Adage
By XxMaster-ExX

---

He had come earlier than planned. The meeting was at eight... it was currently six. He watched the cleaners move frantically up and down the stairs, up and down the halls, and up and down the rooms... Atobe was left alone after the woman had finished wiping the desk clean with a old, but clean rag. With slender, agile fingers, the man touched a stiff chair, pulling it out from under the table and placing himself in it. He grabbed his folder and fingered through it slowly, rereading each sheet of white paper and glancing momentarily at the occasional bright pink ones.

Atobe Keigo is currently the CEO of a large company, once owned by his father who decided to pass it onto his son as he wished to retire in old age. He knew his life would someday end up like this, but only hoped it didn't. In his teenage years he was an avid tennis player, and he was quite talented in the sport as well. But it's been five years since he laid a hand on a tennis racket, or picked up the phone to talk to a friend. He didn't have five minutes on the phone without being interrupted by another call from his secretary about stocks. His stocks were fine.

But even if Atobe had a manilla folder in his hand, organized with a stack-full of white paper covered in tiny black ink dots... this meeting wasn't called by him. A neighbor company seemed to have brought in a new so-called 'original invention' but does not have the money to fund it. In order to try and get this idea in motion, they have called other companies to try and make business partners with them. Atobe was frankly not interested... but his secretary has an odd way of persuading the man to join their meeting anyway. (She grabbed a letter opener and held it to his throat...)

It was around 7:40 when the doors opened and other company presidents and representatives began to file in. And it was 8:20 when the meeting was finally put into motion. A skinny man with oily skin went up to the podium and opened up a binder where Atobe could spot transparencies and charts placed neatly inside the flaps, "Good morning, I thank you all for coming today. My company has called you all in today to introduce to you something that will change your everyday lives! Our representative will come up to tell you about our new invention," the man made a curt hand motion to a man at the edge of the table, "Where is he?" Atobe could hear him faintly whisper. The man shook his head grimly, "I'm sorry, but he's late again."

The skinny man looked like he was about to burst a blood vessel as his face with a strange shade of purple, "What!" he hissed and glared at the clock on the wall, "I knew he was going to be late that's why I delayed the meeting...! That irresponsible little--"

Just as the man was about to swear some kind of obscenity, the door behind him opened with a loud clamor followed by a breathless, "I was helping a pregnant lady get to the hospital, sorry I'm late." The man ran forward and gripped the newcomer on the shoulder and pushed him up to the podium, "It doesn't matter right now, just--just--do your job..!" The man stumbled and took a second to regain posture. He was a young one, tall and lean with a good form. He climbed onto the steps and positioned the microphone upward towards his mouth, "Good morning ladies and gentlemen," he paused to nod at each and everyone of us with a bored eye, a strange color of amber or light brown, "I am Echizen Ryoma."

Atobe knew him. Atobe knew he knew him. Atobe knew he didn't know him but he knew him. And he was able contain himself from jumping out his chair to scream, "You haven't changed one bit!" and leaned his chin upwards. The boy--no... man now, grew into the body of a physically-healthy 25 year old. His large hand pointed to the screen where a chart was shown, but Atobe didn't care about what he was saying... just the fact that this is the most he heard him speak in a day. As the lights came back on and Echizen reached over to his side to turn the projector off, the same hand came up and brushed his unorganized, black hair back showing the tiny beads of sweat that lined up on his forehead, "I thank you all for being here today and we'll await your reply about our product. Thank you," and with a curt bow, the boy jumped off the stage and back out the door. The company CEO stared as the door closed shut and shook his head, "Thank you for your pleasant company, and we will wait for you response."

And with meeting adjourned, Atobe gathered all handouts and his own folder, following Echizen out the door. He caught the departing figure step into an empty elevator and frowned when the door closed, taking Echizen down into the lobby. Atobe sighed and stared at the elevator door in slight disappointment, he was looking forward to a proper match once he blew everything off he would take out all stress and frustration on Echizen. But now the chance was gone and he was going down, down, down... up?

The arrow with the point to the ceiling was glowing an orange light and the numbers went higher and higher up by each passing second. Atobe walked over to the elevator and pressed the up button, watching the red, neon numbers raise and raise until it reached the fifty, from there on it came down to Atobe's level, the door opening for the man. Atobe pushed in the fifty, seeing it glow with a press. The door closed and the sudden lurch of the elevator gave indication that he was moving up. When the double doors slid open, Atobe was greeted with the view of blue sky and bright sun as he stepped out onto the roof of the building, but there was no Echizen in sight. He walked over to the rail and looked around the empty plain, only to be greeted with the sight of asphalt and rusty rails. He sighed tiredly in defeat.

"What's your business here?" a sudden voice came from beside him. Atobe gripped the rails so tightly his knuckles turned white and he turned to find himself not even a foot away from Echizen. The man was gripping a cigarette between his fore and middle finger, a trail of smoke coming from the burning ashes. He turned his head slightly to look at Atobe with a raised eyebrow, "Well?" Atobe smirked and pushed himself off the line, "Don't tell me you don't remember me," Atobe scoffed, tossing his head to the side arrogantly. Echizen gave him a strange look then turned back to his cigarette with interest, "Nope, I'm sure I'd remember a Monkey King such as yourself." he smirked.

Atobe frowned in displeasure at being called a Monkey King by the man once more, "... I am Atobe Keigo, surely you remember the man who broke your junior highschool, tennis team captain?" That seemed to spark something in Echizen's eyes as it flashed violently, "... I don't recall." He crushed his cigarette into the rail and turned to face him, "I don't recall him ever being 'broken.'" His tone was threatening and edging for a fight. Atobe sneered, this is what he wanted, "But surely you recall me."

"Yea... Monkey King," it came from the boy by rote. But Echizen didn't throw a punch or spat something nasty like Atobe thought he would, he simply turned away and walked back to the elevator. It was now or never, "Oi, Echizen," Atobe called, successfully pausing the man, "How about a match, ah?" Echizen smirked, stuffing his hands in his pockets and shrugging, "I don't play anymore," he confessed nonchalantly, stunning Atobe speechless. It was only after Echizen was already making his way downstairs that he realized what the man had said.

"Love is like war: Easy to begin but very hard to stop"
H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)

Atobe forgot about Echizen the next day. Flipping through papers tiredly with his feet on his desk, he picked up the phone and dialed in his secretary's number, "Higeyuki," he called when he heard the dial stop, "I'm turning in for the day. Call my phone if something comes up," and he dropped the phone back onto the receiver. Packing up his bag, Atobe locked his office behind him. He walked over to his car once outside in the parking lot and unlocked it with the push of a button, settling himself down on the soft, leather seat.

His work place was all the way in Kanagawa district, so the drive to Tokyo was the least exciting. He thought of moving once or twice, but the thought of what he'd have to go through... Atobe would rather stick with the commute. He felt his cellphone vibrate in his pants pocket, without taking his eyes off the road he pressed the button on his phone, putting it on speaker phone and placing it on a small cellphone stand, "Hello?" he waited for a female voice to call him back to his office, but what he got was not the voice of his irate secretary but a deep male one that seemed unfamiliar to him, "... Atobe." he started in a dour voice, "It's Tezuka." Atobe blinked and turned to stare wide-eyed at his phone, "Tezuka?" he laughed, "Well, well, isn't this a surprise... I haven't heard from you in years..." he shook his head, why were old school rivals hunting him down like this?

"... I heard from Ryoma that you talked to him yesterday," Atobe frowned, hearing bitterness in his voice, "Look, I don't know what you said to him, but he was upset." The other man rolled his eyes at this, disbelieving at the thought that Echizen went and tattled to Tezuka, "What are you, his mother?" There was no immediate answer, a long pause on the other line was what Atobe got as a response, but the man was patient with Tezuka and waited until he heard the man's tired sigh, "I am his intended..."

It was a shock to Atobe to say the least. He caught the red signal and stepped the break a bit too hard and he picked up the phone from its place in the holder, "You guys are getting married!" he asked, eyes wide. Tezuka scoffed on the other line, "That's not possible, even if it is Japan." he grumbled darkly. Atobe nodded, he knew this fact at some point in time, but frankly he didn't want to get involved with the government so he simply fell behind..., "I don't know why Echizen is upset. I simply asked him for a match and---"

"You don't ask Ryoma if he wants a match." Tezuka said. Atobe leaned back into his chair, pressing the gas when the light turned green, "... That's what I don't understand. Why wouldn't the cocky brat not want to play tennis? That's the only thing he knows how to do, ah?" the man steered left reaching out to place his phone back in its holder, "... you... haven't been reading the paper for three years right?"

Atobe raised an eyebrow at how right the man was, "What does that have to do with anything?" Unless it tells the world why Echizen was being such an overgrown baby. Tezuka seemed hesitant, there was voices in the background and Atobe saw his house in the distance, "Tezuka?"

"... are you free anytime today?"

"I give myself sometimes admirable advice, but I am incapable of taking it."
Mary Wortely Montagu (1689-1762)

Atobe opened a clean glass door, pulling on it's gold-painted handle and climbing up the stairs. He looked around the bustling café and spotted a well-kept gentleman by the window, a cup of hot coffee in his hands. Atobe straightened his tie and walked over to the man, "Tezuka." he greeted. The former Seigaku captain looked up at the sharp-featured man and gave a dour grin, "Atobe," he reached out a hand and Atobe took it in a friendly shake. The CEO sat down in the chair opposite of him and ordered a coffee when a waitress came up to him with a notepad in her hand, "... what are you doing?" Atobe started the conversation smoothly. Tezuka shrugged, "I work as a trainer and coach." he lifted the white, coffee cup to his lips and took a quick sip. Atobe nodded, smiling softly, "I'm not surprised," he looked up when the waitress before stopped at their table and put down an identical cup in front of him, "... What's wrong with Echizen?"

Normally, Atobe wouldn't care about people like Echizen. But he knew when things were more than just wrong. Tezuka pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and frowned, "It happened three years ago, here in Japan." Tezuka started, leaning back into his chair tiredly, "Ryoma then had recently injured his elbow. The doctor told us specifically it was nothing serious and Ryoma should just lay off tennis for a few weeks. He did that for at least four weeks," Tezuka looked at his hand, his eyebrows furrowed in thought, "And with doctor's approval he started tennis again... it was okay at that time. Our relationship was great, he was in great shape... and that's all I could wish for. But, everything went wrong," the brown-haired man drained his cup and brushed his hair back tiredly, "His health broke down and he couldn't continue anymore. He knows what's wrong... I know he does. But he won't tell me..." there was a sort of desperate tone in Tezuka's voice. He held his head in his hands and let out a shuddered sigh, "I have a favor," he looked up at Atobe who's been unusually silent the entire time. The man licked his lips and looked down at this untouched cup of coffee, "... sure."

"Do you think you can buy some information off a doctor?" he smirked uncharacteristically and laid his chin in his fingers. Atobe raised and eyebrow and crossed his arms across his chest, getting comfortable in his seat, "Continue."

"I never loved another person the way I loved myself."
Mae West (1892-1980)

"I cannot give you information on a patient no matter the amount you are willing to give me," the doctor sighed, filing away his earlier patient's data. Atobe nodded, flipping through his checkbook boredly, "Look, I normally wouldn't go as low as to bribe a man for something like this, but when a good friend who has a very special relationship with the said-patient asks me to buy the information," he tore a check out of his checkbook, "I take him seriously."

The doctor smirked wryly and shook his head, "I'm sorry sir, but if you will excuse me, Echizen-san is coming in a few minutes so you'll have to leave." Atobe narrowed his eyes, he wasn't thrown out... he leaves with his own two feet, "I see. Then pardon me," he left the room and stuck his checkbook back into his back pocket. He knew it wouldn't work, but now he had a sure-trail that will lead to Echizen other than Tezuka.

"Ah, Monkey King."

Just on time. Atobe turned to the pale-faced Echizen who tiredly fingered his sleeve, "Good afternoon Echizen, what a pleasant surprise," he outstretched his hand for Ryoma to shake. The boy eyed his hand then reluctantly took it. His hands were cold, "What are you doing here?" Atobe asked the man, although already knowing the answer. Ryoma shrugged leaning against the white wall with a smirk, "I have an appointment here. But that's me... are you sick?"

"... hmm, no." Atobe moved aside for the man, "I simply came to bother the doctor. But are you sick?" Echizen's eyes narrowed suspiciously and he looked away walking towards the door and gripping the knob tiredly, "Maybe, but I don't think I'm all the way healthy either," he opened the door and smiled weakly to the doctor inside, "Monkey--... Atobe-san... I hope you have a good day," and he closed the door behind him.

Atobe knew now, Echizen Ryoma was very ill. Mentally ill! Atobe pulled out his phone and quickly dialed in Tezuka's number. It was only 2 tones before a sullen, "Hello?" was heard on the other line. Atobe glanced at the ceiling in exasperation, "Your toy boy is insane. He shouldn't be in a hospital with a doctor. He should be in a hospital... with a therapist." Atobe frowned when Tezuka laughed softly, "Did I say something wrong?"

"No, no... just thinking its funny how that comes out of you," Atobe could just picture Tezuka's smirk. He stared at the white door with the wooden numbers 256 in the center of it, "... he looks tired though. And he felt really cold." Atobe didn't want to say it. But he was worried. "... I thought it was just a mild allergy, but he has a counter full of medicines that are unfamiliar to me. He has frequent nose bleeds, and he gets tired easily." Tezuka listed all of his symptoms, but Atobe wasn't majoring in medical science. He was a CEO of a company that had nothing to do with hospitals, "... maybe it's just stress or fatigue, ah?"

"I hope it's just that..."

"What are you still doing here?" Atobe turned around and blinked at Echizen with a raised eyebrow. He took the phone slightly off his ear and smirked, "... Oshitari, I'll call you back," he said getting a faint, "Oshitari? What are you--" before he snapped the phone shut. Atobe cocked his head to the side, "I'll treat you to lunch," and walked away, not looking behind to see if the man was following him. But he knew that Echizen was, when he heard a low chuckle, "You still have lots more to work on..."

"The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do."
Walter Bagehot (1826-1877)

Atobe didn't like eating out. There wasn't a restaurant in Japan that he hasn't been to, but his home was a far way and he didn't want to bring the former-tennis-rookie to his house. Ryoma silently started on his lunch, ordering something soft and easy to digest. Atobe lifted his glass of rich wine and offered it to Echizen who rejected it and stayed with his own glass of water, "Can you not hold your alcohol?" he asked smugly. Ryoma tilted his head with a small smile, "One of us is going to have to drive and not get in trouble with the law," he retorted back smoothly, "Besides, I don't like alcohol... it's bad for the liver."

"Yet you smoke?" Atobe asked, nodding to the packet that stuck out of the boy's jacket, "... funnily enough, it's to make me look cool," Ryoma hid his box back into it rightful place with a smile, "I'm not addicted... I think it's like... psycho... psycho-something." Ryoma waved his hand lazily, forgetting about it. Atobe raised a slender eyebrow, not getting what the man was trying to say, "... so what have you been doing these past few years?"

"Well, I've lived in America for at least 5 years, finished school in America then came back to Japan to further my education here. I played tennis professionally until I got into an accident... I told you before I stopped playing," he shrugged lamely and continued on, "So currently I'm working part time as the representative for the company, where we met," the man nodded lifting his cup to take a quick drink. Atobe bobbed his head curtly, "I see, what sort of accident?" he asked, genuinely curious.

Echizen lifted his eyes to meet Atobe's, searching for some kind of deeper intent in bringing this topic of conversation up, "... I got into a car accident. The car ran into my side where the impact and the broken pieces of glasses had damaged my elbow more than it had any other part of my body." Atobe put on an expression of disbelief and shook his head, "Who was the idiot that did that?" he asked bluntly. Ryoma looked at his hand, nostalgia overwhelming in his eyes, "... ... hmph," he grinned sardonically, "Tezuka Kunimitsu." Atobe stared at Echizen, dumbfounded, "You probably don't know, but we're dating now ironically enough. He would often just massage my arm at times... I wish he would stop."

Atobe made a mental note to himself to tell that to Tezuka, "... does he know you still go to the hospital? I mean... you're all better now right?" he licked his dry lips. This was getting too confusing for him... Ryoma finished his meal and pushed his plate aside, "Can I order dessert? Really? Thanks... yes, my elbows all healed. The doctor said so," Ryoma flipped through the dessert section of the menu looking through the cakes and ice creams, "But I'm just a bit tired lately. Kunimitsu asked me to quit my job, but its just part-time and it's the only life I have right now..." he raised a hand to motion to a nearby waiter, "I would like this cake---no cherry though---yes... thank you. As I was saying, Kunimitsu wants me to quit my job, but I don't want to be a burden to him. Hospital bills and medicine prices are rising ridiculously high. And I don't want him to pay for any of that..."

Atobe found this situation strange. Echizen Ryoma, who in the past would not even spare a single glance to anyone other than a strong opponent, was currently giving out his soul to him. The man rubbed his hair, sticking out in wild directions and not plastered to his head like it would've been a couple of years back. Atobe was just surprised that Echizen didn't have permanent hat-hair, "Why do you need medicine? What other problems do you happen to have with your body?"

Ryoma scraped the extra chocolate layer on top with a look of disgust, he sneaked a glance up at Atobe with a dry smile. Atobe watched as the man pulled off the first layer of cake then with his fork, slowly grazed the minty layer of cream and stuck it into his mouth, "I can't handle sweet things anymore," he spoke around the fork, "But I like mints..." he twirled his tongue around the thin crust of mint, up and down the fork and Atobe watched... transfixed by the pink tongue that swept along the white cream, "... ... y-you didn't answer my question."

"I don't think I'm obliged to," Ryoma licked his fork clean than lowered it for another taste. Atobe reached out, grabbing the fork out of the other's hand and placing it down on the plate next to cake, "I think you are. Are you ill?" He asked, stopping Ryoma's hand when it stubbornly reached for his fork, "Echizen," the man called his name dangerously.

Ryoma blinked at the pale-haired man with a disgruntled frown, "Look here Atobe, I don't care much for you. And from what I know, you don't care much for me. So what's the sudden interest in my health you brown-nosing piece of--" Ryoma trailed off, eyes wide with realization and he ripped his hand away from Atobe's touch as if it burned, "... Kunimitsu didn't..."

Maybe it was Atobe's expression, because Echizen stood from his seat and gathered his coat and scarf quickly, his movement were forceful and angry, "I can't believe this. I can't believe that Kunimitsu would...! Argh!" Atobe followed Ryoma's reaction and also stood from his seat, "What are you talking about?"

"Don't talk as if you don't know," Ryoma hissed, tossing his coat over his shoulder and making way to the exit. Atobe reached out and grabbed his thin wrist, pulling the man back forcefully, "Now wait just one moment! I know what you're thinking, but I haven't been contacting Tezuka. And even if I had do you think that I would actually do all this for him, ah?" Atobe breathed deeply, looking the other straight into the strange brown eyes that glowed gold in the candlelight, "... ... No... no you wouldn't. Kunimitsu wouldn't sink that low either," eyes downcasted Ryoma fell back to slacked position, but stood instead of sitting back down in his seat.

Atobe could only stare at this pale, thin figure in his arms. Where did that cocky, freshman regular that shocked the world go? "Do you think I could help...?" he asked uncharacteristically, but it earned him Ryoma's rare smiles and a lazy shrug, "No... take me home."

If Atobe wasn't going through all this trouble of figuring out what exactly was wrong with Echizen for Tezuka... he was doing it for himself now. "C'mon, let's go."

"You know that when I hate you, it is because I love you to a point of passion that unhinges my soul."
Julie-Jeanne-Eleonore de Lespinasse (1732-1776)

Atobe, until recently would've been considered a severe workaholic that didn't like his job at all. He didn't make time for Shishido whenever he calls and asks for a match, he never made time for Mukahi when he's back to whine about his rocky relationship with Oshitari that would eventually calm down after two days of no sex, and he never made time for Kabaji and his loyal dedication. But all it took was a shy call from Echizen and he was already in his car on the way over to the park Ryoma had told him about. He spotted the man immediately with a familiar white hat placed on his head and Atobe knew this figure from a distant memory.

This was the Echizen Ryoma he knew. Ryoma walked up to Atobe with a humorless expression and a raised eyebrow, "...what?" he asked, snapping Atobe out of his mesmerized state of mind, "Nothing, nothing... just... thought that hat wouldn't fit you anymore."

"I don't wear the same one for 20 years, idiot. I get new ones," he shook his head and walked ahead, fixing his jacket and the scarf around his neck. "You buy the same one though? I have to say Echizen, variety is a good thing." he smirked, catching the slight red flush in Ryoma's cheeks, "But what did you call me for today? I'm not really in the mood for a picnic."

"A match."

Atobe blinked in surprise, watching as Echizen gave him a smirk over his shoulder, "You said you wanted one, right?" Adrenaline was beginning to pump through Atobe's body and he could feel his own heart beating in his chest, "But you said you quit," he tested, voice shaky. Ryoma nodded, continuing to walk down the asphalt street, "Yes, I did. I quit tennis... but..." he held up a long, thin racket, waving it around like a magician's wand, "...badminton maybe?" Atobe scrunched up his nose, "... are you joking?"

But Ryoma was serious. Atobe found himself led into a badminton court and caught the racket Ryoma tossed his way. They made position on the opposite side of each other, staring through the high-net, "Ready?" Ryoma asked, twirling the birdie in his hand. Atobe cocked his head and rolled his eyes, unable to say anything. Ryoma tossed the shuttle into the air and served it above the net. Atobe boredly hit it back across. Ryoma sensed that Atobe was not enjoying his time and decided to kick it up a notch, "Ready?" he asked again, and this time ran up to the front of the net and jumped to spike it back down.

Atobe reacted immediately the moment Echizen ran up from and caught the bird before it fell to the ground, sending it back in a lob, "You've gotten slower Echizen," he taunted darkly. Ryoma's eyes flashed with excitement as he passed it back to Atobe over the net, "You're still not good enough." The game continued that way between the two, occasionally touching the ground after one of them missed it. Atobe was ready to admit that it wasn't the same as tennis, but it was fun while it lasted.

Ryoma lost count of the score in the middle of the game while Atobe never even bothered. It was only after Atobe received a phone call from his secretary that they had to stop their game. Ryoma walked over to the man, ducking under the net to retrieve his racket and birdie, "It was good," he acknowledged, Atobe grinned back in answer. He reached to Atobe's open palm to take the racket that lay there... but he paused, fingers hovering in the air as he stared at the soft palm of Atobe's hand.

It was ages since Atobe gripped a tennis racket properly, so all his callouses have disappeared over time. Ryoma didn't know what brought him to do it, he spread his hand on top of Atobe, feeling the human warmth radiating off the soft flesh, "Kunimitsu has really cold hands..." he enveloped his fingers's around Atobe's wrist, "But I heard that when a person has cold hands... they have a really warm heart." Atobe laughed weakly, nodding his head and taking Ryoma's hand and wrapping his fingers around it, "You have really cold hands..."

It was a moment. They couldn't deny it as they stared into each other's eyes with a sense of companionship and passion. Atobe pulled the man closer and he knew this was wrong. This man wasn't his... wasn't his...

But he forgot that. He forgot his very existence as he wrapped his arms around Ryoma's slender waist and pulled him to his level, pressing their lips together in a gentle kiss. And it brought him satisfaction knowing that he stole another man's precious jewel. Even if that man trusted him with it.

"Stolen sweets are best."
Colley Cibber (1671-1757)

Atobe twirled a pen lazily in his seat, staring at his phone with longing and slight frustration. Higeyuki entered his office with a stack of papers held close to her breast, she frowned at her boss's distant expression and his recent dreamy behavior, "Sir," she started, staring when he didn't even look up at her, "Sir." No response.

Higeyuki walked up to the man's desk and dropped the stack of papers she held in her hand in front of his face. Atobe jolted awake when his table rattled and his coffee spilt over his schedules and he cursed, "What is it?" he glared up at Higeyuki. Unfazed by her boss's cold attitude, the woman simply put a well-manicured finger on the untouched papers with a smirk, "These are due on Thursday, please read over them and--well... you know the drill," the older woman shrugged and left the room, slamming the door behind her. Atobe made a face and pulled off the first sheet off the top of the pile. It was from the company a few days ago with the invention, asking if he would fund their program. Atobe was about to decline, but he caught something at the bottom of the sheet written in strange, purple ink: "If you decline this offer, I will hunt you down and hurt you real bad."

Atobe loved a challenge. So with a grin, he tossed the crumpled letter into the waste bin.

It wasn't a hour later that his phone rang, and excitedly Atobe picked it up and with a seemingly innocent, "Hello?" he was greeted with the expected, "You declined didn't you?" from Echizen. The CEO shrugged and leaned back in his chair, forgetting about the rest of the papers that needed to be finished, "Maybe, why do you care?"

"Because its my pay that's on the line!" Ryoma growled into the phone, Atobe heard clicking of keyboards in the background that were fading away and then it was filled with gentle elevator music, "You don't need to worry about that, you can come over now and I'll pay you three times your current pay for every hour," he teased. Ryoma scoffed and Atobe could picture him rolling his brilliant amber eyes, "Are you calling me a prostitute?" he challenged the man on the other line, Atobe shrugged but didn't say anything knowing that the other man would get the hint. There was a soft chime in the background and footsteps on fine tile floor, "Well I guess that's fine. Are you free tonight?" he asked.

"That depends, why?" Atobe immediately opened his schedule and checked if he had any plans and inwardly cheered to be greeted with an empty space for the rest of the day. He noted the starting of car engines on the other line and he pushed himself from his desk all the way over to his window in his spinning chair. "Maybe you could buy me dinner? Kunimitsu's gone for the weekend and I can't cook for shit," the man casually said. Atobe stiffened at the mention of Tezuka's name. He didn't like the way Echizen said it... no, no... he didn't like the fact that it was Echizen who was saying it... that he was saying another man's name to him, "... sure. Where should we meet?"

"Don't worry about it, I'll pick you up at that big building you work at, is 7:00 fine?" Atobe nodded, not even taking notice of the fact he was acting like a teenage girl who was about to go out on her first date, "That's fine."

"I'll see you then," and Ryoma hung up, leaving Atobe with a dirty taste in his mouth. He was like... a husband-stealer. No one likes a husband-stealer. Hell, even Atobe didn't like husband-stealers! But this was a feeling foreign to him. After the small smile Echizen had sent his way... everything about the man made his heart jump. The way he walked and held himself proudly, the way he would make small hand gestures as he spoke, and the way he wrapped his arms around his neck as they--

"Higeyuki," Atobe opened the door and stuck his head out to catch his secretary's attention, "If a man named Echizen Ryoma comes up to see me, just let him up." Higeyuki smiled in her boss's rare moods and nodded, "Yes sir."

"The raging fire which urged us on was scorching us; it would have burned us had we tried to restrain it."
Casanova (1725-1798)

Ryoma kept his word and not a minute over seven had passed before he saw the well-dressed man walk in, shaking out all the hair gel flakes from his hair, "Hey! Not on my carpet Echizen!" Ryoma paused, small wafers falling to the ground in front of him, "... I need to get it out somewhere," he shook his head one last time, then straightened, dusting his shoulders off. He walked forward to Atobe but walked past the man and fell into his leather chair, "I hate elevators..." he groaned, digging through his pocket to pull out a small prescription bottle. Atobe watched as Ryoma reached forward for Atobe's refilled coffee and drank the capsule down.

"... what's that for?" Atobe asked seriously. Ryoma stuffed his pills back into his jacket and shrugged, "It's really none of your business," he sighed tiredly. The sharp-featured man leapt forward towards Echizen who reeled back in shock, but limped in Atobe's arms when his lips were captured by the other man in a soft embrace. Atobe's full lips trailed down from Ryoma's down his sharp chin, leaving a trail of kisses down his jaw. Ryoma's eyes fluttered shut and he pulled his head back with a soft sigh. Atobe's hands fell down on the other's thighs and gently rubbed his legs, basking in the quiet cry Ryoma let out when his teeth sank into the soft skin in the junction between his neck and shoulder.

And all Atobe wanted to do was the throw the man down onto his desk and have his way with him, but strong hands fell on his shoulders and pushed him away, "No, dinner now." Echizen pushed himself out of his chair and walked to the door, fixing his clothes casually. Atobe, frustrated and aroused, dragged himself behind Echizen with narrowed eyes. Ryoma shook his head and smiled in good humour, "Come on, pick up the pace," he told Atobe who made a disagreeable face. Ryoma laughed.

The drive to the restaurant took a minute even in evening traffic. The two found themselves being seated in a dim-lighted restaurant with gentle music in the background. Atobe ordered quickly without hassle and watched as Ryoma asked the waiter questions about various dishes before he could finally settle himself with one. Atobe waited until the waiter was gone into the kitchen before he turned to Ryoma with a smile, "I didn't realize you were such a picky child," he teased. Ryoma rolled his eyes and shook his head, "I can't handle solid foods anymore," he confessed, "Than I can't do soups that are high in sodium..."

"... is it because of your illness?" Atobe frowned, catching Ryoma's eye before he looked down at his hand, "No, it's just me," he answered simply, leaning back into his chair. The tension between the two was heavy for the second before Atobe glared at the other across from him and leaned forward, "Why can't you just tell me?" Atobe started cautiously, "Don't I deserve that much?"

"You deserve anything from me!" Ryoma tossed his napkin in frustration, "And why are you so eager to know?"

Atobe's nostrils flared and didn't take notice of the waiter that came closer to their table with their dishes in hand, "You're cheating on Tezuka with me aren't you!" he demanded, glaring when the waiter akwardly placed their plates in front of them and quickly left, face aflame. Ryoma watched the departing waiter and buried his face in his hands, "I am not cheating one Tezuka," he grumbled, "I love him..."

"But you let me touch you everywhere, ah? What are you a whore?" Atobe knew what he said was harsh, but his dream of making Echizen his was being broken by the man. "I love Tezuka, but that goddamn prick can't get it up while I'm around! I can hear him jerking off in the room next door for God's sake, but why can't I touch him without him making excuses...?" Ryoma tiredly poked at his meal and sighed, "I'm just... really desperate..."

"So you're using me to get off?"

He wanted to deny it. Atobe didn't want it to be like this... "Yes."

The man stood up, knocking his chair over in the process. Pulling out his wallet he left a wad of cash on the table, not caring of the actual amount. He grabbed Echizen and pulled him along as they left the restaurant. Ryoma didn't put up a struggle, but he made loud comments from behind, half of them were the repeated, "Are you high!"

Atobe threw the man into the back seat and shut the door closed, opening the door to the driver's seat and starting engine with a quick twist of keys. Echizen regained his posture although looking a bit frazzled with his hair tousled and suit wrinkled, "What are you doing!" he badgered, but Atobe could only register an annoying mumble in his mind, "I'm going to give you what you want," and he drove out of the parking lot, pressing the break sharping making them both lurch forward.

The drive to his house was shorter than normal and much more loud with Echizen's constant rejections and screaming that he wanted out. Atobe never wasted a moment and once he parked himself in his garage, he grabbed Ryoma and tossed him over his shoulder like a bag of potatoes. He ignored the man's fist as it repeatedly pounded on his back. Kabaji greeted him lamely, but Atobe walked past the man twice his size and up the stair towards his room.

Once he reached his haven, he tossed Ryoma onto the bed and locked the door. Ryoma fought his way out of the black, silk sheet and marched over to the door where he tried to twist the knob but it refused to move. He turned to Atobe with a glare, and the man held a key up before the other's face, "You're not about to go anywhere, Echizen Ryoma," he tossed the key aside and held the man up against the door, pressing their lips together in a kiss full of tongue and teeth. He felt Ryoma's hands bury themselves in his hair and pull him closer, rubbing his body feverishly against the other's. Atobe grabbed the man and threw him down on the bed, laying himself on top of him and grinding their bodies together, desperate for some satisfaction in the heat of their arousal.

"Ah, God!" Ryoma cried out when Atobe's hand sneaked into his pants and brushed against his stiff erection. That exclamation was all the encouragement Atobe needed before he tossed Ryoma's jacket onto the ground and ripped the buttons off his white, collar shirt underneathe. He ran his hands down the fine, lean body of the male brushing against his erect nipples and earning another low moan from the other. Atobe had a hard time breathing normally and his hot breaths cascaded down Ryoma's neck. He could hardly register that Ryoma hands were grazing his stomach and playing with the dark hair that trailed down into his lower abdomen, "Get--off..." Echizen grunted, pushing the man off him onto his back. Ryoma climbed on top of Atobe and sensually started on his pants. The pale-haired man watched with growing excitement when Ryoma held his length in his hands. He gently petted the coarse hair with his fingers then with a momentary glance into the other's dark eyes, he took Atobe in with one fluid movement. The man choked and gasped as the warmth of Echizen's mouth surrounded him.

"Gods... fuck yes..." he groaned, fingers digging into the pillow above his head. With Atobe's incentive, Ryoma began to move, his head bobbing and tongue roughly stroking the underside of the man's erection.

Atobe sat up with his hand clasped over his mouth and tears in his eyes at the intense heat that began to hurt as he neared his end. He quickly pulled himself away from Echizen, lifting the man's chin and taking in the swollen lip and nipped it tenderly, "Get on your hands and knees..." he ordered, and Ryoma followed his instructions strangely well, burying his face in his arms and holding him posterior in the air. Atobe roughly rubbed Echizen's trembling thighs and led his hands up, "Is this your first time?" he asked, not entirely sure.

Ryoma looked up at the man with furrowed brows, "... yes," he confessed. Atobe smirked, some kind of feeling of victory spreading throughout his limbs, "Very well, then brace yourself..." He didn't waste time on preparing the man. He didn't have that kind of patience and so he slowly stretched Ryoma as he pushed himself in, ignoring the pained grunts that came out muffled through the black sheets. The first second was painful, but as Echizen breathed deeply and relaxed himself, the muscle around him loosened, "I'm going to move..."

Ryoma wanted to shake his head, he wanted to scream and kick and tell him to get the hell out of his ass. But he wanted--no... he needed this. He nodded and felt as the man slowly worked in and out of him, but as time passed his speed picked up and Ryoma found himself crying out obscenities and strangled groans, pleasure raping him of his senses whenever Atobe went in deep and hard enough. Before he knew it, he was on his back, his nails digging into Atobe's shoulder, but the other didn't seem to mind. He leaned down and kissed Ryoma, over and over.

Atobe felt he was reaching his limit and he fell forward, his breath hot on Ryoma's ears, "I love you..."

And with a strangled groan, he released himself in Ryoma's body. Atobe pulled himself out of the other and fell onto the bed beside him, panting and tired... but, he grinned, the name that escaped Ryoma's lips that night was his.

"It is easier to resist at the beginning that at the end."
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

The weather was bleak, the October wind chilling all their bones to the very core. Atobe stood as he watched the pastor close his bible and bow his head in respect for the departed. He observed as an aged man was pulled away from the crowd, tears wet on his face as he screamed and kicked the dirt on the ground, "Took away my wife! Now you take away my child goddamn you!"

Tezuka stood beside him, his hand enveloped around Fuji's, the latter unable to look clearly through the tears that fell down his white cheeks and he let out a shuddering sob and buried his face into Tezuka's chest, "He was too young... he was too young for this sort of pain..." Tezuka soothingly rubbed the smaller man's back, his face stiff and lips trembling. Atobe couldn't help but feel like an outsider among the former-Seigaku regulars that crowded around the open ditch holding a finely crafted coffin he had paid for personally. He wanted the best for him...

Oishi shook his head, lifting a white cloth to wipe at his wet eyes, "It was leukemia... I checked his files just a few weeks before..." he looked at the sky and clasped a hand around his mouth. "It could've been healed couldn't it!" Kikumaru grabbed his lover's arms and pulled, eyes wide and frantic, "He could've gotten a surgery... right?" Oishi shook his head weakly, "The surgery failed that day... he lost all hope..." Atobe couldn't hear anymore. He walked away from the mourning crowd, shoulders heavy and heart bleeding. This was the end that he had to meet.

Echizen Ryoma, age 25, died on the night of October 23rd from uncontrollable fever in the arms of Atobe Keigo... lover, friend, and rival.

"Love is dead. We are cured, but are we happy?"
Therese Albertine Louise Robinson (1797-1852)

Hmm. I... really don't know what to say. It's my time and I'm.. well out of things to say. You can hate me if you like.