Disclaimer: I do not own Prince of Tennis.
A/N: Never was a big fan of flashbacks. So what do I do? Write a story with many flashbacks, of course. With the usual crushing and constructive criticism you might wish to offer me, I would very much appreciate your opinion on how I manage to make the flashbacks fit, since I've never before really used them so extensively.
And to those who might be wondering,
Q: Does she write any other pairings?
A: I'm beginning to wonder that myself.
His ex-boyfriend. How did it end up like that? How did the ex appear in front of the boyfriend? He wanted to believe he'd done everything to prevent that. He'd never wanted it to happen. Still it had, and it had been over a year already since he was first forced to call him his ex-boyfriend. A simple statement, a single word, two letters that still wrenched his soul and heart till it bled.
It had been a big fight that broke them apart. They fought all the time. Other couples talked, or discussed, they argued. Atobe hardly even remember what the fight was about, but it had escaladed, turned into a war, where they stopped talking, calling each other, neither seeking the other out to apologize, or just to yell some more.
They were young, so it was no surprise that their pride got in the way. But two and a half years should have meant more then pride, that was what he thought, that was what he'd thought Ryoma thought. That's why he'd stayed at home, waited for a call, waited for him to come to him.
Two and a half years together, starting from the day Atobe had turned sixteen and Ryoma was still thirteen, a few months away from turning fourteen. Atobe had thrown a birthday party for him self, invited Tezuka who had brought Ryoma because the brat had exclaimed he was bored and pleaded his captain to take him to the party. Atobe was still convinced Tezuka had thought he was taking Ryoma out on a date. Ryoma on the other hand, had weaselled himself to Atobe's party so he could corner the diva later that evening and lock the two of them to the bathroom.
When they emerged from the bathroom fifteen minutes later Ryoma had a big grin on his face and Atobe a hickey on his neck. It went without saying that he didn't allow Ryoma to leave that night. And that was the start of their relationship. It was hardly a stable relationship or anything from a fairy tail, but Atobe couldn't have been happier.
Ryoma was sixteen when they broke up, and Atobe eighteen.
Ryoma was now seventeen and Atobe had turned twenty just a few weeks ago. A few months and at the age of eighteen, Ryoma would be gone from Japan. His sight was set on the world of professional tennis. Ryoma had once told Atobe that at his mother's request, he would wait until he was eighteen, an adult, in the eyes of the law at least. Ryoma had agreed with his mother, mostly because he didn't want to give his father access to the money he expected to win in all the tournaments. Atobe had laughed at that, claiming that modesty was definitely not his best quality. But at the same time, he had silently agreed with Ryoma. The boy would win.
His ex-boyfriend. Echizen Ryoma. Standing in a store, holding on to a white collar shirt, staring at him with his brown eyes that glimmered with a golden light. How much had he missed the gaze of those eyes on him? So much, that if the world would stop now, he knew he would be smiling forever. He was happier then in a long time, and simply because he could see those eyes. What he wouldn't give for a smile.
Ryoma smiled at him. "Atobe–san," Ryoma greeted, and Atobe had never felt more miserable.
"You hardly ever call me anything but Keigo," he whispered. He saw Ryoma's smile waver, but it did not fall.
"It has been a while. What have you been doing?" Ryoma asked, and Atobe knew the boy had decided to pretend he hadn't heard.
"Nothing new. Studying. Working. You?"
"Nothing," Ryoma gave him another smile and hid the shirt in his hand behind his back.
Atobe shook his head and took the shirt. "Why are you hiding it? Did you pick out another fashion disaster and don't want me to see it? But this is a much too large size for you, it would only fit someone like…" Atobe took his eyes of the shirt and glued them to Ryoma's face. The boy had an expression of outmost guilt. Atobe knew why, he knew, but could not believe it. Ryoma wouldn't do that to him, not that, anything else, but not that, not after everything, so many hours spent on convincing he would never do that.
"Ryoma? Did you find the shirt?" Tezuka's voice was followed by the man. The shirt in Atobe's hand was a perfect fit for him, obviously. Atobe handed it to him.
"I'm sure it'll fit you. It's a nice design and the colour will go perfectly with your personality," he said, ready to leave.
"Atobe-san." Ryoma's voice stopped him. "It's been so long. Can't we just be friends?"
Friends? Friends! There was no way he could be just friends with Ryoma. "I don't see why not." Atobe gave him a smile that screamed of fake. Ryoma realized it and cringed. Tezuka didn't.
"I'm glad," Tezuka said. "Why don't you come to dinner tonight? Fuji and some other friends are coming too. You could bring someone."
"That would be lovely, but I'm not seeing anyone," Atobe gave him a tense smile.
"That's not necessary, you can come by yourself. Not everyone there is seeing someone, anyway." Tezuka was pushing his luck. "You know where I live, right? Why don't you come around at eight? Come on Ryoma."
Tezuka took hold of Ryoma's hand and dragged the boy after him. Ryoma glanced once behind his back at Atobe.
"Friends? Sure, lets be friends Ryoma. And Tezuka, you're going to regret the day you laid a hand on my boyfriend." There, now the offending two letters were gone and Atobe swore they would disappear from Ryoma's mind too. At least when it concerned him. Tezuka could be everyone's ex-boyfriend if Atobe was asked.
Ryoma took another anxious look at the clock that hung over his head in the dining-room wall. Eight a clock was long past, Atobe wasn't coming. Ryoma wasn't sure whether he felt disappointment or relief because of his absence. One thing he knew was that he shouldn't have felt anything about it, not now that he was with Tezuka.
Tezuka had actually been the reason why he and Atobe had gotten together. It was the match between those two that had gotten Ryoma to first notice Atobe. But Tezuka had still been the centre of his vision. What really changed it though, was his own match against Atobe. Still, it took almost a year before he could admit what exactly it was, that he felt for the other boy, but it didn't take long for him to take action after the realisation.
Ryoma knew Atobe couldn't really care less about him. Heck, he was sure Atobe hardly thought about him as anything other then a nuisance. He decided that was going to change.
Tezuka had gotten an invitation to Atobe's sweet sixteen party and seeing it as on opportunity Ryoma seized it. He had long since figured that he could get almost anything he wanted from Tezuka if he just asked in the right way, so he asked Tezuka if he wouldn't mind taking Ryoma along.
The first thing he noticed once stepping in to the house was Atobe, fluttering around the room like a butterfly. Sometimes, sometimes Ryoma really wondered what he saw in the arrogant Monkey King. But then Atobe smirked and flipped his hair and Ryoma grunted, feeling a response in his groin. "That's right, hormones," he muttered.
Tezuka went to say hi to Atobe while Ryoma blended in to the crowd and waited for his moment. Atobe offered himself up on a plate when he decided to take a brake and leaned on the wall next to the bathroom.
"Hi, Monkey King."
Atobe frowned at him. "Brat. What are you doing here? Oh, wait, I can guess. Tezuka brought you. So, did he get into your pants already?"
Ryoma frowned right back at him. "What the hell are you talking about, Monkey King?"
"About Tezuka and his little crush on you."
"You're delusional. There's no way- Who the hell cares. I'm not here to talk about Buchou."
"Oh really? Then why are you here?" Atobe asked, eyebrow raised, leaning to the wall with one hand, the other on his hip, ankles crossed.
Ryoma took three steps so he was standing right in front of Atobe and smiled up at him. Atobe didn't like the glimmer in the kid's eyes. He gulped.
Ryoma extended his hand, reached past Atobe to open the bathroom door and smirked.
Atobe laughed. "Oh, you wanted to use the bathroom. Ore-sama shall move out of the way then."
"I think you need a bathroom brake," Ryoma told him and pushed him in to the bathroom.
"What the hell, Brat?!"
And that was all the talking they did. Ryoma somehow managed to tip Atobe to the floor, lock the door and climb on top of Atobe. Before Atobe could protest Ryoma had already sneaked his hand inside Atobe's shirt and slam his mouth on Atobe's.
Moaning, Ryoma savoured the feeling of Atobe's lips on his, the other boy's skin beneath his palms and the silky feel of Atobe's hair when he buried his fingers in it. It was pure bliss when Atobe's hands circled around him and he answered the kiss, making it even more passionate.
Ryoma lost track of time, he no longer cared if his first time was going to happen in a bathroom. All he really cared about was that Atobe was there, kissing him back, moaning just as hard as he had been, when Ryoma sucked on his neck.
"You constipated or something? Other people need to use the bathroom too!" A yell, with a vaguely familiar voice woke them both to reality.
"You're rich. Do you really have only one bathroom?" Ryoma whispered the question to Atobe's ear.
"For the guests, yes. Of course, I have my own bathroom next to my bedroom."
"I'd like to see it."
"Actually, I was thinking more on the lines of a bed, but I'll settle for the shower, too."
"Maybe in the morning."
Tezuka's hand on his shoulder brought Ryoma back from his memories. "I really thought he was ready to forget and move on," Tezuka said. "That's why I invited him."
"I knew he wouldn't come," Ryoma answered. The look Atobe had given him when he realized who the shirt Ryoma was carrying was for… Atobe hadn't forgotten and neither had Ryoma. But he'd moved on, he was with Tezuka now. Tezuka had been there when everything had ended with Atobe.
Still, the fact that he was with Tezuka now, the very man that had been the cause of so many fights between them, gnawed at Ryoma.
"You still refuse to see it?"
"See what? There's nothing to see! You're being paranoid. I'm just going to play a few games with Buchou."
"It isn't just a few games to him. He wants you!"
"Even if he does, what does it matter? I don't like him. You trust me, right?"
"I trust you. I do not trust him."
"I'm not asking you to trust him."
"Promise me, promise you'll never, never, never-"
"Don't worry Keigo. I'd never leave you for Buchou."
And he hadn't. He'd never believed Atobe when he claimed that Tezuka had a crush on him. Right until the night Tezuka kissed him.
Ryoma had run away, when Tezuka kissed him. It took him a week to agree to even see Tezuka again and it had almost driven all their shared friends to the point of insanity. To them, the former regulars, Ryoma and Tezuka together was something that was destined to be. None of them really liked Atobe, except Fuji. Even Fuji though, wanted him together with Tezuka.
Ryoma finally agreed to speak with Tezuka thanks to Fuji. They began as friends again and the friendship turned in to a deeper relationship. It was stable, comforting and familiar. Everything he and Keigo hadn't been.
There were no arguments, no surprises. He and Tezuka, they talked, made compromises, had dinner with their friends every Friday.
Atobe used to pick random and mostly inconvenient times to take him on surprise trips.
Atobe would kiss him on the spur of the moment, when ever he felt like it, not caring where they were.
Tezuka was always careful about preserving their privacy. The most affection he showed in public was holding his hand. He was even self-conscious about kissing him in front of their friends.
Tezuka was always mindful about his feelings, he would always ask what he would like for dinner, what kind of movie he would like to see, what he would like to do.
Atobe forced him to try new things, took him to opening nights of plays and critically renowned movies. He never asked what Ryoma wanted to do. He usually knew, since all Ryoma's wishes revolved around tennis.
Well most of them, anyway. The ones that didn't… Atobe could definitely grant those wishes, since he was the reason for those wishes.
What Ryoma missed most though, was not the sex, or the surprises. It was simply the feeling of Atobe's presence.
True, what brought them together was sex, but it hadn't stayed purely physical. Feelings had developed and 'love' had been shouted out in one of their arguments.
"I fucking hate you!" Ryoma screamed, the wind blowing on his face, making him squint, as he stood on the roof of one of the skyscrapers in Tokyo, wearing a harness and a cut rope in his hands.
"Well I'm really fucking sorry that I love you too much to allow you to kill yourself by jumping of a building!"
"With a rope, you idiot! It's called bungy jumping! Wait. What did you say?" Ryoma asked, not furious anymore, but still shouting or his words wouldn't have been heard over the noise the helicopter was making.
"I will not allow someone I love to plummet into thin air with just a single rope as their protection," Atobe repeated his point, irritated that he was forced to stand on a roof of a ridiculously tall building just because Ryoma wanted an adrenaline rush.
"I love you too," Ryoma purred as he cuddled close to Atobe.
"Great. Now get in to the helicopter and we'll go to dinner someplace nice."
"How does the Eiffel tower sound to you?"
"Perfect! I hear you can do tandem bungy jumping from there!"
"What? It won't be just a rope to keep me safe. You'll be with me."
Of course they hadn't gone bungy jumping. Apparently that wasn't allowed in the Eiffel tower. Stupid French!
Still, it was a pleasant memory and Ryoma smiled because of it. Then he realized he should stop reliving the past and focus on now.
"You're not eating, Ryoma-kun," Fuji observed from his place beside Ryoma. "And you have been lost in your thoughts the whole evening. Is something wrong?"
"No, nothing," Ryoma answered. No one else besides him and Tezuka knew Atobe was meant to join them tonight. Ryoma, knowing Atobe wouldn't show up, had asked Tezuka to keep his invitation a secret.
"Come on, eat something Echizen, so you won't fade away!" Momo grinned at him from the other end of the table where he sat next to Kawamura.
"Eat O'chibi, eat!" Kikumaru cheered and glomped the nearest person next to him, that happened to be Inui.
"Eiji!" Oishi shouted when Kikumaru knocked Inui's chopsticks from his hand. "Be careful!"
"It's alright," Inui picked up his chopsticks and continued with his previous task; feeding Kaidoh shrimps.
Ryoma sighed again and leaned his head against Tezuka's shoulder. It was nice, to be around friends. And Tezuka was the perfect, considerate boyfriend.
Still, when Tezuka kissed him that night, Ryoma missed the passion he had felt with Atobe.
Tezuka's kisses and caresses were always gentle and kind.
Keigo's kisses had been intense, caresses sometimes rough, possessive."Mine," Keigo had once whispered against his lips. He heard the echo of that whisper in his dreams that night.
"Fuji," Atobe called after the fair haired man.
Fuji turned on the crowded street, looking at him, surprised. "Atobe," he greeted. "What a surprise to see you. It has been a while."
"Nearly two years," Atobe confirmed. "Would you like to grab a quick lunch?" he asked and inclined his head towards a restaurant not that far.
Fuji considered the offer. "I have some free time."
Once they were seated in a booth next to a window and a waiter came by, Atobe barked on order, "Water," and sent the man away. Fuji blinked his eyes at this strange behaviour, but did not comment on it otherwise.
"So, how did your dinner with the happy couple go last night?" Atobe asked, snarling.
"The happy couple? Do you mean Echizen and Tezuka? If so, it went fine." Fuji placed his elbows on the table and leaned his jaw on his joined fingers.
"It went fine, did it now?" Atobe slammed the menu he had just picked on the table.
"Yes, though I am wondering how you knew about it."
"I know because I was invited." Atobe smiled tensely.
Fuji blinked and sat up straight. "Invited by whom? Echizen?"
"By Tezuka," Atobe growled.
"That was either very cruel or very optimistic of him. And I've never seen Tezuka do anything cruel."
"I'd vote for stupid, but that's just me," Atobe said and snapped his fingers. The waiter appeared immediately. "The vegetarian pasta with my usual instructions."
"Yes Atobe-sama." The waiter bowed.
"And you Fuji?"
"What ever you're having sounds interesting, Atobe-kun."
Atobe nodded to the waiter and waved him away.
"I see you've been here before, Atobe," Fuji commented.
"It was one of Ryoma's favourite places," Atobe responded with hard eyes.
"That is surprising. He hardly goes anywhere that doesn't serve Japanese cuisine."
"They serve that here, too," Atobe told him. "Provided you know how to ask, of course."
They waited silently for the food. It didn't take long for it to arrive and Fuji got a kick out of Atobe's face when he added some of his own spices to the pasta. He never went anywhere without his emergency supply of wasabi.
"What are you going to do, Atobe?" Fuji finally asked.
"Can you honestly say he is happier now, then when he was with me?"
Fuji took his time in answering. Finally he sighed, feeling defeated. "No, I can't," he answered. "It still doesn't mean that I'm going to support what ever it is you are intending to do."
"Right now, you have two miserable people. If I have my way, there will be only one miserable person."
"But that someone would be Tezuka." Fuji's voice had an edge.
"I really couldn't care less about Tezuka! Ryoma is mine! I love him and I know he still loves me!"
"How do you know that? Maybe he has fallen for Tezuka?"
"Never! He would never do that! Not after he promised-" Atobe took a deep, calming breath.
"What did he promise? That he would never be with Tezuka? Things change. People's feelings change. He is with Tezuka now."
"Just tell me, how was Ryoma last night when I didn't show up at eight like I was meant to?"
Fuji didn't want to face the truth, but he had already admitted to Atobe that Ryoma had been happier with him, than with Tezuka. He remembered all of Ryoma's glances at the watch, his moments of inattention.
"It still doesn't mean I'm going to help you," he finally voiced his agreement to Atobe's thoughts.
"I never asked you for it. In fact, I do not need it," Atobe answered, content that his suspicions had been confirmed.