Loaded Soul

Author's Notes: I highly encourage you NOT to read this story. It's become somewhat of a shrine combined of all my bad writing skills. Maybe I'm over exaggerating. Ryoma's become a girl. I suppose, at this point, we should all blame Fuji? I'm not exactly sure. The thing I think that really irks me about this story is the TRANSITIONS! The events don't flow with each other at all. I don't know why that is. I think it's because I planned what would happen in each chapter beforehand, and thus was reduced to this.

I already have four chapters written, but I was completely stalling posting because of how anxious I was of posting them. This chapter's pretty old though.


Chapter Two - Downfall


Ryoma was utterly exhausted by the time they reached the hotel.

He forced his feet up the flight of stairs, eyes drowsy and mind overloaded. Spending twelve hours with no one but Fuji was capable of doing that to a person, and Ryoma was no exception. He lugged his suitcase along with him, not bothering to see if Fuji was following him. He just wanted to get in their room, collapse on the bed, and fall asleep.

The hotel they were spending the night in was nothing fancy, but not rundown either. The walls were freshly coated and the place seemed to be clean, but if one looked closely, they could see the faint cracks in the corners and the ruggedness of the carpet. Ryoma was not one to look closely, as he was already half-asleep.

When he reached the room number, he realized with dismay that Fuji had the key card. "Fuji-senpai," Ryoma grumbled, "Hurry up."

"Someone's grumpy," Fuji said in a pleasant voice as he rounded up the stairs with his own suitcase.

Ryoma just blinked wearily and tried to keep himself awake for a moment longer, not in the mood to deal with Fuji. He was still a little bit in awe at how the prodigy had managed to maintain a clean, fresh look throughout twelve hours on a plane. The smile was still plastered on his face and not a single strand of honey-brown hair was out of place.

Fuji clicked the key in place, and waited for the green light to flash. The moment it did, Ryoma pushed past him and shoved open the door.

He stopped short. "Fuji-senpai," Ryoma said quietly, and every muscle in his body tensed.

"Yes?" Fuji asked calmly upon entering the room.

Ryoma tried to control his breathing rate, which had upped double in less than a second. He could feel the familiar sweaty, flushed, anxious symptoms that came along with Fuji return, and he was starting to wonder if he had panic attacks or something. Or Fuji-panic attacks. Nevertheless, he stared at the room with dread in the pit of his stomach.

"Why is there only one bed?" Ryoma finally asked, trying to sound casual while his heart raced off its wagon.

Fuji's reply was clipped, "Well, we are two boys, so I suppose Ryuuzaki-sensei didn't think it would be an issue for us to share a bed when she booked the hotel room," he turned his serene gaze to Ryoma. "I don't see an issue with it. The bottom of his lip quirked into a small smirk, "Is it a problem for you?"

I see how it is. Ryoma forced a smirk back. "Of course not."

Fuji, perpetually smiling, set his suitcase down on the ground. Ryoma glanced past the fact that there was a double bed, trying his best not to think about how he was going to sleep that night, and instead taking in the room. It was rather small, but clean, with a single bathroom and a small television in the corner.

"I call taking a shower first!" Ryoma suddenly said, aware that Fuji was taking out his towel from his suitcase. No way, I'm the one that's exhausted and needs a nice hot bath and then some sleep, not you. Most definitely not you.

Fuji chuckled, dropping his towel back in the suitcase. "That's fine by me."

Wonderful, Ryoma thought, racing into the bathroom and shutting the door hard behind him. Once he was safe and out of Fuji-observing range, Ryoma slumped against the door tiredly. This was so frustrating – all he wanted was to collapse onto the bed and start dreaming about a place where Fuji's didn't exist, when suddenly, he was going to be in such close proximities with the older boy.

Why can't anything with Fuji be simple?

Sighing to himself, Ryoma stripped and stepped into the shower. The moment he turned on the hot water, he relaxed and leaned against the tiled wall. He knew he needed to stop busying himself with Fuji and focus on the fact that he had a match to play tomorrow. We should have left earlier instead of having to play a match the moment we arrive, Ryoma thought, shutting his eyes. He was in no mood to wake up bright and early the following morning, even if it was to play tennis.

As the water spilled over his smooth body, Ryoma's mind absentmindedly thought about the plane ride, and his gut twisted uncomfortably. He couldn't believe Fuji actually loved someone. He had no idea who it could be, because he had never seen Fuji speak or act 'lovingly' towards anyone. Hurt the person I love? Ryoma furrowed his brow, and wondered if Fuji already had a boyfriend.

But if he did…wouldn't Ryoma have known by now?

Wait, why am I saying boyfriend? Fuji's probably not even gay like me, and probably has some pretty girl. Ryoma's frown deepened. Life was complicated. It never even occurred to him until now that Fuji was most likely into girls. Most boys were, after all.

There was a faint knock on the door. "Are you almost done?"

Ryoma closed his eyes tightly, willing himself to return to the normal Echizen Ryoma, willing these weird feelings to go away. Quietly, he slipped out of the shower and wrapped a white towel around his body (his full body, because he felt awkward around Fuji) and stumbled out of the bathroom. Fuji glanced up when he did.

"Ah, you're out," Fuji said softly, and his eyes lingered on Ryoma's dripping hair and flushed cheeks.

The boy averted his gaze towards the floor. "Yeah."

Fuji smiled and stood up, towel and clothes in hand as he brushed past Ryoma towards the bathroom. Just as he passed by, he stopped, and his smile grew impossibly wider. "Ryo-chan, you smell very nice," he said softly, breath brushing against Ryoma's nape.

Ryoma nearly jumped, and whirled away from him. "Thanks," he snapped, the bridge of his nose streaked pink.

Fuji just grinned before disappearing into the bathroom.

He knows, he must know I like him, Ryoma thought, exhaustedly plopping down onto the edge of the bed, towel sliding off his shoulder. Why else is he teasing me like this? It's not fair, he keeps playing mind games, when I'm actually serious. Does he not care that it hurts me? Ryoma grabbed his PJ's from his suitcase and pulled them on.Or maybe he really doesn't know that I like him, but that seems pretty unlikely. Fuji-senpai knows everything.

As Ryoma finished buttoning up his pajama top, he noticed a book poking out of Fuji's unzipped suitcase. Curious to see what Fuji liked to read, Ryoma bent down and grabbed the book into his hands. The cover said Fuji Syuuske in pretty lettering, and the book felt rather heavy. Is this a book or- Ryoma flicked it to the front page. A nice portrait picture of Fuji stuck out. A photo album?

Ryoma eagerly flipped to the following page. Two pictures of Fuji when he was a little kid stood out. Ryoma blinked and stared at it for a moment. In the picture, Fuji was eating ice cream with Yuuta. His blue eyes were wide and sparkling, and the smile on his face was friendly. Fuji-senpai looks so happy in these pictures, Ryoma thought with warm eyes, He seems free.

Ryoma continued to flip through the photo album, in awe at all the pictures of Fuji as a little kid. As the pictures got more recent though, Ryoma started to see hints of Fuji's current attitude. Eyes closed, smile deceivingly gentle… Ryoma sighed and touched one of the pictures, wondering what had happened to the kid-Fuji who smiled so real and cheerfully.

When Ryoma turned to the next page, his eyes furrowed. Fuji looked around twelve in the picture, and his arms were around another very cute boy. Ryoma felt a stab of jealousy, and then told himself he was being stupid. It was probably Fuji's cousin or something. However, as he continued flipping through the album, nearly each picture included Fuji and the other boy.

Who is this boy? Ryoma thought as he landed on yet another picture of Fuji and the boy.

"What are you doing?"

Ryoma snapped his head up, and his eyes locked with Fuji's blue ones. The older male was standing there with a towel around his waist, lean muscles clearly shown, but Ryoma couldn't ogle over them at the moment. Fuji's face was devoid of any smile and held an expression of anger instead.

"That's mine," Fuji said coldly.

Ryoma stared down at the album, and quickly tucked it back into the suitcase. "I was just looking."

"You should ask before you touch stuff," Fuji said, eyes narrowing. "That's mine, and it's private."

Ryoma swallowed hard. "I didn't know." Apologize, stupid!

Fuji shot him a menacing glare, but after a second, his eyes softened. He swiftly walked over to his suitcase and zipped it up firmly. When he looked back up, he paused, and his damp hair hung around the frame of his face. "Just ask before you touch my stuff, okay?" he said, and he forced a strained smile onto his face, "I'm just a bit possessive about my belongings."

No, you're not, Ryoma thought, You're hiding something, I know it. "Okay," he said quietly, keeping his thoughts to himself.

Fuji didn't say anything for a moment. Ryoma thought for a minute he would apologize for getting so mad. He didn't.

"We should get some sleep. The tournament starts tomorrow,"

Ryoma slid into the bed, pulling the covers up to his chin, right on the opposite edge. "Whatever."

He closed his eyes and rolled over to the side, realizing exactly how tired he was. The muscles in his eyelids ached with the need to sleep, and his entire body was exhausted from the plane ride. Not to mention, all the Fuji-overthinking had given his mind a headache. Cuddling up to the pillow, it didn't take long for him to get drowsy.

A second before sleep came; he felt movement beside him as Fuji slipped into the bed as well. Ryoma inhaled the fresh scent of showered-Fuji, and his muscles relaxed further. Then, his eyes flung wide open. Why could he smell Fuji so clearly-? Ryoma tensed, and turned his neck slightly to find Fuji right up next to him, smiling with his eyes closed.

His throat went tight. What?

"Good night, Ryo-chan," Fuji said gently, and his arm slid under Ryoma and around his waist.

Ryoma's mind went fuzzy, and his fists curled around the blankets. Fuji had his arm around him. In a bed. The older male was so close Ryoma could practically feel the slightly wet skin against his own, and the fresh breath near his ear every time Fuji exhaled. Ryoma trembled, worrying that he wouldn't be able to sleep that night. But then Fuji said quietly, in such a sweet, gentle, caring tone: "Go to sleep,"

And Ryoma decided to obey, drifting off to dreamland with a single last thought floating around in his head:

Maybe we do have something after all.

XXX

Ryoma stood in the hot America heat with his cap pulled over his forehead and his gaze on the ground. The stadium was crowded and filled, and the close proximities only intensified the temperature. The twelve-year old sat beside Fuji with a frown on his face, despite the fact that he should be pumped that the matches were about to begin.

Among the bench were two candidates from several schools and countries, and normally Ryoma would be interested in his opponents, but today, he couldn't be bothered. He was in a very bad mood. In the morning following the night before, Fuji had acted like nothing had happened in bed. Okay, so we didn't really do anything, but he put his arm around me! Ryoma exclaimed to himself as he recited the events,And then he just totally ignored me the entire morning!

During breakfast and on their way to the stadium, Fuji had stopped the subtle flirting and teasing, along with any gestures that they might be more than friends. He almost acted like the first time they met, before they had a connection, before the thrill between them had formed. He acknowledged Ryoma, but nothing after that.

Why is he doing this to me?! Ryoma thought, irritated. Even now, Fuji was sitting beside him listening to music, not bothering to talk to Ryoma. It was almost as if the spark from the night before had completely vanished.

"And now, to start off the preliminary rounds," A man dressed formally in a suit spoke into the microphone, blaring it through the stadium. "The first match will be held between the school Seigaku from Japan and Lake Avenue from America. Let's give a round of applause for our first two teams."

Fuji and Ryoma stood up simultaneously. Further down, two other boys dressed in red-and-white also stood up, Lake Avenue emblazoned on the shoulder of their jerseys.

"You're first, right?" Ryoma ran his fingers along his own tennis racket.

Fuji smiled sunnily, not looking at him. The only indication that showed that he had heard Ryoma was the slightest of nods.

What the hell? Ryoma gripped the racket tighter in his hands, the boiling heat along with Fuji's perpetual confusion irritating his mind out. "I asked a question," Ryoma snapped, and turned to face Fuji with his chin tilted up.

Fuji picked up his own tennis racket from the bench. "Ah, yes. I'm first."

"The first match will be between Syusuke Fuji and Alec Ward."

Fuji walked swiftly towards his side of the court, not bothering to even glance at Ryoma as he went. Ryoma had planned on wishing the prodigy good luck – even though he didn't need it – but that idea was done for now. I hope he loses, I hope he loses 0-6 and humiliates himself, I hope he –

"15-0!"

Ryoma sighed and twiddled with his water bottle as Fuji got a service ace. It was hopeless to think Fuji would lose in the preliminary rounds. The rest of the game went by uneventfully. Prelimaries were always like that, and Ryoma had no doubt that Fuji and he would destroy everyone up until the quarter finals. Then, the challenges would begin. As Fuji lifted the ball up to serve once again, Ryoma couldn't help but admire the lithe body and lean muscles.

Unlike Momoshiro or Kawamura, or any of the players aside from himself, Fuji was slender yet strong. Ryoma thought it made Fuji look more attractive that way, then reminded himself that Fuji was an ass and changed his mind. Fuji isn't attractive, he's skinny and lanky and girly, that's right, not attractive at all, I'm staring at him because of how ugly he is, not because I can't keep my eyes away-

"Game set and match, Syusuke Fuji from Seigaku!"

Ryoma blinked. That was quick.

He watched as Fuji calmly walked over to the net to shake hands with this 'mada mada dane' player Alec Ward. Ryoma realized that his match was next and he should have started warming up. Damn it Fuji, you always ruin everything, he thought to himself as he quickly stood up and started doing some stretches. Even with his back strained as he touched his toes, he couldn't help but glance up at Fuji.

Ryoma's throat went tight.

Fuji's hand was still lingering on this Alec guy's hand, and they were smiling at each other under the sunlight. Shake hands, Ryoma swallowed thickly and stood up for a moment, observing. They continued to just let their hands lie on top of one another, before Alec finally squeezed it tightly and gave it a firm shake.

Ryoma watched in disbelief as they started to walk towards the bench, still holding hands. For a moment, Ryoma felt like getting up and punching that Alec guy right in the face, and making his nose bleed and stream down his face and into his mouth. He stood their angrily, gold eyes hurt and confused as Fuji grabbed a towel with his free hand and brushed it against his forehead. I guess that's just how Fuji is, flirting with everyone and anyone, and I'm just one of them. But even with that reasonable explanation, Ryoma was mad anyway.

But their holding hands! Could Alec be Fuji's boyfriend? But they didn't act like they knew each other before, and Fuji would have mentioned…but at least that means Fuji's gay! Or maybe he flirts with guys and girls. Ryoma glared at Fuji as the prodigy playfully used the towel to wipe off Alec's forehead as well.

Fine, then. Ryoma gritted his teeth. "Hey, Fuji-senpai," he smirked. "That your boyfriend?"

Fuji looked straight at him and smiled. "Now why would you think that?"

Ryoma dropped his gaze and muttered, "You are holding hands."

Fuji opened his mouth slightly and looked down at their interlocked hands. He glanced at Alec and then said nonchalantly, "Whoops, I didn't even realize," he acted surprised and removed his hand from Alec, who just laughed.

Is he doing this on purpose? Ryoma felt so stupid just standing there watching them flirt. He could already tell that they were just having fun, and it was nothing serious, but it still hurt. Why did Fuji have to keep playing games with him? Why? Why? Why?Ryoma was sick of the single word and grabbed his racket roughly.

"Mada mada dane, Fuji-senpai," he said, before he stormed off to his side of the court. He vowed to take his anger out on the match and win without letting the opponent gain a single point.

As he went, he heard Fuji say quietly, "Good luck," but decided he was hearing things.

It was safe to say, that every time Ryoma saw Fuji and Alec flirting from the corner of his eye, the opponent ended up getting a Drive A in the face. The match most definitely ended in Ryoma's favour.