Standard Disclaimer: All the wonderful characters of Tenipuri belong to Konomi Takeshi respectively. I own only the plot and a number of foreign characters which you won't find in any Tenipuri episode/chapter.

Warning: This chapter marks the end of romance in their relationship. The real plot is revealed. There will be emotional roller coaster, and most probably some mature and violent displays in later chapters. Do not read if this is not your thing. Love yourself.

Setting: Paris. London. Summer time.

My deepest gratitude goes to all wonderful reviewers of earlier chapters. Terribly sorry for such late responses especially for reviewers of Chapter 9: maldita08, Umi Minamino, Am Loves Syusuke, Tora Macaw, yamatoforever, kitsunehana11, Jingy5, wrinkledgreenpea, silverskyeangel, Hirami, Yereanth16, EternusX229, the anonymous reviewer and all readers out there who have been so kind as to enlist my story as their favorites. Having gone on hiatus for 5 years, hopefully you'll still find this new installment enjoyable.

"I'll open my heart and show you inside
My love has no pride
I feel with you I've got nothing to hide
It's all up to you, to tell me to go
'Cause it won't be me to walk away
When you're all that I know"

- Don't Wanna Lose You – Gloria Estefan


By Moribayashi

Chapitre Dix – Quicksand, Part I

"So tell me, how long have you been staying here?"

After a moment, Tezuka opened his eyes.

"Twenty two days, ten hours and…" he checked on his watch, "twenty three minutes."

"You're sounding more and more like Inui," there was a hint of amusement in Fuji's voice. "Do you miss him that much?"

"Are you jealous?"

"Of you and Inui? Don't have to. You'd be dead the second day into your relationship, anyway."

Tezuka glared at him. "And why is that?"

"Why of course, Aozu."

Fuji snickered as Tezuka made a face.

"But still, Tezuka Kunimitsu ditching Wimbledon…" the honey haired man shook his head, "is the early sign of apocalypse."

"I am not ditching Wimbledon."

"Then what are you doing here?"

"I told you, the flight's booked on Thursday morning. I'll be leaving in two days," Tezuka replied, one eyebrow arched. "Now why are you so eager to get rid off me?"

"Don't be silly," Fuji replied rather flippantly. "I just wanna make sure your manager won't come barging into my apartment with a warrant for kidnapping a world ranked tennis idol," his reasoning was accompanied with a teasing smile.

Tezuka leaned forward. "Are you saying you're kidnapping said tennis idol?" his voice came out in just above the whisper.

"Maybe," Fuji's voice was just as sultry.

Tezuka was now inches away from Fuji's tempting lips. There was a hint of challenge in his tone when he asked, "Fuji, why don't you come with me?"

"Are you ready to make another headline?" Fuji challenged back.

Tezuka paused, all traces of sexy bantering were replaced by a frown. "Will they ever back off if I tell them I'm gay?"

Fuji chuckled. "What are you? Fourteen?"

Tezuka scowled. Of course. Unless he retired from the circuit, the Paparazzi wouldn't likely stop chasing him; including those from his home country.

Gazing down at the tennis player's nimble, long fingers, Fuji contemplated his next question.

"Ne, Tezuka… why are you here?"

Entwining their fingers, the messy haired man threw him a half playful look. "You know why."

Fuji tilted his head. "No, I don't," he replied, tone serious although the smile remained.

Taking a good look at the honey brown haired man, Tezuka contemplated the question. In the short period they were together, the relationship had been progressing towards a stage where never before had Tezuka felt so sure about committing to a person. True, that the old feelings had rekindled and multiplied in tenfold since the day he had met Fuji again, not to mention the irresistible sexual attraction. Then there was this feeling of protectiveness that was growing in Tezuka as he learned about the other man's miserable past. He understood very well that Fuji Shuusuke was in no need of protection, with or without the bloody incident with Sophie's ex-boyfriend. Still, Tezuka wanted to be there for Fuji, wanted Fuji to know that he would never leave again.

Looking at those cerulean orbs, Tezuka decided that he would be honest. Fuji deserved as much. Closing the remaining distance between them, he conveyed all his feelings through a kiss. A deep, loving, adoring, passionate kiss, with a touch of desperation.

When he finally pulled apart with little reluctance, Tezuka pressed his forehead to Fuji's. "That's the answer," he whispered breathlessly, eyes on Fuji's dazed look, Fuji's swollen lips, Fuji's equally panting breaths.

As Tezuka left the bedroom, Fuji remained motionless on the bed, trying to regain his composure.

Since when had it become like this?

This was nothing like he had anticipated.

Eyes closed, Fuji let out a heavy sigh.

It was too late to back down, anyway. The plan had to work no matter what.

As it was planned, Tezuka headed to London on Thursday morning. Upon arrival, his Manager was only more than ready to dump him into a packed schedule of intense training for the Grand Slam. Having finished with his office project, Fuji flew to London a week later. He was staying on a different floor in Tezuka's hotel and using his Official Press badge so as not to draw attention. Well, not that his lounging in Tezuka's Players Box didn't raise speculation. After all, Tezuka's Box would usually consist of only his management team and a couple of sponsors, and Fuji looking hot in designer outfits and brown sunglasses definitely drew the eyes. But if Tezuka himself could care less, who was he to complain?

There was one morning after breakfast when Tezuka spotted Fuji talking to Marat Safin in the hotel lobby. The Russian player had lost his ticket in the tournament, but remained to cheer for his younger sister who made it to the semi-final. Assuming that it was a short semi-interview, Tezuka waited by the hospitality desk. It wasn't until a short while that he noticed the warm, easy gestures both men were exchanging. It gave the impression that both Fuji and Marat Safin had known each other for quite some time.

"How was the interview?" Tezuka asked as Fuji accompanied him to watch Echizen's match on television in his suite.

"Huh?" Fuji blinked. "What interview?"

"The one you had with Marat Safin."

"Oh, that," Fuji grinned. "It wasn't an interview. Marat and I just exchanged updates on life in general. Did you know he was my tennis idol other than you and Agassi?"

Tezuka's eyebrow rose in amusement. He had never thought that Fuji idolized the Russian player. But more importantly, had he just said 'exchanged updates'?

"How long have you known him?"

"I've known Marat and Dinara for a long time. Let's just say the three of us share something in common," Fuji replied in a half cryptic way, winking.

Frowning, Tezuka let it go. But he promised to himself he would get the answer from Fuji sometime later. Besides, the match was about to begin.

As expected, Echizen made it through the next round with relatively no difficulty. This confirmed that he would be Tezuka's opponent in the Men's Semi-Finals. It also confirmed the speculation in the bet market that there would be an All-Japan match in one of the last rounds. In all the matches they had had, the results varied from time to time. Should Tezuka manage to beat his former apprentice this time, he would get his second title in Wimbledon.

It was a long, intense 5-set match to endure, neither of men willing to back down. Echizen had the advantage of this being his third Semi-Finals in Wimbledon, while Tezuka had the advantage of growing accustomed to lawn court in the years he had trained in England. The match ended after 4.5 hours of struggle, where the winner would be facing a Spaniard rising star in the Finals two days ahead.

On Men's Singles Final day, Echizen came to Tezuka's changing room after the closing ceremony. He congratulated the Wimbledon winner, muttering something about the benefit of resolved sexual tension. Tezuka attempted to hide the faint blush by glaring, while Fuji doubled over and had to look for support on the wall.

At night, Fuji flew back to Paris to catch up with his work. Tezuka stayed another two days for a couple of invitations from the local tennis community he had grown up with. His Manager insisted to have him back on his schedule and complete his number one score through Master Series. However, the Grand Slam winner decided that he would spend a little more time in Paris before going back to Japan, which was highly uncharacteristic of him. This undoubtedly sparked arguments between the Manager and the athlete, which would be getting big in the days ahead.

Understood, that this wasn't the first time Tezuka Kunimitsu was dating someone. But this was the first time he had fallen in love, so hard that all the logic he had been so proud of holding was starting to leave him. Days gone by and Tezuka got himself tangled even tighter in Fuji Shuusuke's arms, just like a butterfly in a spider's web. He found himself caring no less.

Tezuka was happy, and that was all that mattered.

To be continued.

More Mori's Notes:

Despite the gap in real time, the setting of the story remains in 2004, which explains Marat Safin's existence in men's pro tennis ring. Well, that, and supposed His Majesty the Great King Federer and his exotic Spaniard Crown Prince Rafael Nadal didn't exist… Xb

So. Yeah. This is what happens when you keep a story on hiatus for far too long. So sorry that this chappie came out a lot shorter than it was originally intended. I've spent YEARS trying to figure out how to deliver this chapter alone, considering its importance in the plot, and looking at the result nearly made me back down again. It didn't come out the way I wanted, and my changing writing style doesn't help either. So I had to cut it in half and let this one out, while figuring out a better way to let out the remaining half. I currently don't have any beta for English and I learned that it is impossible to master French conversation in one year while working. (LOL) Oh well, at least I tried.

Thank you very much for reading and as usual, C&C is always given the warmest home. Not to forget that I desperately need a beta for English AND French to help Fuji maintain his sexiness by speaking the language correctly XD. Anyone interested, please p-mail me.