As the awards ceremony closed down and players and spectators alike began to leave, the Seigaku members continued congratulating each other- hugs and high fives and yelling and laughter. It was almost surreal- they had really made it, really won Nationals. Tezuka was once again caught with a small smile on his usually stoic face, and even Echizen was grinning like never before.
After a few more moments, however, Oishi turned to Echizen.
"Echizen, why don't you go hospital? That was quite a fall you took up in the mountains, and you've only just regained your memories-who knows if you might have other damage to your head?- and then you played Yukimura… you really should go to get yourself checked out, you know. We'll wait to start the celebration until you get done, ok?"
Ryoma blinked. "I'm ok, Oishi-sempai. Nothing hurts."
Momo immediately grabbed him and put him in a headlock "You should obey your sempai, Echizen, you should, you should!"
"Momo! Let him go! What if you make it worse?" Oishi immediately exclaimed and rushed to release Echizen from Momo's grip. Once free, he patted Echizen on the shoulders and insisted "Really, Echizen, you should go."
"Che….usu." Ryoma turned around and began walking off the stadium, which was by now empty save for the Seigaku team, in the direction of the nearest hospital. Halfway out in the parking lot, he remembered that they hadn't told him where they would meet up, and turned back around to ask them that.
As he got closer to the end of the mini-tunnel-entrance to the stadium, he could hear them still congratulating each other, and couldn't help but smile fondly and with pure happiness. Just before he walked out into plain sight, however, he heard them quiet down and Momo-sempai ask, "Is he gone?"
"It's 80% chance that Echizen is already across the parking lot on his way to the closest hospital, 10% chance that he stopped to talk with someone from another team, 5% chance that he decided to find somewhere to nap, and 5% chance that he doubled back and is listening to us right now."
"AAARRRGGGHHHH! THAT ANNOYING TEME-YAROU! Always mooching off of me! He has no respect for his sempai-tachi, none at all!" Momo let out once Inui finished.
"Fshuuu….calm down, Momo. He's gone, alright? And we've reached nationals, he was of good use, after all."
"Nya! He's so mean! And rude!"
"He is rather disrespectful. Must be his upbringing in America. But now we've reached our goal, we can get rid of him somehow. Tell him us third years have to concentrate on exams and school now." Oishi continued.
"I'm sorry. I must have hit my head during my match. I could have sworn you were saying we don't need Echizen-kun anymore?" Fuji spoke softly.
"Nya, Fujiko! How can you not know! We were only using him to reach nationals!"
"Un, Fujiko-chan. Why do you think I never invited him to the shop unless it was with the whole team?"
"100% chance that Fuji was not aware of our plans, and is upset to have been left out."
"Wrong, Inui. I'm not upset at being left out, I'm upset at them being there in the first place. Tezuka, were you aware of this?" Fuji turned to Tezuka, opening his eyes to show how serious he was.
"Aah. Though the planning was made the day you were out because Yuuta-kun was sick, I had assumed someone else would have brought you up to speed."
"Oh. Well, are there any other plans I should be aware of? Perhaps, some plan about dropping me as well?"
"Nya, Fujiko! Don't say that! You're our friend! We would never drop you!"
"Funny. I thought Echizen-kun was our friend, too."
"Maa, maa…we'll settle this later. We should start walking to Kawamura's Sushi, as we don't know when Echizen will be back and we've been here awhile." Oishi cut into the growing dispute.
Brought out of his frozen state, Ryoma wiped his tears off and quickly looked around for somewhere to hide so that they wouldn't see him as they came out- he couldn't run off, they'd hear him for sure. Spotting a partially open door leading to the women's bathrooms a few steps behind him, he quietly walked over and went in, leaving the door open only a crack, through which he would be able to see them walk past.
Tezuka-buchou came first, straight and tall as always, leading them away. Oishi, Eiji and Inui came next, conversing about something in soft tones, Momo and Kaido came next, Momo's arm around Kaido's waist, , who was blushing softly at whatever Momo was whispering to him. Last, seemingly dragging his feet, Fuji, who had his eyes open and a confused and hurt expression on his face, but also seen was anger, strong, deep anger at the people he had trusted the most.
Twenty minutes after they were gone, lest they do what he just did and come back for something, Ryoma walked out of the Ladies' restroom and stood there, eyes unseeing, facing the direction his sempai-tachi had gone. He kept repeating their overheard conversation over and over in his head, unable to fully believe it. Tears filled his eyes once again, but this time, he refused to let them fall. Straightening his back, clamping down on his emotions, and focusing his glare, Ryoma walked out of the stadium and turned towards his house, thinking the matter over on the way.
His first instinct was to run, to go back to America without saying goodbye or giving any notice or explanation. Let them wonder what had happened. However, a part of him still couldn't believe they were such good actors, and wanted to stay here, at least until the end of the school year, to see how they proceeded with their 'Plan' and whether he could, now that he knew the truth, notice anything odd in their treatment of him. Also, he couldn't help but remember Fuji-sempai's face as he left, and his lone protesting voice as the others all piled dirt upon his name. He knew that to Fuji-sempai, like him, considered them his family, more than just friends. Ryoma didn't want to leave him here by himself, because if he left, that's what would happen. Fuji-sempai might be nice and soft-spoken and well-liked by many, but he didn't have any real friends outside of the Regulars, and his childhood friends in Chiba.
Arriving home, he opened the door and toed off his shoes, uttering a soft 'Tadaima' as he did so. Hearing no response, he slowly walked up to his room and laid down on his bed, automatically raising his hand to pet Karupin when she came up to him. Turning to look at her, Karupin gave a questioning meow, nudging Ryoma's side. Seeing Karupin's innocent blue eyes, Ryoma made his decision. "I'm fine, Karupin, don't worry. I'm fine…"
A/N OK, I know I'm not too good at this, and this challenge is *way* old, but I really liked it –I'm a sucker for pain sometimes, heehee…- and, well, I totally wouldn't be even writing this, but I've gone to the search engine and typed in "Looking Away Challenge" and out of them all- wait, first let me say I loved them all- but out of them all only one forgave them-I'm not saying I'll do that, I don't know yet- but the most important thing: in all of them Seigaku found out that Ryoma heard them, and were able to feel regret or make up a story, accordingly. I wanted to see what would happen if they didn't know he had heard them. And…I'm sorry, but I couldn't make Fuji a bad guy! He's my absolute favorite! And though I do love when he gets all sadistic in some fics, I also think he's a really sweet, shy boy and easily hurt. Why shy? Well, why else would he have a mask for everyone to see rather than his true emotions? Ditto for the easily hurt part. Anyways, I don't know how, but now I've started, I'll finish this fic as I can, and any and all comments/criticisms accepted!