Disclaimer: yuku does not own Tenipuri (unfortunately)

Pairing: Atobe x Tezuka

Clipped Wings

By: yukuro

Become strong at all costs. That was what Atobe Keigo learned from the first time he set foot into Hyotei Gakuen. Stand out, never show fear, defeat the opponent, and become stronger. By the time he was a first year, those thoughts were all he had replaying in his mind over and over again. However, it was not always that way.

The first time Atobe entered Hyotei, he was no one special. He was like the others; just another rich kid whose parents put him a prestigious school with after school activities to keep him out of the way. No one really noticed him even though he was smart, good-looking, and skilled in tennis. He was no one special after all. Not much about Atobe stood out when he first entered middle school.

As a first year, Atobe was quiet. He was not too proud or arrogant, but perhaps that was the reason no one bothered with his existence. On the other hand, Shishido Ryou stood out. He had long pretty hair that girls envied, everyone liked him, and he was good at tennis. Of course, he was not as good as Atobe though. When Shishido lost to him in a practice match, Atobe was slightly surprised by his actions.

"Ah… I always knew you were good, Atobe," Shishido said somewhat sheepishly as they shook hands. He smiled slightly and titled his head. "We should play together more often. Maybe you can teach me a thing or two or we could be friends."

Kind words such as those were foreign to Atobe. His parents always let him do whatever he wanted but never praised him for anything. As he stared down at their still clasped hands, Atobe realized he did not know how to react. Quickly, he pulled his hand away and muttered before he could think, "Why would I want that?"

Shishido blinked after him as he quickly disappeared from the court. Running a hand through his lengthening brown hair, Shishido raised an eyebrow at the retreating form. He felt a bit annoyed with the rude reaction, but forgave it. Atobe had his own problems and they were none of his business.

Despite what either thought, the two somehow became friends. Atobe had hardly noticed when he and Shishido talked more or when Shishido was over at his house often. Somehow it felt odd and natural all at once. Atobe had never had friends and Shishido became his first.

At school, Atobe was still hardly noticed. That is, however, until Sakaki Tarou first noticed him play tennis. Atobe was good, better than any third year Sakaki had seen play at Hyotei that year. He watched silently as the blue-eyed first year played against his classmates without even breaking a sweat. His skin was delicate and smooth looking and those blue eyes were intoxicating. Then Sakaki wondered how Atobe had managed to slip away from eyes.

Shishido grinned and held a thumbs-up sign at Atobe as he returned after the match. Handing him a bottle of water, Shishido congratulated him, "Nice, Atobe."

The sound of slow clapping made both first years turn to find the source of the sound. Shishido's eyes widened slightly in surprise while Atobe remained unfazed. "S…Sakaki-sensei."

"Good game, Atobe-kun," Sakaki stated directly at the blue-eyed first year. Ignoring Shishido completely, the teacher advanced on Atobe slowly, examining him with his eyes. "You have the potential to be great. Do you want to become stronger?"

Atobe slowly brought his eyes to meet his teacher's, lips pressed into a thin straight line. Although there was something about the man's gaze that felt disturbing and made his stomach want to turn, Atobe endured it. He was tired of being unnoticed, whether it was his parents or peers. Eyes unwavering, he replied firmly, "Yes."

"Good," Sakaki muttered, eyes never moving from Adobe's. Without bothering to even glance at Shishido, he ordered, "You, first year, go pick up balls. Atobe-kun, come with me to my office."

"Atobe…" Shishido muttered, brows furrowing slightly as he watched the other boy rise to his feet. He had a bad feeling about what was happening. Though he could not understand why, he had a feeling that things would not get any better despite the promises made. "I don't think…"

"Don't get in my way," Atobe muttered back, eyes sharp. Ignoring the surprised expression on the other boy's face, he walked ahead. Even he did not know that the moment he stepped into that office would be the same as a dove entering a cage.

"Have you heard of a school called Seishun Gakuen?" Sakaki asked once he and Atobe were in the privacy of his large office. Hands behind his back, he gazed straight out the window with his back to the boy. Smoothly, he went on, "I heard rumors of a first year there capable of becoming a regular. Unfortunately, I believe these rumors are just about correct."

Atobe remained silent. He did not know why this bit of information was important or why it even mattered to be spoken of, but even so, he remained silent and cooperative.

"You want to be great, don't you?" Sakaki asked, turning to face the boy. His eyes were sharp and dangerous as he approached the blue-eyed boy to tilt his chin up to meet his gaze. "I can make you great, Atobe-kun," he muttered, running a finger over the boy's soft lips most inappropriately, "as long as you do everything I say. Once you agree, you won't be able to escape anymore. Do you want to become strong?"

Eyes blazing, Atobe stared defiantly up at the man but did not bother to move. Without a second thought, he responded, "Yes."

Within a week afterwards, Atobe began playing and winning matches against upperclassmen and in little to no time became a regular. He began to see much less of Shishido, but according to Sakaki, that did not really matter. Sakaki began to take up more and more of Atobe's time, stating coolly each time that everything was for the sake of making Atobe stronger. Atobe could not care anymore. He was already in too deep.

Once he became a regular, Atobe's personality underwent a rather drastic transformation. His teacher had told him that if he wanted to be the best, he had to make it known to everyone. Atobe was to hold himself higher than everyone else and pretend no one else mattered. It was ironic, Atobe thought once, that the same person that told him he was the best was treating him like a common low-life that was to be beckoned whenever the man wanted pleasure. Despite this, Atobe never fought back. He had already surrendered his body to the devil for those reassuring words. Once the deal was made, nothing else could change it.

Rumors spread about Hyotei's first year ace, but no one dared speak aloud. Atobe had Sakaki's full authority behind him and so no one dared to question him. The older students were not fond of him and his now arrogant personality. In fact, they disliked the younger boy completely but had to hold respect for his incredible tennis skills. Slowly, Atobe became more distant from his teammates and classmates, even if it was not obvious.

"Did you hear about that really strong first year regular at Seigaku?"

These whispers grew more and more common around Hyotei, as Atobe noticed. Although he tried hard to put it off as if it were nothing, he felt somehow that this person was surely to become his rival. Perhaps that person would understand the pain and hardships that Atobe had to overcome for his position. There were too many sacrifices Atobe had to make in order to be noticed and he wondered if it was similar for that person. Before Atobe had realized, he had already become obsessed.

"Your tennis has been getting better these days," Sakaki commented offhandedly while adjusting his shirt one day after club activities had finished. Shooting a sideways glance at Atobe, who was stiffly and somewhat painfully redressing himself, the man stated coldly, "Despite that, you've been distracted. You will not be able to get better if you don't have the proper attitude."

"Yes, sensei," Atobe muttered, buttoning his shirt up. Although he spoke, his eyes were clouded and downcast. He dared not to even twitch when Sakaki gripped his chin and directed his face upward. Atobe's blue eyes stared past his teacher's burning gaze and when his already kiss-bruised lips were attacked again, he could only let his mind wonder what his rival in Seigaku looked like.

"Sensei," Atobe breathed quietly once his lips were released, his eyes were directed at his teacher's face but pierced through towards an invisible spot on the ceiling. "Please tell me about the first year regular in Seigaku."

A frown formed on Sakaki's face and his grip tightened slightly on Atobe's shoulder. Glaring down at the boy's dazed yet determined expression, Sakaki felt his eyes narrow. He pushed away from the boy and adjusted his clothes again. Although the idea clearly irritated him, he still went to his desk to pull out a file. Rather roughly, he dropped it messily before the still sloppily dressed Atobe. Heading for the door, he said in his usual icy tone, "Look as much as you want, but don't forget who you are. Lock up when you go home."

Once the door shut with a bit of force, Atobe felt his eyes stray to the folder left before him. As he continued to finish dressing, his eyes remained locked onto the file. There was a feeling of excitement that he had never felt before that was being harshly pushed away by his commanding resistance to stay calm. Once dressed, Atobe simply sat and stared at the folder for a long time. Finally, he extended a hand to open the file.

Tezuka Kunimitsu. That was his rival's name. That was the first day Atobe had learned this name, and he would never forget it for a day afterwards.

---

By his second year, Atobe became obsessed. It was in a subtle manner, but the obsession existed. Even when Sakaki held in his control, Atobe would gaze past him and imagine how his grand match with Tezuka would be. In a way, Tezuka had become the most important person to him. Tennis, his life, began to completely revolve around defeating Tezuka.

Atobe had barely noticed when he began to drift away again. Shishido tried hard to remain friendly, but it was futile if Atobe continued to turn away coldly. His parents were never around much to begin with, so their lack of presence in his life continued to completely not even faze him slightly. He began to see more of Sakaki, but he would always feel dead during those times. It was not until a fellow second year one day happened to step in at the wrong time that Atobe felt a fleeting moment of discomforting existence.

Oshitari Yuushi happened to be delivering papers that day Sakaki forgot to lock the door. Even upon the sight of the esteemed Atobe's undignified state and Sakaki's disgruntled expression, Oshitari merely blinked once, delivered his papers, and stepped back out as if nothing had happened. At that time, Atobe had noticed the boy's sudden appearance but thought nothing of him. It was not until several days later did Oshitari, who was still a stranger, finally stop him.

With his bouncy, dirty-mouthed, but still cute friend at his side, Oshitari was stretching at the side of the tennis courts when Atobe finished his match. The boy had hardly given Atobe even a glance before Sakaki called out to him. Noticing the indifferent expression that had come over Atobe's face, a change from his condescending manner in dealing with the unfortunate third year he had just finished playing, Oshitari finally marched over to the other boy while still managing to look casual.

"You don't have to do such things, you know," Oshitari commented coolly as Atobe prepared to step off the courts. "You're good enough without having to play teacher's pet."

Upon hearing those words, Atobe felt his blood boil and his tone turn icy for the first time in a while. Shooting the other boy a dark glare, he scowled, "Those who know nothing should not speak ignorantly. You know nothing."

Perhaps that was when Oshitari felt a stab of guilt that made him want to rescue Atobe somehow.

Like Shishido, Oshitari was unconsciously drawn into Atobe's life. Shishido became constantly busy for one reason or another, and on the days he was unable to spend time with Atobe, Oshitari was there. Of course, Oshitari spent as much time as he could with Atobe without making his easily jealous partner, Mukahi Gakuto, too angry.

The more time Oshitari spent with Atobe, the more he began to feel pity on the boy that always seemed more glorious than the others. While he flaunted himself openly in public, Atobe seemed nearly lifeless when alone, Oshitari had noted. He supposed that even or especially with all of Atobe's grandeur, it was easy to become lonely.

"You're a bird with clipped wings," Oshitari said to Atobe one day as they sat alone on the roof of the school. "Unable to fly to freedom, unable to escape from your cage, you can only remain alone and flaunt your brightly colored feathers. A bird with clipped wings is after all, simply just for show."

Atobe narrowed his eyes at the other boy after these words were spoken. Somehow, with these words, his chest grew tight but his blood still remained icy. Retorting, he shot back, "Better for show and be great than to waste away into nothingness. You're a hopeless fool who only has pretty words to say. Don't ever come near me again."

Smiling cheerfully, Oshitari rose to his feet. He sighed slightly, smile still on his face, when Atobe squinted up to meet his gaze. Wistfully, he stated, "I've tried as hard as I could to save you, Atobe. I only wish you would stop pushing away freedom as if it would be the death of you."

"I don't need anyone to 'save' me or give me pity," Atobe replied darkly, gazing straight ahead again. For some reason, the image of Tezuka with a tennis racquet in hand flashed through his mind briefly. Closing his eyes as Oshitari made his way towards the stairs, he muttered, "I need no one to become strong."

Just before he stepped back inside, Oshitari offered one last smile. "I suppose clipped wings do eventually grow their flight feathers back," he commented thoughtfully. "Better than a butterfly with burned wings that will never heal. I hope you regain your flight feathers someday."

"Beautiful words are useless," Atobe stated loudly to the sky as the door quietly slipped shut. As the clouds floated effortlessly across the sky, Atobe frowned. "The only most important thing there is in life is to become strong, clipped wings or not. Oshitari, you idiot."

He was alone again. Oshitari and Shishido were still around him on occasions, but most of the time, Atobe was alone again. It was no matter, though. He was used to it, so it made no difference. He did not care about the people who passed and went about around him. He only cared about the one person that was possibly out of his reach, the one person that could possibly understand his painful struggle. Despite what pretty words or kind actions were used, Atobe knew that both Oshitari and Shishido would never understand him.

"Acknowledge my existence!" his soul secretly cried each time he stepped onto the tennis courts. It was his sacrifices that brought him to his current high point, Atobe knew. In order to become the best, he had to act as if he was. To become glorified, he had to sacrifice by all means. Whether those sacrifices be his friends or his soul, he had to give them up. He had to become great and defeat Tezuka Kunimitsu, his goal, obsession, and second embodiment of his soul. Surely at that time, he could feel complete. Tezuka would understand; they were sure to be alike, after all.

---

Tezuka was nothing like Atobe. It was undeniable. Although Atobe had won, the crowd still desperately held their breath, anxiously watching Tezuka. As he watched Tezuka play that fateful match, Atobe felt his entire being become cold. They were not the same at all.

While Atobe always fought hard to become the best for the sake of being glorified, Tezuka always fought hard to become the best simply for the sake of leading his team to victory. In his struggle, he was not used, made a tool or puppet, or isolated from the world. There were always others that stood behind him, gazing admirably from behind as he walked down his golden path. Tezuka's dedication, his strength and determination, all of it was pure. For a little while because if it, Atobe hated him.

Their match was glorious, of course. It was a match to be remembered in history; the day Tezuka Kunimitsu was defeated. It was an empty victory for Atobe though. Tezuka could not play his best, and if he had, Atobe could not get rid of the feeling that he would have lost. He longed for another match, but his soul felt icy every time he saw Tezuka with his happily smiling and supportive team. Perhaps he was alone in the world after all.

At times they would cross each other in the city, though either one seemed to notice much. They never stopped each other or said any passing word. At most there was the occasional nod of acknowledgement, but otherwise, there was no interaction. Atobe did not mind. He was independent; he didn't need anyone at all. Then why, he wondered, was he the one to call Tezuka to a stop one day they met by chance?

"I'm sorry," he blurted out as they passed each other, much to his own surprise. Atobe never apologized, yet this time his conscience compelled him to it. He held his back to Tezuka as more people busily walked past them. For anyone else, Atobe would not have stopped or said anything at all. "How…is your arm?"

"I'm rehabilitating," Tezuka replied simply, facing the opposite direction. They stood side to side, but their gazes were to reversed directions. Somehow, neither one could find the will to turn around. Finding his voice again, Tezuka stated stonily, "I don't blame you for what happened."

"I was over ambitious," Atobe found himself admitting although his tone was still cold. "With such a victory, I can't be satisfied. This unfamiliar, unsettling feeling keeps plaguing me. I want to play again, and I want to win fairly. More than anything, I want to be stronger."

"Those feelings are not empty emotions used as step stones to strength," Tezuka replied still with simplicity in his voice. "Those feelings you have are there because you love tennis."

No one had ever said these words before. Surprise overwhelmed him. Atobe had always told himself and had always believed that the only reason he played tennis was to become great, glorified, and acknowledged by everyone. Somehow, he had never considered tennis something that he loved until that point. Tezuka's words became the trigger, and Atobe could feel it in his soul. Yes, he loved tennis, and the feeling was completely independent of becoming great.

"When will you be able to play again?" Atobe muttered, his voice nearly dying away in the crowd.

Tezuka paused for a long moment, as if tortured by the thought. Confliction was woven into the silence, but his reply came out strongly, "As soon as I am able to face you again."

Fist clenching slightly, Atobe took the first step forward and away. "Heal soon," he stated flatly but sincerely. "I'll wait for you."

Even as he walked steadily further away from Tezuka and he knew they would not be able to meet again for very long, Atobe could not bear to turn back around. Whether or not it was because he could no longer bear to even continue to speak to Tezuka, Atobe was a bit unwilling to discover. Again that nagging feeling was there, the one that told him that the moment he turned around, his resolve would shatter again.

Somehow, Sakaki found out about their encounter. It was not until he faced his teacher again shortly afterwards did Atobe discover the extent of Sakaki's rather violent jealousy.

"You belong to me," he growled icily as he dug his nails into Atobe's delicate skin. Growl turning into an angry whisper, he muttered harshly into the boy's ear, applying as much force on the boy's body before it would break, "Not just your body, Atobe. Everything belongs to me. Your soul, your freedom, your pride, everything belongs to me. Do you know why? Because I am the one that made you great. I will even clip your wings again if I have to. Just don't forget you can never escape me."

After those words were spoken, everything hurt. His body, his soul, his freedom, his pride, everything hurt. Physical exhaust overtook him and even as blood leaked from his body, Atobe closed his eyes and let the world with Sakaki around him slip into darkness. With the cold air dancing across his bare skin, Atobe fell asleep and did not wake up until the moon was high in the dark, cloudless sky.

From that moon and many moons afterwards, Atobe continued to live in secret captivity. Even though he appeared to be lurid, confident, and free before those he led, his insides grew dark and cold. It had been a promise that he would wait for Tezuka, Atobe knew, but with the continuous building up of ice in his soul, he did not know how much longer he could bear to wait.

Waiting, waiting, that was all Atobe ever did from that moment on. It was as if each passing day was a single grain of sand through an hourglass and to see Tezuka again, the hourglass that must be turned over three times. It was an eternity of a wait and yet when Tezuka returned, Atobe still did not feel ready. It was all he had ever waited for and yet when he met Tezuka on the court again, even as his heart pounded in excitement, he did not feel ready at all.

It was another glorious match to be remembered in history, and this time Atobe felt relieved and utterly lost at the same time. His relief was the overwhelming feeling of happiness knowing that he had played his very best to his full extent, no matter what outcome was brought about. However, he could not feel completely happy either. Now that all that he had ever strived for was done and finished, what else was there to go on for?

It would be day after day of returning to Sakaki's grasp again, dragging out a secretly ignoble existence while flamboyantly placing himself on a high stage on the outside. There was nothing left, Atobe realized as they shook hands at the net. There was no more reason to chase after Tezuka and no more reason to see him anymore. Somehow, knowing that hurt more than the realization that his life journey became empty again.

"Keep chasing me," Tezuka stated firmly as their hands locked together over the net. Eyes firm and confident, he went on, "This isn't the end."

His palm was warm, Atobe knew, because warm blood ran through his veins. The warmth of the other hand that held tightly onto his own was stirring his own cold blood. As nice as it felt, Atobe could not grow used to it. Lips pressing into a firm, thin line, Atobe was the first to release their handshake.

"Maybe you didn't know," Atobe muttered as he gazed off the court into the wall of his blocked future. "I can't fly away from my cage. My wings are clipped."

"It's not that you can't fly," Tezuka responded, surprising Atobe slightly. "It's just that you're afraid to fly."

Words that were meant to comfort suddenly turned into ice. Atobe's shimmering blue eyes narrowed into a glare out into the distance, even as the crowd and observers cheered wildly. "You," he muttered mildly, striding shakily towards the court exit, "know absolutely nothing about me."

"That's right," again replied Tezuka bluntly, tone never rising with a bit of compassion. "I know nothing about you, but I know your tennis. Every bird can attain freedom. Some simply don't try hard enough and wallow in their cage forever. It's impossible to escape if you don't try to push the door."

"Easy for you to say. There's no way you could understand," Atobe snapped harshly before exiting the court completely. Atobe thought it was regrettable they way they had parted this time, but he could not recant his words. It was true after all. Someone as completely glorified as Tezuka Kunimitsu would never be able to feel the secret pain he hid.

Yet, even though he knew this bitterly well, Atobe could not bear to stop thinking of him. There was no more reason to do so, but he could not stop anyway, and the more he thought of Tezuka, the more he wished those words could be true.

Sakaki, however, never ceased to remind him of his place. As ambitious as he was or as potent he seemed on the outside, Atobe knew quite well he was smashed beneath the crushing palm of his teacher. It would be fine to put up with the torturous pain, Atobe thought, now that his goal of Tezuka was so far away from his grasp again. After having his objective shattered before him, Atobe realized nothing else mattered anymore.

"We're worried about you," Shishido stated blatantly one day, eyes determined. His serious tone reflected the serious expression Oshitari, who stood firmly at Shishido's side, had on his face. Even as the words were spoken, Atobe hardly felt a ripple in his emotional stagnation.

"I've know you for almost three years now," Oshitari went on gravely, lips set in a slightly tight frown but eyebrows knitted up in subtle concern, "and that's long enough for me to notice that the way you are now is hurting you."

Atobe's silence and darkly blank eyes that gazed pointed at their souls were bearing down upon them. Shishido could feel his angry anxiety for his, or at least he considered Atobe so, friend as the other boy remained passive and unresponsive. More than anything at that time, Oshitari wanted to embrace him somehow. Desperately, hopefully, yearning for a change—anything at all.

Closing his eyes, Atobe turned away from them and gazed blankly up at the sky. "It doesn't matter," he muttered as a gentle yet cold breeze blew about him, "I'm already broken anyway."

"You're giving up on Tezuka just like that!" Shishido demanded, anger swelling his emotions. His eyes narrowed when Atobe's body froze and remained stiff. Going on, he lashed out as Oshitari gazed forlornly at them both, "The Atobe I know never gave up! He was the best even if he wasn't trying! Someone like that would never resign himself to such a daily routine of pain. I…can't accept it."

In response, Atobe left coldly, leaving his only two friends completely abandoned.

---

Several days slipped by after Atobe completely isolated himself from any other contact. It was painful and all the more terrible, but Sakaki had become the only person in Atobe's life. Of course he would continue when Sakaki beckoned him into the cold office. Of course Atobe would continue to comply with whatever his teacher wanted to do to him every time. There was no one left, and Atobe had completely shut his emotions away.

Whenever he was touched, Atobe knew well enough to let his body react as it willed but he always made certain his soul was closed away from the pain. No emotion could reach him, even when he arched his back high from overwhelming bodily pleasure yet pain. Shame was always scraping at the edges of his conscience, but Atobe had grown used to that grating feeling. He was trained well enough to know that he should go out and rebound those feelings onto others. That was what others were there for, Sakaki had told him. As long as he acted well, Atobe would always be worshiped.

Despite how his soul was well closed off, the shameful invisible marks engraved into his body would never fade. Atobe always spent hours in the showers afterwards. He stood until the water beating upon his head ran cold and his skin grew wrinkled. Even when his body was soaked and cold, scrubbed down to the bone, and thoroughly rinsed, the feeling of dirtiness would not disappear. Atobe always knew it would not be that easy, but still it would not hurt to try.

Atobe had already resigned himself to his rather pitiful fate, yet at that time, he could not help but freeze at the sight before him.

Tezuka Kunimitsu was standing on the other side of the fence of the tennis courts of Hyotei. For a moment, Atobe thought his eyes were playing a cruel and irritable joke on him. But the moment his gaze met Tezuka's sharp one, the gates to his emotions crumbled to his feet.

As practice progressed, Atobe ignored the visitor that was so intently watching him. Once as he passed, he overheard Shishido and Oshitari expressing their thanks to the Seigaku captain, and Atobe realized instantly with a dark look in his eyes that it had been those two that had brought about the catalyst to his destruction.

On his way out after practice ended, Atobe was halted at the fence. Glaring coldly, he slowly raised his gaze to meet Tezuka's. Icily, he asked, "Is there something you want?"

Tezuka did not reply, but instead continued to gaze intently at the other boy. All other people had emptied from the courts, and the silence seemed almost deafening. The more Atobe wished to look away from Tezuka, the more compelled he was to gaze deeper, as if searching for Tezuka's soul through his eyes.

Before Tezuka could say anything, Atobe stated stonily, "They asked you to come."

Although not being asked a question, Tezuka responded as if asked one anyway. "Yes," he said simply. "They did."

Eyes narrowing, Atobe stiffened and breezed past the other boy without waiting to hear any more.

"You have good friends," Tezuka said suddenly, still little to no emotion in his voice. These words, however, were enough to make Atobe once again root to the ground. "They're obviously concerned about you."

"I," Atobe began, eyes sharp but wavering in confidence, "have no friends."

"That's unfortunate," replied Tezuka, simple and emotionless but driven directly into Atobe's soul. "It's impossible, after all, for anyone to succeed in life without help and support from his friends."

"They're nothing like me," Atobe muttered, fist clenched. "I'm nothing like them."

There was a brief moment of silence as a gentle breeze blew by, kicking up leaves as it went. The atmosphere around them was oddly gentle for the strong tone they set with their words. It was a constant struggle between placidity and the desperate clench to darkness. At that time, both were momentarily speechless.

"I had always wanted to meet you," came the words that Atobe had been suspecting himself to utter, not Tezuka.

Stoic expression and little emotion in his voice, Tezuka went on quietly, "Ever since my first year, I had heard about a first year regular at Hyotei. Since then, I've always wanted to play against you."

These words crushed him. At that time, Atobe wanted nothing more than to run to the other side of the earth just to be as far away from Tezuka as possible. Closing his eyes abruptly with furrowed brows, Atobe took a hasty step in the opposite direction. But before he could get far, Tezuka captured his wrist.

"Go back to Seigaku," Atobe muttered harshly, pretending his heart did not clench when Tezuka's grasp on his wrist tightened. "It's a bad habit for the captain to be skipping out."

"Fuji is covering for me," Tezuka replied, although he could have chose not to. His words easily penetrated Atobe and perturbed the other boy thoroughly.

"He's quite good to you, isn't he?" Atobe asked coldly after a moment's silence. He was consumed by hatred, although he was not quite sure whether it was hatred for Tezuka or Fuji.

"It's good to have reliable friends."

At that moment, three years of pent up obsession and longing overflowed. With a gentle tug, Tezuka pulled Atobe back to face him. The countless days spent fantasizing of the moment finally came to be realized. Atobe could finally capture Tezuka's lips hungrily, yet even so, his heart and soul ached worse than when he had been longing for the moment.

The abrupt booming of his name across the tennis courts, made Atobe instantly separate himself from a still indifferent Tezuka. His ears quirked when he heard the familiar sound of Sakaki angrily calling his name, but his frosted blue eyes could not be drawn from Tezuka's unchanging expression. Eyes narrowing, Atobe felt his heart wrench before shriveling and dying in blackness.

Even if he had not completely meant it, Atobe stated firmly, "I hate you."

The sky had shattered, and pieces were falling to pierce his soul.

Again, Sakaki hollered his name angrily from across the courts, and Atobe turned swiftly on his heels to make his way towards the call. He barely had a moment to pause and or think when Tezuka pulled him back by the wrist again and kissed him delicately and chastely on the lips, different from the raw passion Atobe had exhibited, but explosive in emotion.

Their eyes connected once again, and Tezuka's grip never loosened. Atobe was the first to close his eyes and pull his wrist from Tezuka's grasp. Without another word, he made his way slowly towards Sakaki, heart silently wailing in pain and desperation. Even as he walked away, he could feel Tezuka's piercing stare on the back of his head.

To keep himself from shaking violently, Atobe squeezed his eyes shut and quickened his pace. The longer he stayed, the more he felt his heart and soul dying. He continued to walk blindly until he felt Sakaki's cold grip upon his shoulder again. Although far away, Atobe could still feel Tezuka's gaze, and the more he felt it, the more he wanted to die.

This time was far different from any other. Every time Sakaki touched him, Atobe was react violently: gasping, straining, even when pain engulfed him. He had never done it before, but this time, he leaned forward and grasp tightly onto the man before him. His body felt his teacher's skin melting into his, but his mind saw Tezuka before him, holding him gently despite the pain. And when the pain finally ended, the name he called out softly was "Tezuka."

Again for the first time, Atobe was the first to rise, buttoning up his shirt with care but in the shadow of a dark gaze. Slowly, he made his way towards the blinded windows and released the blinds. As light swiftly engulfed the room, making Sakaki squint, Atobe closed his eyes.

"This was the last time," he stated firmly.

Glaring, Sakaki replied, "You'll fail without my help."

"No," Atobe replied, sunlight peeking through his long lashes as he remembered Tezuka with his outstretched arm ready for a handshake after their long awaited match.
"I'll relearn to fly."

Owari.

--- --- ---

A/N:
Oh my god. x.x; That took forever and the next year to write and finish. Quite possibly because this is not exactly a pairing I'm quite fond of, so I was paranoid about characterizing, wording, and other stupid stuff like that. I'm also terribly cruel to Atobe. I feel guilty. Eep. First AtobexTezuka attempt, after all… e.eV Well, it was for a friend, so all's well (even if, again, I hate my own work).
I hate the ending though. I should be kicked and buried for that one. Ugh.

Thanks anyway for reading! You're all very appreciated. :D