A/N: And here's the final chapter. If you spot any plot holes or mistakes, I'll be disappointed (at myself) but grateful if you point them out. Any other comments and critique also appreciated.
Atobe was in his room, trying very hard not to ignore his textbooks in favour of a tennis match that was showing on the TV on the other side of his room. Shishido had left it on when he'd come over, and Atobe hadn't bothered to turn it off.
Finally admitting the battle as lost, Atobe put down his pencil, took hold of the remote and added volume. Little by little he inched closer to the TV with his chair, its wheels squeaking slightly. When he got as far as beside the bed, he stopped, placed the remote on the mattress, leaned on his knees and concentrated on the match.
When there was a knock at the door Atobe sprung up from his chair, grabbed the remote and yelled, "I'm studying!" while trying to turn off the TV. Instead he managed to increase the volume, change the channel and somehow drop the batteries from the remote. Cursing, he dropped down on the floor trying to retrieve the batteries and stick them back in the remote.
Finally succeeding he stood up from behind the bed and prepared to turn off the TV. Instead he froze to stare at the screen.
It was a video he'd recorded and had forgotten to take out of the DVD player. Somehow he'd managed to push all the wrong buttons, and now he was forced to look at memories he'd thought to be able to ignore and forget.
"Keigo," Sanada's deep voice filled the room and the camera focused on the stoic boy's face. Atobe remembered holding the camera that day. "Turn that thing off."
Atobe's hand shook as he raised the remote and pressed pause. He wantedto, but couldn't make himself erase that image from the screen. Gritting his teeth he pressed rewind and made Sanada say it again. "Keigo, tu-" again, "Keigo, t-" again, "Keigo," and again, "Keigo".
He blinked when the screen went black and looked up to see Echizen holding the plug. He waited for Echizen to say something, but the boy just stared at him.
Atobe sat down on his bed, still holding the remote. Not looking at anything he just sat there, and would have continued like that if he had not heard a sharp crack. His head snapped towards the sound to find the source. Echizen had taken the DVD from the player and snapped it in half.
Atobe started laughing. There was nothing amusing about this, but his laughter only grew louder, until it became almost panicked. Not being able to stop, he tried stifling the sound with his hand, and when that didn't work, he hit his leg and clenched his jaw. It wasn't laughter anymore, the voice that escaped from between his teeth, but something desperate. He just yelled and couldn't stop, didn't stop until he felt lips pressed against his own.
The shock of having Echizen kiss him brought Atobe back to his senses and he quieted. He breathed in, inhaling Echizen. It was a scent that reminded Atobe of spring, dirt and leaves.
Echizen had his eyes closed, his hands on Atobe's shoulders. Atobe could feel the boy's smile against his lips. He felt his own pulse speeding up. "Made you shut up," Echizen opened his eyes and smirked, breaking the serenity of the moment.
Atobe frowned and leaned back. "What are you doing here?" he asked, narrowing his eyes.
Echizen drew his hands from Atobe's shoulders and shrugged. "I called your cell phone, but your mom answered and invited me over."
Atobe stood up and glanced over to his desk, not seeing his phone. He must've left it downstairs, and answering his phone and inviting people over was exactly the kind of thing his mother would do. Sometimes Atobe thought her only pleasure in life was to make her son's life as miserable as it could be.
He walked over to where the broken disk was and kneeled to pick up the pieces. "You didn't have to break it," he told Echizen, while standing up. "Simply removing it would have sufficed."
"You don't need a video of your ex-boyfriend anyway," Echizen said.
"How do you even know about that?" Atobe asked, wanting to know if Yukimura's guess was correct.
"Your mom told me," Echizen smirked in that arrogant way of his that made Atobe want to smack him over the head.
"Ow!" Echizen yelled and rubbed his head where Atobe had smacked him. "What was that for?"
"For being an insufferable little brat," Atobe told him. "Now, what do you want?"
"Play tennis!" Echizen grinned and Atobe rolled his eyes. What else could it have been?
"I can't. I'm studying," he said and returned to his desk.
Echizen snorted. "No you're not."
"I would be, if I was given a moment's peace!" Atobe snapped.
"No you wouldn't," Echizen argued. "You'd be wallowing in self pity."
"Look, I wasn't-! Oh what does it matter? You're not going to listen to me no matter what I say," Atobe threw the shards of the disk to the trash and sat by his desk. "If you are not going to leave, at least be quiet while I study."
"Fine," Echizen said and plopped down on Atobe's bed. "This is comfy," he commented, closed his eyes, and was soon snoring.
Atobe tried to stay pissed, but his irritation didn't last long. He returned to his books and glanced out of the window, but instead of seeing the familiar, relaxing scenery Atobe was faced with his own reflection. The soft smile on his lips shocked him more than hearing Sanada's voice and seeing his face had.
Slapping a hand over his mouth Atobe locked eyes with his reflection, and then stared at the boy sleeping peacefully on his bed. The sight filled Atobe with affection, and that scared the shit out of him. He hadn't meant for this to happen. Liking Echizen back was not part of the plan. The plan was to get Echizen to fall for him, so he'd be left alone to drown his misery in a string of empty flings.
When Ryoma woke up, he was alone. He was still on Atobe's bed, but the other boy wasn't in the room, and all the lights had been turned off. Thick curtains had been drawn in front of the windows so he couldn't tell what time it was. He fished his cell phone from his pocket and checked the time. Nearly nine. Tomorrow was Sunday, so he wasn't in trouble with his mom for being out too late on a school night. If he left now he could make it home in an hour.
Ryoma turned to his side and yawned. He knew he should get up but Atobe's bed was just too comfortable. He was about to drift back off to sleep when the door opened and astreak of artificial light fell on him.
"Are you still sleeping?" Atobe asked form the doorway and Ryoma quickly shut his eyes. He wanted to rest just a little while longer, and maybe Atobe wouldn't wake him if he thought he was still sleeping.
The door closed and Ryoma figured Atobe had returned downstairs. His peaceful rest was disturbed when the mattress pressed down as someone sat down on the bed.
He heard Atobe sigh, and the bed creaked. The next time he heard Atobe's voice, it came from on top of him, and a warm breath ghosted against his cheek. "In case you really are awake, and just pretending to sleep for some inane reason I am not even trying to figure out," the mattress pressed down again, and Ryoma opened his eyes to slits and saw Atobe kneeling over him. "My mother called your mother to tell her you're spending the night. Here, on my bed. Are you happy now, brat? You've driven me out of my bed."
Ryoma was afraid if he moved or spoke Atobe would leave, so he stayed still, feigning sleep. "I must be out of my mind to let you do all this," Atobe continued talking, and Ryoma felt a soft touch against his cheek. "I can't handle getting my heart broken a second time, not so soon, and you're like a fucking tempest knocking down my walls. Why the hell won't you just leave me alone, you brat?"
"If someone had given me a choice, I wouldn't have chosen you as my crush," Ryoma answered, not bothering with pretending to be asleep anymore. "I didn't choose to have these feelings, they just happened."
"You could have gone on pretending they didn't exist, and we'd both be a lot happier."
"You really think so?" Ryoma asked and turned from his side to lying on his back, and stared at Atobe's face, hovering over his. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. I like you, even if you're the biggest drama queen and show-off I've ever met."
"You're such a selfish little brat," Atobe murmured, with just a hint of fondness. "I think I could have lived very happily by dating dozens of different girls every week."
"You would've been miserable," Ryoma replied with certainty. "Did you even like any of the girls you dated?"
"What on earth makes you think I like you?"
"You want to kiss me right now, don't you?" Ryoma asked, smirking up at him. "I'd say that's a -"
Atobe kissed him, and then mumbled against his lips, "Be quiet, you insufferable little brat."
"Make me, Monkey King."
Atobe fidgeted in his seat in the restaurant, trying to remind himself of all the reasons he had done this, why he had called Sanada and asked for this meeting. He tried not to feel guilty about not telling Echizen about it, and not being very successful.
But Yukimura was right about one thing: he needed this; his sudden meltdown over a stupid video proved it. He needed to look Sanada in the face in order to get over him, and he needed to know if he was over him, if he was ever going to make things work with Echizen. And to his surprise Atobe had found that he wanted to make it work with Echizen.
"Atobe." Sanada's voice hadn't changed, but it had more of an impact on him than the digitally recorded voice. He shuddered almost visibly and forced himself to look up at the face that had nearly made him cry yesterday when he saw it on a TV screen.
He still felt a pull in his heart when he saw Sanada's warm brown eyes, and at seeing his hands he was reminded of how good it had felt to be in their embrace, how steady and reliable his strong hold around his fingers had felt, and how passionately Sanada could kiss. The dark cap on Sanada's head made him smile fondly, and his fingers itched with the desire to reach up and push it aside so he could run his fingers across Sanada's thick mop of hair, always flat against his head.
Forcing himself to look away, Atobe gestured to the seat across him. "Thank you for coming, Sanada."
"I was glad you called. I didn't think you would, after I heard about you and Echizen."
"Let's get one thing straight, Sanada: I didn't call because I want you back." Atobe stared through the window at the busy street, not daring to look at Sanada again.
"Then why did you call me? I only came because I thought we might-"
"I won't do it," Atobe cut him off and turned to stare at him. "I won't be your substitute for someone else. Even if that means I'll be alone for the rest of my life, I won't be with you just because you can't have the one you really want."
"I know," Sanada answered, and Atobe sat up straighter at his admittance. "I wouldn't ask you to."
Atobe swallowed. "You did before."
"I've gotten over it, over him." Sanada's words were almost rushed, and he refused to look at him. It was a lie, Atobe knew it. With his character Sanada could never lie to your face; he would rather be cruel and truthful, than act kindly by telling a small, harmless little lie. "I still think about you, and I miss you. We were good together, and I think we could be even better. I could see myself leading a happy life with you."
"Don't do this to me, Sanada," Atobe couldn't make his voice any louder than a whisper. "Don't get my hopes up like this. I can't take any more hurt from you." Despite his resolve to not give into Sanada, Atobe was tempted to just accept. He'd been happy for a while, and falling back to his relationship with Sanada, even if it would be based on lies, seemed less risky than starting something new with Echizen, when there were no guarantees that it would last.
Sanada reached out across the table, took his hand and Atobe felt a shock of electricity at the contact. He licked his dry lips, feeling almost panicky. "I'm serious, Atobe," Sanada leaned over the table, pulling him closer, and helplessly Atobe leaned towards Sanada's advancing lips.
And a tennis racquet was smacked against his face, and he was pushed back on his seat.
"I thought I told you tostay away from him!" Echizen glared at Sanada, keeping the tennis racket pressed against Atobe's face.
Atobe took hold of the racquet and pulled Echizen to him. "What are you doing here, brat? Did you follow me?"
"How else am I supposed to keep you from dating?" Echizen glared up at him, face flushed.
"This isn't a date!"
"You were going to kiss him! How is that not a date?" Echizen demanded to know.
"That wasn't-" Atobe clenched his jaw, and finally shouted, "I wasn't planning on it!"
"Were you just fucking with me last night?" Echizen seethed. "That kiss actually meant something to me, you prick!"
"It meant something to me too!" Atobe shouted, quickly losing control of his temper, and then, frustrated, asked, "Why can't you just trust me?"
"Because you go around kissing other people, not me!"
Atobe growled and took Echizen by the shoulders and shook him. "How do you know I wasn't going to pull back? And maybe I just wanted to kiss him to make sure there's nothing there anymore?"
Echizen growled back, and then he threw his arms around Atobe's neck and pulled him down to what was possibly the angriest, unskilled and painful kiss Atobe had ever gotten. But despite the fact that their foreheads bumped into each other with a loud crack, and Atobe was sure Echizen had gotten at least his lip cut on Atobe's teeth, if the taste of blood in Atobe's mouth was anything to go by, Echizen refused to let go, and hung on until Atobe finally flung his arms around the kid and responded in kind.
Finally satisfied, Echizen pulled back, and with the most arrogant smirk in the world, asked, "Now, you feel like kissing him?"
Atobe, who had almost forgotten his reason for being here, looked at Sanada who was staring at them open-mouthed. Grinning, Atobe looked at the boy in his arms and answered. "No, I don't." Compared to Sanada, Echizen was ridiculously childish, but perhaps that wouldn't be such a bad thing in the long run.
"So from now on, if you feel like kissing someone, kiss me first," Echizen's smirk widened. "If you still feel like kissing someone else after that, I'll smack you till you're black and blue and in too much pain to even think about kissing."
Atobe snorted, amused, and took his arms from around Ryoma to take him by the hand and pull him out of the restaurant. "That sounds like a perfectly logical plan to me."