deserve any of that…"

Slight murmur flooded the corridors, ceasing almost immediately as the door to Niou's ward opened and his family stepped through, slowly padding their way over to the lift. As the doors of the lift shut, all was completely silent again. There was a few seconds pause before a sigh of relief sounded.

"*Psst!* Senpai-tachi, are they gone?"

"Yes, I'm positive. Coast is clear."

Having said that, the boys creeped slowly out from their hiding places. Akaya from behind the water cooler, Jackal from behind the water hose (how the heck?), and Marui from beside a dustbin. Then lastly, Sanada, Yanagi and Yagyuu from behind one of the longer couches in the lounge.

Not much explanation was required. They had stayed, they hadn't left- because they were worried. Well, Sanada may have been dragged along by Marui and Jackal had to take care of Akaya…but all in all, they pretty much had the unanimous agreement that it was necessary to stay and eavesdrop. It was with great caution that they stepped VERY slowly towards the door…

"In 3…2…1…"

At the exact second, the ward door clicked open to reveal the rest of the Rikkai regulars. Yukimura looked like he was about to have a heart attack, what with him clutching his shirt where his heart supposedly was, and Niou smirking knowingly. Man, this felt awkward.

"…Niou…Masaharu…"

Yukimura lay his head on Niou's left shoulder, tired.

"Stop that countdown thing. Its really creepy…"

Light laughter echoed throughout the room, coming mostly from the team's resident tensai and sophomore ace. Niou couldn't help but show a genuine, graceful smile at his teammate's antics. Sanada took Yukimura into his arms and comforted him, with the latter not noticing his slight awkwardness.

"So, Mura-buchou…you never told us you and Niou-senpai were brothers…"

"Its GODbrothers Akaya…"

"It's the same!"

"No its not!"

"Yes it is!"

Then it stopped. Sanada's threatening 'I-promise-you-a-lifetime's-worth-of-tarundoru-slaps-if-you-do-not-shut-your-ass-up-right-now' aura with the unspoken promise of hell-like punishment if it be invoked. The aura was rolling off him in waves comparable with tsunamis. It was fortunate that the boy and his red-headed senior had taken the hint and zipped.

"Yukimura-buchou."The bluette captain looked up, smiling at the speaker.

Yes, Yagyuu?"

"I deeply apologise…but we kind of…heard the commotion just now…are you feeling fine?"

The Gentleman shifted his weight uneasily, as did all the others in the room. It was a private family issue for them, and it didn't feel right to know it, however accidental it might have been.

"Its fine. All of you would have found out sooner or later anyway, isn't that right, Masaharu?"

"Hn. We only kept quite so that you guys wouldn't accuse Sei-nii of favouritism when he assigned us anything. Well, its not as if he did give me anything special…"

"…"

"Sei-nii? Seriously?"

"…shut up Marui…"

The group huddled together to talk a little more, then a nurse came in to inform them that visiting hours were over, and that they had to go. Farewells were said, and the lights were turned off.

In the moonlight, tears glistened down a certain teen's face…

xXEternallyXx

Life had to go on, did it not? Time stops for no man, and no one.

Tennis practice resumed as usual after that episode, and training went smoothly. Now and then some concerned members asked how Niou was doing and the captain just replied that he was doing well and on the road to recovery. Sanada and Yanagi just stayed themselves, and all was well.

Good things never lasted long, and that was assuming if it was even considered a good thing in the first place. Such was a tragic example.

The doctor had proposed several solutions and potential cures for their ailing teammate, but none looked promising enough. No matter which was chosen, it was a 'do or die' chance. Then came the inevitable- the family had to talk to Niou about his decision.

"Me? Choose?"

"Yes, Masaharu dear, its your body and its your choice. We only want the best for you, and we feel you have the right to select the treatment you want."

The Trickster's eyes trailed down the list that his doctor had good-heartedly typed out for him, listing down all options. Those perceptive sea-green eyes were meticulous, taking note of how many grains there were per centimetre square of the paper (well, what he could see anyway…). They were focused on anywhere but those words. It was painful to even stare at them.

"I've decided."

All present in the room snapped up at the sound of his voice. It was by now soft and weak, no longer possessing any power or sense of mischief.

Everyone leaned closer to listen.

xXEternallyXx

…"You there! You're slacking off! 50 extra laps!"

…"Those shots are not powerful enough! Do a 100 extra swings to make up for it!"

…"Your stances are off! Place yourselves into pairs and practice your rallies, NOW!"

It was just another regular day at Rikkai Dai Fuzoku, another regular tennis practice session within the vast sports grounds on campus. Yup, the 3 demons of Rikkai still doing their thing. Yanagi coming up with a more vigorous training menu for the upcoming tournament, Sanada working the members to the gr- wait a minute, was that Yukimura, of all people, issuing those drills?

"Regulars! Strap on an extra kilogram of weights and run 10 laps!"

…Well, darn right it was. Even Sanada had been standing about 2 metres further away from the captain than he usually did. All regulars simply nodded and started adding on their weights as they joined Yukimura and Sanada, who were already running by now. The normally gentle captain's mood was beyond terrible today, and no one knew the reason why. Even Renji shook his head when anyone gave a questioning look.

Yukimura was fighting an inner battle, and he was losing. The law of Rikkai: Losing is not allowed. He was captain, and he had no excuse. But this particular inner battle was one he could not help but succumb to, given the circumstances now. It was taking all of his willpower to just keep himself focused on anything at hand. He was sorry. He really was, for taking it out on all the poor, innocent and unknowing members of the tennis club, but there was no other way to pause his train of thought for even a moment.

"I don't want any of these. I don't want any treatment…"

Oh no, not those memories again…not those words…

"There is no help already…I would go either way…"

Help, no, he didn't hear any of these…these weren't true! Niou never said anything like this…

"I have no regrets…its for the best too…"

The last thing Yukimura remembered, was Renji calling his name, and the worried looks on everyone's faces as the world blacked out before him.

xXEternallyXx

"…iichi…Seiichi…Seiichi!"

Yukimura gave a start as he snapped his eyes opened after gaining a little consciousness. Taking in his surroundings, he identified his current location as the nurse's office. Sanada and Yanagi were with him.

"Are you alright, Seiichi? You scared us back there."

"I'm ok Yanagi, probably didn't get enough sleep last night."

"As the captain of the team, you should take better care of yourself."

"Thanks Genichirou, I will. Sorry for worrying all of you."

Silence hung in the air around the group of 3 for a little while. The Data Master decided to break it by coughing a little, then leaning down to whisper something into their vice-captain's ear. Sanada nodded, and both got up to leave.

"Rest, Seiichi. I will take care of practice. The team will be visiting Niou later."

"Oh, that's good. Thanks then."

xXEternallyXx

Time passed. Obviously.

From the day Yukimura announced that Niou had started his treatment and might be able to join them in time for the next tournament, to the day Akaya gave Niou a new prank toy that he had found one day at a shop. To the day Marui managed to top Niou's maths score in class (he said he was waiting for Niou to come back and reclaim it once more), to the day Yagyuu presented the Trickster with a new notebook as well as some decorated paper and envelopes. The reason he gave those was unknown though.

It had been the same, really. Since Niou's treatment had begun, no one other than Yukimura was allowed to visit him, since the doctor stated that the treatment made him weak and vulnerable to small infections. There was anticipation for the day the silver-haired teen would finally be able to join them once more and complete their regular team. They were…the absolute champions Rikkai.

But…only a few people knew the truth.

Yukimura was shaken out of his thoughts by a vibration in his pocket. He looked at the Caller ID – it was Niou. To heck with the club rules, to heck with the school rules, every moment was precious now. The bluette answered.

"Hey, Sei-nii."

"Hey, shouldn't you be resting? Its club practice time too you know."

"Well knowing you, you would have picked up anyway. Besides, I was kind of bored."

Jus the sound of that voice, the sound of how weak it was, the sound of that very person. It took all of Yukimura to just hold in those tears. Contrary to popular belief, he was an emotional person- he just had great control. But this was one of those times that his great control just proved useless. He couldn't let Niou hear him cry, no he couldn't.

"Eto…do you think you can get the team to come today? I miss them…b-but I'll understand if you can't! It is the season and al-"

"No. Its perfectly fine. We'll head over first thing school ends, alright?"

"Ok. Thanks a lot. And remember Sei-nii, no matter what, don't te-"

"Don't tell them anything. Keep it secret. I know, now sleep!"

"Kk, bye."

xXEternallyXx

"Bye Niou-senpai! Remember to take care of yourself!"

"Yeah bastard, that Math record is still waiting for you!"

"Farewell Niou-kun. Please rest well and do take care."

With that the team was gone and Yukimura left alone with Niou again. This time, the captain had made sure to see all the visitors to the lift and ensure they were all gone, that there wouldn't be certain teens in certain yellow and black uniforms eavesdropping again. He inwardly declared victory when he was done, because the feat itself was deserving of one.

It was a rather close call, in a way. Yanagi did question Niou's 'paler-than-before' complexion, him being the observant Data Master and all. But the boy just waved it off as the side effects of the treatment and said not to worry. There were even more raised eyebrows when Niou even needed some effort to pick up one of the kilogram weights that Sanada had brought as a gift. But all in all, everyone was pretty much assured that all was good.

"Masaharu. I know you had something to tell them. Why didn't you?"

The solemn look on Niou's face showed his surprise. He bent his head down, his silvery locks blocking his face from view.

"..I-I-Its not like…I-I can just s-s-say it, right? No…I just…c-c-couldn't bear...t-to…"

He was crying. He was crying such painful tears. It pained Yukimura so much to see his younger godbrother being reduced to this state. This weak, pathetic state that wasn't even supposed to be just some months ago. There was nothing said boy could do except to hold him close, and comfort him.

There was wailing, every possible sound a human could make while crying. It lasted a while, before Niou finally calmed, and just stayed content in Yukimura's arms.

"Masaharu, you…you love him, don't you?"

Niou went stiff, before relaxing again. He chuckled nervously.

"No…"

"Admit it."

"No…I…"

"Admit it! Niou Masaharu!"

"Damn it, well fine! I do! So what? Its not like he…he…"

Niou trailed off, unable to say anymore.

"That's not true."

The teen looked up to stare into sad sapphire orbs, Gentle and comforting hand caressed his hair, then they stopped.

"You will regret it more if you don't. Do it soon, do it anytime. Just tell me, and I will personally make sure he gets to you to say it. Remember, time is ticking."

A sigh, and a submissive nod. The older boy smiled before gathering his things and leaving.

There was rustling of paper as Niou took out all his writing materials, namely those that had been gifted to him some time before. He picked up the pen…with his right hand and…

…started writing.

xXEternallyXx

"Yagyuu-kun, I would like you to come into my office."

Still maintaining his straight pokerface in spite of his surprise, the Gentleman nodded and obediently followed the doctor into his office. The middle-aged man reached into a drawer, and pulled out a lavender and silver envelope, passing it to him. The doctor sighed heavily and wearily.

"Your captain…he mentioned something to me. Then Niou-kun too, more with his actions rather than his words."

He looked at the item in Yagyuu's hands.

"Its against my principles to go against my patients' wishes regarding matters like these, but there is no more time. I made an exception for you. Now hurry and read it son, before you lose any chance of doing anything, and regret it for the rest of your life." Yagyuu did not understand the last sentence, but it was enough to make him know the seriousness of the situation.

He tore the envelope open and started reading the letter. The ticks from the clock suddenly seemed to have gotten louder as they started the fated timer.


Just reading over this story makes me wonder if I'm really the one who wrote it. Well what do you know? I am.

I just stated my excuse up top and so I won't repeat it.

This will be a multi chaptered fic so look forward to updates. I will most probably get the letter's contents up by tonight or so, and the rest will come much slower.

Oh and can anyone guess why I named Niou's mother Niou Sachiko? If you can guess, you get a virtual lollipop! Hint: Its got something to do with Yukimura...

Please Review! Reviews are the air we authors breathe, the food we authors eat, the water we authors drink! Don't let us die just like that!

Comments and Constructive Criticism please? We all love the 3 Cs! XD

Thank you very much for reading, will update soon.