Author's Notes: First Chapter! I'm really skeptical about this story even though people comment that they like it, but that's just me. I'm trying my best to write this without making it seem too weird, but it always turns out odd anyway.
Side Notes: This will be 10 chapters (excluding the Prologue) with a fair amount of word length (hopefully). This chapter takes place two weeks later, when Ryoma and Fuji are at the airport.
Warning: Around Fuji, Ryoma will probably be OOC. However, with everyone else, he will be as in character as I can make him. Fuji just has an effect on him, I suppose
Chapter One - Stringing Hope
Maybe this won't be so bad.
Those were Ryoma's thoughts as he sat side by side on the airplane with Fuji Syuuske. Things were actually starting to look up for him. One, he hadn't blushed, passed out of excessive breathing, said something stupid, or made a fool of himself in the past few hours, and two, he'd fallen asleep in the waiting area so he didn't really have a chance to do any of the things mentioned above.
Clearly, that was an improvement.
"Lucky, you got the window side," Fuji mused. He leaned against the uncomfortable airplane seats.
Ryoma didn't say anything. He didn't know what to say, since Fuji had nicely let him have the window seat. If the prodigy wanted it, he should have just said so. That was something else that was new. Ryoma had noticed that Fuji was being too nice to him. Everyone knew the older boy was gentle on the outside and a complete sadist on the in, but Ryoma had never seen him treat someone this nicely.
"So, are you excited about going to America?" Fuji asked.
Ryoma shrugged, sitting up a little straighter. "Been there before. Nothing new."
"Ah, but you haven't been there with me yet," Fuji said, a twinkle in his eyes. "Everything is different when you're with me."
Ryoma rolled his eyes and glanced back out the window. Fuji was in a good mood today. Ryoma was relived. None of the sad smiles or awkward moments from two weeks ago had occurred on the trip so far. Great. Maybe this will actually be fun. Fuji tapped his shoulder.
"Hey, Echizen…" Fuji's smile glowed. "I have an important question to ask you."
"Oh," Ryoma shrugged again. He didn't want to seem excited about the question. What if – what if he 's going to ask me to marry him? No, stupid! What if…he asks me if I like him? Or maybe he'll ask me if I would date him?
"Can I call you Ryo-chan instead of Echizen?"
Ryoma's heart dropped for a moment, but it quickly rose. He fought to keep the blush off his face. "Ryo-chan?" he tried to sound irritated. "Why?"
"It has a nice ring to it," Fuji responded. "Besides, people in America use first names right? So I'm just tweaking Ryoma a bit."
"I don't like Ryo-chan," Ryoma lied, trying to sound as annoyed as possible, "but I suppose you can call me that."
Fuji's smile grew impossibly wider. "Lovely, then. Ryo-chan it is."
Ryoma opened his mouth to say something – anything at all, but preferably witty – when a sleek voice interrupted the two of them.
"Hello, would you like a mint before we take off?"
It was a beautiful air hostess dressed in a deep red uniform with a tight belt around her waist. She was undoubtly pretty, with shiny teeth and glittery eyes. However, something about her bothered Ryoma. Her gaze was directly on Fuji, and her eyelashes batted consistently like she was trying to see how fast she could blink in a minute.
Fuji smiled politely at her. "Sure, I'll take one. Thank you."
"Oh, no problem!" The flight hostess said merrily. She handed him the wrapped mint and placed it right in the palm of his hands, her fingers lingering against his skin for a moment. "You can call me Fulvia, by the way. I'll probably serve you most of the time."
"Oh, well, thank you Fulvia," Fuji said with a charming smile. Or, well, Ryoma thought it was charming anyway. His fingers dug deep into his arm rest as he tried to control his anger. Grr…look at her…she's looking at him so lustfully…like I do! But that's me, and I'm the only one allowed to look at my Fuji like that…go away woman! He's mine! Five seconds after his inner rant, he realized how stupid he was and tried to calm himself down.
The flight hostess and Fuji would probably never even meet again.
Fulvia started to sashay away, but Ryoma cleared his throat and glared at her, "Excuse me, but I would like a mint too."
The woman stopped. She looked disinterested all of a sudden. "Oh, right, sorry."
She didn't sound sorry. And she practically flung the mint into his hands before quickly walking away, throwing Fuji a desirable glance as she went. Ryoma growled lowly to himself, before roughly unwrapping the mint and shoving it in his mouth. He chewed with ire.
A part of him, the sane part, told him: Stop growling like a bear, Ryoma. The non-sane part proceeded to do the following:
GRR…GROWL…GRR…I'll eat you if you ever try to look at Fuji like that again...
"Ryo-chan, are you alright?" Fuji said, clearly gleeful to try out the new name. This snapped Ryoma out of his frustration. He glanced up and felt the blood rush to his face – he couldn't believe how he was acting. This was ridiculous. He was not a girl, he was Echizen Ryoma, and he most definitely did not get jealous. Especially over stupid air hostesses that probably flirted with every half-decent looking guy in the plane.
Breathe, Ryoma. The preteen coughed, before nodding. "Sure, fine."
"Is it the takeoff?" Fuji asked softly. "It's not that scary, and if you do feel scared, you can just hold my hand."
Ryoma blinked. Oh no, he thinks…- oh, great. But he just said I could hold his hand? Maybe I should pretend to be…no! Never! That's like girls who try to dumb themselves down just so the guy will tutor them. Not. Going. To. Happen. EVER.
"Heh, as if," Ryoma forced on his trademark smirk. "The mint just tasted too…strong."
Fuji gave him a weird look. "I see."
Then, there was silence. And then, after the silence, was the takeoff. Ryoma had to admit, he didn't exactly like take offs – he wasn't scared of them, but he always felt a bit uneasy, like he was going to throw up. It was normally mild enough for him to ignore, but with Fuji's extra butterflies, he wasn't sure that was going to be the case this time.
He could feel the plane whirring loudly as they slowly lifted higher and higher into the air. Ryoma's stomach churned. Oh man, I'm gunna puke. Stupid. Where's the dumb air bag thing anyway? The preteen took a deep breath and wished he didn't have such a weak stomach. He closed his eyes and willed the unpleasant sensation to go away.
Fuji took the gestures the wrong way and thought he was scared. Ryoma's heart raced when he felt Fuji grip his hand tightly, squeezing it. "S'okay, Ryo-chan."
"I'm not – scared," Ryoma managed, before deciding speaking wasn't a good idea. He was going to throw up. How embarrassing. He just knew he was.
"Okay," Fuji said, amused.
Ryoma's pulse thumped. Fuji was holding his hand. The plane's nose was diving upwards. He could feel a ringing sensation in his ears. Bile rose to his throat.
And not a second later, he threw up all over the back of someone's airplane seat.
"It's not my fault," Ryoma insisted. After the takeoff had been completed and the seatbelt sign was off, Ryoma and Fuji were transferred to sit in new seats. Fulvia was left to clean up Ryoma's vomit, much to Ryoma's pleasure, and she didn't mind casting him a nasty glare as he got out his seat either. Despite that satisfaction, Ryoma felt so embarrassed.
He had thrown up. On a plane. In front of Fuji.
What kind of loser does that?! He thought to himself incredulously.
"It's just…I felt…sick," Ryoma muttered. He didn't know why he was trying to defend himself. Fuji had already assured him that it was perfectly okay. Somehow, it still didn't sit well with Ryoma. He didn't know why it had happened either. He never threw up on plane rides – sure, he felt nauseas sometimes – but nothing he couldn't hold down.
It's Fuji. With his effect, and the plane ride put together, it's no surprise that happened… yeah, blame it on Fuji. That's the way to go.
"Ryo-chan, it's okay, it happens," Fuji said with his ever-so gentle voice. The older boy lightly pushed Ryoma's rigid body back against the seat. "Relax, and drink your water."
"Hn…whatever," Ryoma cast a glance towards the window. The tenseness left his shoulders. Maybe he needed to actually listen to what Fuji was saying for once – relax. He needed to relax. Good idea, if only it was possible around Fuji… the twelve-year was so frustrated he actually thought about getting up and quitting this whole thing right then and there. Going back to Seigaku, leaving Fuji here in America stranded, and getting his life back.
But did he really want that? Life without Fuji…is not a life at all.
"Ryo-chan, while we're on the plane, wanna play a game? To pass the time?"
Ryoma stiffened. "Game?"
"Nothing weird, I promise," Fuji nodded reassuringly. His smile was eerily calm. "Just something simple. I ask you a question, and you have to answer truthfully. In turn, you get to ask me a question. How does it sound?"
It sounds like a bad, bad idea?
Ryoma forced a smile. "Fine. But I go first."
Fuji didn't seem concerned at all. He sat back, hands in his lap, posture perfectly relaxed. Ryoma, in comparison, was sweating it out. What if he asks something like…who do you like? What if he…what if…the possibilities are endless! He could ask me why I've been acting weird, or why I keep turning red when he comes near me…
"Ah, are you going to go?"
Ryoma snapped his head up. "Right. Okay. Fuji-senpai…" His mind scrambled for a question. "Do you – do you-" his eyes trailed to his water bottle. "-drink water?"
Fuji's perfect smile didn't waver. "As a matter of fact, I do. Although it's rather plain. I prefer Inui's juice. It's much tastier."
Ryoma, in the middle of mentally beating himself up for asking such a dumb question, quickly frowned. "Fuji-senpai is weird."
"Perhaps," Fuji said, tone airy. His eyes opened for a moment, electrifying blue, and a mischevious glint glared back at Ryoma. "Now, for my question, I want to know, how many times to you take a shower?"
Ryoma's breath left him. "What?"
"How many times do you take a shower, per day?" Fuji asked, innocently.
Ryoma felt embarrassed, like he was naked or something. The question was so weird – weirder than the one he himself had blurted out. He wondered if Fuji was imagining him naked in the shower right now. His face flushed deep red. "Why?" he mumbled, barely audible.
Fuji tilted his head up towards the ceiling. "Oh, no reason, merely curious."
"Oh, uh, well…" Ryoma suddenly felt even more embarrassed. He kind of wanted to lie, but the whole point of the game was to not lie. "Three times."
Fuji raised an eyebrow. "That's a little…extreme. Why would you take a shower three times a day, anyway?"
Ryoma swallowed, and attempted to appear normal. "It's just, I take one in the morning before leaving school, and then, we have tennis practice after school so I take one when I get home…and then, normally, I play a match with Oyaji, so I end up taking one before bed too…"
That sounded utterly lame. Ryoma cursed in his head. What kind of person takes three showers in a day? If I think Fuji's weird, he must think I'm an alien or something.
Fuji just smiled. "Interesting. You're a hygiene freak, then?"
Ryoma scowled, "No."
"It seems like it."
"No. I'm not."
Before Fuji could continue to insist he was an apparent hygiene freak, Ryoma interrupted him with his question. He hadn't meant to say it, really. It was something that had been on his mind for quite some time, but it wasn't anything he would have asked out loud. However, it sort of just slipped and now he waited for answer.
"What's your biggest fear, Fuji-senpai?"
In a flash, Fuji's protective walls went up. His eyes hardened and his smile had no warmth behind it. It was the kind of question a person like Fuji would hate – and Ryoma already regretted asking it. Fuji always hid his weaknesses and kept his emotions in check. To everyone, he appeared to be the most perfect person, with absolutely no flaws.
That's why Ryoma had asked the question. He was just curious.
"Why?" Fuji asked. His voice was soft, malicious.
Ryoma turned his head away. "Just asking,"
There was a trembling silence. Ryoma stared out at the long vast of blue out the window. The plane's calm whirring comforted him, and he checked his watch. Around two and a half hours had passed since they had boarded. To go to America, it would take approximately twelve hours. Great, just great, ten more hours on this plane with Fuji-senpai…
"My biggest fear…"
Fuji's voice slid across the air like venom. Ryoma snapped his head towards him.
"…is hurting the one I love."
The last words were spoken so softly, almost like a whisper, that Ryoma barely caught what he said. His grip tightened on the armrest. A loud shattering rung in his ears. Ryoma wondered if that was the sound of his heart breaking into a million little pieces. The one I love… he felt shaky, dizzy all of a sudden. Fuji loves someone? No, no…that…I mean, I never expected to have a chance with him anyway…but I didn't know…he has someone…
His throat hurt. Ryoma's nails dug into the palms of his hands.
"Are you alright, Echizen?" Fuji asked. Despite the question, his tone was as cold as ice. Ryoma's stomach sunk. He just called me Echizen? Didn't he say he was going to call me Ryo-chan? Is he…mad at me for asking that question? Was it too personal? Ryoma took a deep breath. He hated this, he really did. He never doubted himself, or second-guessed, or felt insecure before. And now, suddenly, Fuji was capable of making him feel awful.
Ryoma turned back towards the window, away from Fuji. "Fine. It's your turn to ask."
There was a moment of silence.
"I don't want to play anymore. Sorry, Echizen."
"Would you like a drink?" Fulvia's eyes were bright as she brought the cart over to where Fuji and Ryoma were sitting. Ryoma glared viciously at her, but she seemed unaffected. Her gaze was once against solely focused on Fuji, admiring his lean muscles and pretty-boy features.
"Water," Fuji said.
"Of course," Fulvia fluttered her lashes rapidly, before elegantly pouring water into a glass. She handed it to Fuji with a sweet smile. "Hope you're enjoying your flight."
"Ah," Fuji sipped on his water. The coldness from his expression had vanished, but he had yet to acknowledge Ryoma after the question he had asked. Ryoma wondered what the big deal was. Fuji had been the one to suggest the game. It's not my fault he can't handle answering some questions, the preteen thought bitterly.
Fulvia turned to Ryoma. Her lips curled in disgust, and Ryoma knew she was thinking back to having to clean up his vomit. What's her age anyway? Isn't she a little too old to be hitting on Fuji-senpai?
"And would you like a drink?" Fulvia asked. Her eyes were bored.
Ryoma snapped. She was promptly hurting his pride while simultaneously making him jealous. "Yeah, Ponta,"
Fulvia rolled her eyes. "I'm afraid we don't have that. Sorry. Anything else?"
Ryoma bore his gaze into hers. "Milk, then."
Fulvia poured the milk in slow motion. When Ryoma leaned over to grab the glass from her grip, he added cheekily:
"Oh, by the way, I think you've got some lipstick on your teeth."
The flush on Fulvia's face made Ryoma smirk. He sat back down and sipped innocently on his milk. It's not like I said anything that rude. Besides, she totally deserved it. From the corner of his vision, he could see Fuji's smile tense once again. Ryoma's pleasure dissipated. Fuji-senpai, why won't you talk to me? I didn't do anything…
Ryoma cleared his throat, "Fuji-senpai…"
The prodigy shifted to look at him. He looked like he was struggling to keep calm. "Yes?"
"I – I-" Ryoma swallowed thickly. He couldn't manage to apologize – his pride wouldn't let him. He thought it would have been easier since it was Fuji, but his words were stuck in his throat. Besides, he wasn't even sure why he was apologizing. He had asked a simple question, and Fuji had gotten defensive. His fault, not mine.
"What is it, Echizen?"
Ryoma coughed, "Uh…how's…the water?"
Fuji didn't look at him. His head stayed duck down towards the airplane trays. "Fine,"
The word was simple, but Fuji's soft voice, filled with eloquence, made Ryoma's stomach flutter. He wondered what was wrong, and why Fuji was so cold towards him all of a sudden. It couldn't have been just because of one question. Why do I feel like he's hiding something? The boy slumped in his seat. He wished they'd never played that stupid game. He would choose Fuji's gentle smile and concerned voice over his sadistic side any day.
Ryoma's eyes flashed with foreign emotion. His brow crinkled.
'My biggest fear is hurting the one I love…'
'….the one I love…'
The twelve-year old's fists clenched impossibly tighter. The curiosity was killing him, but in the end, it didn't really matter who it was. As long as it wasn't him, it hurt. Trying to distract himself from the pain of unrequited love, Ryoma glanced back down at his watch. Four hours. Damn it, still eight whole hours to go! With one angry Fuji-senpai!
Six hours into the plane ride and Ryoma was absolutely dying of boredom. The stomach-twisting-teeth-grinding-face-flushing symptoms that arose when he was around Fuji had completely disappeared. Instead, he felt almost normal. And bored. And Fuji-senpai still wouldn't speak to him.
Ryoma was perpetually confused about what he did that was so bad but he had given up trying to figure it out. He had also stopped thinking about the whole 'who does Fuji-senpai love' fiasco because it was just tormenting his poor mind.
With nothing to do, Ryoma opened up his backpack and shuffled through it. He pulled out a blank sketchbook his mother had packed. Geez, I don't even like drawing… he sighed and sharpened his pencil, but I suppose it's better than nothing.
Ryoma stared at the paper. The blankness stared eerily back at him. Oddly, the white sheet reminded him of Fuji. It was clearly there, full of so many possibilities, and yet he was afraid to make a move.
I'm so lame, Ryoma recited in his mind. He was actually starting to think that Fuji was unhealthy for him. Ryoma had always been cool and collected before – now, he was a complete, insecure mess. The boy fiddled with his pencil for a while before hesitantly making a small curved line on the paper. The movements were tentative and slow.
This feels weird. It's really been forever since I've drew something.
He narrowed his eyes and thought hard of what to draw. A half an hour later, he had an idea, and an hour after that and the page was full.
"Tennis?" Fuji said. He sounded amused. "I'm not surprised."
Ryoma whipped his head up from sketchbook to look at Fuji. It had been almost four hours since the prodigy had freely spoken to him. The preteen glanced back at the page he had drew on. It was a simple picture of a tennis court with arrows pointing everywhere. It wasn't really a drawing – more of a diagram.
It was an outline of a new move he was thinking of trying.
"Yeah," Ryoma said, and was surprised when this time, his own voice came out cold. He hadn't realized it, but he was kind of angry at Fuji for ignoring him for so long.
Fuji didn't seem to notice. "Do you like to draw?"
Ryoma stared at his messy tennis court. "No," he said, and he knew his work showed it. "I just got bored."
Fuji's smile widened. Ryoma felt warm and gooey on the inside, but he refused to show it on his face. He didn't want the older male to know how happy he was he was finally talking to him again.
"If you're bored," Fuji offered, "We could continue the question game."
Ryoma's pencil froze midstroke. His teeth clenched, and he gripped the pencil so tightly he was sure it was about to snap in half. Fuji-senpai no baka! He couldn't help it – he actually wanted to scream and push Fuji off the plane window. How dare he suggest playing the game, after being all mean and saying he didn't want to anymore? And how DARE he sound so innocent and casual about it? It's not fair, not fair at all…how come he gets to be so calm while I'm frantically panicking every five seconds?
"No thanks, Fuji-senpai," Ryoma's voice was rough. He sneered, "I'm not in the mood."
Ryoma hunched over his sketchbook. He clearly conveyed that he was not going to give in. Ryoma was glad for the change of atmosphere. For once, he was the one making the calls. I should have done this a long time ago. I shouldn't let him push me around. Well, he's not really pushing me around, he's just…it's like he's playing with my feelings. I hope not. I really, really hope that's not it.
"Okay," Fuji said in a pleasant voice. "It was my turn, right? Hm, let's see. How about…do you remember your dreams?"
Ryoma stared at him, jaw slack. That asshole! The younger boy couldn't believe it. Fuji was actually pretending that Ryoma hadn't said anything.
Well, I'll be damned before I answer that stupid question. What kind of question is that anyway? Do you remember your dreams? Pfft, well, 'course not, most people don't, stupid, asshole, jerk, idiot, baka- Meanwhile, during his inner rant, Ryoma managed to keep a perfectly bored expression on the outside. He thanked god he was good at hiding his emotions, or it wouldn't be a pretty sight.
Fuji sighed. "I see. You're not going to answer?"
"I'm not playing," Ryoma pointed out.
The tennis genius sat still for a moment. "Okay. That's fair, Echizen. But I don't see why you're so angry."
What. An. Ass.
Ryoma closed his sketchbook with a thud. He threw it into his bag like it was a piece of trash and he hadn't spent the past hour putting effort into its content. Fuji just didn't make any sense, and Ryoma was starting to get tired of all the games. He asks me why I'M angry? He was the one who was all cold and mean for no reason…
"You know what," Ryoma said slowly, about to make a grand, witty comment to shut Fuji right up. Fuji turned to give him his full attention.
Ryoma glared. "You are soo-"
"Juice?" Fulvia's cheerful voice rang in his ears as she lugged the cart up to them. Her teeth shone like white stars. "Juice, anyone?"
Finally, after twelve hours of excruciating, painful Fuji-senpai mind-boggling, the plane got ready to descend. Ryoma closed his eyes tightly as he buckled up his seatbelt. This time, his main goal was to focus on not throwing up. He knew the chance was rare, especially since he'd barely eaten anything during the past twelve hours (for some reason, he hadn't been that hungry. He wondered whose fault that was)
"Are you scared?" Fuji asked, a slight tease in his voice.
Ryoma shot him a cold look, before returning to staring out the window. The seatbelt pressed tightly against his stomach, or maybe that was just his nerves. He wasn't sure what he was nervous about – Fuji, in general? That was a good enough reason as any. He also was pondering if he should stay mad at Fuji for ignoring him any longer.
Fuji stared at ahead at the leather seat in front of him. He seemed to be in deep concentration. "Look, Echizen," he said softly.
"I thought it was Ryo-chan," Ryoma said dryly; bitterly. He couldn't help himself.
Fuji ignored the comment. "I'm sorry that I was ignoring you,"
An apology? Ryoma raised an eyebrow and twisted in his seat to face Fuji. The prodigy's eyes were dark and icy, and Ryoma felt his blood run cold. It was the oddest thing – everything about Fuji was thrilling. Just being in his presence made Ryoma anxious and excited. He also felt kind of safe with Fuji, because he knew the genius would hurt whoever tried to harm him.
But when Fuji opened his eyes, Ryoma felt almost scared. It hurt his pride to even accept it in his mind, but it was the truth.
"Ch'," Ryoma faced the window again. He grumbled, "S'okay."
A minute passed, before Ryoma felt Fuji place his hand atop his.
"We're landing," the prodigy said.
Ryoma leaned back as the familiar whirring returned. They were descending – and as he felt the plane whoosh loudly, his ears plugged, and the exotic sensation of Fuji's skin tingle with his own, he got the strange feeling today was just the beginning of a rollercoaster ride that was never going to end.
"Ryoma?" Fuji yelled over the loud noise of the plane. Ryoma glanced to the side, and saw Fuji's mouth move as he spoke. The words were completely drowned out.
Ryoma shrugged and closed his eyes tightly as the plane finally landed onto surface.
'to hurt the person I love…'
The stabbing feeling in his chest returned.
Who is it, Fuji-senpai? And why can't it be me instead?