1. Beginning

In the end, Ryoma knows that this will not work out.

He has seen too much of this. He saw boys who were young and who wanted to be young, he saw rich, flaunty kids back in America who shoved money down his throat bragging about their wonderful futures. He saw too many girls back then who were stupid and naïve in their youth, that somehow they believed that they would share that glory and fortune. He was the one who would bounce the yellow ball and watch the smiles turn to tears and broken dreams, and he doesn't believe it, not when it becomes his turn, not when he knows he has a life and Atobe has a future and a world not meant for him.

So he doesn't back away when Atobe kisses him. Nor does he smile when Atobe's breathe ghosts over his lips and he looks into those blue eyes that were tinted with grey. He just looks like he always does, bored and unflinching, because that was who he was, because that was the only thing he knew how to do well.

He knows, like he did when he looked at Atobe for the first time, that he would be a passing. And he would use Atobe for the exact same reason. Until something greater came along.

2. Money

He never cared for money. Money did not buy talents. Money never made the old man shut up. Money did not make him the youngest tennis player to win the Grand Slam.

He doesn't say this to the man sitting across from him. The man would never understand. These people never do. His eyes flicker to the fine china and expensive food and his eyes are not impressed. He perfects the face that shows nonchalance, like the times when Momo-senpai was talking about another stupid girl or when Ryoga was having sex in his bed with Nanako. The face came with the years of learning tennis.

He sees the envelope. And he now sees the man's face, a face that had aged well and handsome, a face that spoke of no defeats and only wealth. A face that he had the desire to crush and rip and walk out of.

He wondered if this would be the face that Atobe would grow into.

"10 million yen," the man was now saying, a voice that was so sure that Ryoma would grab this money and do as the man commanded. He would, wouldn't he? This was a lot of money. Ryoga would leap at this kind of chance, laughing that he wasn't even gay, and off he would go to plan new mischief. But of course, Ryoma had always acted the exact opposite.

"Stop seeing my son."

A voice that had commanded and raised a company so big that it was now the core of Japan's economy. The voice that might have raised the son Ryoma had once hated, the voice that Ryoma had heard on the playgrounds when he was young, to girls with broken hearts, saying that you are not good enough for my son, and tears and the wails that came afterwards.

He pushes the envelope back to its rightful owner. He wouldn't see the man's face. He stands up. He doesn't even make eye contact as he utters his answer, and out he goes out of the restaurant and into the sunlight, and its freedom, the sun scorching his back and the wind blowing his hair, until he is roughly grabbed by the man. Yet he still doesn't even see the man.

"How dare you," the man is now hissing, "How dare you!"

He's an Atobe meant to rule the world. He was just a passing. He knows all the rules all right, but he could always pretend. This man would never know all this whirling inside his head.

"My son is dallying his time for a boy—a boy!" And the little spits blow all over his face and the grip tighten so much that now it hurts, "And you have some nerve boy—" The face that leans into him is dangerous, but he doesn't feel intimidated—"That to think this affair, this thing going on would ever go somewhere—"

He doesn't even think before he laughs, the joke in it too great, the reality too true, and now he is laughing because he had always been a realist, and he shoves the grip away and looks into those grey eyes lacking blue. He considers telling this man that he never thought that this would be a forever and neither does Atobe, and he wants to tell this obvious truth, but he never was the one for words. He just smirks and walks off.

He was never afraid of rich men and their power. It came from seeing his father wiping their smugness one by one on the tennis courts when he was young.

3. Sex

He didn't think it would hurt much, but it did. It did so much that he bled and Atobe stopped and looked at him wide eyed, horrified at the slow drips of blood smearing his white bedsheets and the look on his face, probably white-faced from the pain. He didn't scream but tears did leak out and his lips had bled from trying to muffle his wounds. The small thrusts reached both of them into climax, both it didn't change the fact that it had hurt and Ryoma refused to discuss it afterwards.

Yet much later when they were kissing and he was shoving his hands down in the other boy's pants did he remember the first time. He doesn't dwell on it, but the stupid Monkey King does and so he grabs his hands and they stop. The blue eyes hold something that he doesn't want to see so he closes his eyes and they kiss until he runs out of breath.

He never thought he'd really care.

4. Tezuka

They fight a lot. Why they fight and still stand together is something he never wants to solve. Right now they're fighting, and somehow it always ends with the words tennis, dreams, Germany, Tezuka, and when the name is uttered out of Ryoma's mouth Atobe throws a vase. It crashes across the wall and shatters beautifully.

"That must have cost a fortune," Ryoma later muses, his wrists thin and aching from the grabbing Atobe had done earlier before they were kissing, hot mouths breathing rough strokes of air.

"It came from Russia. There's only 3 in the world," Atobe snaps, but he still rubs Ryoma's wrists with soothing lotions, his hands gentle and real that he is amused by the irony yet again. The silence lasts until Atobe adds, almost too quietly for him to hear, "It doesn't really matter." More to himself than to Ryoma.

He erases the name Keigo and firmly plants it with the name Atobe, yet Atobe is his father and Keigo isn't really his father just like he wasn't really Nanjiroh.

5. Danger

This was dangerous. He was dangerous.

And yet he laughs at the sight of snow dripping over Keigo's perfect face and he starts to smirk when he knows that the next stop would be a dark alleyway and he almost smiles when Keigo orders him to close his eyes and the next thing he knows is the next flight to Los Angeles for his birthday.

"You seem to need the sun," Keigo snorts, looking at his pale face and wide eyes that his fans wanted to imagine as gold, "Go and sign a few autographs while you're at it."

He smirks, almost feeling happy. "Still sore that I have worldwide fans," he muses, the sky outside him blue and clear and too high for him.

Keigo looks at him with those eyes, sharp and beautiful and so blue, and he leans over and their lips touch. Keigo tastes of mint. He doesn't close his eyes.

He was being stupid. When will this end?

He thinks he understands the human desire to want to believe something so obviously untrue—but that doesn't mean he has to like it.

6. Hurt

He doesn't know when Keigo finds out, and when he does he has never seen him look so angry. His mouth is drawn into a thin line, and his voice is even, because Keigo never did lose his temper—not much anyway, not after he inherited his father's company—and Ryoma wishes he did, because then they could resort to shouting and throwing things.

Keigo slams the door in his wake and doesn't come back until the next day, his eyes bloodshot and his face still white and his lips still thin and unspeaking.

"I'm sorry," he mumbles, mostly because Keigo is in the other side of the room and he isn't sure if Keigo would hear and he doesn't want Keigo to hear and just fuck, he was so tired. His knees are shaking from the sex last night that had nothing to do with Keigo.

Keigo's movements stop. Maybe he overestimated the power of silences.

"It's alright," Keigo tells him, when it's so obviously not, and he knows that, the bastard knows that but they both won't admit it. Ryoma doesn't say anything more and Keigo doesn't ask why. Because he already knows, Ryoma thinks, with no trace of amusement.

7. Born and Bred

He wasn't born with the knowledge of tennis just like Keigo wasn't born into a rich bastard. He was bred up to be a player just like Keigo was bred into a prissy ass. But they were both born with passion. He wondered if that was enough.

No, of course it wasn't, but somehow those realistic thoughts he thought he had were gone, and he was starting to consider the impossible things that could only happen in dreams.

8. Fail

"I can't do this," he tells Keigo rapidly, and quickly hangs up, his heart pounding and his eyes wide, those hands shaking from the aftermath of slamming down the phone. His New York ticket was lying on his bedside and he stares at it for some time and he heaves a breath, mostly because he can't afford to cry.

The telephone rings throughout the night, but Ryoma sleeps most of them through anyway. Later he pulls out the cord and imagines the phone ringing until he picks it up.

9. Oshitari

"He's going mad," Oshitari says to him later; Ryoma could only curse silently at best friends and teammates who were interfering with his life, "He's becoming a workaholic."

"His father should be proud," Ryoma snipes back, and then adds, "Like I would care."

"Bullshit," Oshitari says, and Ryoma hears the anger inside a man he thought was always reserved and amused, "He's not showing it, but his eyes are growing tired. What the hell are you up to this time?"

He needs a fucking wife. He's twenty five and he's holding his father's fucking company. Ryoma swallows this all down in his throat and looks away. Oshitari silently swears.

"Stubborn, the both of you," he sighs, "Just go talk to him. You didn't tell him why." He levels Ryoma a Look. "Is this because of Jean?"

Ryoma's mind blanks out. "Who?"

"So it isn't then," Oshitari sighs again, and seeing the confused look on Ryoma's face, adds in, "You fucked her once. Remember?"

He did, but he hadn't even known her name until now.

10. Anew

He was standing in front of a question he didn't know the answer to. Or maybe he was standing in front of a question he knew the answer to but couldn't utter it out. Who the fuck was he kidding?

Keigo just looks at him. He's lost a lot of weight, but those sharp eyes still make his heart beat. This was stupid and obviously very very crazy. But so was him refusing to make this relationship into a standstill. Either way he was stupid.

"You're really fucked up," Keigo tells him without a smile. He doesn't know what to say except to shrug.

"Am I?" he tries to say but it comes out in a whisper. He knows he's fucked up. Then he says in a sharper voice, "Then so are you."

They met in street tennis courts that have long been demolished and used for other important things. People don't need tennis street courts that have faded away to dust and Keigo didn't need him and Ryoma needed him less. They met at Nationals and tennis and more tennis and (he was so sick of that ambition he couldn't fulfill) they should end with tennis. This wasn't right.

Then he doesn't know what he's thinking because the next thing he knows he's got Keigo up against the wall and he's kissing this boy—this man—like it should be the last time (and it would be the last time, a small lie to himself) and Keigo is kissing back just as desperately and they somehow end up fucking against the wall, the floor, the office. Keigo is rasping his name when he comes and it sounds like something he shouldn't have, but damn that reality and damn this too.

11. Father

He was two when he held his first racket. He remembers that it was red and he liked it, and he liked the yellow ball and he liked to run across the court and grab at it. He remembers that.

That's all he remembers.

The rest is shaped by his father who had wished to see his son go to the top and beat his own fame and glory and Ryoma had lived up to that legacy. To him it wasn't about winning with tennis but with the sole goal of beating someone. The end.

His story should end there but the media calls it one of the greatest mysteries when he announces his retirement, so suddenly like his father. Like father, like son, the newspapers would claim. He would snort at the headlines and tear it up in Keigo's resort in Cambodia.

Keigo doesn't say anything about the retirement. He's still twenty-four. He has a lot in front of him. Ryoma knows this, and he also knows that he had too much money piled up in his bank account for his own good. An indefinite vacation sounded good. Perhaps going back to university.

He doesn't tell Keigo this. But tennis was gone from his life too.

12. Adults

He doesn't react when Keigo drags him to a jeweler's shop and orders him to pick out a ring.

"Hopefully not something a tacky as gold," Keigo tells him, his voice telling him exactly what he thought of that particular choice, "Silver, nothing too fancy."

"I thought I was the one to pick out the ring." Ryoma doesn't ask why now, of all times. Keigo shoots him a wry look.

"Compromise," Keigo corrects him, and leads him to see some simple designs carved on a silver band. Ryoma wanted one with almost no decorations and Keigo was only too happy to oblige.

"This one," he points out—it's expensive and delicate enough. Keigo takes one look at it and nods.

"This one then," he says and that's how he found himself with a band on his index finger that was an act of commitment. It doesn't strangle him and he doesn't run away from it. Yet.

13. Start

In the beginning, Ryoma knew that this wasn't going to work out and the end was to be filled with a future without a rich boy and his life.

It's raining. He doesn't see it yet because he's too busy kissing Keigo and Keigo is too busy kissing him back.

A/N: This came out when I was having the writer's block. They're pieces that somehow want to covey the message of my philosophy behind my fangirling over AtoRyo. Because I know that no matter how much I love these two, they're bound to have a lot of reality checks. Most especially Ryoma. Honestly? I think this relationship works because Keigo seems to like to believe in the ideals than realities.