Chapter 01

Fuji hummed quietly as he walked to Kawamura’s sushi bar. The team had agreed to meet there this weekend to celebrate their recent victory over Rokkaku.

Making it into the finals was a huge deal and all of them deserved to be rewarded for their hard work.

Fuji smirked. He’d already rewarded Ryoma after that match against Kentarou, but perhaps he would reward Ryoma further.

He caught sight of Ryoma a block before the restaurant. Fuji glanced around to see if any of the others were nearby. Seeing that none of the Seigaku Regulars were around, Fuji caught up quickly and wrapped his arms around his lover’s waist.

“Syu-san,” Ryoma said. He twisted in Fuji’s grip to level a glare on the tensai. “We’re in public.”


“It’s the middle of the day,” Ryoma said, tone reminiscent of someone chiding an errant child.

Normally, Fuji wouldn’t stand for it. But he was in great spirits today, so he let it slide. “Saa,” he said, removing his hands from Ryoma’s waist. “Your loss.”

Ryoma bit off a keened whimper as the hands disappeared and pulled his cap over his eyes. “Che.”

Fuji grinned and followed his lover into the sushi bar. Baiting Ryoma was some of the best fun to be had. He took a seat beside the freshman, folded his hands on top of the table, and settled down to wait.

Five minutes passed before Oishi and Eiji showed up, talking animatedly amongst themselves. The Golden Pair were discussing the merits of acrobatic and accuracy tennis in single play; they’d already proven how well the two worked together in doubles.

Eiji flopped down at Fuji’s side as Oishi took the seat across from him. “Fuuuji, tell Oishi that acrobatic play is better!”

Fuji smiled. “Saa, Eiji. Counter-tennis is the way to go.”

Eiji groaned and buried his head in his hands. He peeked out with wide eyes at Ryoma. “Oochiiibii.”

Ryoma pulled his cap down further. “Che,” he said. “Tennis is tennis.”

Eiji’s lips turned down in a pout, his eyes taking on an uncharacteristic gleam. “Well, okay then…” he said, disheartened.

Fuji smothered a laugh. Eiji’s dramatics were the reason he’d chosen him as his surface best friend. The man could put on an act when it suited him, but he never did so with malicious intent.

Oishi, of course, melted at once. “Eiji, you know I think your acrobatic play is the best in Japan.”

Eiji squealed and leaped across the table, barreling Oishi over in the process. “And you have the greatest accuracy! That is why we are the best doubles pair.”

Ryoma snorted. “You’re morons, more like.”

“Ochibi! That’s so mean!”

“It was rather ill-spirited,” Fuji said. He inched his hand downward until it rested on Ryoma’s thigh. He tapped his lover once in warning before he took flesh in hand and pinched as hard as he could, holding the pressure for a full minute before letting up.

Ryoma choked back a strangled sound and coughed. “Gomen,” he said, causing Eiji and Oishi both to raise their eyebrows at him. “Che.”

By that point, the rest of the regulars had gathered around them. Inui and Kaidoh sat together at the adjoining table, while Momo took up residence at one by himself.

Before anyone could order, Momo turned around and waved at Tachibana Ann, who was standing outside the door.

“Oo, Momo’s got a date!” That came from Eiji, who had moved over to Momo and was clapping him on the shoulder with enthusiasm.

“So you’re a man, after all,” Fuji said, smirking as his words caused Momo to sputter.

“It’s not a date!” Momo protested. “She’s here to give us an eyewitness account of the Rikkaidai-Fudomine match.”

Ann stood quietly behind Momo, face growing ashen. “It was horrible,” she said.

A hush fell over the Seigaku team.

Inui blurred into action, producing a video from nowhere. “I was going to wait until after we ate to show you this,” he said.

“What is it?” Momo asked.

Fuji rolled his eyes at the oblivious guy.

“It’s the video of the Rikkaidai-Fudomine match,” Inui said. “I procured it.”

“From where?” Oishi demanded.

Inui held a finger against his lips. “A gentleman never reveals his sources.” He inserted the video into the VCR and flipped the TV on. An image of a girl in a bathing suit running on a beach filled the screen.

Everyone stared at the image, slack-jawed. “Are you sure this is a tennis video?” Momo asked. “I don’t want to watch porn.”

Inui flushed. “It’s tennis,” he said. “Just wait.” A few seconds later, the screen blurred to static before it was replaced by the more expected image of a tennis match.

Fuji was dying. To see Inui embarrassed in public like that was priceless. He was the most stoic member of the Seigaku team and the suggestion that he watched porn….Fuji swallowed against the desire to burst into laughter and focused on the video at hand.

His glee quickly turned to ire. The first few matches were unprecedented. The talent of Rikkaidai was unmistakable. But the Kirihara-Tachibana made his blood boil.

“Ah,” Horio said. “At least he’s being fair.”

Ann’s hands tightened. “How,” she asked. “Is any of this fair?”

The freshman had called it the wrong way. After Tachibana injured his ankle, Kirihara focused all of his attacks on the uninjured side.

“He is putting more pressure on Tachibana because he’s aiming at his uninjured side,” Inui said, taking it upon himself to explain to the clueless freshmen what was going on.

“What he’s doing,” Fuji said, “is forcing Tachibana to put more pressure on his injured leg because every time he returns the ball, he has to step further forward with it. It’s cruel.”

Ryoma tensed beside him. “This isn’t the way tennis should be played,” he murmured.

“No,” Fuji said. “It’s not.”

The video ended and an uncomfortable silence fell over the Regulars. No one seemed inclined to break it.

Fuji’s hands tightened in his lap. He gritted his teeth against the desire to go out and find Kirihara and make him pay. But he knew it wouldn’t be that simple. Not when he had seen glimpses of himself throughout the match.

Kirihara’s eyes gleamed with the same self-knowledge that Fuji’s held. The man wasn’t like Rick–Rick had been a coward, running away from his sadism. Kirihara, on the other hand, was similar to Fuji in that he had accepted his own dark desire. Embraced it, even. But to take it to the point of ruining someone physically–Fuji shuddered and forced himself to think rationally.

Was it any different than what he did to people emotionally? The scars Fuji left were less visible, but just as permanent. And from the way Tachibana Ann talked about her brother, it seemed Fudomine’s captain would recover. Some of Fuji’s victims never did.

But still. To use tennis as the method. It was uncouth. That was his problem. Fuji didn’t care that Kirihara broke people in body the way he did in spirit; he was disgusted that Kirihara’s methods were in such poor taste.

The other problem was that Tachibana was Fuji’s friend. He couldn’t allow anyone to mess with his friends. But an injury that would heal–that didn’t give him the excuse he needed to break Kirihara’s spirit. It angered him, but Tachibana would recover. To do more than injure Kirihara in return for an injury came too close to crossing over the moral line he’d drawn himself.

His cell phone beeped. A text message. Fuji let his attention be drawn by his phone, hoping it would distract him from his dark thoughts. The name on the screen made his blood run cold. Sora.

He flipped the phone open and chose to view the message. “It’s time, Syuusuke. I’m calling in your debt.”

Chapter Index     Chapter 2

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