Learning to Fall
by Suteishichic

Oishi gasped awake, coming hard. He'd had a wet dream, the specifics of which were hazy and fading, but he knew both his best friend and his mouth were involved. Oishi was soaked in his own sweat and semen, his heart was racing, and he was breathing heavy. He fought to get and stay in control. He just hoped that he hadn't made any noise or woke anyone.

He got up, stripped and guiltily buried his pants and bed linens in the bottom of his hamper. He figured he was going to have to do another wash again later. He redressed in case anyone saw him coming from his room and went to go shower.

He finished showering and got dressed, remembering before his alarm was supposed to sound to shut it off.

It was early. He smiled a little. Eiji would think that was lucky for some reason. He grabbed a healthfood bar for breakfast as usual to eat on the way and went to school. He hoped he could practice with someone there and work some of the angst he was feeling off.

Oishi walked into the dressing room to change and see who was around. The only person there that early was Eiji.

"Good morning Eiji!" He tried to be his most cheerful.

"Hoi Oishi! You're early?" Eiji looked both surprised and confused.

"I woke up early for some reason. Do you want to play?" It wasn't like there was anyone else around yet.

"Nya, I was going to play with Fuji-senpai, but...we can until he gets here." Eiji shrugged. "I'll wait for you." He walked outside.

"Sure, thanks." Oishi went to change, feeling strange. Even though Eiji was dressed, normally they would have talked and joked around as Oishi changed too. Oishi wasn't sure if he felt better or worse that Eiji went outside. Oishi shrugged it off and then dressed quickly. He figured that maybe after they warmed up together and played things would be back to normal. At least feel less tense.

They stretched and warmed up for a bit. Oishi considered that Fuji and Eiji must have set this up on their way home.

He was wondering what Fuji thought of Eve, if he had told Eiji what was up with making out with her like that. He was going to ask, when Eiji stood up and started walking away to his side of the court. He said over his shoulder, "Ready?" He smiled a little at Oishi, and looked very focused, "Remember, you promised, no holding back."

Oishi smiled. "Sure. Do you want to serve?"

Eiji looked at him slyly, "Hoi? When you woke up and got ready had your alarm gone off yet?"

Oishi smiled back more, "Nope, I beat it."

"Nya! Then you're lucky today, I'll serve!"

It was nice to play like this in the cool morning air. Eiji was playing hard and making Oishi run. He was really making him work for every point. It felt good.

They were evenly scored, although Eiji usually never kept score. He usually focused completely on each point at a time and was often surprised when a game was over. Eiji knew though by now Oishi always kept score by habit. Just like Oishi knew the price of an item with the tax already added in, and had his exact change usually ready. That always amazed Eiji. Little habits everyone had and only someone close to you noticed. Eiji remembered nearly every superstition there was, and then also made up several other strange ones for better luck. Like his alarm clock. Oishi was thinking of this when he asked absently, "How is the scrape on your shoulder?" And then immediately thought to himself, You idiot! You just saw how it was for the last two days, up close!

"Fine? Better?" Eiji looked confused at Oishi's question also as he returned the ball.

Oishi was never sure if his timing was off, or if Eiji's was, or if it was just a complete accident. He returned the ball to Eiji with a hard smash, using both hands, all his strength, and even putting his weight behind it.

Just then Eiji must have jumped up and across the court to do an acrobatic counter, anticipating Oishi's return, but anticipated it completely wrong. Oishi knew Eiji was lightening fast but he never saw Eiji move this time. He seemed to disappear. He went from being at the back of the court towards Oishi's left one moment to suddenly directly in front of him, soaring through the air in an instant.

Oishi usually never slammed or smashed his returns so Eiji couldn't have been expecting it. Oishi wasn't even sure why he did it. A split second after Oishi hit it, he saw Eiji suddenly appear there, in the air, and he knew he going to get hit. And hit hard. There was nothing Oishi could do to stop it in the instant it happened.

The ball cracked into the middle of the inside of one of Eiji's upper thighs, while he was flying though the air. It making a sickening sound as it connected. Eiji gave a yelp, and hit the ground hard, holding on to the inside of his upper leg. He looked folded over and broken. He didn't move.

Oishi rushed over to him, actually jumping the net without even realizing. "Eiji! I am so sorry!" He had his arms around Eiji and was cradling him. "Eiji! Let me see! I'm so sorry!"

Eiji did not cry easy. Oishi knew he had a very high tolerance to pain. He had seen Eiji play to exhaustion, sprain wrists and ankles, covered in bruises, scrapes, bleeding, and looking battered. He had watched him slam his body to the ground after flying through the air, time after time again, and he never made a sound. He had even once seen Eiji wrench his back before they were friends, so badly he need to be carried away. Not once had Oishi ever seen him cry. Eiji looked up at Oishi with big, hot tears running down his cheeks. He drew a huge breath as if the air had been knocked out of his lungs when he hit the ground. He released it all at once, "Why Oishi? Why!?"

His words hit Oishi like a slap. Oishi was shocked, "Eiji, I...I'm sorry...please...I didn't mean...."

And then Fuji was there at his side. "Eiji, let me see, are you all right?"

And Tezuka too, not saying a word. In fact a lot of people had arrived while they had been playing and were now all gathering around them. Around Eiji to see how he was. Oishi hadn't even noticed until then. Fuji helped Eiji up to walk him to the nurse, putting his arm around him to lift him.

Oishi tried to take Eiji's other side, but Eiji pushed him away. He yelled at Oishi through tears, "NO! Leave me alone! Oishi don't touch me! Nya!"

Fuji murmured softly to Eiji, trying to calm him down. He distinctly heard Fuji say to Eiji that Oishi would leave him alone, it would be all right, just a few more steps....

Tezuka took Eiji's other arm and helped him out of the court where another club member took over for the Vice-Captain. Eiji would not let Fuji go, and insisted, loudly, his voice thick with tears, that Fuji go with him.

Oishi stood there, shocked and confused. It was an accident. He had never meant to hurt him.

Tezuka walked back over to where Oishi still stood stunned, and said simply in that way he had, "What happened." It wasn't really a question. It was an accusation.

Oishi, being Oishi, almost confessed the last few days to him right then and there. Everything. Almost. "Tezuka, we were just playing, and I don't know if my timing was off or his was, but he got hit in the upper leg. I...I'm sorry." It sounded lame even to Oishi who had been there. "Can I go see if he is okay Vice-captain?"

Tezuka looked at him as if waiting for him to elaborate on what happened still. As if there was more. Even Oishi who was one of Tezuka's good friends, who knew it was an accident, and knew it was not anything he did to hurt Eiji on purpose, even he, nearly squirmed under Tezuka's glare.

"Ne, Tezuka", Fuji interrupted. The tensai must have run the entire way back but was not winded in the slightest. "I was there, watching. It was an accident. Oishi would never do anything to hurt Eiji on purpose. Eiji was just upset."

Tezuka considered and turned to Oishi, "Fifty laps."

"Ne, Tezuka," Fuji quietly argued as only Fuji would dare, "it was an accident, it was no one's fault."

"Then next time Oishi will learn to be more careful. One hundred laps." The Vice-Captain turned from Oishi to face the tensai, "Fuji, would you like to run with him?"

"Thank you Vice-captain." Oishi interrupted,"Fuji-senpai, thank you very much but, please, can you just make sure Eiji is all right and.......and tell him I....I'm sorry?" Oishi finished lamely, Fuji nodded.

Oishi started running before Tezuka made it two hundred or more.

He would have run ten thousand if it would make Eiji all right.

Oishi showered after practice and went to class.

Eiji was still missing and people whispered behind Oishi's back. Oishi was too miserable to really care.

He overheard one rumor that said he purposefully hit Eiji in the face, another one that said he broke Eiji's arm, and as the day wore on they seemed to be increasing in strength and tall tale. He did hear one that said he broke his leg and that one worried him most. The horrible sound made as the ball slammed into Eiji retorted through Oishi's head, over and over and over, haunting him all day. So did Eiji's yelp, and him screaming at Oishi to not touch him, to leave him alone. It was a miserable morning spent not knowing what had actually happened, wondering how it happened, and feeling guilty. It was a stupid shot and he should never have hit it. Oishi decided it was all his fault.

Eiji wasn't back by lunch.

He wasn't in the dressing room as Oishi changed for afternoon practice either.

No one told Oishi anything.

"Mn. Oishi? Will you warm up with me?" Fuji approached Oishi so silently that Oishi jumped a little from his dark thoughts.

"Of course, Fuji-senpai."

The tensai lead Oishi out and a bit away from everyone else. They started stretching. "Oishi? Have you heard from Eiji?"

"No, nothing."

"Ah. He called me after he went to the hospital. He'll be fine Oishi. They just wanted to check to make sure it wasn't a bone bruise or a hairline fracture. It isn't. Its just a very bad bruise and he'll have to spend the week at home, resting." Fuji must have seen how stunned Oishi was about a phone call to Fuji and not him. On top of that was that Eiji was injured enough that he needed to be out of school for a week. "He'll be fine Oishi. He was lucky."

"Does he need anything Fuji-senpai, is there anything I can do?"

"Mn. Perhaps if you have time today, you can bring him his homework? I would appreciate it. Its all ready but I have something I need to do after practice."

"Of course. If there's anything else you can think of also please let me know." Oishi paused looking at Fuji, "Thank you, Fuji-senpai. Thank you for telling me." Fuji inclined his head and they turned their attention and any conversation back to practice.

Though Oishi kept worrying why Eiji had not called him.

After practice, Oishi even checked his phone to be certain Eiji had not tried to call or at least text message him. He hadn't.

Oishi walked over to Eiji's preparing his apology carefully as he went. But when Oishi finally arrived, Eiji's Mom said he was resting. Oishi tried to ask her if he could see him, or wait a while to see if he woke soon. He tried to tell her it was really important that he talk to Eiji for just a minute but she wouldn't let him up to see him. She said she wasn't sure when Eiji would wake up and said it might be best if Oishi went home.

Oishi thought she might be a upset at him for hurting Eiji, but instead she looked as if she might hug Oishi. It was almost like she felt sorry for him. He apologized sincerely to Eiji's Mom several times for hurting him, who said each time not to worry. It was an accident. It was no one's fault. She told Oishi she would have Eiji call him later when he was up. Oishi left, confused and more upset.

Oishi went home, did his homework, and sulked. Eiji never called. Oishi tried to call him on his cell phone but it went again to Eiji's voicemail. It was too late to call his parent's line. Oishi left another message saying he was so sorry, that he wished it was him who was hurt, if Eiji needed anything to let him know, and again, how sorry he was.

Oishi had a hard time falling asleep that night too.

He replayed what happened over and over in his head. This was all his fault.

He worried about Eiji being hurt and being all right.

But what he really worried about was their friendship. He worried that Eiji thought Oishi did it on purpose. He wondered if Eiji would ever talk to him again and worried that he never would. He worried that Eiji would tell someone about what they had done and then dismissed that thought. Even if he never spoke to him again, Oishi was sure Eiji would never tell because he believed in promises, like Oishi did.

It was one of the first things Oishi discovered about Eiji when they first became friends. Eiji believed in promises, luck, magic, and that he knew how to fall so he couldn't get hurt, despite the bruises and scrapes that usually covered him.

Oishi wondered if that was true, then what happened? How could he be hurt?

Oishi felt a bit lost and wasn't sure what to do. If Oishi's family members got into a fight then they might go days or weeks without really speaking. His family was not close, they cared for each other but they didn't ever talk about their feelings. Ever. Oishi's used to try to become adept at guessing everyone's moods and keeping everyone in his family happy and talking. He stressed himself out so much when he was younger he gave himself an ulcer. It was why he started playing tennis, to both escape and to lower his stress levels.

Usually if Oishi and his sister would get into a fight, Oishi would hate the silence dragging on. He would go to his sister and try to make her talk. He would say sorry even if it wasn't his fault, do anything to end the argument. He would try to be there for her if she needed him, even if it cost him his pride because Oishi knew, if he didn't, the silences which he hated, would drag out indefinitely. Once his Mom and sister did not speak to each other for over two months. It was terrible. Sometimes the silences followed a soundless argument. Words were never even exchanged. Suddenly you found that someone wasn't speaking to you with no reason why. They would talk to you, if you asked them a question directly, especially in front of his Father, but they wouldnt talk to you. It was the difference between asking someone how they were and having them only say back fine, or having them say really how they were, ask about you too, and talk to you.

Eiji and his family, however, weren't like that. Quite the opposite. Oishi had seen them go toe to toe with someone for something as silly as a favorite hairbrush being used or a joke made that hurt someone's feelings. Eiji would fight, screaming at the person, and say he would never talk to them. Then he would make up with them, at most a day later, the argument totally forgotten. All that would matter then is hugging the person he swore he hated a few hours or a day before. It sometimes seemed to Oishi that Eiji's family picked fights just so they could make up and tell each other how much they loved each other again. They would then all be even closer than before.

Oishi often had admired that. Not the drama, but the fact that they openly cared and that they cared enough to fight, knowing that even if the person was mad, they still loved them. That would never happen in Oishi's family. Oishi's father and his father's sister had a fight had not spoken in over 16 years. Oishi had never even met her. No one was even allowed to bring up her name let alone what caused the fight.

Oishi hoped things with him and Eiji would be more like when Eiji fought with Eiji's family. He hoped that tomorrow mercurial Eiji would be back to being Oishi's best friend just like before. However Oishi felt with a terrible sinking feeling, this was much more than a little fight, or Eiji being hurt and blaming Oishi.

The biggest problem was, Oishi wasn't sure exactly what this was a fight over then.

Oishi well remembered Eiji crying and screaming at him to not touch him.

Granted, he understood that Eiji might just be upset because of what happened, but the night before on the phone, Eiji didn't seem upset. Oishi was if anything, but Eiji seemed to be joking around and fine. Actually Oishi thought, that wasn't true. Eiji was just being a good friend to Oishi to make him feel better, but Eiji called and asked if he did something wrong.

Well, its not like Oishi could be blamed for being a little upset about the whole thing, it was a strange enough situation and then even worse with his terrible date and Fuji acting so odd. Eiji as his friend should understand that, right?

But then Oishi thought, he never told Eiji how terrible his date was. Or how bad she kissed. Or her snaking her hand along his pants. Or about Fuji being weird whispering in his ear. Or about Fuji in the men's room. Or that Oishi kept thinking about the night before, with Eiji, no matter how much he tried to stop. Oishi wasn't even going to tell Eiji any of that. So how would Eiji have known that Oishi was upset let alone what he was upset about? When Eiji called after their double date, he was worried that Oishi was mad at him. He called concerned because he said Oishi seemed far from him. And Oishi stupidly said everything was fine.

Just like when Oishi would ask a family member how they were when they were mad at him and his family member would answer fine, but not really be talking to him. Oishi did the same thing he hated so much.

Even though Oishi said he wasn't ignoring him, wasn't he doing exactly that? He wouldn't have called Eiji last night if Eiji hadn't called and up until this weekend he talked to Eiji every night on the phone. Even if they had done something together after tennis and before going home, they still talked every night. Oishi was the one who couldn't look at Eiji, who was embarrassed, uncomfortable, and who thought Eiji might have said something by accident to Fuji.

All right, Oishi had to admit he had been a complete idiot about the whole thing. He could have just laughed it off like Eiji tried to, instead he got upset and it was Eiji last night who called to ask if everything was all right. If Oishi was mad. To try to talk to him. It was Eiji who reassured him and tried to make him laugh. Oishi could have tried to talk to Eiji about how he was feeling but instead he didn't. He couldn't.

Then the next day Oishi hurts him.

Oishi would tell him how truly sorry he was if only Eiji would talk to him.

He had left a few phone messages for him but had no idea if Eiji even bothered to listen to any of them.

Probably not.

If he could only talk to him.

The worst of this was how much Oishi missed him. Missed talking to him.

He wondered if Eiji missed him?

Maybe he didn't.

Maybe he decided Fuji was his best friend after all. He had let Fuji help him to the nurse not even trusting Oishi to do that.

He thought of Fuji at the movies at his ear whispering in that voice and then again in the men's room. He thought of Fuji saying Eiji had been there in the men's room a moment before Oishi was. Had Fuji been close enough to smell Eiji's breath? Close enough to kiss Eiji too?

Oishi burned with jealousy at the thought and was surprised at how much it hurt.

He tried not to think of Eiji kissing Fuji.

He tried not to think of his laugh or his smile.

He tried not to think of himself kissing Eiji.

He tried not to think about Eiji saying Oishi kissed much better on the phone.

He tried not to miss him or worry.

Oishi couldn't sleep, and his thoughts were just going around and around in circles. The more he tried to not think about Eiji kissing him the more he did. Oishi was afraid of having another wet dream thinking about him again, so in the end, he figured he would masturbate and get this, whatever this was, out of his system. Then he could think clearly again.

He tried to think of Kiko who had called him twice earlier and left him messages. He did try to think of her, but that didn't work. He really wasn't interested or attracted to her. He found he had to go through his usual list of fantasies and memories until he was hard. He also discovered he was still a little rubbed raw from where he and Eiji rubbed against each other.

Whether it was that physical reminder or something else, every time Oishi tried to think of someone else, anyone else, something else, anything else, he would drift back to kissing Eiji, to Eiji kissing him back, to him licking his shoulder, asking him please, licking his fingers. Oishi thought about his whimpering moans and him crying Oishi's name as he came with him. Oishi came silently, thinking about him, feeling guilty, and found he felt worse than before.

If he could just talk to him then maybe everything could go back to normal.

That was what Oishi wanted, right, everything back to normal?

Oishi didn't think he was gay but he was worried. He had always only dated girls, he had only ever liked girls, he had always been attracted to girls. He had never liked a guy before so maybe this had just been experimenting. The heat of the moment. Oishi had, while sulking all day, thought about this at school and tennis. All he discovered is that he really wasn't interested in any other guys. At least none he knew. He thought about Fuji whispering in his ear and nearly kissing him and it turned Oishi on about as much as Kiko did. Not at all. He also discovered to his surprise, he noticed now there were more guys who were interested in other guys around than Oishi had realized before. Many of whom also played tennis and were friends of his. It was like he had blinders on before and now could see things a little clearer, but almost too clearly.

It wasn't like Eiji was gay, anyway, he had told Oishi about this cute freshman girl who talked to him everyday when they first became friends. Oishi had seen her, she was cute, she always wore a red ribbon in her hair. Oishi now felt jealous again and stupid. Besides, Eiji liked that Kiku girl. He made out with the entire time at the movies, every time Oishi had looked over, they were seriously kissing, despite Eiji saying how terrible she tasted.

All this was silly, just stupid. It wasn't even like Eiji was going to talk to him let alone be his friend anymore.

Oishi had something though that he had to do, he had to say he was sorry to Eiji. He had to at least be his friend again. Probably not his best friend ever again and they would never kiss or anything like that again, but maybe just a friend. Someone Eiji said hello to in the hallway or at tennis at least.

Oishi really didn't want to be the one outside his crowd of admirers anymore like he once was.

He missed his friend.

Maybe Eiji was really just tired and would talk to him tomorrow. Oishi could bring Eiji his homework and anything else he needed and apologize then.

Oishi wanted just to save their friendship.

He fell asleep, finally, vowing to do this.

Eiji was not in school the rest of the week.

Fuji said later in the week that he might be back on Friday but that would be the earliest.

No matter how many times Oishi asked, Fuji insisted only he was supposed to bring Eiji his homework. Not Oishi. Sorry.

He tried to not think about Fuji helping Eiji with his homework, about him whispering to Eiji like he did Oishi at the movies, or anything else.

Oishi did try to see and talk to Eiji. He did. Everyday. But Eiji was still not answering his calls and his Mom said each time Oishi stopped over or called that Eiji was resting.

Oishi felt stupid but had to talk to him. He had to. The longer this went on, the more he needed to see him and talk to him. The more things he found he had to say.

He missed him.

Each day Oishi brought something to Eiji. A favorite ice cream on Tuesday, the same bubble bath they used at Oishi's house on Wednesday, and on Thursday even a picture of each of Eiji's favorite pets at the pet store. Even though the owner probably thought Oishi was a little off, even after he explained it was for his best friend, with red hair, who got hurt, while playing tennis.

Fuji warmed up and played daily with Oishi as if they had agreed to it. Everyday Fuji was there waiting for him early in the mornings when Oishi hoped Eiji would show up and Fuji was there again in the afternoons. Waiting, smiling, and playing, but otherwise not saying much.

Oishi sulked and grew more and more sullen.

Fuji won easily every time.

That Friday morning at practice Oishi hoped Eiji might be there at least watching.

Oishi arrived early but only Fuji was there that early, again, waiting for him.

They warmed up and played a bit. Fuji won easily as Oishi had no heart in it. Fuji said nothing but kept playing.

Fuji said nothing either about Oishi teaching him anything and in fact, again, barely talked to him.

Oishi finally had to ask anyway, "Fuji-senpai, please tell me, how is Eiji feeling?"

Fuji shrugged, "Ne, Oishi, you know. He's hurt."

"Will he be back in school today?"

"Not until Monday at the earliest." Fuji paused a moment, as if waiting for Oishi to ask him something more it seemed, but Oishi was not sure of what to do or say.

Oishi went through the rest of the day miserable and missing his friend. His world felt small and drab without Eiji in it. He missed him. He missed his smile and his laugh. He missed his energy. He was amazed at how one person missing in your life could make you feel completely lonely.

That afternoon he and Fuji warmed up together and played again. Fuji won again. Practice was exhausting, but Oishi went through it without even noticing.

He decided he needed to do something. He needed answers. He was out of ideas. This had to stop.

As practice ended, Oishi found Fuji in the dressing room. He took him aside and asked Fuji if he could bring Eiji his homework or at least go with Fuji to see him. Oishi told Fuji yet again, he really needed to talk to Eiji.

Fuji said, "Ne, I don't think its a good idea, Oishi."

"Why Fuji-senpai? What did I do that was so wrong? Please tell me. Please. I have to make this right."

"Mn. And if you can't?"

Oishi felt the words physically hurt him in his chest like he had been struck there. He had to make this right. He had to. "I have to try. Please. He's my best friend." And it was really true. Fuji said nothing, it was as if he was still waiting for something. "Please Fuji-senpai, please. I'll do anything."

Fuji took a long look at Oishi as if seeing through him with his deep blue eyes. Oishi waited, not bending under the look. Fuji finally said, "Ah." He stood up facing Oishi, "Oishi, if you can beat me, right now, then I'll bring you with me when I bring Eiji his homework. I'll even make sure that Eiji will see you." The tensai said it smiling but his soft liquid voice was serious, hard, and frozen.

An impossible task. Only Tezuka ever beat Fuji.

But there was more to it than that. Oishi held his racket, looked down at it, and said to Fuji, "Fuji-senpai, you've been very kind to me through all this, I...I don't want to hurt you."

"Ah." Fuji said it as if he understood a little why Oishi was playing so poorly lately. He smiled a little more. "You won't."

Then Fuji paused and took another long look at Oishi, this look was completely different though, it was as if found something new and fascinating about Oishi. Fuji smiled, not his usual all the time smile, but a small, genuine smile. He touched Oishi's arm softly with his hand. "Ne, Oishi, you did nothing wrong. It was an accident. You're a good friend." Fuji leaned in a little bit and said softly, "I'm a little jealous."

Fuji smiled a little more, walked around Oishi, and passed him, walking back towards the door to play him. The tensai then stopped at the door. He looked back in at Oishi for once without smiling. He said with his soft voice now sounding steely, and as serious as death, "But first, you'll have to beat me, Oishi."

Oishi followed him, determined.

It was the only time Oishi ever beat Fuji hands down.

Oishi was only aware that other people had watched them play later as he got dressed because several people came and patted him on the back. He barely noticed. Instead he was hurrying to go with Fuji over to Eiji's. He was never sure if Fuji let him win, although he suspected it, but the Captain himself must have seen the game.

The Captain put a hand on Oishi's shoulder and said, "Nice game Oishi. Seeing this, I expect you to win your block next week." If the Captain thought he played well enough against Fuji that he would be a regular, maybe he did win on his own.

But that really didn't matter now. Only one thing did.

"Thank you Captain!" Oishi said then hurried to finish and go.

For the first time since Monday morning, Oishi smiled.

On to Chapter 5!!