A/N: Well, after much too long a wait, here's the final chapter of Head Over Heels, with a short author's note at the end. I'm really sorry for how long this took to post, everyone! I just hope that you all can enjoy it anyway. I appreciate any and all feedback/critiques/reviews/hugs. Flames will be ignored.
Chapter Ten: Missing Piece
"Sometimes, the discovery of that essential missing piece will make the surrounding puzzle unimportant."
Yuushi woke up to the feeling of someone's arm lying across his chest.
He smiled to himself, as he shifted to one side, so that he could see the person to whom the arm belonged. And of course, there was Gakuto, sprawled across the bed with his limbs outstretched, looking like he was trying to fly. But then again, Gakuto always slept like that, at least as far as Yuushi knew. So he had expected it to happen…
Well, he had expected it from the moment when Gakuto had fallen asleep in his arms last night. But before last night, he would have never expected this scenario, not in a million years.
He certainly would never have expected that it would make him this happy.
As gently as he could, Yuushi slid the stray arm onto the mattress, and then he carefully lifted himself onto one elbow. His eyes never once left his partner's sleeping face, that adorable face that was half-buried in the pillow, looking as innocent as a redheaded angel…
God, how sentimental can I get? … And Gakuto's definitely no angel.
Yuushi chuckled a little to himself. Well, maybe his partner wasn't exactly an angel, but he was still adorable anyway. And that didn't change one simple fact…
He was helplessly in love with him.
He was in love with his partner.
He gazed affectionately at that face just a little longer. But then his daydream came to a sudden halt, as a single thought occurred to him.
Were they even partners anymore?
Of course, it went without saying that he and Gakuto weren't fighting now. That whole ugly misunderstanding had been cleared up in the dark during the previous night. But he and Gakuto hadn't discussed whether or not they were really going to keep playing doubles from now on. If they weren't going to play doubles, then Yuushi would have to stop calling Gakuto his 'partner' like that…
Well, no. No, he wouldn't. Something inside of Yuushi already realized that, doubles or not, he would always think of Gakuto as his partner. After all, they were something much more than just teammates now, and they had always been something of a set, even off of the court. They joked together, they sat on the bus together, they walked home together… They were partners off of the court, as well as on it. So it didn't matter, as far as that went, whether or not they were going to keep playing doubles together…
And then suddenly, Yuushi realized that it didn't matter at all.
It was completely unexpected, but it was true. It didn't matter in any way, shape, or form whether or not he and Gakuto kept playing doubles together. He hadn't realized it, but the only reason that Yuushi had clung so stubbornly to their partnership was simply because he had been in love with Gakuto without knowing it. And so of course he had wanted to be close to Gakuto, in any way that he could. But now that they were together in a completely different way, a way that didn't depend on their tennis partnership, Yuushi knew that it didn't matter to him whether or not they played doubles together.
No, it didn't matter. And maybe it was better if they didn't play doubles anymore. Maybe it did make more sense for Yuushi to be playing singles.
Then again, maybe they should still be playing together. Now that he and Gakuto finally understood each other, like Shishido and Ootori did, they might make an even better combination on court. But that still remained to be seen. And if it wasn't true, there was no particular reason for them to keep playing together.
Still, either way, Yuushi knew that he would be content with the outcome. It didn't matter… There was only one thing that mattered… Just one thing…
Yuushi bent down and kissed Gakuto lightly on the mouth.
"Mmmmmrrghh," was something of the noise that followed in response, as the acrobat shifted in his sleep.
"Gakuto," Yuushi murmured in his partner's ear, with a smile playing on his lips. But the acrobat just shook his head, barely even awake, as he tried to retreat under the blanket. Yuushi laughed quietly.
"Gakuto," he said again, pulling the blanket down. "It's morning already."
"Go to hell, Yuushi," was the muttered response. But the tensai just smirked.
"If I did, you'd just try to follow me," he remarked, whispering it right into Gakuto's ear, mostly because he already knew that it gave his partner the shivers.
"Ahhh! Stop that. Yuushi!" Gakuto sat right up in bed, glaring at him. "I would not."
"Oh, yes, you would," was Yuushi's prompt retort, as he gazed fondly at his bedraggled partner, who really did look adorable in those plaid pajamas. "In any case, it woke you up, didn't it?"
Gakuto just growled in response, trying to blow a few strands of hair out of his eyes.
"You're grumpy this morning," Yuushi observed calmly, giving Gakuto another kiss before getting out of bed and taking his glasses off of the nightstand. But in the very instant that he had finished putting the frames on his face, he felt a sudden pressure on his back, and two small arms slipped around his waist.
"You know I'm not a morning person, Yuushi," was the surprisingly quiet reply.
Of course, Yuushi understood that Gakuto meant to say more than that. After all, Yuushi already knew that his partner hated waking up in the morning, and so that detail went without saying… But there were other things that Gakuto was saying, in between those few words, and hearing them in the silence only made Yuushi smile.
"I love you."
"I'm sorry for snapping at you."
"I'm just tired after last night."
The tensai would have wondered when it was that he had acquired the ability to understand what Gakuto really meant, in between the words that were actually being said. But he already knew the answer to that question…
It had happened last night.
Gakuto suddenly realized that he was still holding onto Yuushi's sleeve. He glanced at the tensai, who glanced back almost inquisitively, and then he jerked his hand away as though the soft cloth had burned his fingers. His gaze lowered to the tabletop in front of him, and he didn't dare look up again, but he could feel his face getting hot under Yuushi's more persistent stare…
Yes, that was the moment when Yuushi had first noticed how eloquent Gakuto's eyes could be, and had learned to read in between the acrobat's impulsive actions for their real meaning. The look in those blue eyes had contradicted everything that Gakuto had done, in ripping apart their partnership on a whim, and it was that look that had made Yuushi realize that Gakuto was feeling something completely different from what Yuushi had originally assumed. No, he hadn't been bored with Yuushi, or sick of playing doubles with him, or angry with his partner at all…
What Gakuto had really meant by his painful decision was that he wanted to be with Yuushi, and that he wanted it too much to keep hiding it anymore. And when Yuushi had finally figured that out, it had been easy to swallow his pride and heal the rift between them.
For a split second, as Yuushi stood there and felt the way that Gakuto was embracing him, Yuushi wondered if that was the secret to playing a perfect doubles game. To understand your partner completely, even when the outward signs said something different from what he actually meant… To trust your partner enough to let him read those hints, even when they revealed something that you were afraid to say out loud…
Was that what it meant to play doubles like the Golden Pair? Was that the key to Shishido and Ootori's perfect combination?
Yuushi didn't know. But it certainly couldn't hurt.
"I know you're not," he finally responded, turning his head slightly so that he could smile down at his partner. "But we do have to get out of bed eventually, or otherwise…"
A sudden beeping noise interrupted him, mid-sentence.
"Good morning, everyone. I trust that you all slept soundly… Those of you that actually got around to sleeping, that is. But whether you are fully rested or not, I still expect to see you all at the breakfast table in fifteen minutes."
There was a pause, and Yuushi and Gakuto had almost assumed that the message was over, when Atobe's voice continued in a particularly suggestive tone…
"And once again, you need not thank your merciful captain for overlooking the fact that some of you were not in your own beds this morning. See you all at breakfast."
The message ended with a low chuckle, and another beeping sound.
For a moment, Yuushi and Gakuto just stared at the intercom speaker that was mounted on the far wall.
"Bastard," Yuushi finally muttered. "Why does he keep bringing it up, if he's overlooking it?"
"… How does he even know about it in the first place? Ugh." And Gakuto shuddered. "I'm starting to think he's got cameras rigged up somewhere."
Yuushi's eyes met Gakuto's, and they both started laughing.
"Probably. I wouldn't put it past him, in any case… He's a sick, sick man, you know," Yuushi joked, smirking a little.
"Oshitari Yuushi, what on earth are you saying? I have articulated this to you excessively… I do not support voyeurism!" Gakuto rolled his eyes, lowering his voice in a somewhat ridiculous imitation of Atobe's speech pattern. And Yuushi really couldn't help laughing.
"Don't, Gakuto," he gasped out, trying to stop. "He's probably recording this conversation… You'll be kidnapped, or tortured, or something…"
But his partner was too busy cupping his hands around his eyes like binoculars, still using that ridiculous voice. "No, ore-sama is certainly not a pervert… That would be utterly preposterous… Damn, that Tezuka is a nice piece of as---"
"Gakuto!" By this point, Yuushi was just trying to catch his breath. "He'll have your head on a platter if he hears you."
"Hmph. I'm not scared of him." And Gakuto just tossed his head. "He makes fun of us, so why shouldn't we?"
"I suppose so," Yuushi relented, finally able to keep himself from laughing. "But I'm not going to save you if he sends professional assassins to bump you off."
"Yuushi," and Gakuto's voice started going up into a whine. "That's mean, you know."
"Yes, I'm a horrible person." Yuushi chuckled a little, wrapping his partner in another hug. "But you should know that already."
To his surprise, Gakuto didn't offer a witty comeback. Instead, there was a quiet pause, and then the acrobat murmured, "You're not a horrible person, Yuushi. Not at all."
And the tensai couldn't resist a smile, as his arms tightened around his partner. He stood there a minute longer, just enjoying the feeling of Gakuto's smaller body pressed up against him. But then he released his partner, gently but deliberately.
"We should get going," Yuushi said at last. "There's no point in making His Royal Highness wait. He'll start having a fit, and we certainly don't want that."
"Okay, okay. I'm coming," Gakuto sighed, finally getting out of Yuushi's bed. "Ugh… Atobe's such a control freak."
There was a pause for a moment, as Yuushi thought about this.
"He certainly is," the tensai said at last. And he couldn't help thinking to himself that Gakuto had no idea how true that was. Yuushi didn't know all the details yet, but he was starting to realize that Atobe knew even more about everything than he would have guessed. And there had been several recent remarks that had made him think so…
"You can both just ignore it, like you always do."
"That's a personal objective of mine… And it's confidential information, I'm afraid."
"Shouldn't you be discussing this with Oshitari?"
"You two certainly took your sweet, sweet time. It's been… what? Two years?"
And Yuushi glanced over at Gakuto, who was still standing by the bed. But the acrobat just returned his stare with confusion in those blue eyes, and Yuushi knew it was too much to ask for his partner to be equally suspicious of their captain. Well, that didn't matter. Yuushi could figure out that particular mystery all on his own.
"What?" Gakuto asked, cocking his head slightly in response to Yuushi's stare.
"It's nothing." Yuushi paused for a moment, and then he smiled quietly. "I love you."
And Yuushi just admired the effect of that familiar blush, as it spread across Gakuto's face…
But if the tensai's hypothesis was correct, he owed Atobe a greater expression of gratitude than he had ever given to anyone.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Our Oshitari-Mukahi pair will be playing against Shishido and Ootori for the top doubles spot."
Yuushi strolled right into the library, only to find exactly what the tensai had expected to see there: Hyoutei's ever-arrogant captain sitting in an enormous armchair, behind an equally imposing desk. Atobe's head was slightly bent down toward the book that he was writing in, but other than this subtle posture, nothing indicated any particular attention toward his current activity. Still, Yuushi couldn't help raising an eyebrow.
"Writing in your diary?" he asked in an ironic tone, not bothering to announce himself.
There was a pause, as Atobe glanced up at the tensai with something of the air of a reigning monarch being pestered by an insect.
"It's a journal, if you must comment on it," Atobe said at last, continuing to write in exactly the same manner as he had been before Yuushi's entrance. "What can I do for you, Oshitari?"
"I had something to ask you," Yuushi began, as he watched the way that Atobe's pale hand slid across the paper.
"And what would that be?" The captain's tone was still incredibly casual, hardly even aware of the context of the question.
But the tensai hesitated for a moment. He knew what he wanted to ask… Or at least, he knew essentially what it was that he wanted to know from Atobe. But when it came to phrasing it as a question, Yuushi wasn't quite sure what he was asking. And then something occurred to him.
"Aüf wiedershen, Tezuka."
There was a moment of silence, as Yuushi debated with himself. Of course, he knew that this was pushing the envelope, but then again, Atobe certainly never hesitated to speak his mind. And so he said it anyway.
"Atobe, I overheard you talking with Tezuka Kunimitsu two nights ago."
For a very brief moment, Yuushi saw Atobe's eyebrows flick upward in surprise, and the tensai almost smirked with the satisfaction of having finally caught his leader off guard. But the expression was gone in an instant, and just like that, Hyoutei's captain had completely regained his ice cool composure.
"And you had a question regarding this rather pointless subject?" Atobe turned a page and continued to write, his voice maintaining its customarily smooth tone.
Yuushi almost grimaced, but then he simply took a deep breath and continued. "Yes, I did, and I can't say that I would call it 'pointless'… What does Tezuka Kunimitsu have to do with our training session here?"
There was a long silence, as Atobe sat there in his armchair, staring at the blank pages in front of him. And then he quietly shut the book, folding his hands as he returned the tensai's piercing stare.
"While I'm sure it goes without saying that it is none of your business, I will tell you this much…"
Here Atobe paused, just long enough to let his usual self-confident smile slide across his lips.
"… You'll find out everything that you need to know about that at breakfast today. And whatever your assumptions may be about what you heard, I am quite certain that your conclusions will prove to be inaccurate."
Atobe slowly stood up, grasping the journal in his hand as he began to saunter toward the door. But Yuushi wasn't going to let the captain leave it at that, not this time.
The captain paused, right in the doorway.
"You've been plotting something all along. Don't think I don't know that." Yuushi's eyes remained fixed on the back of Atobe's head, daring him to move. But Atobe just chuckled.
"Have I?" came the smug retort.
Yuushi could have rolled his eyes out of sheer frustration. Really, it was too much to ask to have to deal with such a self-absorbed individual like this. But he still had to know something, and Atobe was the only one who could possibly have the answer. And so he let his voice drop to a quiet murmur, the closest that Yuushi had ever come to begging…
"I just want to know what knocking Gakuto and I out of first singles had to do with this."
The ensuing pause felt as though it took hours, and not moments.
"It was nothing more than an experiment, really."
"So you remembered after all," Atobe commented at last, almost lightly. "I'm impressed, Oshitari."
"How could I forget?" Yuushi replied, raising an eyebrow. "That discussion with you was just the beginning of all of this chaos."
Atobe actually threw back his head and laughed, in a strangely casual way. And then he turned to look at Yuushi, with a slight smile on his face.
"It wasn't really the beginning, you know," he said quietly. "It was just the first time that you decided to notice it."
Atobe paused again, and Yuushi almost tried to ask what he meant by that, but then the captain continued, with a faint light hidden somewhere in those clear, cold eyes.
"In any case, don't overestimate my influence, Oshitari. I can't be held responsible for everything… I just tell it like I see it."
With a brief, almost unnoticeable movement of his arm, Atobe brought his hand up to his face, with that familiar gesture that had become a habit of his whenever he had one of his infamous flashes of insight. And then with another chuckle, he was gone.
And even Oshitari Yuushi had to smile.
So that's it.
It went without saying that Atobe Keigo was a calculating person. He could see people's most hidden weaknesses, and he could use that insight in whatever way that he felt was to his advantage. And he had obviously used those powers of observation in rearranging Hyoutei's two doubles teams…
But to whose advantage?
"You two certainly took your sweet, sweet time. It's been… what? Two years?"
No, Atobe couldn't be responsible for everything. Whatever his role may have been in forcing Yuushi to see the problems in his relationship with Gakuto, Hyoutei's captain couldn't have dictated the tensai's actions. No, not his, and not Gakuto's actions, either. In the end, the events that had followed Atobe's decision had unfolded at their own choosing, leading right up to the previous night's crescendo…
But Yuushi knew now that without that initial decision, they could have never arrived at this unforeseen destination. And the tensai was starting to suspect that this particular decision might have actually had very little to do with tennis.
Still, Yuushi really did have to smile, as he walked out of the library and started heading for the dining room, in anticipation of the explanation that he had just been promised.
After all, it was clear that Atobe had long since figured out that Yuushi had been in love with his doubles partner, and he had allowed that insight to dictate at least some of his most recent decisions…
But when had Atobe become so gifted that he could even see the weaknesses in people's hearts?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Well, this was interesting.
"Game, Mukahi. Three games to love," Hiyoshi called out from the referee chair. And Yuushi had to smile at the confident way that Gakuto was carrying himself, tossing his red hair with a casual shrug of his shoulders.
Of course, the acrobat had a reason to be proud: he was beating Momoshiro of Seigaku, and he was doing it by himself.
It was a much simpler story than it should have been, really, when it came to explaining why Gakuto was playing a singles match against Momoshiro Takeshi, of all people. For one thing, Yuushi would have never guessed that Seigaku was training in the mountains at the same time that they were – though, admittedly, in what could not be called a 'mansion' by any stretch of the imagination. And for another thing, the tensai really should not have expected for the two teams' paths to cross, in spite of that strange coincidence. And yet, here they were…
And somehow, Yuushi wasn't exactly surprised.
"Yes, I know that. I'll uphold my end of the bargain. But you owe me one, you know."
Of course, Yuushi had taken the hint, from the moment that Seigaku's coach walked into Atobe's mansion at breakfast that morning, that this was what their captain's telephone conversation with Tezuka Kunimitsu had been about. And by the time Hyoutei had boarded their bus to head toward Seigaku's training grounds, Yuushi had put the rest of the missing pieces of that particular puzzle together. So, in a way, Atobe had kept his promise: Yuushi had received a complete, if unspoken, explanation for everything that he had overheard two nights before.
This was all part of the bargain, of course. Atobe had obviously struck a deal with Tezuka to help Seigaku prepare for the finals against Rikkai. And he had done it without bothering to tell the rest of them what he was planning… Which more than accounted for the astonished expressions on the rest of his teammates' faces, when Atobe coolly announced that they would all be playing singles matches as part of a training session with Seigaku that afternoon.
Nevertheless, it made perfect sense to Yuushi.
Of course, Atobe was going behind Sakaki's back by doing this; their coach hardly ever agreed to practice matches with other schools, especially not with teams that were still in the running for Nationals. And so it was no wonder that Atobe had kept this a secret from all of them until the very last moment. Besides, it was fairly self-evident why Atobe had chosen to accept this offer from Tezuka. After all, if Seigaku actually managed to win against Rikkai, that would mean a better chance for Hyoutei to receive the team invitation for the National Tournament. And that was perfectly in line with Atobe's normally self-interested motives.
But then again… It didn't explain everything.
For one thing, it didn't explain why Yuushi was strangely enjoying this whole practice session with Seigaku. First, there had been the tensai's own singles match against Fuji Shusuke, and while that had been something of a failure for him, he had actually found himself engaged in a tennis match for the first time since their defeat at Kantou. It was almost bizarre, really… He would have expected that he wouldn't have been interested in tennis anymore, since he had no particular reason to keep playing doubles with Gakuto, which had been his whole excuse for playing tennis for Hyoutei in the first place.
And yet, when he had found himself standing across the net from the only other person in the junior high circuit who could hit the infamous Higuma Otoshi…
He had been strangely excited.
"As expected from you… I completely lost. It's all right… I had fun."
It hardly even mattered to Yuushi that he had been defeated. And that was strange enough… After all, he had once taken it personally that Fuji Shusuke was much better known for the Higuma Otoshi than he was, and he would have expected to feel frustrated upon losing to someone that he considered a clear rival. But as he had shaken hands with Seigaku's tensai, after losing to the shorter boy with a score of 5-7, he had discovered something that was even stranger…
Playing singles was interesting.
It was strange, but it was true. After playing nothing but doubles for two years, Yuushi had discovered that he had finally reached a level of tennis where the singles matches were just as unpredictable as doubles. And he had actually enjoyed playing against such a challenging opponent. In fact, he even found himself reconsidering the idea of playing singles for official tournaments, an idea that would have seemed completely unacceptable to him only a week ago…
And then there was Gakuto's match, which still wasn't over.
"Game, Mukahi. Four games to one."
Yuushi watched as his partner flew through the air, completely bewildering his opponent as he won point after point. Of course, that Momoshiro was a tricky one, and there was no way of knowing if the acrobat's winning streak would last for the entire match, but even so…
Even so, Yuushi couldn't help feeling proud of him.
"They're not the only ones who've matured."
Yuushi smiled as Gakuto's feet landed on the ground again. It was true, he thought. Seigaku wasn't the only team that had grown as a result of that fatal first round at the Kantou Regional Tournament. Hyoutei may have had to deal with a devastating loss, but they had all grown from that experience. And they had learned a few things about themselves in the process… Yuushi couldn't help thinking about Ootori and Shishido, who only a few months ago had barely known each other. And then, of course, there was Gakuto…
"Super Great Momoshiro Special!"
Yuushi felt his glasses slide down his nose.
Sure enough, that Momoshiro was pulling something out of thin air at the last minute, using a crazy shot that had so much power that the bounce on the ground was delayed. And Yuushi didn't even want to think about how hard he must have been hitting that unfortunate tennis ball, to leave a crater in the ground like that…
Well, that was Seigaku for you, after all.
"Game and match to Seigaku's Momoshiro."
Yuushi just shook his head.
Of course, it wasn't really that surprising, as far as probability went… Gakuto's style of tennis was made for doubles, and the duel had been a complete mismatch when it came to hitting strength. Still, the acrobat had made quite a showing against his former opponent, and he had proven that his stamina problem was all but solved. But more than that…
"Okay, but I won't forgive you if you lose in the finals," Gakuto was saying as he shook Momoshiro's hand.
More than that, Gakuto was actually being rather calm about the loss, no matter how ridiculous the circumstances had turned out to be.
Well, that's different.
After all, Yuushi couldn't help thinking of a time, not so very long ago, when the mere idea of a loss had been enough to make Gakuto stomp angrily on a certain person's foot.
"Yuushi, it's almost match point, you know."
And with the knowledge of what had happened since that day, Yuushi really couldn't resist a brief chuckle.
But then again…
What kind of a stupid name was "Super Great Momoshiro Special"?
"That's some bad naming sense," he heard himself muttering, trying not to think about it too hard, since Momoshiro obviously hadn't.
"… That's just uncool."
And the astonishment on Shishido's face was absolutely priceless, as he stared at Ootori with an open mouth. The second-year player had said his senpai's trademark phrase right along with him, at the exact same time, syllable for syllable. Gakuto shot Yuushi a rather suggestive look at that, but the tensai could feel himself just shrug. Well, that was a perfect doubles pair for you, after all.
And then they couldn't resist sharing a certain knowing smirk.
Well, that was a perfect doubles pair, but he and Gakuto didn't have any real need for perfection.
What they had was something else altogether.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Tell me… Do you know the answer to this question?
Do you know how love starts?
The sun had fallen behind the western horizon, by the time that the Hyoutei Regulars boarded their charter bus to return home. It had already been starting to set when they left Seigaku's training camp, but now it had disappeared for good, only to leave a star-kissed twilight stretching across the sky like a cloud of smoke.
The air was getting cooler, up there in the mountains; it was the kind of weather that made you want to pull a sweater over your head and stay outside until midnight, absorbing the moonlight and the nighttime breeze. But there was no time for that, because they were all heading home. The bags were already packed and loaded into the storage compartments, and the driver was climbing into his seat and getting ready to slip the key into the ignition slot.
It was a damn shame, Yuushi mused as he leaned back in his seat and stared out the window.
There had been no help for it, though; it wasn't like Hyoutei was a democracy. As soon as they had boarded the bus after the practice with Seigaku, Atobe had remarked almost offhandedly that they would all be heading home that same evening. No one had even asked why they were going home now, of all times; Atobe had said it, and so that was that. The captain had gone on to say something about how "all of ore-sama's goals for the trip have been accomplished," but the way he had phrased it had been so vague that no one had actually understood what he was talking about. Still, it didn't matter; Atobe had said it, and so they were going home. They had had just enough time to take a brief shower and meet up again for dinner, and now it was time to leave.
"Hey, Yuushi, can I sit here?" A voice tugged at the tensai's ear, and the next thing Yuushi knew, he was smirking up at his doubles partner, decidedly unable to resist the chance to tease him.
"Of course you can't."
"Yuushi---!" And Gakuto pursed his lips in that rather charming half-pout, the one that he had a tendency to make when he was pretending to be hurt.
"Alright, I suppose I could condescend to let you sit by me," Yuushi relented with a careless shrug, trying to hide the smile that was twitching at the corners of his mouth.
Gakuto's blue eyes rolled up toward the ceiling as he tossed his bag onto an empty seat across the aisle. And then he sat down next to the tensai, putting his lips right up against his partner's ear so that he could mumble under his breath, "You sound just like Atobe, you know."
"Do I really?" Yuushi replied smugly, whispering it back into his partner's ear and secretly enjoying the way that it made Gakuto shiver. "Well, that's not good, is it?"
"No, it's not… And don't do that."
"Don't do what, Gakuto?" Yuushi whispered back, making sure to breathe the words right next to the acrobat's earlobe.
"Yuushi---! Stop that!" Gakuto hissed, smacking the tensai firmly on the shoulder. And Yuushi figured that it wasn't the time to mention that Gakuto's physical retaliations almost never hurt him.
"Alright, you two," the expectedly arrogant voice said as it floated over the general commotion inside the bus. "I don't know what it is that you're doing back there, but please save it for the privacy of your own homes."
"As if, Atobe!" Gakuto snapped. But Yuushi couldn't resist adding, in a rather suggestive voice, "Don't try to hide the fact that you so obviously want to join us."
Gakuto had to bite his lip to keep from laughing out loud, and Yuushi smirked in satisfaction as Atobe turned his head and stared at the tensai, with one eyebrow raised in disbelief.
"Oh, it's nothing." Yuushi just shrugged a little, staring at the ceiling, and waited until Atobe had looked away again before adding, "We don't do threesomes, anyway. You'll just have to endure your disappointment."
Atobe just glared toward the back of the bus, before tossing his head and sniffing out an annoyed "I wish you wouldn't flatter yourselves," as he faced forward again. And Yuushi could hear Shishido snickering, and Ootori was probably blushing at all the double talk. Which left Jiroh, who was already sleeping, and Kabaji, who was just sitting next to Atobe in silence, and Hiyoshi, who was sullenly ignoring everything around him…
Yes, all was right with the world.
The bus gave a slight jerk as it started to pull out of the driveway and onto the road, rumbling down the secluded path at a steady pace. It was fairly dark inside the vehicle; almost all of the lights were off, and Yuushi had a clear view of the landscape as it rolled past his window. It really was nighttime now, with only the thinnest sliver of pale blue still cutting across the horizon as a reminder of the faded daylight. And in that brief silence, all that had happened over the course of the past few days flashed through his head, and he suddenly remembered something.
"Gakuto." He turned and said it very quietly to his partner, who was fumbling around in his duffel bag, apparently in an effort to locate his CD player.
"Yeah?" Gakuto sat up again, player in hand, as he met the tensai's stare with some curiosity.
"I've been thinking about those matches that we played against Seigaku today…" Here Yuushi paused, unsure of how to continue. He was about to take a deep breath, hoping that what he had to say would manage to come out right, when Gakuto suddenly interrupted him.
"Do you want to play singles, Yuushi?"
The tensai froze in place for a moment, and then his mouth fell open in surprise. "How did you know that?"
But Gakuto just shrugged, glancing down at his feet. "I don't know… You looked like you were having a good time playing against that Fuji guy. So I figured you might change your mind about playing doubles all the time."
Yuushi looked carefully at his partner, trying to read that ambiguous look in the acrobat's downcast eyes. "Does that bother you?"
There was a pause, and then a smile slipped onto Gakuto's face.
"Nah. I already told Atobe to pair me up with someone else, didn't I?"
"Oh, so you wouldn't take me back anyway?" Yuushi chuckled, snatching the CD player out of his partner's hands and holding it high above his head. "I'm hurt beyond repair, Gakuto."
"Yeah, I'm so sure." Both of Gakuto's arms were straining for the stolen item, but his fingers couldn't even brush against it. "Give it back, Yuushi!"
"Not until you tell me that you love me," Yuushi whispered in his partner's ear, still holding the player.
"Fine, I love you, you cheater," Gakuto whispered back, getting up on his knees in an attempt to grab it. But Yuushi just pulled it down in one smooth motion, right past Gakuto's hands and behind his own back. Which happened to result in Gakuto falling right into him, a fact that Yuushi didn't exactly mind.
"I could kill you, you jerk," the acrobat was mumbling.
"Kiss me first," Yuushi murmured, as his free arm slipped around the shorter boy's back. And Gakuto growled slightly, which Yuushi happened to know was just for show, before relenting and pulling himself up toward the tensai's face.
Of course, their lips had barely touched when a certain captain felt the need to comment, "If you two are doing what I think you're doing back there, I'm going to make you pay for any ruined upholstery."
"God, they're not at it again, are they? Holy crap, they're like rabbits…"
And Gakuto just rolled his eyes in Yuushi's direction, which led them to both smirk at exactly the same time.
"Oh! Oh, Yuushi---! Don't stop! Please don't stop! God, I want you," Gakuto gasped out, every syllable said with an overly dramatic sense of urgency.
"Leave it to me, Gakuto," Yuushi added, in a breathless voice. But that was really too much, and they both burst out laughing.
"…Oh. They were faking."
"With such completely absurd dialogue, I could only hope so."
"C-can we just leave them alone now?"
And of course, the peaceful silence that followed left Yuushi and Gakuto plenty of time to finish their kiss in the dark, after which Gakuto settled back into his seat and put on his headphones. As for Yuushi, he found himself gazing out the window, and suddenly his eyes caught sight of that glowing orb that was rising just above the black shadows of the passing trees. The moon was barely beginning to wane, and to a casual observer, it would have still looked like it a perfectly round sphere, as it shone down into the night.
And Yuushi suddenly remembered that secret that he had learned, in that moment when he had reached out to touch the silver moon, almost forty-eight hours ago.
So, tell me. Do you know how love starts?
You're not the first to ask.
Yuushi smiled, as he thought of that night, that night when he had first realized that he was in love with Gakuto. It was a moment that he was never going to forget, one of those precious few moments that had actually mattered, and that was why it was fixed upon his memory like a page written in permanent ink. There were so few moments like that, he had come to realize, and in a strange way, it was almost a relief that not every little detail had to fit together for such an important conclusion to come to pass.
After all, it ultimately didn't matter that he had decided to play singles. It didn't matter that there was a certain someone that he still wanted to defeat, all by himself, because Gakuto would always be right there when the match was over, and they would still have each other, no matter what the result might turn out to be.
In fact, it had never really mattered whether they had played doubles together or not. It certainly hadn't mattered whether they won or lost, and it hadn't even mattered whether or not their coach would have allowed them to keep playing together up until that point. No, it hadn't mattered, because in the end…
In the end, no matter what they had said, no matter what they had done… No matter how long they had tried their very best to ignore it…
There were some things that just couldn't be stopped from falling into place.
Yuushi blinked in surprise, feeling a sudden pressure on his shoulder. But he could only smile as soon as he looked down, only to see Gakuto's head resting there. The acrobat had already dozed off from the fatigue of the day, and Yuushi found himself carefully slipping his arm around his sleeping partner, in order to keep him from leaning too far forward as the bus rattled along.
And that was how Yuushi spent the whole bus ride to Tokyo, as he just sat there in the dark and smiled silently to himself, with the knowledge of the secret that he had so recently learned.
So how does love start? I'll tell you.
Love starts when you first meet it.
You won't feel it until you recognize it.
But in the end, it's no more complicated than that.
Author's Note: Well, after nearly a month and a half of struggling through this last chapter, mostly because of the pressure of final exams and then the insanity that comes with the holidays, I finally managed to conclude my OshiGaku fanfic. I really hope that you all enjoyed it, and I just wanted to say one final thank you to everyone who read my story, and an extra big thank you and a hug to all the kind reviewers who encouraged me to keep going with it. I couldn't have done it without you.
I did find this chapter one of the hardest to write, mostly because I didn't really want it to end. But I'm content with how it turned out, especially given all the chaos of trying to find enough time and inspiration to finish it.
For anyone who wishes that I'd written more frequently over the past few months, I would also like to mention that I have made a resolution to write much more over this coming year than I have in the past. And just to let anyone who might be interested know… My newest project will be posted in a few hours under the account name FallingMarshmallows. It's a collab fic in a journal format, and it's called Ice Breaker, starring Atobe and Sanada. (There was a tiny hint about it hidden in this chapter, for those of you who were paying attention during the scene with Atobe! XD) But rest assured; there's much more to come, so keep an eye on my profile page for updates. Thanks again!