Disclaimer: Of course the characters herein are not mine and I make no money from this.
A/N: This fanfiction was written for Pillar Challenge #15 'Quarrel'
Golden Eyes Green
Ryoma felt exceedingly uncomfortable as he made his way through the hospital, a bunch of flowers – roses – clutched in his sweaty palm. They hadn't been his idea. They'd been Fuji's: a pre-planned assault. The prodigy had already bought the bouquet before practice and forced it into Ryoma's hands before he could leave. Then, as if reading his mind, he had insisted on giving him a lift to the hospital in Yumiko's car so Ryoma had no option to ditch the flowers en route. What was Tezuka going to do with roses, really! He was being released today!
That was a fact Ryoma had been looking forward to all week. Tezuka had already promised to come to Ryoma's house and play tennis this evening, but Ryoma wanted to come and meet him anyway. He needed to be sure that there was no change of plan…
His heart has stopped when Tezuka had gone over on his ankle during the last match against Hyotei. High school level they might now be, but more maturity hadn't prevented both Atobe and Tezuka ending up in hospital. Atobe had done something to his arm not long after Tezuka had signalled a desire to continue play despite his stumble. It was only with Atobe's injury that they'd both defaulted. Ryoma hadn't heard anything more about Atobe since then. If he was honest he didn't care either, and that was in no small part jealousy over the way Atobe continued to flirt with Tezuka. Even though it was clear Tezuka was taken.
As near as the younger boy could make out, Tezuka lived to torment Ryoma. All of the last week, the duration of Tezuka's confinement to the hospital, Tezuka had denied him even the most chaste of kisses. It had been torture. He wasn't even allowed to call him 'Kunimitsu' in the hospital. It wasn't something Ryoma minded furiously in principle; he appreciated that abstaining would earn both of them less hassle. It was just annoying how anal Tezuka was being about it. Ryoma couldn't even hold his hand! And it was hardly as if their relationship was based on stimulating conversation. Ryoma had spent his last visit staring at the wall while Tezuka admired the ceiling.
Nevertheless, he was back, again. He nodded politely to the nurses and orderlies who recognised him from his routine traipse through the corridors. He pretended not to hear the titters behind his back. No, he thought, he was really not 'so cute' to be bringing his captain flowers. Damn Fuji. Maybe it wasn't too late to dump the roses in the trash, except… some of Tezuka's nurses had seen him with them now, and if Tezuka heard about them without actually receiving them it might be bad…
Steeling himself for one of Tezuka's most disbelieving looks, he knocked on the door to the captain's private room. He was disgusted to notice that hand was just as sweaty as the one clutching the flowers, and his knuckles stung from knocking too sharply.
Flexing his fingers once, Ryoma glanced around the sterile white hallway uncertainly. There were no longer any doctors or nurses in sight, however, so when Tezuka failed to respond to his second knock he grasped the handle and pushed the door open.
No one home.
For a long moment he thought he might have missed him, his hand tightening about the flowers until the stems ground together and a stray thorn pierced the paper to cut his forefinger. He stared at it dumbly until the sting kicked in and reality allowed him to notice the little things. Tezuka's glasses case was still on the night stand. The older boy still had to be in the hospital somewhere, even if the bed had been made up to perfection. Ryoma turned on his heel and left.
Sucking on his injured digit, he approached the desk at the end of the corridor. He removed it from his mouth before speaking though, tugging his cap down. He wanted neither eye contact – he'd been told he had a disrespectful look – nor muffled words to impede the speed of the imminent exchange, "Excuse me?"
There was a long moment of silence during which he glanced back towards Tezuka's empty room, shifting the roses behind his back. From the corner of his eye he saw the nurse get out of her seat in order to see him over the desk and he felt his cheeks burn. He was so glad no one else was here to see that.
"Ah, how may I help you, young man?"
Ryoma shifted the flowers behind his back uncomfortably. He suspected she thought he was still only twelve or something, not fifteen. "I'm looking for Tezuka Kunimitsu, please. His room's empty."
"Oh. Oh, I remember, yes, he's visiting Atobe Keigo, I believe."
Ryoma froze. That was the last thing he'd been expecting to hear, especially as Tezuka knew how he felt about Atobe. Then he reminded himself that he could trust Tezuka, even if he couldn't trust Atobe. It was just the idea of them together… He'd not even known Atobe was still in the hospital. He hated it, hated the way Atobe could make his blood boil so easily. Sometimes he wished Tezuka had lied to him when he'd asked if Atobe was pursuing him. If Tezuka didn't acknowledge the fact he knew of Atobe's attraction, maybe it would make his continued association with the hyotei captain less… frustrating.
Swallowing back his annoyance, mouth tightened in an angry line, he couldn't help the huff that escaped anyway, "Che, where is that? Please?"
The 'please' was somewhat belatedly tacked on and he could see he'd offended the nurse in the way her eyes narrowed and her mouth tightened like his own.
"Sorry." He muttered it, but it was sincere. He couldn't let Atobe get him in trouble just by existing or the older boy would already have won. Every time Ryoma appeared childish Atobe liked to use it to suggest he was too young for Tezuka, which usually made Tezuka all concerned and moral for a time. That meant disaster – no making out.
The nurse seemed to accept his apology after a moment. She did hum disapprovingly at him, but she was no longer glaring as she ran her finger down the room lists, "Down the hallway, room 13."
"Thank you." It was out of his mouth and he'd turned in the direction indicated before he remembered the flowers he'd been concealing behind his back. The 'awww' that emerged from behind him made him wish he'd been ruder. Yanking his cap down violently, he glared at the corridor ahead of him, "Damnit, Fuji-senpai!"
He was just shy of stomping down the corridor, but only because he knew it'd make him seem childish, and appearing childish in front of Atobe really did lead to a general lack of illicit Tezuka-full embraces. He wasn't going to put up with that for longer than it took to get Tezuka out the hospital, even if it involved forcefully dragging him out and pinning him to the wall behind the waste disposal bins. Ryoma was feeling so deprived that he wouldn't give two yen about the smell.
Returning his finger to his mouth to lap up the welling blood as he walked, he drew calming breaths. He just had to keep his big mouth under control. For some reason Tezuka counted Atobe as some kind of friend. Ryoma being rude would only upset Tezuka, however well grounded Ryoma felt his behaviour to be since Atobe kept hitting on his boyfriend. Upset Tezuka would also lead to a lack of illicit Tezuka-full embraces so that was very bad.
It was like walking through a mine-field, this dating business.
And as if it hadn't been a big enough problem before, what was he going to do with roses with Atobe there! Maybe Atobe and Fuji were plotting together against him. Well, he'd just have to deal with it. He had flowers, and he had Tezuka, whatever Atobe liked to think, and he was just going to go and give his flowers to Tezuka anyway. Preferably without wearing the expression of horror that had just crept onto his face at the mere thought of it.
Rapping his knuckles against the doorframe, he didn't wait for an invitation. Tezuka was already with him so Atobe was hardly likely to be in any kind of compromising situation. Or so he'd thought. That turned out to be an incorrect assessment.
In the time it took for Atobe to notice him, eyes widening in surprise and guilt, Ryoma had already taken in his and Tezuka's clasped hands. They were resting innocently on the pristine bedspread over the hyotei captain's thigh. It was strange to see Tezuka's fingers braided with anyone else's. His skin had always seemed pale in comparison to Ryoma's, but with Atobe's there was more similarity. Tezuka's even looked a shade darker, but then Tezuka didn't have a butler with a parasol following him around.
Annoyingly, Ryoma's most prominent thought was that Tezuka hadn't been willing to hold his hand all week. His boyfriend hadn't even noticed him yet, his back being towards the door. It was unlike Tezuka to be so careless. Ryoma could never get him to be that careless. Ryoma couldn't even call him 'Kunimitsu' in the hospital.
The bouquet slipped from his suddenly numb fingers, the red rose heads bouncing upon the floor, a shower of petals tumbling over each other. It felt like the fall took hours as Ryoma looked on, like a film on slow. Sometimes having such good eyesight was a curse off the courts as well as on, it meant you saw things you really wished you hadn't. But Atobe and Tezuka's hands hadn't been moving as fast as Sanada's invisible swing. There was no reason Ryoma's eyes should be watering. He'd barely glanced for a second, no time to be tired.
When he looked up again, Tezuka had seen him. The only thing that surprised him Atobe's lack of commentary as Tezuka wrenched his hand away and rose from his seat was surprising. Shouldn't Atobe be telling Ryoma what a naïve idiot he'd been by now? That Tezuka had come to his senses and accepted what a real lover could offer? He refused to cry, he decided in that moment. It hadn't meant anything to Tezuka if he'd moved on to Atobe Keigo. It wouldn't mean anything to Ryoma either.
Shaking his head as he met Tezuka's eyes, he turned away and walked back out, tugging his cap down. It was hard, but he'd leave first. He wasn't going to shout, to yell, to have it explained to him how it just wasn't working but couldn't they still be friends? Play tennis? He'd heard enough of that sort of rubbish in the changing room as Kikumaru talked about the previous night's soaps. So he walked away, steps measured and precise. Measured and precise like when Tezuka played tennis, when he looked truly beautiful on the court. Fuck, it hurt. Ryoma wasn't sure who he was talking to as the words escaped, "Mada mada dane."
Tezuka sounded removed when he first spoke, as though Ryoma was hearing him from inside a bubble. That was silly though, because Tezuka's footsteps were hurried and he must be catching up with Ryoma's shorter legs easily, "Ryoma, it's not what you think."
No, Ryoma thought, it's exactly what I think. He could remember Atobe looking guilty. Not smirking, not smug, not just meanly sabotaging their next few make out sessions for his sadistic satisfaction. No, he looked guilty, because he'd broken them up entirely and Atobe had a big enough slither of honour that he wouldn't have wanted Ryoma finding out that way. If only because he respected Ryoma's tennis.
That elicited a short bark of humourless laughter. If all else fails, use the captain-voice. That was Tezuka all over. Ryoma didn't feel like obeying right now though, he felt like getting the hell out of the hospital and challenging his stupid old man to a game while he worked off his anger.
"Ryoma," Tezuka's hand clamped down on his shoulder, halting him not far from the door, not far from his escape, "Stop being childish."
"Stop being childish!" He knew he sounded incredulous as he echoed Tezuka, but he wasn't feeling calm anymore. All that effort he'd been trying to put in and Tezuka was going to throw that in his face? He didn't even think about what he was doing, didn't realise until the pain exploded in his hand and he saw Tezuka reeling backwards from the blow, clutching his cheek, "Fuck you, you asshole."
Then he turned and ran.
Ryoma had considered not going to practice the next day. Hiding would have been easier. He could predict with certainty that every last member of the team, even Momoshiro, would guess something was wrong before they were even out on the court. Tennis meant more than hurt feelings though. And Ryoma had never let fear of anything rule him.
He felt removed from the others when he entered the club house after school. They were all bubbling with excited anticipation that Tezuka was due back, expecting to witness a return match on par with his greeting for Fuji after Germany no doubt. Ryoma had heard them muttering about it and he almost hoped it did happen because he'd never seen that match. Then he remembered how much he loved to watch Tezuka on the court, and how much it made him want to pounce him there and then, and how much he was meant to hate Tezuka right now. So he stopped. But it didn't change how the others felt. Mass anxiety was taking hold as Tezuka failed to show up.
He briefly wondered if Tezuka was hiding, but that wasn't like Tezuka at all. Ryoma was disgruntled and his thoughts uncharitable as he eyed Kikumaru. The acrobat was vibrating in place, literally. Che, Tezuka'd only been away for a week. Not even really injured, nothing more serious than observation to make sure there was really no residual ankle-strain after everything else he'd gone through.
"Nyah, ochibi, how is he?" One deceptively slender arm wound around his neck from behind, its partner in crime descending claw like upon his exposed locks to indulge in extensive mussing and a noogie, "Did you wear him out last night? Is that why he's late?"
That was one thing Ryoma hated about changing before practice. He couldn't change with his cap on, and either Kikumaru or Momo would always take advantage of the fact. Ryoma blamed Tezuka for it this time though. If it weren't for Tezuka, he would have been paying attention. The red-head could never have sneaked up on him if he hadn't been staring right through him thinking about the captain.
"Let go, Kikumaru-senpai! I have no idea why he's late. He was fine when I left the hospital." He batted the intrusive hands away, scowling. The lie tasted stale on his lips. Tezuka clutching his cheek in pain was not fine. The wounded look in those perfect brown eyes had haunted Ryoma's dreams last night, the lack of sleep adding to his ill temper this morning. The influence had just accumulated throughout the day and he hated it. He didn't want to feel guilty when it was Tezuka who had cheated.
His words had had the side effect of silencing the room, of halting Oishi's reproval of his boyfriend mid-stutter and of stunning Kikumaru enough that Ryoma could break free of the red-head's hold and begin to change. He didn't want to be last and assigned laps when Tezuka did show up. He knew he wouldn't be able to accept them in a graceful or professional way.
"Hey Echizen!" Momo was the first to break the silence. His voice seemed so loud in such a small space. Ryoma could feel all their eyes on him as the words came, even Fuji's and Fuji looking was petrifying. Not remotely jovial as when he'd given Ryoma the roses. Ryoma wished they'd stop, but Momoshiro's question sliced through his desire not to hear with complete disregard for the fact, "What d'you mean at the hospital? I thought you guys were busy last night, the whole reason we didn't have a party."
"There was a change of plan." It sounded simple like that. But in his head he thought, more like a change of person. He just wasn't going to tell them that. Everyone in this room right now admired and respected Tezuka. It was their captain who was Seigaku's true pillar of support, however much Ryoma may have assumed the mantle during his time in the USA. In the not too distant future Tezuka was going to come in with a bruised face if Ryoma's estimates were close to accurate. It was better if they all believed their fallen hero had sunken lower than their captain be tarnished.
It wasn't like that really. They all understood he'd returned to Japan to finish his schooling after the US Open. He'd done well, phenomenally so for his age, but he hadn't won so he'd brought his experience home. Nobody regarded him as having let them down, but it was easy to feel that way right now. He had to have done something wrong, didn't he?
"Is everything ok, Echizen?" Oishi's hand rested warmly on his shoulder, his concern palpable. Oishi had been Tezuka's best friend since the first year of middle school though. He wouldn't take Ryoma's side, even if he made his case early.
"It's fine Oishi-senpai. There was just a change of plan." Change of person. Ryoma shrugged the hand away and pulled on his tee, returning his cap to his head before anyone else tried to assault him or his hair. He could still feel their eyes boring into his back. He could still feel the guilt squirming in his belly when it wasn't even his fault. He shouldn't have come.
Then the door of the club house swung open behind him and it was too late to escape.
"Tezuka!" There was a chorus of such greetings but it was Oishi's that was loud in his ear; mockingly so, though it was never intended as such. The vice-captain's voice was softened with his ever prevalent concern as his presence receded from his station behind Ryoma, "Is everything really ok?"
"Yes." No explanation or elaboration. So very Tezuka. Ryoma wondered if the captain had looked to him yet, wondered how many were questioning the fact he didn't approach. They shouldn't, he and Tezuka had never acted like a couple in club time. But he wanted Tezuka to be looking at him. Tezuka only ever cared about tennis here though, "Why aren't you all on the courts?"
"We—" Oishi was cut off abruptly by Momoshiro. Ryoma would've put money on it being he or Horio, he was almost glad it was Momoshiro, "Tezuka-buchou! What happened to your face!"
Ryoma didn't look up, folding the last of his school uniform neatly. A movement to his side did catch his eye though, and he glanced over instinctively to find Fuji's intense blue gaze zeroed in on him. He turned away again. It was as much of an acknowledgement of guilt as Fuji would need, but he didn't care. Tezuka would stop any reprisals if he had any decency, and if he didn't then Ryoma deserved it for being too naïve.
Ryoma fisted his hand in the shirt he'd just finished smoothing without considering his actions. Of course, he had known Tezuka would never begin a practice with the announcement of his and Ryoma's break up. Ryoma'd expected something more honest if Tezuka was actually going to answer about his face though. Tezuka had always held honesty as so vitally important. Then again, who knew how long he'd lied about Atobe?
Slowly Ryoma turned to look at him, startled to see the extent of the discolouration to his boyfriend's skin. Ex-boyfriend. He'd done that. The realisation smacked into him with the force of the retaliation Tezuka never gave. It didn't matter what Tezuka had done, he should never have hit him. It had cut Ryoma deeply when Tezuka had struck him before the Goodwill games three years ago, and now he had returned the favour. Tezuka had done wrong, but two wrongs didn't make it right.
"Twenty laps. Warm up everyone."
Ryoma didn't move. He stood watching at his captain silently as the stares he could feel piercing him tore themselves away and players shuffled from the club house to begin. Ryoma's guilt was tangible, visible in his eyes. Whatever Tezuka said about an accident, they all knew. They all knew and their knowing gazes were flitting between their unmoving captain and freshman regular as they left to gossip and share their revelations. As if they could possibly understand.
"Tezuka?" Fuji was last to go, pausing in the doorway to glance between them. Ryoma couldn't tell if he was curious or concerned. Perhaps Fuji thought Ryoma might furiously attack Tezuka, covering him with more bruises if they were gifted a moment alone.
"It's fine, Fuji. Run your laps." Tezuka's gaze was on Ryoma, had been on Ryoma the whole time. Tezuka was breaking his own rule. It was so blatantly a couple dispute that the scene ought to have been played out by Oishi and Kikumaru to Ryoma's mind. The Golden Pair never fought though. No couple on the team ever had before Tezuka and Ryoma, and certainly none had split up like this. Lucky them, to have such an infamous first under their belts. Briefly he felt Fuji's scrutiny again. He shied from it.
And then they were alone and Ryoma could tell that Tezuka was waiting for him to speak, that Tezuka didn't know how to start. As if Ryoma had any motivation to help him out of this hole. He just couldn't believe it was with Atobe, after all that had been said between them about the hyotei captain… How could Tezuka not feel guilty for asking Ryoma to make nice with the guy he'd been cheating with? Didn't he have every right to hold a grudge over such a complete slap in the face?
It was hard, hard not to relent when Tezuka looked at him like that. Oh, his face was impassive as always, but his eyes… his beautiful eyes that could look at Ryoma with such warmth, they were pleading. Tezuka never begged, never ever, but he had a way of looking at Ryoma on the entreating side of asking that would make Ryoma do anything his captain desired. Not this time, "Mada mada dane, buchou."
Tezuka closed his eyes briefly. It reminded Ryoma of how he looked when he was sleeping, except that he never frowned when he was sleeping. The moment seemed to last for eternity, taunting Ryoma with a vision he wouldn't see again. Then, with a curt nod, Tezuka turned toward the door. His eyes weren't asking anything anymore, they were defeated.
And abruptly Ryoma had to stop him, had to prevent him leaving again, turning away from him once more, "Buchou!"
Tezuka stopped, his hand frozen on the door handle. He didn't look at Ryoma though, just waited silently for whatever was coming. Ryoma almost wished he could see his face, see what emotions he was feeling. Was he hoping for something? Was he nervous?
"I'm sorry!" It was more emphatic than Ryoma had wanted. As Tezuka started to turn towards him, his mind screamed at him that he shouldn't just apologise like that, so generally, that it was Tezuka who ought to be saying it, not him. Weakly, he clarified, "I'm sorry I hit you."
Tezuka stopped again, his gaze flickering to Ryoma's with what looked like disappointment and Ryoma couldn't understand that. But before he could ask, Tezuka simply nodded shortly and let himself out of the club house.
Ryoma wasn't sure why it ought to hurt that Tezuka didn't even tell him to hurry up.
The drawled command from within was explicit but for some reason Ryoma didn't find himself moving. In truth he was beginning to question why he'd come here at all. Wasn't it the perpetrator that returned to the scene of the crime and not the victim? Yet here he was, one long and intolerable week later, standing outside Atobe Keigo's private room, number 13.
Tezuka had as good as avoided him at each and every practice. He never spoke to Ryoma directly. If Ryoma was to play someone then Tezuka told the person he was going to play, not Ryoma himself. He was fed up of 'Kawamura, with Echizen', 'Momoshiro, with Echizen', 'Kikumaru, with Echizen' and so on. He was even more fed up of the looks he kept receiving from the club members, freshman through to senior, none of them could refrain. If it wasn't pitying, it was accusing, blatant curiosity or badly feigned disinterest… They really amounted to the same thing. Everyone kept looking at him, everyone except Tezuka. In Tezuka's world, Echizen Ryoma had apparently ceased to exist.
That had brought him here. If Tezuka wasn't recognising him anymore, he'd have to find some form of closure from another source. He was reasonably sure he could rely on the hyotei captain to be brutally frank. Drawing a steadying breath, he raised his hand again and pushed the door open to step inside.
He wasn't expecting to see the bed empty, but it took barely a moment to locate Atobe at the window. The older boy was stood with his back to the door, looking outwards. A pale blue shirt and white jeans made him almost look normal, except that even casually attired, Atobe Keigo had style. Ryoma had to give him credit, Atobe didn't look back to see who had taken so long to come in and still wasn't speaking now. Part of Ryoma, the part that wanted to throw things or run and hit him, thought Atobe was over-confident to the point of idiocy. The rational part knew he wasn't that childish, not even around the hyotei captain, and that Atobe could get away with it because he was Atobe. It was an unwritten law.
"Atobe." Not a greeting, just a simple acknowledgement. Ryoma was proud of his neutral tone. He didn't move further into the room though, he'd wait to see if Atobe was going to demand his immediate departure. Ryoma had no rights to stay and force Atobe to see him after all, much as he might have wished it.
There was only silence in response for a long moment. Ryoma watched as Atobe's hands withdrew from the windowsill, the older boy folding his arms. It tugged his shirt tighter across his leanly muscled back, but Ryoma didn't want to notice that. Ryoma wanted to fancy that there was tension in Atobe's posture, in his shoulders. In truth, he did get the distinct impression Atobe Keigo did not want Echizen Ryoma in his room at all. It made him all the more determined to stay as Atobe finally spoke, "Echizen. I do not know that I have the time for you."
"Cut the crap, Atobe." Ryoma moved further inside, pushing the door to behind him without glancing back. He was reluctant to let Atobe out of his sight for some reason, which was ridiculous because the hyotei captain could hardly fly out the window. He didn't question how he knew Atobe hadn't meant for him to really leave. He didn't have the kind of friendship with the boy that they should be on the same wave-length, or whatever other explanation one might offer. He didn't think tennis came into this, "You don't have a crowd to perform to here."
Pale fingers flexed, digging into the light material covering Atobe's upper arms, but Ryoma could detect no other movement and he'd only caught that because his eyesight was so good. It drew his attention to the faint shadow of bandages beneath Atobe's clothes, making him question why the elder boy was still in the hospital. Atobe's words cut through his thoughts, the glamour gone in favour of getting down to business, "What do you want, Echizen?"
"Why are you still here?" It wasn't what he'd meant to ask at all and Ryoma suspected Atobe knew that. Tennis still came first though, and the curiosity as to why such a challenging rival was still out of action overrode his hatred in those seconds. He found himself moving closer to the older boy, further into enemy territory as he reached the foot of the bed. It wasn't the same clinical white as Tezuka's had been, he noticed, it was opulent with Atobe wealth. Ryoma supposed that since Atobe evidently wasn't dying, it didn't matter to keep the bed unimpeded. Then again, it was unlikely Atobe did consider the bed very opulent since it wasn't a queen-size four-poster.
"Not that it's any of your business, brat, but they're deciding whether or not there's any point in sending me to Germany." Drawled with the same mocking confidence Atobe always employed, even when talking about the weather. It took a long moment before it sunk in precisely what that meant, and when it did Ryoma just stared with wide-eyed horror at the older boy. He wanted to say something but his throat wouldn't co-operate, his mouth wouldn't work, his lips wouldn't move. And, really, what words were there? Tennis meant as much to Atobe as to Ryoma, he was almost sure, and he couldn't imagine facing that at all. How the hell was Atobe so damned calm about it?
Watching the taut back, the whitened fingers digging into upper arms, the very strict stiffness of posture… Ryoma realised the hyotei captain wasn't calm at all, he was teetering. Maybe, just maybe, he could forgive Tezuka for… comforting Atobe in that case. Atobe didn't need that right now though, he'd need Ryoma to behave the way Ryoma should be expected to in any other circumstance. Ryoma respected Atobe's tennis enough to tell him straight as he moved those last steps to stand behind him, "I still hate you."
Ryoma couldn't see Atobe's face to know what he was thinking, but he noted the boy's head tilt, a glance down, and his arm muscles flex as he adjusted his grip. Ryoma didn't know what that meant though. The last thing he expected to see when Atobe turned to face him was a faintly bitter smile, "Yes, I guess you do."
It was only when the warmth of Atobe's breath brushed his forehead that Ryoma realised quite how close to Atobe he'd gotten. He didn't know where to look anymore. Atobe's throat, framed pale and unblemished in the open neck of his shirt. Atobe's lips, pinker up close, parted and damp as they curved in that sour smile. Atobe's mole – beauty spot – feminine, delicate, misleading. Atobe's eyes… This close the dark gunmetal, storming grey from a distance, held hints of ocean blue, hints of something unreadable. Or maybe simply something Ryoma didn't wish to read, didn't wish to admit; want.
Atobe Keigo wanted him.
And Ryoma, right then, wanted Atobe Keigo. It was nothing to bring his hand to the back of the hyotei captain's neck and pull him down, Ryoma rising up on his tiptoes to press their lips together. At first, Atobe didn't respond, remaining rigid long enough Ryoma almost realised what he'd done. Then Atobe moved, his arms jerking apart, the back of a hand bumping against Ryoma's chest as it withdrew, encircling Ryoma's waist instead.
In a split second he'd been tugged flush against Atobe, his cap knocked away carelessly, one hand splayed and pressing at the small of his back, the other gliding to the nape of his neck. Lips pressed to his moved, parted, a querying tongue that he welcomed. It was messy and wet and their teeth bumped together, but then Atobe slanted their mouths the right way and it was good. It was perfect. Atobe tasted clean, of mint like he hadn't long brushed his teeth, and so much else beside. Ryoma found himself trying to learn it all, memorise it all, his fervour pushing Atobe back a pace before he reasserted his control.
With Atobe in charge, Ryoma didn't have to think anymore. The elder boy was fire burning him, branding him, sucking his tongue and nipping his lips and delving back for more. Ryoma was breathless, too off balance to care that the hand at his neck had tangled in his hair and begun to pull. To dizzy to fully acknowledge when eventually his head was jerked back and Atobe's mouth descended on his throat, Atobe's hand slid to his arse, Atobe's hips pressed to his, Atobe's… "Oh."
And then Ryoma remembered and he shoved Atobe away, stumbling unsteadily until he reached the bed. There he stood, chest heaving as he leant against the edge, looking anywhere but Atobe. Atobe's flushed face, Tezuka, Atobe's glistening lips, Tezuka, Atobe's burning eyes, Tezuka, Atobe's hardness, Tezuka… His hand came up to his neck where the hyotei captain's mouth had lingered in that last moment. He wondered if there was a mark, wondered if he looked as shocked as he felt. Tezuka…
A firm hand wrapping around his wrist and dragging it forcibly away from his throat brought him back to the present. His panicked gaze darted to Atobe's, irked to see the elder boy looking so collected again so soon when Ryoma was still panting, "There's no mark."
"Aa…" A dumb murmur of distraction as he looked away from Atobe's eyes before he gave in again. Where was his cap? This wasn't what he came here for at all. He had to leave before it got worse. Except Ryoma was at a loss as to how much worse it got than kissing your ex-boyfriend's current boyfriend, particularly your ex-boyfriend who you'd hit for holding hands with this now current one just last week. Che, he was such an idiot, such a ludicrous hypocrite.
"There's nothing going on between Tezuka and I. There never has been." Golden eyes stared at Atobe with blank incomprehension at first, cap forgotten. Then he realised what that meant and he couldn't believe it. He'd seen them! He'd seen them holding hands. He'd seen Atobe's guilt. But, his mind whispered, Tezuka had never looked guilty, not once since it had happened. Shouldn't it be Tezuka he judged and trusted? Had he really been so stupid over all this?
The lost hat appeared in his line of vision, held pointedly until Atobe got tired of waiting for him to take it and jerked it down on his head for him. That hurt. It caught his hair and pulled and wrenched strands out. There was nothing gentle about Atobe Keigo. Not like Tezuka. His captain was always so quiet, so expressionless, but when he touched Ryoma it didn't matter because he just knew how Tezuka felt about him and that was always more than enough for them. And Ryoma had just spat on that if there was any truth to Atobe's words.
"Tezuka was offering me… comfort." Atobe sounded awkward just admitting to being offered it, never mind the inference he'd needed it. If it hadn't been so serious, Ryoma might have laughed. Perhaps later he might be able to do so. For now he watched from the corner of his eye as Atobe crossed his arms across his chest again, the same faint tension he'd held at the window upon Ryoma's arrival, "He wouldn't do that to you."
"No." Broken and hollow, but it wasn't a denial. It was an agreement. Ryoma should have realised sooner, should have known better. Tezuka would never have done that to anyone, even if he no longer wanted to be with them. Ryoma had let his jealousy blind him and he'd probably lost Kunimitsu for it. It served him right if he had.
"Neither would I." Ryoma looked up to be greeted by a smirk, it even reached Atobe's eyes. But that faint and foreign tension was still in Atobe's arms and he'd remember it later, even if the words drawled made him want to strike out physically here and now, "I have no need to steal boyfriends, as you now understand."
Ryoma wanted to say that he didn't understand at all, that Atobe was full of himself. But it had already been contradicted by his actions; the way Atobe's proximity had drawn him in and made him do the unthinkable. At a loss, he tugged the bill of his cap down and rose from his perch, "Che. I'm leaving."
Atobe stepped obligingly out of his way. By the time he reached the door he almost believed the older boy would let it go at that, but he knew better. As the words drifted from behind him, he could only sigh and be irritated that none of that had gone as he'd wanted, "Close the door behind you."
Ryoma knew Atobe didn't want him to leave though. It made it easy to retort, "Mada mada dane."
"Mada mada dane." Ryoma pulled the door to with a snick, his gaze lingering on Atobe's name where it had been scrawled on the card beside the door. He still detested him. Turning away, he had even taken a step before he froze, eyes widening, his voice a gasp of shock, "Buchou."
Surely he should have expected that he'd run into Tezuka at the hospital, especially since until a few moments ago he'd remained convinced that Tezuka was seeing Atobe. Ryoma hadn't expected it though, so the sight of Tezuka standing across the corridor from him took him by surprise.
"Echizen." Tezuka was casual in a light weight black pullover and blue jeans. He was also forbidding; his arms crossed over his chest with none of Atobe's feigned laziness. But what made Ryoma's heart lurch in his chest was still Tezuka's eyes, now guardedly curious behind his lenses. Ryoma wanted to cross to him and touch him, to run his fingers through wind tousled hair and clutch Tezuka closer as he kissed away the stern line that held his lips. He wanted to leave a mark on the pale column of Tezuka's neck as Atobe almost had on him. He wanted Tezuka to be his again.
Involuntarily his gaze went to Tezuka's cheek. The bruising had faded.
"Buchou." He repeated, now a greeting. He wanted to say 'Kunimitsu', but he hadn't the right. Ryoma could only be pleased his voice sounded firmer now. Crossing the corridor, closing the distance between them, he looked up at Tezuka. He'd never felt uncertain around his captain before, but now he did. Now he was guilty and he didn't know what to say. "I kissed Atobe."
"In here." It was almost as if Tezuka hadn't heard him, reaching out to open the closest door and waving Ryoma inside. A vacated private room was revealed as he entered. Ryoma hadn't thought they could appear anymore sterile than Tezuka's had, but Tezuka must have made some impression because this was just barren. The bed was made up, the compulsory but unneeded jade blanket doing little to mitigate the bareness. Nothing on any surface, everything gleaming… He felt awkward enough already, and now this. If he hadn't been so agitated he might have said the view was nice. He'd been staring blankly through the window for long moments when he felt Tezuka at his back and twisted round to blurt out his confession a second time, "I kissed him."
There was no need to say who this time. As Tezuka's hand rose, Ryoma experienced a fleeting moment of panic. They hadn't been the words he'd meant to say outside, but he'd had no option but to repeat them after they'd been said once. In that split instance it had looked as though Tezuka was going to hit him. Except Tezuka wouldn't and didn't do that. His hand settled on Ryoma's shoulder instead, the tip of his thumb touching Ryoma's throat and sending a small thrill through him. Tezuka's voice was neutral as he spoke, "And Atobe kissed you."
For a ludicrous moment Ryoma thought he meant he'd seen them. Then he realised where Tezuka was touching him. He could feel the heat of a blush creeping across his skin. It complimented the flare of furious annoyance at Atobe misleading him. His voice sounded weak again in his ears, "He said there wasn't a mark."
One brow quirked curiously and Ryoma was baffled. Tezuka had spent the week avoiding him, had seemed to confirm Ryoma's every belief through his silence, yet he was apparently innocent. And now, with Ryoma standing before him, confessing to being kissed by another boy, marked by another boy, he still wasn't angry. He still seemed like he was patiently waiting for Ryoma… And Ryoma had no idea what he was meant to do. Tezuka's hand was distractingly warm on his neck, "You trust Atobe now?"
"No!" It was an instinctive response as a scowl descended on Ryoma's features. Of course he didn't trust Atobe. The asshole was always trying to steal Tezuka away. But then, "He said there was nothing between you two." He glared defiantly at Tezuka, daring him to say that Atobe had lied there as well. Besides, if Atobe was going to tell the truth about one thing, why ought Ryoma to have questioned him on something else?
"As would I." The soft words drew Ryoma's gaze to Tezuka's mouth, watching his lips move without fully understanding what was said at first. Tezuka's thumb moving in circles over the bite was dulling his senses to anything else until Tezuka's words finally penetrated his brain, "But you wouldn't have believed me."
Ryoma opened his mouth to protest, but snapped it shut again as he realised Tezuka was right. He had only recognised he ought to have trusted Tezuka from the start after Atobe had told him there was nothing going on. After Atobe had said it, not after Tezuka had said it. His heart constricted painfully in his chest and he let himself fall to his knees on the unyielding floor. It felt like three years ago all over again, only now it wasn't begging for tennis, it was begging for Tezuka. And Tezuka was tennis, "I'm so sorry, Kunimitsu."
A warm hand on his cheek forced him to look up. Everything about Tezuka today was warm, even his eyes this time Ryoma reluctantly met them. Tezuka was kneeling in front of him now, keeping their height as equal as it ever was. Ryoma was unable to do anything but meet Tezuka's gaze with his face guided so precisely, "You'll know better in future."
There was utter seriousness in Tezuka's expression but Ryoma barely dared to hope that Tezuka meant they still had a future together. He couldn't be certain, but it was almost like Tezuka was asking if he still wanted one, in Tezuka-speak. But he wasn't sure of anything at the moment. He hated feeling like that. Tezuka had always had the ability to turn his world upside-down. Ryoma expected it was half of why he liked him so much. Half of why his heart was pounding as if he'd just played five sets with the boy before him. Gathering his courage, he decided to leap feet first, replying with the most casual easy grin he could muster, "Yes, buchou."
A small, relieved smile was all Ryoma needed as confirmation he'd not somehow misunderstood the unspoken question. It softened Tezuka's gaze, even behind his lenses, gentled his mouth, and made him seem so much more open and vulnerable. It was something only Ryoma was privileged to see as far as he could tell, "I'm not giving you up just because of this, Ryoma."
And then Tezuka was kissing him and it was nothing like Atobe. Tezuka's hands framed his face, his lips gentle and coaxing against Ryoma's. It was almost teasing, almost chaste. As simple but magical as the soft pressing of mouth upon mouth could be when it meant so much. It was tantalising and not nearly enough as Ryoma rose from his knees to push forward onto Tezuka's lap. He found it gratifying, the way Tezuka's arms immediately moved about him, pulling him close without hesitation. Tezuka was never uncertain about anything. Ryoma supposed he should have known that by now.
Tezuka didn't demand anything with his kisses. He gave. Even once he'd gained entry to Ryoma's mouth it was sweetness and tenderness and giving, This was the difference between a fling and a relationship. However exhilarating Atobe's roughness might have been, Tezuka was so much more. Tezuka would always be there. He was a true pillar of support.
Pressing flush against Tezuka, his fingers threading through the older boy's hair, Ryoma could feel his need building. He wanted more than just kisses, so he rocked his hips against his boyfriend's. He'd forgotten where they were and a low moan was barely muffled in their kiss. Tezuka hadn't forgotten though. He broke away. "Not here."
Even the fact that Tezuka was beginning to look flushed and breathless didn't dissuade Ryoma from pouting. He followed Tezuka's retreat, deepening the renewed kiss further this time. He'd missed this far too much for anything but a lingering reunion. And Tezuka was allowing it, returning it with fervour in the middle of the hospital despite his words. But the captain's hands were unyielding steel bonds on Ryoma's hips. A line was not to be crossed: there would be no more rocking. Breaking away again, Tezuka's tone brooked no room for argument, "Ryoma, tell your parents you're sleeping over tonight."
The words were barely more than puffs of air against Ryoma's lips. They caught him off guard, then they made him grin again, made him nod. His heart was so loud in his chest he was surprised Tezuka couldn't hear it. Stroking his fingers through Tezuka's hair, he moved in for another kiss with a breathy, "Yes, buchou."
Tezuka prevented the kiss. His hand was back at Ryoma's shoulder, thumb pressing against his throat. There was a flicker of something burning in Tezuka's eyes, making the warm brown appear molten and consuming for an instance. It made Ryoma's breath catch in his throat. The reaction the look was inciting from his body was almost frightening in its intensity. Tezuka's voice seemed to be connected to it all directly, decisive and commanding, "There will be no more of this."
It was only as Tezuka's head dipped, his lips fastening on that same spot, covering the mark Atobe had left and sucking harshly that Ryoma realised to what he was referring. Then his eyes rolled back with a whimper and he didn't think anymore, clutching at Tezuka to centre himself. It was more effort than it was worth trying not to grind against Tezuka. He couldn't help it; he needed some way to sate the fire Tezuka was igniting inside him. This wasn't like Tezuka at all. But then Ryoma hadn't cheated on him before.
"We aren't ready for him yet." Ryoma barely heard the rasped words in his ear before he found himself being eased back out of Tezuka's lap so the older boy could unfold gracefully from the floor and offer him a hand up. Ryoma accepted it without thinking about it, staggering a little. He couldn't believe Tezuka was pushing him away now. Expecting him to go home and face his mother and father like this. It was hardly like Tezuka was in any better condition. Well, maybe he looked more composed over all, but his cheeks were flushed, his eyes bright, lips reddened and parted with his panted breaths.
It was only staring at him as he was, that Ryoma realised that perhaps Tezuka had said something as they stood, something he had evidently missed. He couldn't help it if Tezuka did that to him, he was just glad no one else got to see it, "What?"
A faintly amused quirk of Tezuka's lips came in response and Ryoma glared at him. There was no need for Tezuka to find it so funny he could liquidate Ryoma's brain that easily. It was just utterly unfair and hardly as though Ryoma didn't return the favour pretty often. Tezuka was only better at covering it up, and usually benefited from the fact that Ryoma tended to get just as involved in melting Tezuka as Tezuka was in being melted. The only comforting part was the knowledge that Tezuka was willing to show his amusement to him. "I said I promised to visit Atobe; his doctor's due to make a decision today. I'll pick you up from your home after we're done."
Even after everything that had transpired, Ryoma couldn't help feeling a leaden weight settle in his stomach. Tezuka's impassive expression on the subject didn't help. It left Ryoma to guess at all sorts of concealed emotions behind it. Right now he thought Tezuka might be being wary, which made him suspicious. "You do like him, don't you?"
There was silence during which Ryoma half expected Tezuka to avoid the question. Tezuka wasn't like Oishi or Fuji though. He would never pussyfoot around a subject out of awkwardness, or just to raise a person's ire. So it wasn't as surprising as Ryoma had envisioned it could be when Tezuka stated simply, "I do. But I'm with you. You have to trust me."
"Yes, buchou." It was an automatic response.
His golden eyes locked on his boyfriend as Tezuka leant in and kissed the corner of his mouth. He pulled back before Ryoma could deepen it though, touching a finger to Ryoma's parted lips to silence anything he might have said, and stated again, "I'll come around as soon as we're done."
Then Tezuka backed up to the door, only turning away as he went to pass through it. Ryoma appreciated the reassuring gaze lingering on him to the last. It helped when his thoughts were in such turmoil. He was torn between the joy that everything looked like it would be okay, and raving at the potential for disaster across the corridor in room 13.
It was only some time later, when he made a move to go home, that he found he could look on the closed door of Atobe Keigo's private room and say it with certainty: "I do trust you, Kunimitsu."