50 themes-- originally sentences, but that was so limitating


#01 – Motion

Ryoma is running toward his dream, toward his father, toward Tezuka even; Atobe just happens to stand in the way.

#02 – Cool

Atobe belongs to the elite, the cream of the wealthy, designed to wed a pretty and proper girl with money - it's a good thing Ryoma does not care about any of that.

#03 – Young

People said they were trying things out, that it was one of adolescence's phases. After the third year, they stop saying that, muttering incoherent things such as, 'Youth these days…'

#04 – Last

Atobe is Ryoma's first. Ryoma is Atobe's last.

#05 – Wrong

Word of an illicit relation comes out pretty quick, and echoing stares and judgements never miss target when aimed at either guy, and yes, it might be wrong. It just doesn't feel so, therefore they don't break it off. (Like hell anyone could know better than them, anyways.)

#06 – Gentle

Atobe cups Ryoma's face, runs his thumb across the boy's lower lip and the annoying smirk morphs into a genuine, tender smile.

Ryoma reciprocates and trusts Atobe not to brag.

#07 – One

Ryoma loses his cooler-than-thou composure when he enters the room and sees the row of new, shiny commercial fridges full of Ponta. "I only asked for one."

#08 – Thousand

Atobe only shrugs. "We have a better deal if we buy in bulk."

#09 – King

One day, Ryoma says Monkey Man instead of Monkey King.

#10 – Learn

He doesn't get any that night.

#11 – Blur

Graduation just means more running around for Atobe, more trying to make things right with the strict business world his father lived in, the world he is destined to live in as well, and for a whole summer, all Ryoma can see of his boyfriend is a blur of rich and warm colours.

#12 – Wait

Somehow, even though he has a zillion less things to do, he's still the one whose punctuality leaves a lot to be desired, as Atobe tartly points out when Ryoma arrives twenty minute late— that's a thousand and two hundred seconds too much, when every tick-tock brings a new business deal in Atobe Corp's faxes.

#13 – Change

It happens a few more times, but he who used to be a drama queen, one whose antics were scribbled down to entertain future generations, does not make a big deal out of it.

No one around realizes the mechanics of it, but Atobe Keigo is growing up.

#14 – Command

Ryoma tells himself he is doing a good thing by forcing that boy, barely an adult, to take time off and sit still.

#15 – Hold

By lieu of vengeance, the next few times he bothers to call, Atobe's assistant has him listening to elevator music for what felt like the longest time. (For every 'On hold' he received, he'd make the monkey wait an extra ten minutes. Fuck the theory of the vicious circle; he'd get the last word.)

#16 – Need

Love, need, cuddles in the night, stolen kisses, lingering embraces, forever—those were awful cutesy words to describe a relationship better qualified with lust, kinks, smirks, rough, truth, now. Still. Some of these too sticky-sweet words might not be too far from dead-on.

#17 – Vision

"That boy is proud," someone says.

"Proud," another laughs. "is one way to say it. Most irritating, arrogant brat ever would be a better one."

Ryoma happens to intercept that conversation. He steps forward to reveal himself, and the two girls quiet down at once, embarrassed that he caught their hypocrisy.

"That's one way to see it. Want to meet the person you thought I made up when rejecting you both?" He smiles, genuinely amused. "If you were going to award me with such a fancy title, then you can't possibly have met him already."

#18 – Attention

Atobe has learned to execute at least five tasks all at once. The trick is to not be committed to any of those things, the same way you can watch many television channels if you don't try to pay real attention to a particular show.

When Ryoma leans in to kiss the workaholic out of him, he reaches for his computer and remote control with both hands, turns them off. Then his right hand digs into his pocket to prevent his cellphone going off. With his left hand, he pulls the boy closer. Ryoma smells like fruity bubble bath.

It all takes no more than a fraction of second.

#19 – Soul

There is something to be said about eyes and soul, but in the throes of passion, looking at the golden irises of his lover, Atobe just stops thinking.

#20 – Picture

While Atobe likes to pose for a camera, get the photograph to immortalize his beauty, Ryoma refuses to hold still next to Atobe, refuses to let proof of something romantic exist.

#21 – Fool

Atobe goes for the next best source: he goes to fangirls, who sell him a pile of M-rated pictures taken God knows when, then to Fuji, who gives him a single frame. On it, Ryoma and him are talking quietly, looking very intimate, very something, and Atobe's breath is taken away.

#22 – Mad

Ryoma is too angry to go past the fangirls' pictures. Atobe doesn't get any that night.

#23 – Child

Nanako announces her pregnancy as the summer air gets chilly. It's the beginning of the end for two very bright tennis players who played at being more than just that.

#24 – Now

That morning, Ryoma had felt a kick against his awkward hand. Nanako had found his blushing endearing. He himself had found the moment to be time-stopping, if his heart missing a beat was anything to go by. And now… Now Atobe is standing right in front of him, looking very exhausted, very curious, and very reluctant.

Smart boy, that Atobe.

#25 – Shadow

Ryoma calls at dusk with the silly hope darkness would blind his senses as well as his eyes.

He explains a feeling that barely makes sense, but that rules over his heart as a tyrant. Atobe does not speak, which makes the whole sequence very dreamlike—there is no wind, no biting cold, and very little light.

Nothing feels real, until he blinks and suddenly Atobe is nothing but a silhouette traced by the moon.

#26 – Goodbye

His heart is already breaking. He just doesn't feel it yet, won't feel it before the numbness washes away.

That won't happen anytime soon.

#27 – Hide

Atobe changes his schedule. Ryoma changes his routine. Atobe works overtime, and Ryoma often goes to visit the Ryuzaki household, with a sick Sumire and a still blushing Sakuno. (Ryoma finds comfort in that, because some things just never change, and it's nice after an earthquake.)

The paths they had met on nearly every day do not see them meet again.

#28 – Fortune

Sakuno confesses. Ryoma is surprised, he had not seen it. (Momoshiro can't believe that, he laughs really loudly when he's told)

Ryoma doesn't think he likes her that way, but she has long hair, her face is soft and her curves are coming to be quite womanly. He sees her as a Nanako meant for him.

#29 – Safe

He doesn't propose. He's twenty-three; he's not even close to being ready to be married. Instead, he asks her to be family.

#30 – Ghost

He crashes into Atobe Keigo the next day, the first time in months. Atobe mutters something about the late Karupin's kitten—apparently, Ryo-tama is perfectly healthy. Ryoma nods, not trusting his voice to be as cocky as it used to be.

#31 – Book

He wonders about the dictionary's definition of family. Perhaps—perhaps there are more ways to interpret the term.

#32 – Eye

Sakuno tells him something about eyes and soul and whatnot, something about him having a glazed look and seeming a bit distant for a few days. He tells her she's imagining things. She changes his life with her next words.

That's good, she says. I might be pregnant.

#33 – Never

He mentally lists important moments in his life. Winning the Nationals with his team the first time, with Tezuka as Buchou. Winning the Nationals with his team the second time, with Kaidou as buchou. Winning the Nationals the third time, with him as buchou.

Winning against Tezuka. Against his dad. Mouths crashing in furious kissing.

Staring at Sakuno, he realizes there has never been another moment in his life where he had felt so utterly overwhelmed.

#34 – Sing

Call it woman's instinct, but she has sensed the underlying fear that kept him from speaking to her after her declaration, kept his hand from touching her the way it usually did when they went to bed.

Her voice is soft, girly, motherly. The words are strange, a bit wacky, probably invented on a lazy afternoon with her long-time friend Tomoka, but despite all that, it is a lullaby, and despite all his mature testosterone, Ryoma does fall asleep in her arms, a perfect imitation of a child to come.

#35 – Sudden

Suddenly, he also recognizes the reason why he chose her. It had not been a coincidence that their first time had been after they came back from seeing Nanako and her baby for the first time.

The miracle of birth is enough to veil his eyes with some kind of purposeful love. It's not enough to create passion, but you don't need passion for birthmaking.

#36 – Stop

He stops worrying about what could have been, wills lingering memories of Atobe away. No need to be insecure. He even manages to be happy with Sakuno.

For a while.

#37 – Time

The date is marked on the calendar hanging on the kitchen wall, circled in red, little happy smiley face courtesy of cute little Sakuno. (Except she isn't so little now that her belly is swollen)

So Ryoma only has to check to the spot in red, still several months away, to know that something is wrong with a wailing Sakuno, hands pressed against her womb, tears in her eyes.

Because it's not time yet, yet it's happening.

#38 – Wash

Their combined tears when they learn the night of complete misery was for nothing… It washes away the illusion they had created together. When Ryoma doesn't see a mother in Sakuno, he doesn't see anything resembling a girlfriend, lover, future wife.

He embraces her in a bone-crashing hug anyway. He discovers there is nothing more sad and haunting that the cry of a mother who lost her child.

#39 – Torn

She wasn't strong enough to bring life. He isn't good enough to give love out of compassion. They do the only thing they can.

#40 – History

There is a big empty apartment and there are many big boxes full of his stuff. If the rent were not so ridiculously cheap, he'd have to sell at least three quarters of it, because his job just isn't as steady as the next guy's, and that would have been a freaking shame.

Because the only box he would be keeping in that case would the one in the center. It holds a jersey, a cap, a photo album, a tennis ball with his face on it, a cellphone forced on him, a baby blanket Nanako had given him, a framed picture of him and Atobe…

Nothing anyone would purchase. Nothing that could help him in everyday life. Every item priceless…

They keep him sane and drive him just as insane.

#41 – Power

Lack of sleep, alcoholic beverages, weird movies in the middle of the night, all are factors to a decaying mindset. When he finds with much surprise that the battery of the cellphone is still fully charged, he hits speed dial.

It's the best and the worst move he could have done. His life is full of contradictions and stupid ideas. (Mada mada dane—he's not there yet. But he will be)

#42 – Bother

Why did he call the glorious Atobe Keigo at four AM?

His mind races to find an answer. The first thing he comes up with is tennis. The second is heartbreak and needing to talk to someone who would grasp the concept. The third is an apology; the fourth is a booty call.

He challenges Atobe to a tennis game, best of three matches. Because, once upon a time, tennis solved every damn problem.

#43 – God

In his youth, Atobe had firmly believed that he was a godlike figure, on and off of the tennis court. Now, he knows better.

If he had been a God, he'd have been able to breathe life into something, he'd have saved Ryoma's infant that time had killed, he would have had the power to mend broken hearts.

Most of all, he would have known about a baby before it died.

#44 – Wall

He doesn't even notice about the psychological walls entrapping him before Ryoma's eyes narrow at him.

#45 – Naked

Strangely enough, it's a rude, arrogant remark from his opponent that allows him to open up, just a bit. "I am most indignant. You did come several times to visit that cat of yours, but I have never heard of Sakuno expecting your child."

"Cut the crap, Monkey King."

#46 – Drive

Insult driven home, mouth opens to reply, possible (probable) banter coming up.

Then Atobe thinks of a more interesting point to rise. "We barely played tennis."

"You stopped the game." What was his point?

"We never talk."

"Che. We're talking right now."

"Why did you call me at all, Echizen?"

#47 – Harm

God, the Atobe Corp's new leader could be annoying. What, did he think he could hurt Ryoma with the use of his surname? Not even close.

Voice as smooth as razor blades, Ryoma speaks. "I still want it."

"What it?"

There is honest curiosity in the question, and Ryoma feels like he's being pulled both ways. That hurt for real.

Both; his face betrays his indecision, and his certainty. He wants both.

#48 – Precious

That is not the answer he utters aloud. Mada mada, not yet, is not it either. He's not ready yet, true, but if he doesn't react right on the spot, he'll never be.

There is the past to consider.

In the past, they had their fun. They had adrenaline pumping through their veins, sweat sticking their bodies together, snark and banters daily, hidden caring and fondness neither would admit, legs entangled and cats invading their privacy.

Perhaps more, Ryoma thinks, Fuji's picture coming to mind. But that was in the past.

There is the future to consider.

The joy of growing a family, if they decided to do something amazingly reckless and stupid and impulsive, they wouldn't experience it. A kid carried a lot of possibilities, opportunities, eternal happiness in itself. Nanako radiates bliss all around her.

Compared to that, gay couples simply don't go very far in the domain of personal growth.

#49 – Hunger

There is the present to consider.

There is, after all, something to be said about the past not existing anymore, the future not existing yet, the present being the only thing that was truly real.

For confirmation, Ryoma anchors himself to Atobe's intense blue irises.

He stops thinking.

"Right here, right now, I want you."

#50 – Believe

They lie together, surrounded by soft blankets and fluffy pillows. Once thrown away in haste, they came back to their rightful places.

Neither speaks. Ryoma knows of no word to describe the situation, his feelings, the complexity of everything that he is. Atobe is scared to use the wrong word or make it meaningless. Every doubt has not dissolve with the simple act of love making.

Words do exist in the silence of the bedroom, without being spoken.

Hope. Faith. Wish. Future.

Words of belief. Together, they'll come through.


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