Chapter 14

Saeki’s phone vibrated inside his pants pocket as he was pulling books from his locker. He shoved them under his arm and tugged his phone free to see Fuji’s number flash across the screen. He flipped the phone open. “Hey,” he said. “What’s up?”

“Are you doing anything important right now?” Syuusuke asked.

Saeki raised an eyebrow. “I have some homework, but it shouldn’t take more than half an hour. Why?”

“Something’s not right with Ryoma.”

Saeki’s stomach clenched, but he ignored it. “Oh?” He could almost feel Syuusuke’s scowl from the other side of the receiver.

“Today during practice, he was off.”

Saeki rolled his eyes. It was both exasperating and endearing how Syuusuke made people pull information from him, as if it were a precious secret to be guarded. Then again, he is an information broker. “Off how, exactly?”

“He couldn’t hit any returns to Momo. They all went into the net or into the fence.”

Saeki raised an eyebrow. Ryoma was having that much trouble with tennis? “And you don’t know what caused it?” he asked, careful to keep his voice free of the amusement he felt. For Fuji, a lack of knowledge was anathema.

“No,” Syuusuke bit out. “But I know he’ll be going to the courts after he gets home. I’d like to find out what’s going on, but I have to meet with someone.”

Saeki managed to bite his tongue before he asked Syuusuke who it was he had to meet, but it was a near thing. Common sense told him that it would be a contact that would help Fuji deal with the Sora situation. “So what do you want me to do?” he asked.

“Can you go to the courts in my stead?”

“Sure,” Saeki said, ignoring the concern in Syuusuke’s voice. The man would hate to know his concern for Ryoma was so obvious, because he would view it as a weakness. “I have to drop my books off at home, but I’ll go there afterwards.”

“Thanks, Sae.”

The phone clicked off and Saeki shrugged, hefting his books as he walked out of the school. Syuusuke didn’t ask him to do things very often. There was an understanding between the two of them that Saeki would obey him when pressed, but since he wasn’t submissive by nature, Fuji didn’t press too often.

Saeki dropped his books on the coffee table when he got home. He preferred to study in the den, as it had the best window view in the house. He headed upstairs to change out of his school uniform into some street clothes, but his mother was blocking the way.

“Saeki,” she said, and her voice was strained. She was similar in appearance to him, slender and tall. The only thing he had inherited from his father was his black eyes, as his mother’s eyes shown with a golden brilliance.

“Mom,” he said, keeping his tone measured. His toes curled in his shoes. Has she discovered it? He wondered.

“I spoke to Shudo’s mother today,” she said. “I heard a very different story from the one you’ve been telling me about where you spend your weekends.”

Kuso. She knows. Saeki shrugged his shoulders, holding his mother’s gaze. “I lied,” he said.

She stared at him for a minute. “Why?”

“Because you won’t like the truth,” he said. And she wouldn’t. How could he tell her about Syuusuke, when he knew how much both of his parents hated what had happened to him?

“Is it a girl?”

“What? No,” he said. “I’m not interested in girls. You know that.” And how many times have we had that conversation? She should know by now that I have no interest in women.

“Then…” Her face clouded as she made the logical connection. “Who is he?” she asked, her voice tight with suppressed emotion.

“If I answer that question,” Saeki said, “will you get out of the way so I can go change my clothes? I have an engagement.”

“Fine,” she said “Who is it?”

Saeki pressed his lips into a thin line. “Echizen Ryoma and Fuji Syuusuke,” he said, squeezing past her as she stared at him in shock. He’d been honest. There was sure to be some sort of fallout, but he was 17. There was nothing she could do to him at this point.

“Are you crazy?” she yelled. “Why are you consorting with that- that—”

“That what, Mother?” he asked, turning around at the top of the stairs to face her.

“He’s a monster,” she whispered. “After what he did to you, how can you let him touch you?”

Saeki decided to take pity on her and stepped forward, clasping her hands in his. “He’s changed, Mother. He isn’t a boy with bad temper anymore.”

She pulled her hands away and snorted delicately. “I hope you’re right,” she said. “You’re old enough to make your own decisions. Be careful that you make the right ones.”

“Aa,” Saeki said. “I’m always careful.” He watched her withdraw from the room before he entered his own and exchanged his clothes. Now that’s over with, he thought, let’s go find out what is causing Ryoma so much mental stress that even Fuji is being affected by it.

Chapter 13     Chapter Index     Chapter 15


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