A/N: Have I mentioned my dislike to this story? xD I know, my bitching is probably be getting annoying, but once again, I encourage you not to read it. It's just getting more wordy and sucky by each chapter. Well, actually, that's a lie. This chapter's horrible, but I quite like the one where Fuji and Ryoma go on a date. But... - oh wait, you weren't supposed to know that. Oh, well. xD I won't backspace now. And I couldn't be bothered to edit. I want to go watch some more Death Note, okay? xD

SyrenHug finally managed to get me to post this. ;)


Chapter Three – Rising Again

"Ryo-chan, are you ignoring me?" Fuji said sweetly as he sipped on his cup of coffee. They were sitting in the breakfast café after much insistence from Fuji, and for some reason, Fuji had decided to talk to Ryoma again. Geez, make up your mind!Ryoma thought this as he took his own sip of his milk.

After being ignored and hurt yesterday, Ryoma had decided enough was enough, and that he needed revenge. So, he formed the grand idea of ignoring Fuji back and pretending he wasn't being affected by his casual flirting with other people. However, Fuji had chosen that time to throw a wrench in his plans and start talking with him again.

"Ryoma," Fuji said, honey-brown hair soft in the filtering sunlight. "You're really being mean."

Ryoma's fingers tightened around his mug. Will. Not. Respond.

"After I bought you that milk, too"

Ignore him Ryoma, ignore him.

Fuji tipped his head innocently. "Have I done something to upset you?"

Ryoma gritted his teeth. He couldn't take it anymore. "Yes," he snapped, gold eyes ablaze. He stood up, pushing his chair in. " and if you can't figure out what, then you really arean idiot Fuji-senpai,"

Fuji stood up as well, facing Ryoma with a suddenly serious aura. Ryoma swallowed and took a step back as Fuji closed the space between them, his lithe body inches away from Ryoma's own. At first, Ryoma's mind spun with questions, but one look at Fuji's face told him they weren't actually going to do anything. "I didn't mean to ignore you yesterday," Fuji said quietly.

Ryoma had learned that when Fuji said 'I didn't mean to' he was actually trying to apologize.

"How can you not meanto?" Ryoma finished off his mug and placed it down on the coffee table.

"There are reasons."

"Whatreasons?"

Fuji's smile tightened. "Let's forget about this."

He started to walk towards the door, but Ryoma took a deep breath and grabbed him by the elbow. The prodigy stopped in his tracks.

"Echizen?" he asked warningly, looking over his shoulder. "Let's go."

"No," Ryoma said simply. "I want answers."

There was a moment in which Ryoma felt like they were the only two in the breakfast café. Silence beckoned, and Fuji stayed completely still. Then, in a flash, he roughly pulled away from Ryoma and started to walk again, not bothering to look back. Ryoma stood rooted on the spot, wishing desperately he could have the courage to just walk back to the hotel room.

Instead, he clenched his fist and trailed after Fuji.

XXX

When he reached Fuji, Ryoma noticed that the tennis genius had gone back to smiling with his eyes closed and a relaxed expression on his face. Ryoma was constantly amazed at how Fuji could act like nothing had happened in less than a split second. Well, I'll be damned if I let this go,"Fuji-senpai," Ryoma uttered.

Fuji glanced at him. "Yes, Ryo-chan?"

Back to Ryo-chan? Echizen, Ryo-chan, Ryoma…make up your mind!

"How come you're being so weird?" Ryoma sped up his pace to keep up with Fuji.

Fuji tilted his head up to the arch of a rainbow up in the sky. It was faint, and the grass smelled of rain. "Isn't it you who is being weird?"

Ryoma frowned and slowed down so he could contemplate what Fuji had said. Was it him that was being weird? Maybe Fuji-senpai always acts like this, but I never noticed because I didn't like him before. That must be it! After all, if Fuji flirted with people before, I probably wouldn't have even cared. Still, he got so mad about that photo album before, and sometimes it feels like there's actually something between us…'Ch, all this thinking is hurting my head.

Ryoma sighed. Tezuka would be handy right now, with his Advil bottle.

"Forgot about everything," Fuji said softly, stopping a turning around. He put a hand on Ryoma's shoulder, who felt the immediate electric rush. "Remember today, we have a doubles game? We need to be in sync, not fighting with each other if we want to win."

"It's the preliminary round," Ryoma pointed out, shrugging Fuji's hand off and walking ahead. "It'll be easy."

I forgot, we're playing a doubles match today. We already won our singles, and it was really easy, so doubles shouldn't be too hard.

As Ryoma walked, he realized he had no idea where they were going. He turned back. "Uh, Fuji-senpai, where are we goi-"

"The stadium," Fuji interrupted, checking his watch. His blue eyes shimmered under the sunlight. "Our match starts in an hour."

XXX – PRELIMNARY ROUND 2 – DOUBLES

The second time Ryoma sat down in the stadium bench, he was in a good mood. Things between him and Fuji had turned rather pleasant – not sensual at all, but more like friends. Ryoma could settle for that, especially if it kept him from overthinking and losing his mind. Ryoma absentmindedly swung his racket, preparing for his match alongside Fuji.

"Ready, Fuji-senpai?" Ryoma smirked.

"I should be asking you the same question," Fuji said in his same alluring drawl. "After all, your doubles play isn't exactly exemplary."

"That's because Momo-senpai likes to hog the court," Ryoma rolled his eyes, swinging the racket and loving the sound of the whooshing wind that followed. The crowd was full yet again, but the weather was beautiful. The rain had cooled down the heat, leaving a pleasant breeze in the air. Ryoma felt pumped for the match, despite that it was doubles.

The same announcer from before stood at a podium, microphone up to his mouth. "The third doubles match will be between Seigaku from Japan and Mount Laisse from Australia,"

Ryoma and Fuji, who were already standing up, put down their rackets. A few benches down, two guys also stood up, dressed in black shorts and a white-and-black jersey. Fuji frowned as he observed them, and nudged Ryoma slightly. "They look rough," he whispered quietly. "And they're quite big too."

Ryoma frowned at that as well. Fuji and he both relied on skill and talent to overpower those who used their bodies to their advantage. Still, he smiled confidently and replied, "Who cares? If they're shots are really powerful, we can do two-handed returns," he thought for a moment, and his smirk grew. "Besides, I nearly returned Kawamura-senpai's hadokyuu before."

"I suppose," was all Fuji said in reply. He stood up and grabbed his racket. "Let's go."

When they got into the positions, Ryoma decided to jump right into the twist serve. With amazing grace, he got the ball to bounce and spin right towards the opponents face. He wasn't sure what the guy's name was, but he had ugly yellow hair. It sliced right past his ear and hit the ground with a thud.

"15-0!"

"Nice one, Echizen!" Fuji called.

Ryoma felt his heart flutter, before he bent his knees to serve again. Each one was unreturnable and they ended up winning the first game.

"Switch court!"

He joined Fuji as they walked over towards the other side of the court. As they brushed past the opposing team, he could feel their glares burning into his back, but simply smirked. He loved when people tried to act intimidating just because they were bigger than him but ended up losing badly because they had no skill.

"As Tezuka would say," Fuji said lightly, "Don't let your guard down, Ryo-chan."

"Of course not," Ryoma replied smoothly. He observed the strings of his racket, before looking up. "Maybe they have a good serve."

They, in fact, did not have a good serve. It was rather ordinary, slightly fast, but nothing Ryoma couldn't handle. Soon, the game count rose to two, and then to three. Ryoma felt like he was on fire, and he loved the way he didn't even have to second guess if it was Fuji's ball or if it was his. Unlike when he played with Momoshiro, he and Fuji were in sync. It was like they'd known each other for years and knew exactly how to play with each other.

"Mine!" Ryoma said as he darted to drop volley one of the shots. The other guy, with big muscles and piercings leaped forward to try to return it, but inevitably failed.

"Seigaku 4-0!"

The crowd cheered. Already, most people were favouring them.

"Change Court."

Fuji caught up to Ryoma and smiled softly, ruffling his green-black strands. Ryoma flushed and pretended to be annoyed. "Stop it, Fuji-senpai," he complained, and pulled away. He could feel his heart thudding inside his chest as he walked towards the service box. Today was probably the best day in his entire life. He felt like he and Fuji were one– thoughts alike, hearts connected.

It was a very nice feeling.

Head in the clouds, Ryoma walked straight into a wall. Or, he thought it was a wall. One glance up and he realized it was the toned brick-like chest of the ugly yellow-haired opponent. Ryoma had caught his name during the match; Hamish or something like that. "Sorry," Ryoma muttered, trying to move aside.

Instead, Hamish clamped a hand on his shoulder and pushed him back slightly. "Watch where you're going," he said darkly.

Ryoma glanced up and his eyes narrowed. "Whatever."

"And maybe you should watch where you're going too," Fuji said from behind Ryoma. The blue eyes bore into Hamish's with such intensity that he was forced to look away. Grumbling under his breath, he let go of Ryoma's shoulder and stalked off.

Ryoma scowled at his back. "Some people."

"My thoughts exactly," Fuji patted his head. "Let's finish this."

XXX

"So, we're in the quarter finals?" Ryoma asked, pressing a towel onto his wet hair. They were back in the hotel room after successfully winning the match 6-0, and were preparing for their second match later in the evening. Ryoma thought it was pretty stupid to arrange two matches in a day, but he supposed it was worth it. After all, they got a day off tomorrow.

Fuji didn't reply, leaning on the headboard of the bed and observing his camera. He tilted it slightly. "I think my camera broke."

Ryoma rolled his eyes. "Can I see the pictures?"

"No." The reply was instant.

Ryoma wondered why Fuji was such a private person. He had to be the most secretive member of the Seigaku team he knew, or maybe in his whole life. There was something about the prodigy that gave off a mysterious aura, and Ryoma couldn't quite pinpoint exactly what gave this aura off. Perhaps it had something to do with Fuji's soft voice and sharp eyes? He wasn't really sure.

Fuji fiddled with the camera.

Ryoma sat down on the edge of the bed. "Fuji-senpai, this is boring, can't we do something? Let's have a match."

"We have a match this evening too," Fuji said under his breath, peering into his camera. "Don't want to overexert yourself."

"Please Fuji-senpai, you're starting to sound like buchou. Just one match, no tie breaks."

Fuji didn't say anything, and Ryoma made a sound of discontentment. He pulled his knees up to his chest and stared blankly at the white-painted walls. There was still an hour until they had to leave for the quarter finals match, and he had absolutely nothing to do. He always thought Fuji was the most thrilling person in the world, but at the moment, he was being very boring. Hmph, his camera is more precious to him than me,Ryoma scowled, then cursed silently. Great, I'm getting jealous of a camera now.

Fuji finally put the camera aside. He looked at Ryoma somewhat contemplatively, before digging into his suitcase and pulling out a dark blue photo album. "Would you like to see some of the pictures I've taken in here?" he asked, gently running his fingers across the cover of the album. Ryoma could tell Fuji took his photography seriously.

"Sure," Ryoma hopped off the bed and strode to the other side. He crawled into the space beside Fuji. He inhaled sharply when Fuji shifted closer to him, forcing their legs to brush. Fuji opened to the first page.

Ryoma's breath cut short. "That's…me."

The picture was of himself on the tennis court, high up in the air, about to smash the ball. Behind him, sunlight poured around like a halo of light. He looked amazing, like he was flying, the tennis racket held out beneath him. Ryoma blinked at the picture. "When did you take this?"

"Against your match against Atobe during the training camp. You showed so much potential," Fuji said quietly. He flipped to the next page, this one of Tezuka. It was beautiful as well, and the next one, of Kikumaru and Oishi playing doubles, was just as amazing. However, Ryoma found that none of the pictures matched the first one of himself. He wasn't trying to be arrogant, but his own picture had captured a shine none of the other pictures had.

"You take pictures of us?" Ryoma finally asked, and smirked. "That's creepy, Fuji-senpai."

Fuji frowned and shut his photo album. "Is it really?"

Ryoma quickly backtracked. "No, they were nice."

"Really?"

"Yes, really."

Fuji sighed and closed his eyes, the smile constrained but still visible. "I might go into photography when I get older."

Ryoma jerked his head up. "What about tennis? Aren't you gunna go pro?"

Fuji chuckled as Ryoma fired off the questions. "I'm not sure. I love tennis, but I can't see myself using it as a career. Saa…things change when people get older, you know. Even you, whose whole life surrounds tennis, could end up being an accountant or something."

"Iya da!" Ryoma exclaimed, horrified.

Fuji just smiled sunnily. "You never know what's written in our destiny."

"I'm going pro," Ryoma insisted. Then, he realized that Fuji had said ourdestiny. As in, our.Him and Fuji. Together. Their destiny. Ryoma liked the sound of that, but he wondered if that was just the slip of the word for Fuji. Then again, Fuji did not slip up words. He normally meant exactly what he said, or so much more than he said.

"What do you mean by 'our' destiny?" Ryoma asked bravely; anxiously.

Fuji's perfect smile didn't waver. "Nothing at all."

Huh-? Ryoma's lips bent into a frown, but Fuji was already tucking his camera in his suitcase and standing up. The younger male watched as the older walked smoothly towards the hotel window, the sunlight filtering in and surrounding him with a faint glow. Fuji's honey-brown hair and lithe figure looked angelic against the bright gold.

Ryoma slipped off the bed and padded over to stand behind him. "Fuji-senpai-"

Fuji tilted his head slightly. "I meant nothing by that, Ryo-chan. You're looking too deep into things."

Hurt crept up his throat, and Ryoma cursed at himself for once again overthinking. Hearing Fuji say it out loud made it all the worse. "I was just asking," the boy scoffed and turned around, hoping Fuji hadn't seen the flicker of sadness in his gold eyes. He dragged himself back towards the bed, wishing with everything he had that this crush on Fuji would pass into nothingness.

XXX – QUARTER FINALS

"Not bad, Fuji-senpai," Ryoma handed a water bottle and towel to the tired prodigy. The first match of the quarter finals had coincidentally been Seigaku from Japan against Belfort Middle School from Korea. His opponent had been quite strong, but Fuji was one level higher. The prodigy had been forced to use one of his triple counters, but ended up winning the match 6-4.

"Thank you," Fuji accepted the water bottle and took a long swig. He narrowed his eyes towards Ryoma's next opponent, who went by the name Bae. "Be careful, they aren't bad. Especially that Bae guy – I called Inui about him yesterday and apparently he's been suspended due to violence quite a few times."

"Violence?" Ryoma blinked innocently, in the middle of stretching his arms over his head.

"Yes," Fuji's serious tone immediately changed to teasing. "Wouldn't want my Ryo-chan to get hurt."

Ryoma just smirked, but inwardly, his throat went dry. My? My Ryo-chan? I'mhis?I mean, I don't mind, but was he just kidding around? Well, of course he was, but My? HIS?Shaking his head brusquely, Ryoma grabbed his racket and gave Fuji a look. "Don't worry, senpai," he said coolly, brushing past the prodigy. "I'll finish this quickly."

"Just be careful,"

Ryoma nodded and went to take his position by the serving line.

He observed Bae from under his hat, and frowned slightly. The guy was definitely bigger and taller than him, with drab hair and sharp silver eyes. Something about his expression made Ryoma want to shudder, but he shrugged it off and gripped his racket tighter. If Fuji was right and Bae was violent, then he would have to be careful.

"Wait," Bae stretched his racket out in front of him. "Exactly why am I playing some elementary school kid? I think he's in the wrong league!"

Ryoma's eyes burned, and the grip on his racket tightened. However, his face remained calm. "Hey, can you serve already?"

His opponent held his racket behind his head, one hand in his pocket and the other holding the tennis ball. His fingers clenched around the tennis ball. "Jesus, I wanted a match! This 'aint all fun and games, I'm not going to go easy on you."

Ryoma smirked. "I don't want you to."

Bae growled slightly at the infuriating look Ryoma had flashed. In less than a split second, he threw the ball in the air and served. The yellow sphere whizzed just above the net and landed pinpoint on the corner of the service box. Before coming to Seigaku, Ryoma would have been impressed. After seeing people like Tezuka and Fuji play, he inwardly snorted and quickly returned the ball just as fast.

Bae seemed surprised at the return, which earned him a miss and a point for Ryoma.

"15-0!"

After the first point, the rest of the match just got easier and easier for Ryoma. It wasn't that Bae was a horrible player – he was much better than the people Ryoma had faced during the preliminaries. But Bae kept underestimating him, and Ryoma was levels higher with more skill and determination. Every time Ryoma got a point, Bae would scoff and say 'lucky', but Ryoma could see Bae's eyes getting angrier and angrier. Geez, he looks like a monster,Ryoma thought as he returned yet another ball.

Silver eyes pierced into his. "Fuck," Bae said loud and clear when his return landed on the outside of the court.

Ryoma smirked. "Language," he waved his racket tauntingly.

Perhaps that hadn't been such a bright idea. Bae's face went an angry red, and he growled, "That's it, brat." Before Ryoma could comprehend what was happening, Bae was throwing a stray tennis ball up in the air and bending forward to serve. Ryoma started to step back, his gold eyes flashing anxiously, "Wait, you're way too close to the net to be serving-" he couldn't finish his thoughts as the ball whizzed directly towards his face.

Ryoma knew he should try to dodge it, but his body was frozen. The ball hit his eye and unbelievable pain seared through.

"Ryoma!" he heard Fuji yell, but the blood dripping down his face made him drop to a knee and press a hand over his eye. The court ground went blurry, and all he could think about was the stark pain in his left eye and the feel of blood streaming down his cheek. Somewhere along the shouting of the crowd and the ringing in his ears, he heard Fuji's voice, soft and elegant among the masses.

XXX

"Ouch," Ryoma shifted uncomfortably on the bed as Fuji's gentle hand caressed his cheek. A bloody cotton ball was in his other, and he carefully dabbed it against the swollen eye. The close proximity was sending Ryoma's heart throbbing with desire, and he fought to keep the blush off his face. I already told Fuji-senpai I can handle myself, yet here he is, insisting that he help me…

After Ryoma's injury, the match had ended and Fuji and Ryoma had headed to the hotel to fix up Ryoma's eye.

"It's bleeding profusely, almost like that time when you faced Shinji," Fuji said softly, tossing in the cotton ball into the trash and replacing it with a new one.

Ryoma winced as Fuji applied pressure, and his fingers tightened around the bed blankets. It was hard to think back to the game against Shinji – it had been his first match after joining the regulars, and he remembered feeling a bit of anxiety along with his normal confidence. He liked Seigaku, especially the captain, and he wanted to make them proud.

After the match, and the following matches that had come, Ryoma had found friendship in his senpai-tachi. It was now so normal to get headlocks from Momoshiro and be crushed by Kikumaru. It was normal to run a million laps and drink juice that made you pass out. He remembered how different he had felt when he first joined the club, but how it felt so comfortable now, almost like family.

But over the months, one person continued to remain a mystery.

"I will kill Bae," Fuji said with a tight smile on his face.

Ryoma rolled his eyes, and ducked his head. "Fuji-senpai, you seriously need to calm down. I've faced these kinds of guys before. It's no big deal." At least we're not out of the tournament. Unlike in our middle school games, Bae was disqualified for serving so close to the net. Automatic win.

Fuji sighed slightly, pulling back from Ryoma for a moment. His blue eyes held a mixture of anger and desperation – everything about the smoldering orbs said 'I need to take revenge for my Ryo-chan'. Even Ryoma, who always had trouble understanding the prodigy, could understand that much. He assumed it was like that time Fuji had gotten furious over Kirihara because he hurt Fudomine's Tachibana.

But Fuji's eyes look angrier this time.

Fuji's gaze flitted to Ryoma's. "Am I worrying you?" he chuckled briefly, lowering his hand from Ryoma's cheek. "Don't worry; I'm not actually going to go kill Bae."

"I'm not worried," Ryoma defended. He swatted at Fuji's reaching hand. "My eye's fine."

"It's still bleeding," Fuji said daintily, fingers once again cupping Ryoma's cheek, the other hand resuming to attempt to stop the bleeding. While Ryoma was in heaven at Fuji's touch, he felt very uncomfortable too, especially because Fuji's face was so close to his face. He had this odd desire to lean out and kiss him, and the desire was growing every passing second. Think of an excuse to get out, think, think…"Uh, Fuji-senpai?" he said, face hot.

"Yes?"

"I need the bathroom."

Perfect! He can't deny that!

"It's still bleeding," Fuji whispered, finally giving up on the cotton balls. He reached into his suitcase and pulled out a small cloth. Without a second thought, he started pressing the cloth against Ryoma's eye instead. Ryoma waited for him to say 'okay, go to the bathroom' but apparently Fuji didn't understand human bodily functions. Ryoma didn't have to go either way, but he wanted to desperately get out of Fuji's closeness before he did something he regretted.

"Fuji-senpai?" Ryoma said, and his voice was tight with nerves. "Uh, let's just leave it now. I'm sure it'll stop on its own."

Blue eyes locked with gold. "No."

That was that. Ryoma crossed his arms and pouted slightly, hoping it worked since it normally did, but Fuji was invincible. He just smiled calmly and continuously dabbed the cloth against his eye. Ryoma tried to distract himself by looking around the room, but the hotel was familiar to him now so there was nothing new to notice. Every time his mind drifted, he found his eyes brushing back to Fuji's lips.

His heart pounded even harder.

"Fuji-senpai?" Ryoma said quietly.

Fuji's breath tingled against his neck. "Shhh," he said, taking a strand of Ryoma's green-black hair and pushing it out of his eyes. For a moment, they both just stared at each other, Fuji's eyes changing from anger to lust, Ryoma's changing from anxious to stunned. The proximity between them was heated, and the cloth carelessly dropped to the ground from between Fuji's fingers.

His hand trailed up Ryoma's face, almost outlining his features in awe.

Ryoma's heart banged. "Fuji-senpai?"

Fuji threaded his fingers through Ryoma's hair, while the other hand cradled his flushed cheek. Ryoma could feel the connection between them grow stronger; a spark seemed to burst, and Fuji's blue eyes shut close. "Ryo-chan," he murmured, tilting his head and leaning forward. Ryoma stilled, every muscle in his body tense.

Oh. My. What. The. Hell. Tennis.

Before he could process what was happening, Ryoma shut his own eyes and leaned forward too, lips inches apart from touching.