Disclaimer: I do not own Prince of Tennis.
Lady Monozuki: I finally got this chapter together for you guys. I had scraps written together for months, but I couldn't quite piece it all together. I think it came out all right though. Thank you for reading and please leave a review! Also, please see the author's note at the end.
Thanks to: SelfHatredisCommonEnough for betaing this chapter.
I'm worried that Atobe is going to do something stupid, again."
"You can't blame him. You know that he was in a tough position."
"We all were, Tezuka. We all were stressed out and hurt, but there's a right way to handle the situation and a wrong way. Atobe took all of his frustrations out on us, specifically Ryoma. What's worse is that we let him get away with it. You can't honestly think that he was justified in his actions."
"No, I don't think he is justified. However, I can't blame him either."
"Why can't you blame him?"
"Because Keigo was about to lose his company because of us."
-One year ago, America-
"Traffic must've been really horrendous for me to get here before you," Ryoma said. He entered the vehicle and closed the door. Before he could put on his seatbelt, the car started moving forward. He almost fell forward with the sudden jerking. Irritated, he started to turn around to snap at the driver.
"Geez, ease up on the gas—"
The man was not his usual driver. Nor was his bodyguard in the other seat. Instead, a lanky man with a twisted grin was there, pointing a gun at him.
"'Ello Ryoma Echizen, so nice to finally meet you in person," the passenger said in a nasally voice.
"Ryoma, there's something you should know."
Chapter Twenty: Complications
- One year ago, America-
"There's something you should know."
His ears rang loudly, temporarily impairing all of his cognitive functions. Slowly reality resumed to normal; bringing with it, all of the memories of what had just occurred. The smile on the lanky man's face had grown. The gun in his right hand smoked a little. His brain began to replay the scene that he wanted to forget.
Ryoma turned his head to his left. His once pristine manager was almost unrecognizable. The dark liquid covered his head, oozing from the wound to his eye. His stomach churned at the sight. He snapped his head back to the people in front of him, trying to not lose his lunch.
"Don't worry, we won't kill you. However, we will discuss what's going to happen."
"Because Keigo was about to lose his company because of us."
Fuji remained silent at Tezuka's statement. How could anyone let that justify what had happened to them? Even if Atobe was in such a situation, he had no right to treat them that way. Syuusuke took in a deep breath, trying to calm himself. Maybe he wasn't explaining himself properly.
"Perhaps I'm not being clear, Tezuka. This isn't about me wanting to hate him. This is about what's right and wrong. He may be on the verge of losing his company, but I do not care. Ryoma almost died. How can anyone put a company before their lover?"
"The business is Atobe's life. Without it, he would have killed himself."
"Then he, of all people, should know how much it killed Ryoma to not be able to play tennis. Ryoma lost any hope of having a career in professional tennis after what happened in America."
"You don't understand Keigo, Syuusuke. This was everything that he had worked for. This was the life that he had built."
"It was Ryoma's too. Keigo could have built a new life, one around us."
"Ryoma could have too."
"He was trying, for god's sake! When did you become so gullible? You could always bring the voice of reason and see things from both sides! But now you're blinded by whatever Atobe has told you!"
"He didn't. His parents told me."
"I don't understand why you didn't go, Gen."
Sanada sighed. For the past two hours, he had put up with Yukimura not so subtly telling him that he should go. He really didn't want to, not after what had happened the last time.
"Atobe isn't being honest with us. He says he wants to fix things, but he has an excuse for why he did things. He is not fooling me. He's going to just hurt us even more and I want to move forward, not keep walking in circles."
"What about the others, Gen? You haven't heard what they have to say. You have always defended others, especially when they couldn't defend themselves. You are letting people who can't even stand on their own fight a battle that you're a part of. You're abandoning them when they need you the most," Yukimura replied. "You're hiding because of selfish reasons. You know that you would hate yourself forever if you left them at a time like this."
Gen knew that Seiichi was right. He had regretted his decision of not going ever since he had made it, but he didn't know how he could face Atobe again. The rich man took them all for idiots. He was not one. However, he couldn't let them be alone.
"Gen, go. You need to be there. You've all suffered, but you still love them. Sitting here isn't going to make things better. Go to them. Talk to them and get some closure. I may not know everything that you all have gone through, but you still need them and they need you too. Especially Ryoma."
The memory of his last encounter with Ryoma came to mind. The wounds on the other's arms, the secret he had been asked to keep. He knew that Ryoma needed support. Syuusuke may have been handling it, but they were not strong enough to get through this alone.
"I'll be back later," he muttered.
He headed for the front door, exchanging his slippers for shoes on the way out. No matter his feelings toward certain people, this was still partly his problem to help fix. Ignoring the others because of his personal vendettas would not help him in his goal to get them back. He wanted to help them, especially Ryoma. He had made a silent promise not to let them go through this alone again, and he almost done just that.
- One year ago, America -
Ryoma sat in his hotel room, alone. His mind was still trying to process the events that had taken place moments earlier. Even though the kidnappers weren't present, he knew that they were watching. They had said that they would know if he so much as breathed. This was not the trip that he had imagined. This was not the vacation he had wanted to take in order to forget about his domestic problems.
Ryoma didn't even know who these people were or what they wanted. Did he do something to offend them? It was entirely possible. He had a terrible memory. Did they want money? It was again, a possibility. From who they wanted money was the question. Or perhaps, this wasn't even about him directly, but Keigo.
They're wasting their time. He won't do a thing to help me.
"This is how it will work. You're only going to attend your matches. Any press interviews, meetings, and so on have already been cancelled. Your manager was useful for something other than being a decoration. You won't talk to anyone. You're only going to play. Other than that, you're stuck in your hotel room. You won't leave without us. We'll bring your meals. Don't ever answer the phone or attempt to dial someone. We will see everything. We clear, kiddo?"
He felt his pocket vibrate. He had forgotten about his cell phone. However, he knew that if he answered, that it could prove costly. The scene of his manager played over in his mind. No matter what he did, he would never be able to forget that moment. One wrong move and his life could end.
"Why would his parents tell you, out of everyone?" Syuusuke asked.
"Because I could see it from all sides. They let Keigo spend his time with us, but it was too much to cover up. This wasn't going to be any easier with Ryoma aiming to be a professional tennis player. When we got together, we let hormones dictate us and we didn't consider the long-term effects our decision would have, especially for Keigo's family."
Syuusuke didn't want to hear it anymore. This was not the Tezuka that he knew or fell in love with. The Tezuka he knew would not back down and believe something so stupid as this.
"How much are they paying you to say this crap?"
"How much are they paying you?" He raised his voice. "It's the only logical explanation for your behavior. You're saying that it was okay because we were the problem! If Atobe wanted us out of his life, he could have told us, but he didn't! He abused us because he did not have the guts to tell us to leave. And you think it's acceptable for him to get away with that? That it's fine if we ignore everything that he has done? We're no saints, but we deserve better than that."
"They're not paying me anything. This is merely their—"
Syuusuke slapped his check. "You are a shadow of the person you once were."
"You think you know everything, Syuusuke, but you don't. I stuck up for Keigo because no one else knew! Whether or not you choose to accept it is up to you, but you don't have a right to act like we are the only ones who are hurting. Keigo made his choice and has made mistakes. However, you won't take a look at us and acknowledge our mistakes as well. We are not victims; we have never been. We stayed. It was our choice. Syuusuke, why did you really stay? Don't tell me it was because of Ryoma. That's a lie. No one forced us to stay, so why did you?"
- One year ago, America-
Ryoma stood on the court. Every eye in the stadium was upon him, waiting for his first serve. Harsh rays emitting from the sun bore down on him. He couldn't breathe well. All of the anticipation in the air suffocated him. How long had it been since they last saw him play? Everyone was anxious to see how much the son of Samurai Nanjiroh Echizen had grown since his first debut at age twelve.
His heart pounded loudly in his ears. Two pairs of eyes were paying particularly close attention to his movements. Ryoma threw the ball up in the air, knowing that if he delayed any longer he would receive a penalty. He jumped slightly, letting his body slide into a familiar form. His racquet connected with the ball and sent it flying over the net, into the waiting racquet of his opponent. Ryoma stayed where he was. He knew that even if his opponent could hit the ball, that it wouldn't make it over the net.
And he was right. His opponent smashed the ball hard to return, but the spin from the serve caused the ball to hit the net before falling to the ground.
"Fifteen-love," the referee announced.
Cheers echoed through the air, but he paid no attention to the noise. He stood behind the baseline once again. His golden eyes darted around the stadium. Right in front of him were the two men he wanted nothing to do with right now. The driver flashed him a dark look. He knew that they wanted the game to end quickly. Ryoma tossed the ball in the air for another serve.
Within twenty minutes, he completed his set of matches, not allowing his opponent to score more than two points. Of course, this wasn't the real test. He'd eventually have to face the tougher opponents such as Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic. That's when the competition would get fierce. Ryoma entered the limo, not bothering to acknowledge the two people already there.
"Do you think you could shorten your matches?" the lanky one asked.
"It's impossible," he replied. "This is only the beginning. The competition is only going to get tougher as the stages of the tournament take place."
"Well, you better try or we'll give you a good reason to try harder."
He nodded. Even if he tried explaining who his competition was, they would not understand. There was no point to trying to reason with murderers.
"I-I don't know what you're talking about. I stayed for Ryoma, that's it," Syuusuke stammered.
"Then why didn't you leave with him? Even after you knew what Ryoma was going through and what you had endured, you still stayed."
"You stayed too."
"I did. I stayed because I love Keigo. It didn't matter what happened. I love him and am willing to stand by him throughout the trials of life. What he did was wrong, but we never stood up to him or walked away. You can't blame him for everything we didn't do. So, why did you stay?"
He tightened the muscles in his body to keep himself from shaking. "I stayed because I still believed in us. I kept believing and lying to myself until Ryoma tried to kill himself."
"Why did it take that much for you to wake up?"
"Because I didn't see Ryoma every day. He avoided us and hid from the hurt. Even when I visited him, I didn't notice anything wrong with him. After all the time we spent together, I couldn't see through the mask he had in place."
"Or you chose not to see through it because then you'd have to admit that you weren't staying because of him."
"No, because I believed that it would all end and he and I would be together. I always pictured it just being the two of us. No matter what path we take in between, I will always love him the first and foremost."
- One year ago, America-
Sitting still was driving him crazy. Yes, he knew that he could move around his hotel room but, it was nowhere near active enough for him. Since his last match, he hadn't been able to practice, missing plenty of opportunities to create new moves and improve upon his old ones. Different techniques flowed through his mind and stayed. Tennis had always been about growing, expanding, and creating a new identity, a new style. The changes kept his opponents on their toes and the media in awe.
While he had currently been dominating the tournament, he felt that his wins were out of pure instinct, rather than actual skill. Even he knew that his normal passion for the game was absent. Only a couple of reporters had commented on his lack of drive, but it wasn't a huge issue since he kept on winning. On the other hand, he despised playing. Knowing that they were watching him all of the time, making sure he didn't do anything "stupid" made it all worse.
The time between matches was to be used for practicing and rest, but he couldn't find either of those things. He could feel his body starting to shut down. Even food wasn't enough to provide the energy he needed to stay awake and functioning. Ryoma simply wanted this matter to end. If he had complained about having to deal with his quirky lovers before, he would never do so again. All he wanted to do was hold them and rest in their warm embraces once more. Even Keigo.
No matter what he's done, I still want him.
The handle to his room twisted, opening the door. The two people he didn't want to see walked in.
"You have a match."
He nodded and rose from his spot on the bed. He grabbed his gear, making sure they could see every his every movement. Ryoma walked out of the room with his "bodyguards". The car ride made him nauseous. Every time he entered the vehicle, he thought about the lifeless corpse that had rested next to him for thirty minutes. Although they claimed to have cleaned the car, he could still see a small bloodstain on the seat belt. It was faint, but still there. Ryoma tried to ignore it, choosing to focus on his match instead.
They arrived at the tournament with enough time for him to warm up briefly. Today's match determined whether or not he entered the semi-finals. Under normal circumstances, he could strut around, spouting off his signature phrase. Now, he just had to overcome his physical exhaustion. The simple task of running laps caused his body to groan in protest.
Familiar movements that used to flow so fluidly now came together in pieces, as he had to think about each step. The weight pulled his body down. Ryoma closed his eyes, returning balls on instinct. The familiar sound of the ball hitting the wall eased the tension in his body. Temporary, his problems melted away. All too soon, the experience ended. It was time for his match to begin.
Tezuka curled his fist, tightening it at the words he had just heard. Even if he had heard it before, it didn't make it any easier to hear. He took in a deep breath, trying to calm himself. Why was he never enough for Syuusuke? Ryoma didn't want any of them, so why was Fuji holding on to someone who didn't care like he did. No one cared for him. He had opened his heart to all of them, only to have it stomped on and returned in pieces. Why did no one love him the way that he loved them? Tezuka tried to keep his tone even as he spoke.
"Why is it always about Ryoma?" he asked. "You entered into a relationship with other
people, but you always think about Ryoma. I didn't agree to be second to someone else."
"Tezuka," Syuusuke whispered. "I am sorry that you put in all of this effort, it wasn't fair to any of you."
Tezuka didn't want to hear it anymore. He leaned in close and roughly kissed Syuusuke. Just to have a taste of what had once sent his self-control into a frenzy. He had wanted this for so long. Now that he had it within his grasp, he did not intend to let go.
- One year ago, America-
Ryoma added to history. He had been behind five games, on the verge of losing the sixth, when he pulled back from behind. It maintained his perfect score, but he knew that this was his limit. Fortunately, he had a few hours before his next match. He walked back to the car, not speaking to anyone about his match. Once inside, he fell asleep, not because he wanted to. If only he had known what was in store for him later.
He could feel Syuusuke struggling to pull away, but he ignored it. Tezuka wanted this moment to last forever. This was how it was supposed to be, just him and Syuusuke. He only pulled away to catch his breath.
"Don't," Syuusuke breathed out. "Don't do that again."
Tezuka ignored that statement. He was going to have his way. Syuusuke started to get up, but he pulled him back. The emotional exhaustion of taking care of Ryoma had weakened Fuji, allowing him to easily overpower the other. He pinned down the other, climbing on top of him.
"Let me go, Tezuka. You're only making things more difficult."
"You don't understand how I feel."
"I have enough of an idea. I'm not going back on my word to Ryoma."
Tezuka growled. All that he wanted was to be important in someone's life. He kissed Syuusuke again, ignoring the punches and kicks.
- One year ago, America-
Ryoma felt his body moving slightly. Still trying to sleep, he ignored it. The movement persisted. He opened his eyes to see his two captors looking at him.
"Time for your match."
He slowly got up and grabbed his items. They had just let him sleep, no questions or consequences. He was shocked. It was the most sleep he had gotten in over two weeks too. Ryoma exited the vehicle and walked to go check in. This match was the only match standing in his way to the semi-finals. His opponent: Roger Federer.
Everything that he had trained for was going to be put to the test in this one match. Ryoma stretched, trying to warm his stiff muscles. There wasn't enough time for him to do a full warm-up due to his kidnappers waiting until the last possible minute to wake him up. Even if he wouldn't be properly warmed up, he felt better than he had in weeks. While he was still tired, he was confident he could hold his own.
The time had come. He stepped out onto the field to face his opponent.
Gen knocked on the mansion door and waited. A butler, who recognized him, answered the door. The butler seemed surprised to see him.
"Master Sanada, we were not expecting you."
"You don't have to address me like that anymore. Where are the others?"
"Upstairs, in the second library."
He muttered his thanks and headed up the stairs. The mansion, usually in impeccable condition, looked as though it had suffered an attack. The drapes on the floor and the rush of workers told him exactly what was going on. Atobe was renovating. Gen frowned. The place didn't resemble the one from his memory. Knowing Keigo though, that was exactly what the entrepreneur was trying to accomplish.
The second floor looked partly the same. It seemed that the remodel had only started a couple of days ago. Gen knew the path to the second library by heart. He had often visited it to get away from the drama and tension. It was curious that Atobe had decided to use the room. He thought that Keigo had forgotten all about its existence.
He passed by empty rooms, remembering the various guests that had stayed in them. They had always put on a façade when others were present, especially Keigo's parents. Around the corner, would be a couch against the railing. Two vases on stone stands stood above the couch. Across from there, the rich mahogany doors to the second library. He slowed his pace..He was already late; there was no need to rush. Gen rounded the corner and saw movement on the couch. He walked closer, edging toward the wall to get a better look at what was going on.
Tezuka was on top of Syuusuke, shirtless. Syuusuke, however, was almost completely unclothed. Blue eyes caught his. He saw the fear and helplessness. Gen sprang into action. He ran over to his two former lovers. His arms wrapped around Tezuka's chest. He pulled the other away from Syuusuke. Oh how quickly he had forgotten that Kunimitsu used to be his sparring partner.
Tezuka struggled against his hold, loosening it. Just as he was about to readjust his grip, an elbow crashed into the side of his head. The force of the impact was enough to knock him to the side, breaking his grip entirely on Tezuka.
"Damn it," he growled. Sanada tackled Tezuka, after recovering from the blow. They crashed into the railing. Tezuka's limbs flailed around, trying to make contact with any part of his body.
"Stop this, Tezuka!" he shouted.
The other didn't listen. Instead, he rolled toward the stand, crashing into it. Gen watched as the vase fell from its once sturdy stand. Quickly, he pulled Tezuka away from the falling object, saving the other from the blow. Upon hitting the floor, the vase shattered into hundreds of pieces. Tezuka still struggled against him, even after all of that. He pinned Tezuka's arms behind his back, keeping a firm hold on the other.
The library door opened.
Ryoma exited the library with Keigo. He had paused his story upon hearing the crashing noise outside. They both got up to investigate. He shook at the sight before him. Syuusuke was frozen in place, barely clothed. Tezuka had his shirt missing, and was currently being restrained by Gen. It did not take him long to figure out what had just happened. He stormed up to Tezuka, shaking with anger. He wanted to hit the man for doing such a thing.
Ryoma took in a deep breath, telling himself that violence was not the answer.
"Don't ever come by our place again," he said in a dark tone.
Tezuka stared at him.
Once he was content, he had made his point, he went over to Syuusuke. The other still hadn't moved from his spot on the couch. Ryoma picked up Syuusuke's clothes, offering them to him. He didn't make any sudden movements. He waited patiently as Fuji stared at his hand.
"I'm not going to hurt you," he said softly.
He could see the struggle in Syuusuke's eyes. They always told him the truth. Fuji reached out a shaky hand and took the clothes from him. He waited patiently for the other to get dressed, making sure not to stare. He didn't want to make the other uncomfortable.
Once dressed, he offered his empty hand. The trembling fingers reached for his, touching his skin gently, before firmly taking it. Ryoma helped him up. Time seemed to stop for the two of them. He whispered in Syuusuke's ear.
"You're safe. Everything's going to be okay."
They slowly started walk away from the couch.
"Gen," he said. "Will you please drive us home?"
Atobe stayed silent as he watched the scene before him. His mind slowly started to catch up to what had occurred. Ryoma passed him Syuusuke.
"We'll continue our discussion later," Ryoma whispered to him. He merely nodded. After the three of them left, he turned his attention to Tezuka.
"What you did," Atobe began, "was unacceptable."
"Keigo, please, I—"
"I don't want to hear your excuses!" he shouted.
"I have no place to go."
"You should have thought about that beforehand. You have to deal with the consequences of your actions. You may see yourself out."
With that, Atobe returned to the second library and closed the door behind him.
I have to deal with the consequences of my actions too.
Lady Monozuki: This is the end of Broken Promises. As I have stated before, I am breaking the story into three arcs. After this point, the title no longer fits and the focus of the story will be more set on fixing relationships (with a few juicy asides you'll have to stay tuned for). As a note, anyone who loves Thrill pair will want to stop reading after the end of the second arc. All of the main storyline will be finished by the end of the second arc. The final arc will focus solely on repairing relationships, no new storyline will be introduced after that point so Thrill lovers will not miss out on anything other than the OT5 getting back together (but hey, you probably don't care). I plan to start the new arc soon. I'm tossing around titles currently.
With all of that said, thank you to everyone for reading Broken Promises and reviewing the story. It has been a pleasure to read your comments and feedback in regards to this story. I hope to see your reviews for the second arc.