Disclaimer: I DO NOT OWN Prince of Tennis. That belongs to whole bunch of people that I don't remember the names of.
Warnings: Slightly AU, as Ryoma isn't really Ryoma. Canon, but will diverge after Nationals – if I write it that far.
The last thing that he thought of in this life was that entrancing green ball he'd seen, even before he could walk. The lime green thing had been so light, and his dad had been so happy to see he was playing with it. He remembered the game that the old man had been teaching him – tennis. It had to be the best thing he'd ever experienced. Even better than ice cream, he was sure.
Images of his short life were chased across his mind by the electricity that had ended him, most of times with his family and with tennis, and Ryoma Echizen could only cry out once in pain before he knew no more.
Ryoga, only a first year in middle school, watched as his younger brother was wheeled into the ER, the doctors trying to revive him as they went. The burns on his body were severe, and Ryoga was glad when he disappeared behind the swinging doors; they would be able to save him in whatever laid beyond them.
In a chair, weeping, was his mother. She was holding a wrinkled handkerchief to her eyes, and though her sobs were silent, her trembling shoulders communicated perfectly how scared she actually was for her little boy's life. His father was obviously concerned, though he didn't express it in such a deplorable way; a frown marred his eyebrows and mouth, but he seemed to be keeping strong for the rest of the family. However, his trained eyes caught the fine shaking that betrayed the usually loud man, a nearly invisible quivering in his shoulders, jaw, and hands that were rubbing circle's on his mother's back.
Ryoga then turned his eyes from them to the other patients, who were throwing the family piteous looks - were this any other possible situation, he would've hated them for that. It appeared to have been a rather slow day in the ER, so Ryoma's injuries took priority over the others. The only injury that would prompt concern was a small girl with a red towel wrapped around her forefinger*; that begged a raised eyebrow.
A lump suddenly shifted onto his shoulder, and Ryoga shifted his gaze downwards. His other younger brother was finally asleep, though there was still a taut feel to his expression. His hair, slightly longer than Ryoma's own, fell into his eyes; the tips were stiff from the boy's dried tears. Young boys weren't supposed to look so distressed in their sleep, especially not Ryoshi. He was too sweet to be burdened by the real world.
"Ryoga, can you please bring your brother here?" His dad was glancing at his brother strangely. Ryoga frowned; was the old man going to pretend Ryoshi didn't exist? As he obeyed the command, Ryoga considered the boy, and how he was so identical to his brother, though he lacked the affinity for tennis that the other males of his family had. He loved the game, pure and simple, an innocent crush that displayed how he was missing the brilliance that the rest of them shone with; Nanjirou had always favored his brothers oh so much more.
As the boy was taken from his arms, Ryoga relaxed at seeing his brother cradled by both parents, who whispered his name into his hair and ears. The preteen suspected it was their mantra for warding away the ill harm that his twin had come to. "I'm so relieved that he wasn't hurt as well."
Time inched by as the frazzled parents calmed down some, though the lack of any sort of notification had left them tense. Finally, after two hours or so, a doctor came out, their family name on his lips. Ryoga couldn't read anything from the stony face of the tall doctor, and that set him even more ill at ease. He had good news to deliver, right? Weren't they supposed to smile at good news?
"Can I please have the Echizen family follow me back?" Now was not the time for humor, Ryoga thought dourly, as the American doctor had messed up their name. The people of this country always seemed to do that, and it never got any funnier.
He figured then that it was out of their own fear that his parents refrained from asking about their other son's condition or correcting the physician.
The doctor stopped them in one of the small offices, not too far down the hall.
"I apologize-" No, wait, that not's what he's supposed to say! He's a doctor isn't he? They're supposed to save their patients, not let them die! "-But we were unable to save your son. We managed to resuscitate him several times, but he never actually stayed with us. After the last few tries, when we could no longer get a response out of him, we came to the conclusion that he has moved on." Three pairs of wide eyes stared back; the doctor stared regretfully at them, and at the boy on his father's back, so obviously his patient's twin. "If you wish, you can come back and see him."
At Nanjirou's insistent nod, the doctor led them into hall, taking the left path when their course split. The rest could only follow. Though he had always found them appalling, Ryoga felt suddenly crazed by the white washed walls. This was where his little brother had just died, shouldn't they be more melancholy? Grey or black, maybe a darker version of lime green of his favorite sport's icon. Anything but the innocent, unknowing, unfair white that the walls were now.
But the world didn't sway to the whims of a nosocomephobic twelve-year-old, and the walls remained the same as they ever were.
The room that the body was in was no different. White washed and plain, it only served to heighten the grief of the family; this hospital didn't care about their loss or their agony. Their boy was lying on the bed, under the covers so that only a vague outline of his figure was visible. The doctor carefully uncovered the boy's head, where there were several burns, all black and red and agitated. Had he not been so totally aware of what was happening, and were it not so very painfully obvious, he might've been asleep for the night, instead of forever.
It was then that he wondered where the doctor had gone; he noticed the door was completely shut where it had been cracked slightly moments before. The doctor must have tactfully slipped out when he wasn't looking. Not that that was very hard.
To his right, he sensed rather than heard the gasps of his family, and then they were by his bedside. Rinko was sobbing into the boy's hair, his head cradled to her chest. Nanjirou sank to the floor, his bluffed strength finally giving out on him.
It was to their wails that Ryoshi - his only younger brother now – awoke. His eyes, peering over his father's shoulders, immediately latched onto his crying mother. They then frantically scanned the room before landing on Ryoga. Those bright eyes, so much younger than he felt they should have been, in the wrongest place they could've ever existed, were what finally had him averting his eyes and bolting from the room.
Ryoshi watched as his brother turned and ran from the room. Why did everyone seem so sad? Ryoma was gonna be alright, right? He couldn't die; they were twins. Didn't all twins always remain together? One little accident couldn't take his brother away; he was too cool, too great at tennis to be gone. They were just mistaken; that's all.
His mother chose that moment to shift and Ryoshi got the first good look at him that he'd had since the accident. He was sleeping, wasn't he? He wasn't gone, was he? No! He couldn't be... But his brother's face was so pallid, the years of natural tanning no match for the evil veil of death. There were several nasty, black burns that he couldn't stand to look at, and even the tips of Ryoma's hair were crisped, as though the electricity had sought to eliminate that which was already dead. But what gripped him so about his brother's death…
Ryoshi could see himself in the exact same position, could see his own face, lying there on that white pillow; it was just so easy envision it all. He might as well be the one laying on that bed; it was just that simple. Had he not been the one to stumble, he would have been exactly the same.
Ryoshi suddenly couldn't look in a mirror, especially the one that floated right before his being.
A/N: I would much rather focus on my other story, but I want feedback before I update it. Also, this plot bunny wouldn't stop being a pest, so I began it. I felt that I should pay tribute to one of my all time favorite anime. Expect an update… whenever. My other story takes priority.
* PM me if you want to hear the story behind that.