I closed my eyes in disgust as my shot strayed from its intended destination. Like a vengeful god, Inui bore down on me, and I turned away from Fuji's mocking smile to face him. Inui held the lavender coloured liquid out to me, and I think I probably blanched. Past Inui's shoulder, I could see the prone forms of the other regulars who had failed, and taken their punishment. I felt a tic beneath my eye as I held my hand out to take the most certainly revolting liquid. The first years were horrified. "Captain, no!" I heard Horio cry, but I had to set an example, so, tic well and truly intact, I downed the drink in one go.
And that's all I remembered.
When I came to my body was not responding. I wondered how long I'd been out for, but I couldn't even open my eyes to use the light level as a guide. All I could tell through my closed lids was that it wasn't particularly bright. I could hear speech around me, and as I focused on the sounds, I could make out the words.
"It's okay, Oishi," came Fuji's voice. "Lock up, and go home. I'll take care of Tezuka. It's my fault that he's unconscious this late anyway. I was too stubborn to lose to him, and we went on far too long." He chuckled. "Then again, I think I'm glad I didn't have to drink that stuff for a change. It looked toxic. Inui did a really great job this time."
"Gnzh," a strange noise comprised Oishi's reply. "I think that that is very wise of you," he went on to say. "It was like drinking a car accident. I remember taking the cup, and then I was staring at the sky with Eiji prodding me. Inui looked a little chagrined when he told me I'd been out for just over an hour." There was a pause. "But if you're sure you're okay waiting for Tezuka to wake up, I am expected at home…"
"No problem, go on." Fuji replied cheerily. I heard Oishi departing, and then silence fell again.
An hour, Oishi had said. That made sense. The regulars had started going down one by one to Inui's juice, with the last two standing being Fuji and me. Fuji had grinned wickedly at me. He LIKED Inui's juices, but he was still going to try his best to make me suffer. And he'd won. Which given I had been restricted to using my right arm, had been inevitable.
We'd been playing, and his face had gone from regular, mild Fuji, to scary evil focused Fuji, and then he'd struck the ball with an entirely self satisfied grin. I was so busy trying to work out what he was up to that it never occurred to me that he'd done nothing. I fell neatly into his trap and was just enough out of position that my return wasn't good. We'd both known the instant the ball had left my racquet that it was headed out, and he'd chortled softly from the other side of the court.
That was a good half an hour or so since the last victim, Echizen, had fallen foul of Inui's juice. I'd refused to give in, but in retrospect those efforts had been for nothing and I'd wound up unconscious like all of the others. Obviously they'd all woken up while I lay comatose to the effects of the juice, and had called it a day. Even Echizen would have woken up around a half hour ago.
It must be getting very late now and Fuji and Oishi had been sitting patiently with me. I wondered where Inui had gone. He was going to run laps for this - an hour was a little extreme.
There was a soft shuffle nearby. Fuji. What evil was his devious mind plotting now? I was never quite sure with Fuji. Complacent smile on his face, he usually wandered around happily, not letting on what was going on in his head. Sometimes a deeper glimpse could be seen in those moments during a game when his focus took over and it was a wonder to behold.
His voice came from very close to my ear. "Tezuka," he said softly. I could feel the tickle of his breath. "Tezuka," he repeated, even more softly. I felt a gentle pressure on my lips, and my brain stopped. His hand gently stroked the side of my face, and he brushed my hair off my forehead. I heard him sigh very quietly, a little sadly, and then I couldn't sense him nearby any more.
I lost track of the passage of time as I lay, brain as numb as my body. Slowly the numbness left both and I opened my eyes. So far so good. I turned my head to the side and saw Fuji innocently reading a manga. My movement obviously grabbed his attention, because he looked up, smiling.
"You're awake!" He checked his watch, "Fifty five minutes. You win. Fastest to recover from the evil juice," he grinned, "as one would expect from our mighty captain."
I pushed myself up onto my elbows. It was getting quite dark now. Fuji had been using the remaining light from the set sun to illuminate his manga. Shoujo manga, I noted, not particularly surprised.
"Everyone's gone," Fuji explained, unaware that I'd heard his conversation with Oishi. "Oishi figured we weren't going to get much more done after this stuff, so he made Inui run twenty laps, and everyone else was dismissed for the day."
I smiled. Good work, Oishi.
"I thought you'd approve of that," Fuji chuckled. He put the book down, stood up, and bent over me, holding his hand out. I took it and he pulled me to my feet. I was wobbly for a moment, and he tucked himself under my arm for balance. "Steady, Tezuka. That stuff was fairly potent." This time it was me that chuckled.
"Bit of an understatement, huh?" he said, smiling up at me ruefully.
I felt a little more stable now, and he must have been able to tell, because he slipped back out from under my arm. I watched him as he put his manga into his bag and zipped it up. He glanced up at me, and stood, hoisting his bag onto his shoulder. He picked my bag up and brought it over to me. His hair was falling in his face, as usual, and that mask-like smile was securely in place as he held my bag out to me. I wondered what was going on inside that head of his - as usual his face wasn't giving anything away.
But what Fuji didn't know was that he had already given everything away.
As I took the bag off him I deliberately let it fall from my grasp. His eyes followed the bag as it hit the ground, and then looked towards me. For once he looked uncertain. He thought I was still weakened and unable to hold anything. I proved him wrong. I took a step forward, pulled him into me and held him firmly against me. The other hand curled around the back of his head and in the near darkness of the school courts at dusk, I kissed him.