Author's Note: So I guess this will spoil some stuff for 250DS. Oh well.


and all the roads

You're the only one I ever believed in
The answer that could never be found

He came to her when it was raining.

Or, perhaps not. Perhaps it was a complete coincidence that of all the office buildings in Tokyo, he chose to stop and stand in front of hers.

But, really. There were no coincidences where Niou Masaharu was concerned. Not even after all these years.

Sayoko shoved her hands into the silk-lined pockets of her coat, eyes squinted nearly shut as she tried to see through the rain, to determine if it really was him, if it really could be. Seven years, she thought, almost numbly. Seven years.

Seven years since he had graduated high school and taken the first flight out of Japan, to a destination unknown. Yanagi had said Europe, and Kirihara's guess was Africa. Marui, nodding self-importantly, had assured them it was South America. But where had he really gone?

Wherever the hell he wanted, Sayoko knew.

She bit her lip. Her red woolen pea-coat was not waterproof, and she hadn't thought to bring an umbrella, not in December. Taking a moment to compose her expression - calm, and confident, cool but not strictly unfriendly - she stepped lightly down the concrete steps, to where he stood lounging against the metal railing.

At her approach, he looked up through half-lidded eyes, the curve of his lips hinting at either a smirk or a smile. He wore dark jeans and a navy blue coat of good make, the top few buttons undone despite the cold, showing the delicate, artful lines of his collarbones.

He said nothing. Just looked at her.

For the first time in a long time, she wanted to chew her fingernails.

Her next impulse was to swallow, but she knew he would pick up on even that tiny betrayal of her unease. Instead, she bit the inside of her cheek. What right did he have to disappear without a trace for seven years, and then waltz back into her life and give her that same look he always had?

Whatcha gonna do now, sweetheart?

She smiled. "Masaharu," she said, his given name strange and special on her lips. His eyes widened fractionally, and it made her want to laugh with delight - she could count on one hand the times she had caught him off-guard.

"Sayoko," he returned, one corner of his mouth quirking upwards. "You got a haircut."

It was true - her hair, which had once tumbled to the small of her back, now fell just below her shoulders, curling wildly from the moisture in the air. But still... that was all he had to say? No I've missed you, or Dreadfully sorry about running off and leaving you.

Then, she had to laugh a little. This was Niou she was dealing with. She had learned long ago to take what she could get from him, and be happy with it. At her giggling, the young man raised his eyebrows. She brought a hand up to catch the laughter in her palm, but her eyes still shone.

Once she'd calmed down somewhat, she pointed out, "So did you." He had quit bleaching his hair, and it had reverted to what must have been its natural black, cut short in the back and slightly longer in the front. It looked good.

"Your powers of perception are frightening as ever," he drawled, and unhitched himself from the railing. When he began walking toward a street known for its coffeeshops and art galleries, she remained where she was, trying to pretend she didn't absolutely loathe how wet she was getting.

For a moment, it seemed he would keep going, leaving that brief exchange as the extent of their strange, strange encounter. But then he stopped and turned, one hip jutting out to the left. He looked back at her.

Between them were a shared past, a precipice of a present, and the rain.

Niou fixed her with a prompting glance, which she returned with a coolly raised eyebrow, her pulse thrumming. At that, his mouth thinned out, before:

He laughed.

He laughed, low and bright and without embarrassment, and Sayoko could not have been more surprised or confused. He raked a hand through his hair, and said with what sounded like affection, "Sweetie grew up, huh."

She stared at him, eyes wide and lips slightly parted. At last she ventured quietly, wonderingly, "Yeah... I think we both have."

There was a heartbeat of a pause, and then: "Maybe," he allowed, not so much smirking as half-smiling.

And damn, if that wasn't something.


For asobi seksu. Because she's awesome.

Disclaimer: I do not own Prince of Tennis. The lyrics as the top are from The Goo Goo Dolls' "Let Love in."