I always do this, write the same scene twice in different documents and ending up having a complete clash that I need to re-word into the same thing. Yes, it delayed the chapter in being finished, blame that if you want. :P Either way, I hope you still like it.
Disclaimer: Prince of Tennis belongs to Takeshi Konomi.
Summary: Sanada Genichirou had always been fascinated with time. When he is given the opportunity of a life-time to travel into the past, he jumps in enthusiastically, not realising that his actions could very well change his entire future.
Sanada felt his breath hitch and lodged in his throat. There, standing before him…was a younger version of Kei-chan.
Don't Play with Time
Chapter 2 A second, first meeting.
He couldn't breathe, he couldn't think; barely aware of the fact that his host was currently introducing him, Sanada felt his entire body freeze in what must have been shock.
It was Kei-chan; undoubtedly it was Kei-chan. Only Kei-chan had such brilliantly blue eyes…
"Atobe, this is Genichirou Sanada," Mr. Hatfield said, "he's the head scientist staying here for sixth months."
The young man nodded, a tempting smirk set upon his lips. "Good evening, Sanada-san."
"Atobe's the son of an old associate of mine," Mr. Hatfield was saying. But Sanada was not listening, hearing that voice without breathless rasps, feeling it thread through the air so smoothly…it was better than the most beautiful melody.
This was Kei-chan…a younger Kei-chan. That fact itself was still so difficult to grasp, Sanada nearly reached forward to touch him, just so he could make sure this was all real.
Kei-chan had spoke of his admirers of course, about how they would trip and fall over themselves just so they could please him. Yet he had never imagined he would be so handsome.
Smooth, alabaster skin replaced the hundreds of thousands of wrinkles that had lined Kei-chan's face; soft, silky hair adorned his head instead of coarse, grey wires; and those lips…perfectly pink with a full set of teeth behind them, so different to the yellow, decaying mess of Kei-chan's sunken mouth.
Mr Hatfield was still prattling on, something about Atobe and a south wing, whatever that meant. Sanada couldn't help but ignore everything as his eyes took in the magnificence that was Kei-chan in his youth.
For a strange second, Sanada wondered what he should do. It was a stupid question of course, so idiotic Sanada could have smacked himself. There was nothing he needed to do, Kei-chan's past was not a life he should interfere with. Any actions that are based on information from the future had the potential to disrupt the entire balance of the world. They came as observers, not informers.
Though it'd been interesting to see what Kei-chan was like in his youth.
Unfortunately, before Sanada and Atobe Keigo had so much as a chance to actually converse, Mr. Hatfield had dragged him away and into a conversation with a group of self-gratified
'scientists', who turned out to be rich men that reiterated others' research and acting as if they themselves conducted them.
As the evening went on, Sanada continued to glance at Atobe, watching him flutter around social circles like a butterfly dancing around flowers. It wasn't until dinner that Sanada actually came within earshot of the young Kei-chan.
They were two seats away from each other, amongst twelve others at the large circular table they were guided to. The chair between them was empty at first, but Atobe had been engrossed in a discussion with an elegant woman in navy blue, forcing Sanada to wait for an opportunity. But by the time Sanada was given a chance to strike up a conversation, the empty seat had been taken. And as the dinner started and finished, Sanada wondered if it was really that good of an idea to find out more about this younger Kei-chan.
It was rather flattering, to be paid so much attention when you have barely met a person. Even as one as full of natural charisma as himself, Atobe was sure even he had never induced so strong of a focus as he was experiencing right now.
Was he still looking? A quick glance to his left; just fast enough to catch the slight swing of hair that accompanied a swift turn of head. Yes, he was still looking.
Sanada Genichirou, a head scientist at some secret research laboratory Atobe did not care to remember. They had been introduced earlier in the night but were given little chance to converse. A shame really, despite his relatively stern attitude, Atobe would have liked to have spoken to the scientist a little more. Maybe find out why he fascinated him so. Then again, Hatfield-san had said he was staying in the mansion for the next six months, so he was sure he'd be given an opportunity.
For now, he should concentrate on his ultimate purpose for being at this party.
"Oh, what would my daughter say to that!"
And Atobe excused himself from another group of valuable acquaintances
That was his unshakable routine at any gatherings; increase social relations, create new connections. It was one of his jobs, and a job that he excelled at, and a job that constantly increased his father's pride in him as a son.
Not that it wasn't highly enjoyable of course. Making women fawn all over him; watching men eye him with admiration, it was all so delightful.
Yes, Atobe loved his life.
It wasn't until dinner, that Sanada crossed Atobe's mind once again. Coincidentally, they ended up at the same table, two seats away from each other. They did not manage to speak to each other; in fact, Atobe did not even notice him until partway through his conversation with Mrs Cuttlebrie. He was in the middle of explaining the stupidity in the investment choices of someone they knew when he had felt an intense presence piecing through him from behind. Atobe, curious as to who was staring at him so unflinchingly, had turned around for less than a second. Their eyes had met, just long enough for Atobe to determine the face that accompanied them, before he moved back round, continuing the conversation without any unnatural pause.
Atobe would later argue that that was the single interaction they shared that evening.
The luxurious dinner, complete with seven courses, was followed by a coffee and tea break to let the guests relax and digest, as well as further socialisation, before orchestral music sounded through the air in a bid to encourage dancing.
Sanada met many people and discussed many things with them. Yet as he stood at the edge of the dance floor resolutely not dancing, only one thing registered in his mind.
Atobe Keigo was very different to Kei-chan.
In fact, if it were not for those eyes, Sanada would never have known them to be the same person.
Kei-chan was kind, gentle, comforting. And most of all, warm and inviting.
Atobe, on the other hand, was an icy blizzard ready to sweep you off your feet, leaving you not only in awe but also in the freezing cold.
"Can I not tempt you into at least one dance?" the pretty brunette besides him said.
"I don't know how to dance," Sanada declined as politely as he could. She had been extremely informing, thanks to her vast knowledge of petrol-run cars, and had given him a deeper insight as to why the emergence of the hovers became such a turning point in the history of transport. All of which would be useful for his report.
Now if he could only remember her name…
"A real man should always know how to dance," a confident voice drifted over to them and Sanada felt his breath shorten involuntarily. "And I believe it was time you accompany a real man, Miss White."
"Atobe! My my, you shouldn't tease me so."
Sanada blinked at the abrupt change of attitude in his companion. The girl might as well have swooned for all the subtlety she was showing.
"I do apologise, it is not intentional." Liar. "You just have this unexplainable affect on me." He's probably said that to nearly every girl he met this evening. Though obviously with a slight deviance in wording. Atobe may have been admired because of his exquisite looks, but his behaviour was far from discouraging.
"I hope you don't mind if I take this lovely lady for an exciting quickstep," Atobe said with a casual smirk as he offered an arm to a giggling Miss White. "I'll be sure to bring her back in once piece."
Sanada did not give so much as a nod of acknowledgement before Atobe whisked the girl off to circle the dance floor. Despite the blatantly obvious difference between Atobe Keigo and Kei-chan, Sanada was still finding it hard to speak in his presence. Being face to face with Atobe induced a conflicting mix of emotion in him; part of him felt obliged to please him just because he was Kei-chan's past, whilst the rest of him knew it would be better to not feed that oversized ego.
How are they the same person?
All evenings must end, and Sanada could not be more glad when he was allowed to return to his room for a good night's rest. They may have been here for less than a day, but there was plenty of work to be done tomorrow. Not to mention he'd have to write a report about that party.
Granted, his superiors had implied that they would not be penalised if they used the first few days to get accustomed to their environment and relaxed a little. However, Sanada felt that there should be little difficulty to become accustomed whilst working. In fact, the sooner they started their research, the more information they would have for analysis.
All the guests should be returning to their own expensive mansions, using their expensive, petrol-run cars. That of course, included one Atobe Keigo…
Sanada felt himself sighing in exhaustion. It had truly been an experience, to meet the young and overly handsome Kei-chan. Yet in a way, he was glad that it would be unlikely to see Atobe again. Though it may be rather irrational on his behalf, he wanted to remember Kei-chan as the kind beggar who told stories with such energy and life, not as a pampered little prince who won people's heart without a care in the world.
It was nice to have seen Atobe Keigo…but once was enough for him.
The next morning came all too soon, but Sanada still managed to dress himself before any of his team members woke up. It was then a tiring task of making sure everyone was attentive and awake enough before they all headed down for the first meal.
Sanada pushed open the double doors that lead to the breakfast parlour…and almost froze immediately at the sight that met him. Thankfully he regained control of his body in time to continue walking briskly forward as if nothing was wrong.
"Ah, Sanada!" Mr. Hatfield exclaimed from the head of the table, "and I'm glad every one else seem to have regained energy to partake in breakfast. Did you all sleep well?"
"Yes, very well, thank you," Sanada gave the obligatory reply for his entire team. But his eyes were not focused on Mr. Hatfield. No, they were trained on a regal figure seated to their host's left.
"Good morning, Sanada-san," Atobe smirked at him over his coffee cup.
Sanada managed to force out a nod, despite the sudden stiffness in his neck. "Good morning." What on earth was Atobe doing here?
"Atobe, as I'm sure you've guessed, this is Genichirou Sanada's team of scientists! They look wonderfully organised don't they?" Hatfield said, completely unaware of the waves of discomfort radiating from the captain.
"Indeed," Atobe replied with that same confident drawl, though his eyes never left Sanada's, even as he took a sip from his cup; those lips were consistently quirked in what Sanada thought to be amusement.
"Everyone, this is Keigo Atobe," Hatfield continued his introductions. "He's currently staying in the South Wing of the building.
Finally, Atobe tore his gaze away and smiled charmingly at the group standing neatly behind their captain. Sanada let out his breath, even though he did not remember consciously holding it. No wonder I felt tense, holding my breath for so long. Of course, in reality, it wasn't very long at all.
"Lovely to meet you all," Atobe greeted with an extremely slow, and thus barely visible, nod.
A murmur of agreement sounded, causing Sanada to glance back briefly. Every single member of his team was staring at Atobe as if dumbfounded; yet another group taken in by his steady charisma and glowing beauty.
"Come," Mr. Hatfield said as he waved at the seats, "sit down sit down. I imagine you must all be hungry."
No one moved. Sanada barely contained the twitch in his eyebrow.
He cleared his throat. And his team snapped back into the presence, hurriedly seating themselves to hide their embarrassments.
Wit an aggravated groan threatening to escape, Sanada took the empty seat beside their host. And consequently, opposite Atobe.
Breakfast was mostly eaten in silence; Mr. Hatfield appeared too fond of food to interrupt his meal with trivial conversation. And none of his team members were particularly willing to discuss anything over the table, even with each other. The air felt strangely tense, and Sanada could not help but think that Atobe's presence was going to seriously affect them.
It was only not long after Mr. Hatfield had finished eating that a butler came in and whispered something into his ear. Being of relatively close proximity, Sanada knew it was something to do with a phone call. Mr. Hatfield's angry and dismay expression afterwards told them all they needed to know.
Nevertheless, Mr. Hatfield, after downing his orange juice, informed them all of an emergency he needed to take care of right away and that he was especially regretful to Sanada and his team that he would not be able to show them around the house today.
"Ah, it's also a shame that I cannot accompany you on a morning stroll, Atobe," Hatfield said, looking almost worried for not being able to provide the needs of his guests. "But…" he looked over at Sanada, who experienced a sudden, foreboding feeling travel through his body. "Sanada, why don't you walk with Atobe? The rose garden is lovely during this time of year, and I daresay Atobe makes a much more interesting tour guide than little old me."
A large part of Sanada wanted to refuse, to give the excuse of work, to decline from this favour as quick and efficient as possible. But this was their host, and they had not so much as stayed for a single day yet, the time frame still required him to give into such whims.
And so, he agreed, perfectly aware of the excited glances his team were exchanging over their luscious breakfast.
"Wonderful!" Mr Hatfield cried, dabbing his mouth and excusing himself from the table as he rushed off to deal with whatever had went wrong.
Atobe also excused himself, something about e-mails and duties before their 'lovely little stroll'. Sanada could not remember the exact wordings, he had been a little distracted with the way his team members all froze the moment Atobe spoke, and shamelessly turning their heads to stare as he sauntered out of the room.
The rest of breakfast went without any incident, for which Sanada was thankful for. But by the time they returned to their own private living room, or the communal relaxation centre, as one of his team so dubbed, the excitement from before had returned.
Sanada almost wished he could look forward to this 'day off', but the idea of spending an entire morning with an arrogant, stuck up version of Kei-chan did not really appeal to him. Stop comparing them; just treat them as completely separate people.
He tried…and decided that he was not looking forward to spending an entire morning with an arrogant, stuck up, pampered and spoilt adult-brat.
But first, his team. "Today's assignment," he said to the neat row assembled before him, "is to familiarise yourself with our current environment, more specifically: our current residence. You may not leave the grounds of the mansion under any circumstances and must write a detailed report of all that you have found."
It wasn't a difficult assignment; the mansion grounds rivalled the size of the Inventory. He could practically feel the enthusiastic anticipation radiating from his teammate. "Dismissed."
A loud cheer erupted from them before he had even turned around to head to his room. Sanada almost started to worry, but he had hand-selected this team, they were smart and talented. Somehow, Sanada knew, they would turn this supposed day-off into valuable research.
The maid that guided him down to the library parlour (it lead to the rose garden through a beautiful set of French windows and apparently had the best starting point to view the florals) didn't open the door. Instead, she said in a quiet, albeit well-mannered, voice that 'Mr. Atobe is waiting inside' and left him standing alone, in front of the closed door without another word.
For a brief second, Sanada was tempted to turn on his heels and explore the rest of the house on his own. Noting the difference in technology, the designs of cars, or even the brick wall that surrounded the place. But the second passed, and Sanada stepped into the room.
Atobe was reading a leather bound book when he entered, but looked up almost immediately. Setting the classical text aside, Sanada noted it appeared to be some German literature, the overly-handsome person stood up.
Atobe gestured at an intricately designed archway, "Shall we?"
--To be continued…
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