even when it's so very painful

WARNING: There may be quite a few errors because I didn't check this over. Hopefully it won't distract from the writing.


"Echizen. You're bleeding."

A frown. "I know."

"What happened?"

"Paper cut."

"You should get a bandage, then."

No response. The captain sighed and clambered up the stairwell of his house. As usual, Ryoma had decided to stay over at his house for the evening. Lately, the boy seemed to come over more and more often, doing his homework, eating, playing tennis – it was as if he was spending every free minute of his time with Tezuka.

Tezuka couldn't deny that he liked it – a lot – but he was a little worried. Ryoma really needed to spend time with his other friends as well. However, the concern was insignificant and was normally pushed aside when Ryoma looked at him with a lustful, desire-filled gaze.

After finding a bandage, Tezuka came back downstairs. He found Ryoma sitting in the same position, the same exact frown still on his face. The boy was looking at the math textbook in front of him, but Tezuka could tell he wasn't actually reading it.

"Here," The older boy pulled a chair up beside Ryoma. He gently took Ryoma's bleeding pinkie in between his fingers. "Let me bandage it."

Ryoma didn't answer. He just sat there with an empty look in his eyes.

Tezuka carefully wrapped the bandage around the small finger of his boyfriend. His stomach twisted with concern. "Is everything alright, Echizen?" The response was unexpected.


The answer was blunt. Tezuka was taken aback.

"What's the matter?"

Ryoma looked up at the ceiling. "Divorce."

Tezuka blinked. Was this Ryoma's way of saying he wanted to break up their relationship? "Pardon?" the boy asked, an edge of worry in his voice.

"My parents," he said, voice flat. "They're divorcing."

To say Tezuka was shocked was an understatement. His hand froze around Ryoma's the moment the boy said those words. Ryoma never had those kinds of problems – he never spoke of personal issues at home. This was a first. And suddenly, everything clicked. That's why Ryoma had been staying at his house so often. His parents were probably fighting a lot, and the preteen must have been tired of it.

"Are you okay?" Tezuka asked softly.

Ryoma glared at him. "I already said no!"

"No," Tezuka said gently. "Last time, I asked if everything was alright. This time, I'm asking if you're alright."

Ryoma grumbled something incoherent under his breath. He looked up with dazed eyes. "I didn't think- I didn't think I would even care if something like that happened. I didn't think it would hurt. So then, why- why does it hurt so much?" his voice cracked and he suddenly stood up. "I have to go home."

Tezuka got up and followed him. "Echizen, wait."

Ryoma whirled around. "I hate when they fight!"

In two swift steps, Tezuka closed the space between them and gathered Ryoma into his arms. The boy clung onto him desperately, like a lifeline. Tezuka could hear Ryoma saying stuff – random things he'd probably wanted to say for the past few weeks but had been holding back. Tezuka didn't listen to them – he just held Ryoma and provided the best comfort he could.

When they pulled apart, Ryoma's eyes were red, but a small smile was on his face. "Before I leave, we have to do something…"

Tezuka raised an eyebrow. "And what is that, may I ask?"

Ryoma held up his bandaged pinkie. "Let's pinkie promise that we'll never do something as stupid as divorce, ever. I know we're not married, but one day…we'll probably have problems too…but we won't be stupid, right? Like my parents?"

Tezuka's smile was soft. The summer sun gleamed in through the window.

"I promise."

And they linked pinkies.


Lively was one thing he was not.

Ryoma knew of this very well. Tezuka-buchou simply wasn't lively. He wasn't someone who walked into the room and brightened it up – in turn, he was someone who walked into the room and immediately had everyone captivated by his presence. This left for some very dull evenings, as Tezuka sat comfortably on the couch and read his book while Ryoma did absolutely nothing.

"Buchou," Ryoma rested his knuckle on his cheek. He sighed deeply. "This is boring."

Tezuka glanced up from his novel for a mere second. "Entertain yourself." As soon as those words were spoken, his gaze returned to his book. Ryoma frowned and fiddled with a stray pen, clicking the back repeatedly to let out his stress. His buchou was not paying attention to him, and Ryoma liked attention – at least, attention from Tezuka.

Disappointed with the lack of action, the preteen stood up and dragged himself to the couch next to the window. He climbed onto the arm rest and sat down. With an exaggerated sigh, he leaned further and rested his chin on Tezuka's shoulder. He peered at the words on the page. "Buchou…" he mumbled. "C'mon, let's play tennis."

Tezuka tried to concentrate on his book, but with Ryoma resting on his shoulder, he found it very difficult. Finally giving in, the older male closed the book shut and placed it on the table in front of him. "Fine," he said, "What would you like to do?"


"It's snowing outside. Almost a blizzard."

A frown. "So?"

Tezuka sighed, but couldn't help but smile warmly at his counterpart. He snaked an arm around Ryoma's smaller waist and lugged him onto his lap. The boy smirked and cuddled up in his arms, fitting in snugly under Tezuka's chin.

Outside, the snow continued to fall, heavy and merciless. Ryoma glanced at the window, and buried his face against Tezuka's chest. He loved being close to his boyfriend when it was cold and stormy outside. It made him feel lucky.

"Comfy?" Tezuka asked, eyes soft. His normally stern composure always disappeared when he looked at Ryoma, so small and cute in his arms.

"Tch, Fuji-senpai's lap is much more comfortable."

There was a pause as Tezuka truly comprehended what he said. There was a moment of panic in his eyes, but he quickly pushed it away. "Echizen…you've sat on Fuji-senpai's lap?" The captain tried not to sound jealous, or overprotective, or possessive – but really, Ryoma was his, and he didn't want to think about him sitting on other people's laps.

Ryoma watched with amusement as Tezuka internally debated whether or not to interrogate. "Well, no, I haven't sat on his lap, buchou."

Tezuka stared at him. He adjusted his glasses. "Then why did you just say…"

Ryoma shrugged innocently. "Oh, I was just trying to liven things up a bit."

The captain stared at him. He tightened his grip.

"If you wanted to liven things up, you could have just asked."

He then promptly proceeded to kiss a confused Ryoma on the lips.


Tezuka knew he had done nothing wrong. In a sense, he had only hit Ryoma for his own good. It was for Ryoma's benefit, to guide him back on the right direction. He was only being a proper captain, and he cared about Ryoma's tennis as much as he did about his own. Maybe even more. But as he stood outside hospital room 203, he could only feel deep remorse for what he had done.

Around him, people hurried past under the bright yellow hospital lights. Tezuka felt sick, standing there amongst them. He wished he had had time to explain everything. During the period between the invitational match announcement (where Ryoma hadn't been chosen) and the unofficial match with Kevin, it was obvious that the boy had been very confused. Tezuka pressed his palm flat against the glass. If Ryoma didn't come back, he didn't want their last moments to be of confusion and resent…

I wish I had time to explain why I did the things I did.

Tezuka could feel his vision blur. He held the tears back and adjusted his glasses.

I did it because I care.

"Tezuka-san," the door creaked open. A friendly-looking doctor checked his clipboard. "You may speak to Echizen-san. He is in stable condition."

What? Tezuka stood rigid as he stared directly at the doctor. He didn't realize his muscles were relaxing, or the relief that had spread across his face. He didn't even realize the wetness on his cheeks as tears of desperation dripped from his eyes. "He's…in stable condition?" the captain asked, voice smooth, insides quaking.

"Yes. He was luckily to have only suffered minor head injuries from the crash."

Tezuka wondered if it were his own feet or somebody else's that brushed straight past the doctor and hastily into the hospital room. The walls were pale white, the furniture was white, the tiles were white, the bed was white, the sheets were white – everything was so white, that Tezuka vaguely wondered how trapped Ryoma must have felt.

Outside, the spring sunlight filtered in through the window and made the small room glow. Tezuka followed the beaming warmth to the boy snuggled in the middle of the blankets. A pale face stared back at him.



Their words mingled and they both immediately stopped speaking. Ryoma tilted his head and smirked. Fire lit up his gold eyes.

Tezuka nodded and walked to his bedside. He sat down on the edge. "How are you feeling?" Even to himself, his voice sounded hoarse. He could still feel the dryness on his cheeks from his previous tears. Ryoma didn't say anything for a moment – his hands bunched around the blankets.

"I'm okay."

"That's good."

Tezuka watched as the boy relaxed against the gigantic pillow, innocent face sinking into the deep fabric. He realized, at that moment, he should explain everything. He never wanted to feel the kind of remorse he did before he found out Ryoma was okay. He never thought an experience could be as painful as that one had been.

"Echizen," the captain's voice was serious, but his eyes were soft. "I need to tell you something very important."

Ryoma's curiosity shot up, even sitting on a hospital bed with aches in every part of his body. His head pounded against his skull. "What is it, buchou?"

Tezuka took a deep breath. He reached his hand out and gripped Ryoma's pale, trembling one. "It's about the invitational match. I need to tell you that there was a reason I didn't choose you. It was for your own good," the captain swallowed hard. "I don't want you to be confused about it. Also, when I hit you, it wasn't to hurt you, I was just trying – trying-" the captain was at a loss of words.

Ryoma held up his hand to stop him. His voice was full of warmth when he spoke.

"I know, buchou."

From the crack of the open window, a fresh spring breeze entered the room, and Tezuka's shoulders relaxed. Ryoma knew, and that was all that mattered.


"Everyone, you are dismissed from practice a half an hour earlier today."

There was a chorus of happy cries and exhales of relief. The tennis club members, including the regulars, dragged themselves into the change room. It was a hot, humid summer day. The sun shone high in the sky and heat rolled across the pavement. Everyone was relieved the captain had ended practice early, giving them mercy for once.

Ryoma, himself, was relieved as well. He was itching to get a cool drink of Ponta. As he slung his tennis bag over his shoulder and turned to leave the court fence, a voice stopped him.

"Echizen, wait. You are not dismissed."

Ryoma stopped. He felt a smirk grow on his face. Without a second thought, he dropped his tennis bag onto the ground with a plop. He swiftly walked over to the captain with every-confident strides. Tezuka stood patiently against the fence, as still as a statue.

When he felt the presence of the small boy reach him, he allowed his eyes to lift. A faint smile etched onto his lips.


Ryoma raised an eyebrow. "Abusing your position as captain, huh?"

Tezuka let go of his posture by the fence and brought his face closer to Ryoma's. "You know I'm leaving this evening to go visit my grandparents across the country. I won't see you for quite a few days."

Ryoma's heart raced. Sweat from practice dripped from his hair and down the side of his face. "Well," he said quietly, voice husky with excitement, "I can't just let you leave like this, can I?"

"Of course not," Tezuka said. With the uttermost care, the captain cradled Ryoma's head in his hands. He tilted his head and gently kissed Ryoma on the lips. The boy obeyed and kissed him back, an adorable little moan escaping his mouth. His hands absentmindedly reached out and wiggled under Tezuka's tennis shirt.

Exhilaration soared through the preteen's body as he touched the smooth, warm hardness of the captain's toned body. Meanwhile, Tezuka continued to kiss Ryoma, always being soft and careful because Ryoma was so young. Minutes passed, and Ryoma could feel the pleasure steadily increasing.

When they finally pulled apart, Ryoma's face was even more flushed than before. Breathlessness flooded his eyes. The grin on his face was unconceivable.

"Till' next time," he said, warm innocence in his voice.

Tezuka nodded, before turning around. The summer sun basked against his cheeks.

"Till' next time,"



"Be careful," Tezuka instructed. The two were standing in the middle of a forest pathaway, the younger with a sprained ankle. Ryoma gritted his teeth as pain shot up his leg. With a short huff, he tried to swing his leg around Tezuka's torso without hurting himself further. Tezuka had banned Ryoma for walking the rest of the way home by himself, and had gotten the ridiculous idea of giving Ryoma a piggy back ride.

After finally managing to get his legs wrapped around the older male's body, Ryoma's arms gripped around Tezuka's neck. They clutched desperately at his shoulders. "I'm going to fall off," he grumbled under his breath.

Tezuka winced under Ryoma's weight, before straightening up. He took a few steps forward. "You're heavy," he grunted after a moment.

Ryoma focused on clinging desperately to Tezuka's back. "Not my fault,"

The cheeky reply was met with no response, aside from the crunch of the burnt autumn leaves under Tezuka's shoes. It was a windy evening, and the forest that led to Ryoma's place was an array of oranges and reds. Bare branches stuck out, and leaves scattered the ground in small piles. Tezuka felt Ryoma shiver slightly, before the boy pressed himself closer against him.

"It's fall now," the captain reprimanded. "You should start wearing a sweater,"

"Ch'," was the swift reply.

Tezuka walked silently down the twisting path. He had to admit, Ryoma's walk home was quite serene. He would definitely have preferred it to taking the city bus every evening. However, within minutes, the beautiful trees were forgotten as Tezuka concentrated on carrying Ryoma home. His shoulder and back muscles ached under his weight, and his right arm was strained from his backpack.

Ryoma didn't feel guilty as he rested his head against Tezuka's neck. He felt comfortable now, and warm. He wished his house was miles away, simply so they could stay in this position forever.

"Is it that way?" Tezuka asked as they came across a fork in the path. Up in the air, the clouds turned pink and orange as the sunset neared. Ryoma made a small noise that Tezuka took as a 'yes'. Without a second of hesitation, the captain started to walk again. Even though it was a strain to carry Ryoma all the way to his house, it was definitely worth it.

He loved to help the boy. Helping Ryoma always made him feel good.

When they finally reached the Echizen residence, the sunset had settled into the sky. Their little trip had taken much longer because of Tezuka's slower pace.

"Well, this is your place," Tezuka stated in a low voice. Ryoma, who had almost fallen asleep, looked up drowsily. Indeed, his small little house sparkled under the receding sun. The twelve-year old frowned in disappointment, but he knew it was time for him to go. With slow movements, he hopped off of Tezuka's back.

His foot landed painfully on the ground. "Ouch!" he hissed, stumbling forward. Tezuka's hands immediately shot out to steady the boy.

"Easy there," the captain murmured. Ryoma winced, but a smile crept onto his face. The dying sunlight reflected off his cheeks. There was a moment of hesitation, before Tezuka reached his hand out and ruffled Ryoma's hair. The boy grinned in pleasure.

"Thank you,"

Ryoma's face glowed when Tezuka smiled at him and said:



Tezuka sunk against the couch. His exhausted body finally relaxed as the warmth from the sofa emitted into his pores. He was getting tired of this – his busy schedule. Even in the winter, when tennis practices were less frequent, his schedule was still busy. Perhaps that's what he deserved for being the school President, top academic student, and member of several small clubs. He wondered if he'd taken on more than he could handle.

His mind said he could balance everything perfectly while his body protested.

Outside the window, he could see the snow-covered rooftops and frosted trees. A subconscious smile spread across his lips as he thought about a few weeks ago, when his boyfriend had dragged him outside to play in the snow. Ryoma could be a handful – but he knew how to have fun. He also knew exactly when Tezuka needed a break.

"Rough day again?" Ryoma stepped into the living room. He cradled a cup of warm hot chocolate in one hand. The other hand contained steaming coffee.

"I'm fine," Tezuka replied. That was his usual response.

Ryoma rolled his eyes and walked over to the couch. He gingerly placed the coffee in Tezuka's hands. "Here ya go, I stopped by at Starbucks."

Tezuka took a sip and relished the hot liquid. "Thank you," the gratitude changed to a frown. "How did you get into my house, Echizen?

A shrug. "You leave the keys under your mat."

Tezuka wondered if he should be irritated, but didn't bother. Ryoma meant well. Besides, the boy was welcome into his house whenever he wanted.

"So, why don't you just quit one of your clubs?" Ryoma asked bluntly.


Ryoma threw a hand up in the air. "I don't get it. The reading club. That's so boring, just quit! Then, maybe you won't have so much on your plate."

"The reading club is quite enjoyable, actually," Tezuka frowned deeply. He took another sip of his coffee.

"Then quit the…" Ryoma scrunched up his brow. "I know, that dumb book club…wait, aren't they like the same thing?"

"No. In the reading club, you read. In the book club, you discuss the books you read. They are both very different, and I'm not going to be giving up on either of them."

Ryoma pouted. Tezuka stopped for a moment and admired how adorable his boyfriend could be. He was currently snuggled up in a red-and-green Christmas sweater, and his messy locks fell over fiery gold eyes. Not only that, but his attempts at glaring always turned out to be pouts.

"What's the matter?" Tezuka contained a chuckle.

Gold eyes narrowed. "With all your clubs and stuff, how are you supposed to have time for me?"

Tezuka stared at him for a moment. His eyes hardened. "Echizen, you will always come first. If I don't have time for you, I would quit every single club I've joined. But as you know, I do have time for you. In fact, we're spending time with each other as we speak."

Ryoma smirked, and fell down onto the couch next to Tezuka's lying figure.

"But, you know, we don't nearly have enough time for sex and all that."

Tezuka inwardly rolled his eyes. His voice was serious when he spoke: "Echizen, we never have sex. You're the one who said you weren't ready."

Ryoma was quiet. "Oh, yeah. Forgot."

Tezuka sat up, despite his aching muscles and heavy eyelids. He scooted over so that his thighs pressed against Ryoma's hips. An arm snaked around the boy's smaller waist. "C'mere," the older male murmured, pulling the preteen close into a hug. Ryoma made a small noise of contentment as warmth washed over his body. He loved being held by Tezuka.

"Look," Tezuka said softly. He ran his fingers through Ryoma's hair. "I know I've been busy lately, but I promise I'll make it up to you. How 'about we…go on a date later this week? Just me and you?"

There was a moment of silence. Tezuka's cell phone rang from the side table, but the captain didn't budge. Slowly, a smile spread over Ryoma's face.

"I'll look forward to it."

Tezuka's grip tightened.

"As will I."


Tezuka actually felt cornered. And not just by anyone, but a twelve-year old, five-foot brat. The older male had been peacefully walking past the street courts, the spring air fresh and his mind full of the book he just finished reading. He had just turned the corner when Ryoma had shown up out of practically nowhere, eyes ablaze and ire in his positively violent expression.

"Buchou," the boy spat. He took a step forward.

Tezuka took a large step backwards. His back nearly collided into the wall behind him. Taking this chance, Ryoma marched up to the captain in close proximities, making sure there was absolutely no way for Tezuka to escape. Meanwhile, the captain just stared at him with an expression that lied somewhere between concern and bewilderment.

"Buchou," Ryoma repeated the word distastefully.

"Echizen," Tezuka frowned. The wind ruffled his hair, and the bricks behind him were damp from the rain. "Is everything alright?"

Ryoma growled lowly. "Is everything alright? You actually have the nerve to ask if everything's alright?"

This time, Tezuka's eyes narrowed to match Ryoma's. He gave him a warning look. "That's not an appropriate way to talk to your senpai, even if we're dating."

"To hell with dating!"

"Echizen, watch the language."

"What are you, my mom?" Ryoma sneered, hands clenched tightly by his sides. The fire in his eyes glowed brighter. "You're my boyfriend. No, wait, you're supposed to be my boyfriend. Asshole!"

Tezuka was growing more confused and more aggravated by the passing minute. On one hand, he felt concerned at Ryoma's sudden outburst and positively furious expression. But on the other, he was displeased with the amount of disrespect he was receiving from the other boy. For example, had he just called him an asshole?

"Echizen," the captain said in a deep voice.

"No!" Ryoma screeched. "Just because I'm only twelve, you thought I wouldn't figure it out – that I wouldn't be able to do anything. Well, I've got news for you-"

"Echizen," Tezuka's voice was louder now. The captain gripped both of Ryoma's shoulders and looked him straight in the eye. "Calm down, and tell me what's going on."

Ryoma struggled under the strong grip, but when he couldn't manage to escape, he looked up defiantly. "Fuji-senpai said – said he saw you and Monkey King kissing! He said – he said that you were making out with him or something." The boy's eyes showed hurt and anger. "I know I told you I didn't want to kiss but that's 'cause I'm only twelve. I didn't know you would do this just 'cause I…"

Tezuka stared at him. His hard eyes softened. "Echizen, I don't know what Fuji was saying, but I'm pretty sure he was just joking or teasing you. I would never cheat on you."

"Why would Fuji-senpai lie?" Ryoma snapped. He once again squirmed to get out of Tezuka's grip and gaze, but failed. "He's my teammate. He probably was warning-"

"He was probably just joking," Tezuka said firmly. "That's what Fuji does. Did you even stay long enough to hear him finish his sentence? Knowing you, you probably ran off without even waiting to see if it was true or not."

Ryoma's anger dissipated the slightest. "Well, no…" he grumbled, "I didn't wait to see…but…"

Tezuka smiled. "Do I really seem the type to cheat?"

Another pause. "No."

"And you do know that Fuji was probably just saying that to see how you would react. He probably never thought you were suddenly going to run away in anger and corner me like some predator prowling around their prey."

Ryoma chewed on his lower lip. "Oh. When you put it that way…-" A flush spread over his cheeks. "Oh."

Tezuka sighed and embraced Ryoma tightly in his arms. He ruffled the preteen's hair. "I would never hurt you," the captain said sincerely, words strong. Up in the air, raindrops started to spit against the ground. The sky stayed blue.

"I'm sorry for accusing you," Ryoma muttered.

Tezuka simply hugged him tighter. They stood there for a long moment, rain starting to fall harder – and somewhere in between, their relationship strengthened another notch.


"I don't want to kiss."

With an indignant huff, Ryoma turned his head away from his boyfriend. They were currently seated on a bench in the middle of a secluded forest. Orange-brown leaves floated off the branches and onto the ground as autumn beckoned the change of seasons. Ryoma kicked at one of the fallen leaves, watching it swirl around in the wind.

He didn't want to kiss, goddamit. What kind of question was that, anyway?

Tezuka sighed. He leaned back against the bench, wondering if he should further question Ryoma. It had occurred to him over the few weeks that they had been dating that him and Ryoma didn't go past holding hands and saying sweet things to each other. And those sweet things were pretty limited too, considering both of their personalities. Then, after that, Tezuka realized he wanted to go further.

He was fourteen after all. Despite being the most stoic team captain anyone had ever seen, he did have desires. But, for some reason, Ryoma refused.

"Why not?" Tezuka finally asked softly. He didn't want to pressure Ryoma if he wasn't ready – the boy was only twelve, after all – but he did want to have an accurate reason on why Ryoma was so weary of kissing.

"I just don't!" Ryoma crossed his arms and slumped against the bench. His eyes were on stubborn fire. "Stop asking me!"

Tezuka nodded in eventual agreement. He slipped his hand down and entangled his fingers with Ryoma's smaller ones. The boy tilted his head slightly, cheeks red. He still wasn't used to the contact with his buchou. He liked it, but he couldn't help but blush every time they did even the smallest thing.

"Echizen," Tezuka queried, "I just want to know why."

Ryoma glared at him. "Since when did you pry so much…I just don't…"

"There's always a reason."

The scowl sent his way was murderous. Ryoma stood up from the bench, hair blowing from the fall breeze. "I'm leaving. This isn't a very fun date." As soon as Ryoma took one step, Tezuka immediately stood up as well and grabbed his wrist.

"No. Wait. I apologize."

Ryoma felt the warmth of Tezuka's touch send butterflies in his stomach. He bit his lip and turned around. His lips formed an automatic smirk.

"Can't resist me, eh?"

Tezuka sighed. He shook his head. "Sit. I apologize for prying."

"You're not forgiven," Ryoma said smugly. Nonetheless, he plopped down back on the bench beside Tezuka. This time, he scooted closer to the older male so that their legs brushed against each other. Tingles of excitement ran over the both of them, and Tezuka had to control himself from attacking Ryoma right there and then.

Even though he had just nearly ruined their date by asking, Tezuka couldn't help himself. It wasn't in his character to pester someone so much, but the curiosity was starting to overrule. "But still, Echizen, I can't help but be curious on why you won't even tell me the reason-"

"Buchouuu…" Ryoma whined. He glowered with fiery eyes. "I'm not tellin'!"

Tezuka frowned, but knew he wasn't going to get an answer tonight. "Fine. You really are stubborn. I don't think the word 'compromise' is in your vocabulary."

Ryoma felt a challenge rise in his throat. He smirked, determination in his gaze. "I can compromise just fine."

"I don't think I've ever seen you compromise in your life," Tezuka said honestly.

The challenge burned more fiercely.

"I can compromise. I'll compromise right now. Okay, I don't want to kiss, right? Not on the lips." Ryoma restated. "But, this is the compromise."


"You can't kiss me on the lips, but you can kiss me anywhere else!"

Tezuka's eyes went wide. Anywhere else?

The possibilities were endless.


Tezuka stood in the Seigaku tennis courts, watching the scene with a very displeased smile on his face. The tennis club was in complete chaos today – and on normal practices, he wouldn't have been this aggravated, but today was a special situation. If anyone, anyone – Tezuka frowned as his thoughts were interrupted by loud yelling.

Now, Kaidoh and Momoshiro were fighting with each other.

Tezuka was actually going to lose his mind. The entire club was a mess. He was pretty sure it was because of Kirihara from Rikkadai who had quickly sneaked out after sending the entire place into panic. The captain rubbed his temples as the noise only grew louder.

In one corner, the freshman were screaming from Kaidoh's angry face. In the middle, Arai was shouting at two innocent newcomers. And, of course, Kaidoh and Momoshiro were having the time of their life screaming names at one another.

"Ahhh! Kaidoh-senpai looks so scary!"

"Hey, stupid freshman," Arai sneered. "Respect your senpai!"

"Shut up you baka peach!" Kaidoh snapped.

"Urusai!" Momoshiro shouted angrily.

Tezuka could feel his anger growing. If one more thing dared try to…


That was about the last straw for Tezuka's mind. Without a second thought, he cleared his throat and said loudly:

"Everyone, three hundred laps around the courts. And be quiet."

Everyone stopped what they were doing. "Haaaiiiii," the response came, albeit in a groan. Tezuka sighed in relief as the court silenced aside from the pounding of feet as everyone ran. To be truthful, it wasn't his migraine that had made him lose his temper. It was the fact that somebody would wake up if the tennis club hadn't shut up.

Tezuka's gaze floated over to where Ryoma was sleeping on the bench. His eyes softened. During the middle of practice, Tezuka had noticed Ryoma hadn't been playing his best. It turned out the boy had had a fever, so Tezuka had instructed he sit out until practice ended. Ryoma had fallen asleep, and Tezuka hadn't wanted anyone to disrupt the boy, but unfortunately, the team had chosen that day to go crazy.

The older male sat beside Ryoma with a small smile on his face. He stroked Ryoma's hair gently.

The boy drowsily opened an eye. "Huh? Buchou-"

Tezuka's eyes were warm. "Hush now, go back to sleep."

Ryoma murmured something incoherent before obeying.


When Ryoma walked into the Kunimitsu residence, Tezuka immediately shot up from his comfortable position on the couch. With the slightest widen of his eyes, Ryoma could tell Tezuka was shocked. Even though the captain hid the emotion well – just like he hid all his emotions well – Ryoma was an expert at deciphering his feelings.

He hoped Tezuka wouldn't take this too badly.

"Echizen," Tezuka murmured, stepping towards him in a daze. His hands gripped his shoulders firmly. "What happened?"

Ryoma swallowed and shifted. His body ached from exhaustion, and he was quite aware of the sweat dripping from his hair and rolling down the side of his face. He just wished Tezuka would stop staring at him so- so worriedly!

"Nothing," Ryoma muttered.

"Nothing," Tezuka repeated. His voice was deep and filled with concern. He stroked Ryoma's cheek. "What are all these marks? These abrasions? Their on your legs and arms too, but for them to be on your face…" his eyes hardened. "Who did this?"

"It was nothing," Ryoma pushed Tezuka's hand away, annoyed. "I just ran into Shinji, one of the guys we faced in the prefectural tournament. We decided to have a match at one of the street courts, and he has this move called Deep Impulse that injures the opponent…"

Tezuka blinked.

"…no big deal."

His attention snapped back just in time to hear Ryoma say that last part. He tightened the grip on Ryoma's shoulders. "He shouldn't play tennis like that," Tezuka disapproved. "He hurt you. And you said you played him before?"

"Well, yeah."

"Was this while I was in Germany?"

Another long silence. "Yes."

"Did he do the Deep Impulse during the tournament?"

A small, meek: "Yes."

Tezuka sighed deeply. He let go of Ryoma's shoulders and took a hold of his hand. "Echizen, you knew he was dangerous, yet you accepted a game with him. I understand in the tournament you had no option, but you should have said no."

"I'm not scared of him," Ryoma's eyes flashed.

Tezuka's eyes softened. "Of course you're not. You're not scared of anything, are you?"

Ryoma smirked, and nodded. Before he knew it, Tezuka was once again pulling him into a tight embrace. The preteen wondered why Tezuka liked to hold him so much – not that he was complaining. He completely enjoyed being held. Outside, from the window, the summer sunlight filtered in through pale shafts. Ryoma snuggled closer into Tezuka's arms.

"Buchou, I'm not completely invincible…I'm actually scared of something…"

Tezuka closed his eyes and buried his face into Ryoma's sweaty hair.

"I'm scared of…" the boy's voice turned shy. "Of letting go."

Even though the words weren't specific, Tezuka somehow understood what he meant. He tightened his grip, and held him even closer. His whole body tingled with warmth.

"That's one thing," Tezuka whispered, "that you should never worry about."

Another long stretch of silence, wild and beautiful.

"Because I will never, ever let you go, Ryoma Echizen."

Wow! I wrote that all in one day…man, I'm tired of writing haha xD Anyway, I have a review request. If you do review, can you include your favourite drabble and why, and your least favourite drabble and why? I feel like I would benefit from the feedback! Thanks in advance! xD