Loaded Soul 6/10

Author's Notes: This chapter is alright (It's still really, really bad though) but what I'm really dreading is the next chapter. It's like…the worst chapter in the world. I hate it, but I'm too lazy to go change it now. Enjoy!

When Ryoma woke up that morning, his head pounded, and his eyes felt dry from crying himself to sleep. For a moment, he groaned at the thought of tennis, then realized they had a one-day break before the finals. Relief swept through him. It was quickly replaced with panic. A day with Fuji, with nothing but themselves to do whatever they pleased.

I don't care. I don't care. Ryoma pushed himself off the bed, ignoring the lump next to him, and dragged himself to get washed up. Once he had changed into shorts and a sweater, he appeared back out to see Fuji sitting up on the edge of the bed. The boy paused, and he stared at Fuji for a moment.

The prodigy looked different. Ryoma couldn't quite pinpoint what about him looked different – the hair was still the same, the eyes were still closed, and the smile was still… – wait. Ryoma inspected closer, and his mouth pursed. The smile didn't look as deceiving as it usually did. Maybe he's always like that in the morning. Or maybe he's trying to make me into a wreck again.

"Good morning," Fuji said brightly.

Ryoma tensed. There it was again – the extravagant mood changes. One day he was ignored, the other he was greeted like the most important person the world. "Morning," the boy said. At least his heart hadn't exploded. He could barely remember the time at the plane ride, where he had been a bundle of nerves just by being in Fuji's presence.

At this point, anxiety would have felt heavenly compared to Fuji's agonizing split-personalities

"The breakfast café again?"

Ryoma nodded a bit, and turned his gaze towards the window. "Okay."

Fuji sat up from his position by the bed, and swiped at a strand of honey-brown hair. He walked past Ryoma in his sweatpants and t-shirt. "I'll go change then," his voice was remarkably calm. He smiled softly at the twelve-year old, and Ryoma drew back protectively. "Whatever," he ducked his head and walked towards the door. "I'll be downstairs."

He could feel Fuji staring at his back, but forced himself to walk straight out the door without looking behind him.


Ryoma ate quickly, finishing off his bagel just as Fuji appeared at the café. The prodigy frowned, and instead of eating a proper breakfast, he ordered a coffee-to-go. Ryoma watched as Fuji smiled at him again – kindly, innocently. It reminded him of the kid-Fuji pictures he had seen before.

"Let's go," Fuji said quietly, and his elbow brushed Ryoma's arm as he headed out the café door.

An electric current shot up Ryoma's arm. "Okay," he said hoarsely, and his footsteps followed Fuji's accordingly. The Fuji-symptoms were coming back again, stronger than ever. The shivers in his body, his gut twisting like a spindle – they had returned. Ryoma hurriedly chased after Fuji's long strides.

The weather outside was cool and wet. Ryoma snuggled in his Seigaku jacket.

Fuji slowed down his pace so Ryoma could join him, and their footsteps merged against the pavement. Ryoma secretly watched Fuji sip on his coffee, still entranced by the man that had tugged at his heartstrings for the first time ever. There was something so magnificent about the boy that no matter how long he spent with him, the awe never dispersed.

Still in his thoughts, Ryoma barely realized that Fuji had his eyes locked on him. He bit his lip, and forced a breath out.

"Fuji-senpai, why are you staring at me?"

Fuji tilted his head, and the smile widened. "Let's spend the day separately today."

Ryoma felt his heart drop. Despite everything, there was still a small part of him – a tiny, miniscule part – that hoped that Fuji liked him back. But of course not. He didn't even want to spend their day off together. He probably wanted to hang out with Alec or something. Ryoma pretended to look unaffected, and settled his gaze casually in the distance.

"Sure," he said. "I'll play tennis."

"Okay," Fuji said. "And then tonight, we can meet up at the new Pasta place down the street. How does six o-clock sound?"

Ryoma paused, and his eyes flickered towards Fuji's. "The pasta place?" he asked, confused. "Why?"

"To eat," Fuji chuckled. "How about it?"

Too friendly. Too nice. There's something coming. Keep your guard up – the thoughts jumbled in Ryoma's mind, and his eyebrows knit together. Suddenly, he didn't want to talk to Fuji anymore – it was just too much. All the mood swings and emotions bore down him. Ryoma wished he could get as far away from Fuji's sweet smile as possible. If it wasn't for the tournament, he would have already fled.

"So?" Fuji asked.

Ryoma's shoulders slumped in defeat. "Fine."

Fuji looked extremely pleased, and clasped his hands in front of him. Electric blue eyes shot open.

"Great. It's a date."

Ryoma froze. His blood ran cold. Wait…date? A date. He didn't mean an actual…date-date, right? The words echoed in his mind like two symbols crashing. His heart banged against his chest. He could only stand there, toes curling in his shoes, eyes wide and mouth agape as Fuji Syusuke turned the corner and disappeared out of sight.

So apparantly he was going on a date.


Instead of playing tennis, or finding a hill to nap on, Ryoma went straight back into the hotel room. He was still having a tough time comprehending what had happened – a date? Surely, Fuji had been kidding. He didn't mean it. Surely. Ryoma huffed, fed up with himself for overthinking. Even if it was a date, it wasn't a big deal.

He chewed on his lower lip. But if it was a date, he didn't want to show up in shorts and his Seigaku jacket. But if I dress up and it isn't exactly a date, which is probably isn't, Fuji will think I'm stupid and trying to impress him.

Giving up, Ryoma decided changing clothes was a bad idea. It wasn't a date, anyway. It couldn't be. Fuji didn't like him. That was that.

The oddest part about the earlier morning was that Fuji had acted so different – kind and gentle. Ryoma hadn't seen a hint of deceit, and it was unlike Fuji to smile so genuinely. Ryoma wasn't comfortable with the new attitude. It made his hopes flutter up again, even though a part of him knew Fuji was playing a big game.

He made you cry.

Ryoma's expression hardened. The night before had triggered something. Even if Fuji did like him, Ryoma deserved someone better. Someone who cared about him and didn't mess with his brain. Someone who didn't change their attitude every single day. Someone who actually appreciated him.

So that's final, Ryoma thought, and a strange sense of ease washed over him. I won't let Fuji do this to me any longer.


When he showed up at the pasta place, Fuji was already outside waiting for him. Ryoma forced himself to walk steadily, face mirroring nothing but boredom. He kept his eyes away from Fuji's nice dress-shirt and belted black pants. Apparently Fuji had been serious about the date idea, but Ryoma knew it was nothing more than a joke. A silly game.

A game I'm not going to be a part of anymore.

"Ryo-chan," Fuji said cheerfully.

"Ah," Ryoma uttered in acknowledgment.

Fuji's ethereal smile didn't waver, and he held open the door for him. There was still something different about the prodigy – the blue eyes flickered with a sense of security; reliability. Ryoma snorted at his own thoughts – Fuji was probably the most unreliable person in the entire world. He was the kind of person that would promise to stay with you and then take off halfway around the world the next day. But Fuji-senpai isn't a bad person, Ryoma thought quizzically to himself. He cares about his friends. So why is he so set on hurting me like this?

"Ryoma?" Fuji questioned kind of quietly.

Ryoma realized he had stopped in his tracks. The boy shook his head brusquely. Today's plan was to forget about Fuji and become himself again. "Coming," he said carelessly, and still didn't bother looking up. The corners of Fuji's lips tightened slightly, but the smile didn't cease. They found themselves a table for two by the window, and Ryoma noted that it almost looked isolated from the rest of the restaurant.

The menus arrived moments later. "Buy as much as you'd like," Fuji said. "It's on me."

"You don't have to." Ryoma muttered in response.

Fuji beamed. "But I want to."

Ryoma flipped through the menu, feeling a little out of place with his shorts and t-shirt. He shrugged to himself. It didn't matter. It wasn't like he needed to impress anyone. You keep telling yourself that, the devil of Ryoma's mind snickered. Across from him, Fuji's attention didn't seem to be on the menu. His eyes kept flickering to Ryoma every few seconds.

"What?" Ryoma snapped after a moment.

Fuji looked slightly startled at the sharp tone. His smile softened. "Nothing. Have you decided what you'd like?"

"There's nothing but pasta."

To Ryoma's surprise, Fuji just chuckled and nodded in agreement. The boy inspected him curiously. Fuji's being too nice today. There has to be a reason behind it. Is he trying to get me to lower my guard so he can unexpectedly be cold again? Maybe he figured out my grand plan of forgetting about him so he's trying to reel me back in? Or maybe…maybe… Ryoma wracked his brain. There just wasn't a proper answer.

"You look like you're thinking hard," Fuji said.

Ryoma glanced up, and his eyebrows knit together. "I-" he stopped himself. "I was just deciding what to eat."

"Ah. Choosing food takes great concentration, doesn't it?"

The gold eyes narrowed. "I can concentrate if I want to."

Fuji laughed lightly, the traces of tease clear on his face. He shifted on the chair, hair falling in perfect strands around the frame of his face. "Of course you can," the prodigy said pleasantly, and Ryoma involuntarily pouted at him. This made Fuji's smile stretch further, and Ryoma inwardly cursed. He wiped the pout off his face.

Don't make him think that you're enjoying his company! I'm supposed to hate his company! He's supposed to play with my mind and make me upset. I'm not enjoying his company. I will never enjoy his company. This date is not fun. It is bad. Ryoma repeated this in his mind like a mantra, and his fingers clenched around the fork unconsciously. Maybe I should throw this fork at his pretty perfect face.

He decided on leaving the fork-throwing for more serious matter.

After a while, their food came, and Ryoma stared hungrily at his bowl of pasta. He hadn't realized how hungry he was until now. Fuji seemed to note his expression, and smiled with amusement. "Do you like pasta?" he asked curiously. Ryoma frowned, and shrugged, trying once again to cold shoulder Fuji like he'd done to him the past few days.

Fuji did not seem perturbed. "It's not my favourite, either."

Ryoma gripped his fork, and dug into the bowl. "Then what is your favourite food?"

A pleased grin. "Secret." He stopped, and tilted his head. "What's yours?"

Ryoma shot him a dark look. "Secret," he retorted.

Fuji's expression didn't change. "Fair enough," he said, and he took the fork delicately between his two nimble fingers. He coiled the pasta around it, took a bite, and chewed carefully. He smiled, kept chewing, then swallowed. "I think it needs some more spice," he said instantly. Ryoma raised an eyebrow. Was it just him or was Fuji talking an awful lot today?

Maybe he's…

"What do you think, Ryoma?"

No way. Is he trying to make conversation with me? I never knew Fuji put effort into social skills.

"It's fine," Ryoma said stiffly. "Not everyone's like you, Fuji-senpai."

Fuji stirred the fork around the pasta. "Perhaps," he said, and a little bit of his Fuji-deceiving-smile came back, the lips quirking. "But I've always praised myself for being different. You like being perceived different too, don't you?"

Ryoma thought about this, for once not overthinking. He answered honestly, "Not really. I don't try. I just act like I think I should, and for some reason, people think it's different," he paused, and his gold eyes wavered with contemplation. "They think I'm too blunt. It's stupid. People are stupid."

"That's an aspect of your personality that's very opposite of mine," Fuji admitted. The smoldering blue eyes bore into Ryoma's eyes. "But you know what they say? Opposites attract."

Ryoma half-choked on his pasta. "Huh?"

Fuji smiled at him. "Nothing, Ryoma. Nothing at all."

The smile was too innocent. For some reason, this whole date, this whole Fuji-friendly thing was getting to Ryoma. It just wasn't like Fuji too be this friendly, with that happy of a smile. It was almost as if Fuji was finally setting free whatever confused feeling he had about Ryoma, but Ryoma knew that wasn't the fact. Fuji never had feelings for him in the first place.

"Why are you being so nice?" Ryoma finally asked quietly.

Fuji's eyes darted away, and for a moment, Ryoma saw a flicker of anxiety. In less than a split second, it disappeared, leaving Ryoma wondering if he had imagined it. He waited patiently for Fuji's answer.

"I have something to tell you," Fuji said after a moment. "After."

Tell me something? Curiosity pulled at Ryoma's mind, and he refrained from sounding too interested and bombarding Fuji with questions. Instead, he just scowled and turned back to his meal. He still didn't understand why having something to tell him meant that Fuji had to be nice. It didn't even answer his question properly.

But then, Fuji never gives a straightforward answer.

"Back to this opposites attract," Ryoma steered the conversation. "What's that mean, anyway? I've never heard of it."

"Of course you haven't," Fuji chuckled. "I'm not surprised."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Ryoma instantly defended.

"Nothing," Fuji grinned, lit eyes sparkling under the chandelier light. "Ryo-chan needs to relax a little."

"I'm relaxed," Ryoma answered tensely.

A silence blanketed over them, but it was for once, not an awkward one. Fuji happily ate his pasta, while Ryoma surprisingly did not feel panicky or stressed. Even though Fuji was still a deceiving, mind-boggling jerk, it was nice having a humanely conversation with him. Also, Ryoma was starting to think the I-don't-like-Fuji-anymore plan was working. He didn't feel an ounce of jitters or anxiety.

"Are you planning dessert?" Fuji broke the silent reverie.

"Uh. Okay," Ryoma blinked. He stared at Fuji's nice clothes.

He looks really cute tonight.

"You look nice," Ryoma said, surprising himself. Immediately, he wanted to cram the words back in his mouth. He stared helplessly at his empty bowl. A blush crawled on his cheeks, and he shifted uncomfortably on the chair. After a second, he chanced a glance at Fuji, and was surprised to see a warm smile on his face.

"Thanks. You look cute too." Fuji said, even though he wasn't wearing anything special. He added, "You always do."

Ryoma's cheeks got impossibly redder. "I'm not cute."

Fuji just nodded at him, and waved over the waiter to order their dessert.

Ryoma was only half-paying attention to the order, still slightly baffled by his own outburst and Fuji's sincere reply. Even though he'd barely checked himself in the mirror before leaving, intent on destroying his crush on Fuji, the older still had the curtsey to call him cute. He wasn't, really – he was nice-looking, he supposed, but nothing amazing.

Not like Fuji. Fuji was beautiful.

"Can we share the cheesecake?" Fuji spoke. "It's really expensive."

Ryoma nodded absentmindedly. Moments later, the dessert arrived, and Fuji started to cut up the cake. Ryoma watched as his slender fingers gripped the knife and sliced out the perfect square piece. He poked his fork in it, and stared admiringly at the cake. "Ryo-chan," the prodigy said kind of quietly, in thought. "Do you mind if I…" he gestured to the piece of cake on his fork. "Feed you this piece?"

Bewilderment crossed Ryoma's face. "I mind," he said quickly, fighting another pulsing blush.

Fuji smiled, and this one looked familiar. "Thanks for agreeing," the prodigy drawled, and he slid over next to Ryoma.

Ryoma blinked. "I didn't agre—oof!"

The cake was promptly stuffed in his mouth. Ryoma let the delicious taste dissolve in his mouth, but his bright eyes glared furiously at Fuji. The latter just grinned, waving his fork in the air, asking calmly if he wanted a second piece. Ryoma just shook his head rapidly, still chewing, heart thumping at the close proximity.

"Too bad," Fuji shrugged, taking a bite of his own. "It tastes rather good."

"I want some," Ryoma said stubbornly. "But I can eat by myself."

Fuji glanced at him, and an amused smile flickered over his face. He pushed the other plate towards him, and Ryoma accepted with a sharp look. As Ryoma ate, Fuji occasionally piping up and making a comment, he realized that he was oddly enjoying himself. Throughout the trip, every time with Fuji had either been heartfelt or heartbreak. Today, though, he just felt content. Happy. Safe.

He told himself not to let his guard down, but Fuji's blue eyes had already sucked him in all over again.


After they finished the meal and paid, Fuji took Ryoma outside the restaurant. There was a small porch-like fence that reached approximately up to Ryoma's torso, and they stood alongside it. Ryoma leaned against the top of the wood, sipping on his bottle of milk. Fuji had kindly offered to buy him one, making a teasing remark about his lack of growth.

"Fuji-senpai," Ryoma said, staring at the cars rushing by on the street. "The finals are the day after tomorrow."

"They are, aren't they?" Fuji said pretentiously. "I'm a little surprised. This tournament wasn't much of a challenge."

"My eye got hurt," Ryoma pointed out. But you're right. The tournament wasn't a challenge. My emotions were. You were.

Fuji's eyes glimpsed a hint of anger at the mention of Ryoma's eye, and Ryoma immediately regretted bringing it up. He quickly tried to change the subject. "Oh, weren't you gunna tell me something?" he chewed on the end of his straw. "It was important, right?"

The question was met with silence. Fuji's slender hand curled tightly around the railing. "Oh. That."

"Yeah. That."

The prodigy's eyes flickered with an emotion Ryoma was foreign to seeing – confusion; anxiety. He breathed in sharply, and his gaze turned away from the maroon sky. He looked at Ryoma, studying him hard, and the boy shifted uncomfortably. For a moment, Ryoma thought that the whole thing was a bluff, when suddenly, Fuji straightened up and slid his arms around his waist.

Ryoma froze. His muscles went tight.


"You asked."

The twelve-year old didn't understand. Fuji's hands felt strangely comfortable around his waist.

"You asked," the tennis genius repeated, and his eyes were frighteningly wild. The smooth hands crept up part of his back, and he lurched Ryoma forward towards his chest. Ryoma yelped, and heat colored his face, but Fuji was already closing his eyes and leaning forward. A single hand cupped Ryoma's cheek. "I can't explain it, and I don't think you'll understand either way," the whisper tickled Ryoma's nape. "But I'm going to try to show you."

"I don't- I-" Ryoma struggled to answer.

Fuji's lips collided with his before he could properly finish. Ryoma's mind went blank. His control shut down. He stood there limply as a beautiful mouth pressed against his – and, in that small split second, Ryoma realized exactly what was happening. And how much he hated it. Images flashed in his mind – the on and off mood, the one-day-flirting and the one-day-ignoring. Alec. Fuji, who had played and destroyed his emotions.

It was a little late to pretend Fuji actually liked him.

Ryoma pushed him away. His face flushed. "No."

Fuji broke away, and a trembling hand touched his own lips. "Ryoma."

"You can't keep doing this to me," Ryoma said. Tears of frustration burned against his eyes. He furiously held them back. "I was just getting over it – you – I- I don't need you. Okay?"

"Please, Ryoma-"

"No," Ryoma repeated, gold eyes shaking with turmoil. "No. I'm going."

"I like you," Fuji said quietly.

Those three words finally reached Ryoma's limit – it was the words he had been waiting to hear for ages, the words he had wished would spill out of the prodigy's lips – but there was no way Fuji meant them. Not after everything that had happened. Not after how Fuji had treated him. Not after Fuji had broken him into pieces – and just went Ryoma had been starting to repair, he had torn the healing pieces all over again.

"I'm going," Ryoma turned around, and his feet fled out of the restaurant on their own accord. He could still feel the burn on his lips and Fuji's breath against his ear, but without looking back, he fled – because it was finally his turn to say no, and he wouldn't miss the chance.