Genre: General, Family, Angst
Summary: The future was always uncertain, but he hadn't expected it to end up as it was now.
Disclaimer: I can only wish I owned PoT. If I did, then the series would have 1. Officially have AtoJi as one of the pairings, 2. Be Hyoutei-centric, and 3. Tenimyu would also reflect AtoJi so that I can watch Kazuki and Takuya be all cute and stuff to each other. XD
Note: This is not a song-fic (depends on your definition really, and no I did not plagiarize this. I had this written almost a year ago. I just never posted it...-_-). I can take out the lyrics if you really want me to, but the fic will still make sense no matter what and acts as a stand alone. I just thought the stanzas were an appropriate spacing tool since they fit.
How much time has passed since then?
I look back, with a little pain in this heart
I hold onto the shattered dream that I admire even now
Like those days with the sunset sky absorbed within our eyes
Even such glistening seasons must also someday come to an end
Every individual has his own path to walk
He stared out the window at the sunset, letting his mind wander back to his memories from several decades ago. He had been happy then, even if his teammates had frustrated him like nothing else at times, but they were important to him. They had been naive children back then, each having high hopes for themselves and for each other, even if they never really said it aloud. Each had looked with bright eyes towards the future, in the hopes that they'd be able to continue with a career in tennis, as much as each of them knew it was unlikely. Even he, with all his talent and national ranking, knew he would never be able to pursue such a dream. His path had been set for him early in his life. He had no choice, and the one choice he had wanted to make to break away from his controlled path had led to disaster.
It was during his senior year of high school that it happened. He knew his parents would eventually arrange a marriage for him; he just hadn't expected it to be thrown onto him that year...nor had he expected what had happened next afterwards...
He sat on the bench in the clubhouse, uncharacteristically hunched over with his hands buried in his hair. Jirou had been avoiding him recently, and he still had the issue of that betrothal his parents were forcing onto him. He knew what his responsibility to his family was, and yet, he was considering to just, for the lack of a better word, ditch them. He did not want to leave Jirou. The boy had been the only thing keeping him from going insane through the years of pressure from everything and everyone. The high expectations, the neglectance as a child, the pressure of knowing he did not have a choice in his life. But he was willing to go against everyone and give everything up--his wealth, his status, everything--if he could stay with his Jirou. He was willing to go through university, to find an average-paying job and work like the average citizen, to give up everything he had ever known. His relationship with the blond was the only thing he had ever deeply treasured and did not want to live without. He sighed. He still had to tell Jirou what his parents were planning.
"...Ne...Atobe..." He jerked his head up, startled. He had been so lost in his thoughts that he hadn't even heard anyone approach. His eyes met a pair of sunset-brown eyes that seemed a little...sorrowful?
He stood up and stepped clsoer to the blond. "Jirou. What's wrong?"
Jirou averted his eyes and looked away to the side. "I was just thinking...you'll eventually have to marry someone your parents choose for you, right?"
"Well, yes...but-" He was interrupted by the blond's deep intake of air.
"We should break up." Jirou looked him in the eyes.
"We should break up. It'll be better in the long run. You'll have time to get over this by the time you meet the girl your parents chose for you. I know that won't be a lot of time, but you'll have time to forget about this, about us. Then you can concentrate on your relationship with her."
He stared at the blond in shock, too stunned to interrupt.
"I'm sorry, Atobe." Jirou bowed. "This is for the best." He rose and quickly walked off and out of the clubhouse.
He spent the next few precious seconds processing what had just happened. Jirou had broken up with him, under the impression that it will...save him the trouble of having to do it when he told him about the betrothal?! Jirou knew! And he was mistaken! He quickly scrambled after the blond, taking off at a run out of the clubhouse. He quickly looked around and found the blond running away from the clubhouse towards one of the campus exits.
"Jirou!" He called as he gave chase. He had to clear this up. But the blond took one look at him and ran faster. Damnit. "Jirou! Wait!" He called.
The blond didn't pay him any attention, keeping his eyes on the ground, continuing his attempt to get away from him. In fact, he was so focused in his attempt that he did not even realize when he had reached the street.
"JIROU!" Atobe shouted in horror as tires screeched. He sped up his pace, dashing over to the fallen blond. Kneeling right onto the ground and gathering the bloodied body, careful to not make any sudden movements that could possibly cause any further damage, he called the blond. "Jirou." He whispered. "No...NO! You can't!"
A small cough sounded. Dimmed sunset eyes stared at him. " A-Atobe...l-live a long a-and happy life...promise me." The weakened voice pled with him.
Atobe shook his head. "No...No. Not without you." He whispered fervently. The faint sound of sirens echoed in the distance.
Jirou gave a soft, yet sad smile and closed his eyes. "I l-love...y-you." He managed to whisper before fallen limp.
"No...NO! Wake up, WAKE UP! You can't-can't-please wake up!! JIROU!!" He shouted in panic, trying to awaken the blond again, even as the paramedics knelt next to him and began to treat the blond. He stayed still on the ground as he anxiously waited in dread for the diagnosis.
Finally, one of the paramedics shook his head and turned to him. He knew what was coming even before it was said. "No...please...you have to save him. Please." He weakly plead to them. He knew it was hopeless, but he couldn't stand the thought of that bright smile no longer existing.
He felt hollow at the words. It seemed as if the happy seasons he had spent together with Jirou had come to an end. The path his parents planned for him had led to this. And yet, he couldn't help but wonder if it was all his fault. If only he had told Jirou his plans to give up his current lifestyle just a little earlier, Jirou would never have had to break up with him and run off. If only he had not called out to Jirou, the blond might not have paid so much attention to getting away from him and more attention to the road. If only, if only...
When you and I were together, we rushed through all those irreplaceable days
Even so, we were not lost, this love was...
When you and I were together, we rushed through all those unforgettable days,
Those were the days I will cherish the most
The snow crunched beneath their feet as they trudged down the side of the mountain. The wind was beginning to get colder as the hours wore on. They had to either find the cabin again or find shelter soon.
"Ne...Keigo....we're lost, aren't we."
"No, we're not. We're...merely taking a slight detour. We'll be back at the cabin in time for dinner."
The blond beside him gave him an indulgent smile. He cursed the fact that the resort had not checked the cables of the cart before letting customers on it. The cart they had taken up the mountain had snapped halfway up and fallen into the snow. No one around them had noticed, because they were the only ones left. Jirou had wanted to go for one last run before returning to the cabin, and Atobe had gone along with his lover. Luckily, the cart had been close to the ground when it snapped. They had fallen out of the metal contraption, but fortunately, sustained no injuries.
"I'm sorry." Came a soft voice.
Atobe paused slightly before continuing. "What for?"
"For wanting to go up again. We wouldn't be stuck here if it weren't for me."
"Nonsense. It's not your fault the incompetent manager did not get someone to check the cables before allowing them to be used." He waved off the apology.
There was a long silence except for the crunch of snow before Atobe broke the silence again.
"Besides, we're not lost. We're still together." He gave the blond a brief smile as a grin slowly split on Jirou's face.
Jirou giggled before reaching for Atobe's hand. "You're so silly." He snuggled into the taller teen's arm. "Wait 'til I tell Oshitari you're such a romantic."
Atobe snorted. "You'll do no such thing."
The lights of the town outside my window become illuminated
I return from the memories to reality
"Forever" is simple, you said in those times
Even now it's just one page in this closed album
Atobe broke out of his trance as the lights lit up from the city at the base of the hill the mansion sat on. Those had been good times. He didn't quite hate the reality he lived in now, but it also wasn't the life he had pictured for himself. After Jirou's death, he had been so out of it that his parents had married him off to some girl without him knowing. It wasn't until he woke up in bed with said girl after his twentieth birthday with a spliting hedache that it registered to him that Jirou was gone, that he was now married, and that he had apparently had sex with said girl if the fact that they were both naked had anything to say about it.
When he looked back on it, he couldn't remember much of those three years after Jirou died. He knew that his old tennis team had dragged him out to drink away his problems on the night of his twentieth birthday, but he didn't know what had happened after his tenth drink. He only found out later that Oshitari had begun to drug his drinks after his fourth glass. The team had hoped that he would be able to move on if he finally broke out of his celibacy. He hadn't touched his wife in the three years they had been married--and hadn't touched her again since that once night.
Of course, after that particular incident, the girl had given him a weak smile and told him that she hadn't realized that the reason why he was so depressed the past couple of years was because Jirou-san had been his lover. Apparently, he had been so drugged that he had thought that she was Jirou. Surprisingly, she was quite understanding to his situation, realizing that he would never love her the way she would have wanted. He offered her the freedom of having affairs upon realizing that she was actually quite nice and that she did not deserve the way he had completely neglected her the past years, but she had refused. 'Perhaps if I truly fall in love with someone,' she had said.
At the time, he didn't understand what she implied, but in time, his old team told him that she had been one of the fangirls who had been in love with him. He didn't know what to say to that afterwards. He was lucky, however, that he did not have to touch the girl ever again. He had needed an heir, and that one night had gotten her pregnant with a son.
When his son was born, he quickly found out that he would not be winning any father of the year awards any time soon. He didn't know how to treat children; his own parents had left him with a different nanny every year until he could take care of himself. He knew that he did not want to put his son through that neglect, but could not figure out what to do. He eventually retreated to his office for long hours, coming home only to greet his wife and child briefly before retiring to bed. He was distant to his son, but he did make sure to set aside time for his son's birthday and the Christmas holidays. He knew it wasn't much, but he didn't know what to do.
Luckily, his wife was more than capable of taking over the role of parenting. He thought his son probably hated him for neglecting his family, but he was resigned to his current life. The one thing he made sure of, however, was to not control his son's future in any way. He did not want him to be torn the way he had been for a while before deciding that Jirou was more important to him than anything else.
He supposed he needn't have worried though. His son had come home one day, at the age of nineteen and announced that he wanted to marry the daughter of a foreign ambassador. If he himself had done that, his parents would have been elated. It was tradition for the Atobes to betroth their children to the children of other wealthy and connected families.
It was only when he found out that she was the daughter of Jirou's older brother that he had sat down in shock.
After the funeral, Jirou's family had disappeared from Japan before he could even talk to them. They had completely disappeared off his radars and had left everything behind. It was a shock to see them come back. At the wedding, he managed to have a light, inane conversation with the father of his new daughter-in-law, but both parties were awkward. Their children noticed, but did not say anything to them, assuming that it was natural for newly connected parents to feel awkward.
A year after his son's wedding, he became a grandfather at the age of 40. Curious, he occasionally returned home early, if only to observe his daughter-in-law and son take care of the infant. He did notice that the child seemed to have an imaginary friend sometimes though. Vaguely, he wondered if that was healthy or not. However, it wasn't until five years later that he began going home early to see his grandchildren, for four years after his first grandson was born, a second was born. At first, he didn't connect why the child attracted his attention so much, but by the end of the infant's first year, he realized why the child looked so familiar.
He looked like Jirou.
Ironically, the child was also named Jirou upon the insistence of his daughter-in-law. Over time, he noted that the child did not sleep excessively like his namesake, but did occasionally fall asleep randomly, even when in the middle of a cacophony of voices.
He supposed that it was unfair of him, but he began doting on the child at times, spending time with the infant and doing silly things he'd seen his family do to amuse the child. Eventually, the child would come to claim that he was his favoritest grandpa ever, but it was unintended.
If his Jirou had ever seen him doing such a thing, he would have been teased like crazy. He smiled bitterly as he looked down at the open photo album he held in his hands. It was a picture of him and Jirou together at the Hanabi festival when they in their junior year of high school, a year before everything went down the drain. They had looked so happy. Jirou had been cheerfully laughing as he showed him the little bag of goldfish he had won, while he had bent over slightly under the guise of looking more closely at the fish while in actuality, he was watching Jirou laugh. He had had a small smile as he watched the blond teen.
He ran a finger down the figure of Jirou glomping his arm, reminiscently. What he wouldn't give to return to that day at the festival. Back then, they didn't have any worries beyond how to win their next tennis match, if even that.
"Ne, Keigo? Let's be together forever!"
"Hai~! Ohh...let's take a picture! Then we won't ever forget! Ne?"
"Grandpapa? What're you doing?" A small voice sounded next to him, drawing him out of his thoughts. He looked to the side to see the miniature Jirou staring up at him questioningly with a finger in his mouth. The little four year old was adorable, he mused. His hair was more of a platinum blond compared to Jirou's, but the child was practically a clone.
"Ohh! I know him!" Startled, he glanced down at where the child was pointing, only to see the finger pointed at the figure of Jirou in a yukata.
"He talks to me and plays with me and reads to me and sings to me when no one's around."
Atobe could only stare at the child, stunned. "A-and you're the only one who can see him?"
"Well, he says aniki used to be able to see him, but he thinks aniki's forgotten him." He frowned cutely. "I don't think aniki remembers him either. I tried telling him about him, but aniki told me to go away."
Atobe didn't know what to think. His grandchildren could see Jirou? But Jirou was....
'...Ne, Keigo, do you believe in spirits...?'
'...I heard that little kids and those close to passing over could see them...'
'...Wouldn't it be nice to have the last thing you see be someone you loved...?'
Unless Jirou was lingering around his family...
Jirou had always tried to take care of him emotionally, knowing that he needed the support. Intellectually and physically, he had been in top shape, but due to his awkward childhood, he had to (VERY reluctantly) admit he had a bit of problem interacting with society.
"Ohhh...he also said that daddy used to be able to see him, but that stopped after daddy told him that imaginary friend were for babies."
His son had also been able to see him? He didn't know what to think about that.
"Grandpapa? So who is he? Why's he in that picture?"
He glanced down at his grandchild. "Come here." He picked up the child and placed him on his lap and shifted the photo album over to his other thigh. "This, is your granduncle."
"Really? Is that why I look like him?"
Atobe chuckled. "Yes, that is why. He's a very special person, you know. Watching over us like he is." He trailed off at the end.
"Hmm...grandpapa and granduncle were really close friends, ne?"
Not quite wanting to explain that they had been more than that, he answered, "Yes, we were."
Then he turned the child around to face him. "Jirou-kun."
"Yes, grandpapa?" The child tilted his head cutely.
Atobe had to resist the urge to cuddle the adorable child like one would an adorable plushie. "I want you to know that no matter what happens in life, I'll always be here for you, alright? Your brother, too. If you two run into any problems, anything at all, you don't have to hesitate to ask me, alright? I'll listen, no matter what. I promise."
"...okay...grandpapa...?" The child looked confused, but agreed regardless.
Atobe sighed. He hoped that no one in his family would ever have to go through what he had, but he wasn't too sure about that. While he had allowed his son the freedom to do what he wanted with his future, he could see the seeds of a controlling personality in his son. He hoped that his son would not force his own children to follow a path they did not want.
When you and I were together, we rushed through those days easily
My broken heart will be able to heal, but
When you and I were together, we rushed through those days independently,
I won't forget the height of our pride
A distant voice echoed softly down the hallway as he padded along the corridor to his room. Turning the corner, he stopped in his tracks when he saw his youngest grandchild--now sixteen--giggling on the phone, a small blush on his face, and eyes twinkling in happiness. He recognized that look. It was the look of someone in love. He watched the boy wistfully, remembering when he was the one in a similar situation. Of course, he wasn't the one doing most of the giggling, not that he had ever giggled in his life, but he knew he probably looked just as happy back then every time Jirou had called him up.
"Tomorrow? Well...I'll have to see." The young blond's voice sounded disappointed. "There's a social function that my dad's hosting tomorrow night. I'm not sure he'll let me skip..."
"Go for it." Atobe watched as the teen's head snapped up and around, startled. He saw a slight look of panic appear on the boy's face, most likely in fear of what would happen if his family found out he was having relations with another boy. Yes, he could tell. He had always suspected it of his younger grandchild, and no one giggled like that to a girl.
"Grandpapa...?" The voice sounded hesitant.
Atobe gave him a soft smile. "I'll take care of it. You may go." He watched as the teen's face relaxed in relief and happiness before turning around and quickly finishing his conversation.
"It was just Grandpapa....what? No, it's fine. We can go tomorrow. He says he'll take care of it..uh-huh...okay...don't worry, he's really nice...bye." He sighed in relief as he hung up, momentarily forgetting that his grandfather was still there.
"Date?" Atobe watched in amusement as his grandson snapped around in shock.
"Grandpapa! I thought you left already!"
Atobe shrugged. "I was curious. I'll retire now then." He said before continuing on his way. Vaguely, he wondered what the other boy was like. The oldest grandchild was already engaged to be married, arranged, of course, but he seemed to be happy with his fiancee. He hoped it wouldn't happen to the younger boy since he was the second child, but he wasn't sure what his son was going to do. It was only a matter of time now, before any plans made would be settled.
What he hadn't expected was how soon it would happen. It was only a week after he had caught Jirou-kun on the phone that he walked in on an argument between the boy and his son.
"No! I am NOT marrying whoever it is you chose!"
"You will do as I say!"
"I don't care! I'm not marrying her! If I ever marry, it'll be for love!"
"You'll learn to love her! Your brother did as much. Why are you being so difficult?!"
"I have a life. I don't need you to tell me what to do with it! You're not the one who's going to live it!"
"That is not an option! It is not as if you have a girlfriend. If you did, bring her and we'll see if she's suitable enough for you."
"I have a boyfriend, damnit!"
SLAP. "How dare you! I did not raise a freak!"
Atobe had arrived in time to see that particular last interaction.
"You will get rid of whatever boy you have tainted yourself with and marry the girl! You do NOT have an option."
Atobe froze. This was the scene he had expected to happen between his father and himself if he had ever managed to tell his father about Jirou. Unfortunately, Jirou was gone before it ever reached that point. He opened his mouth to speak. "Stop-" He cut himself off as his breath suddenly cut short and he tried to gasp for breath. His surroundings began to spin and blur as he dropped to his knees.
"Grandpapa!" His grandson had reached him and tried to support him. He vaguely heard his son's voice shouting at something. Most likely the phone. He grasped onto his grandson's sleeve, attempting to speak.
"L-live...a-as you w-wa-want." He managed to say before he blacked out.
The first thing he heard when he regained consciousness was his grandson's voice calling for him. He struggled to open his eyes, only to see blurs in front of him. Hands and bodies crowded around him as his vision slowly cleared up. He stared at everyone around him. Tear-streaked faces and relieved expressions greeted him. He looked around the circle of people, from Jirou-kun clasping his hand to his old wife and sister and brother in laws to his son and daughter-in-law to his older grandson and his fiancee to the figure of a blond haired teen who looked remarkably like Jirou did the year he died.
"Ji-Jirou?" He reached a hand out for the blond who had a sorrowful expression on his face. Jirou nodded silently.
"Grandfather...who...who are you reaching for?" He looked at his oldest grandchild. Then back at Jirou, before realization set in. Taking a look at Jirou-kun's face, he guessed the boy also realized what was happening, because the boy then threw himself onto him and began crying.
"Jirou!" The others scrambled to pull the teen off his grandfather. "You could have hurt him!" His mother scolded.
"But-but...." He sniffled. A pair of arms reached around him and brought him up against a chest, allowing him to cry. Atobe looked at the boy holding onto his grandson, thinking with a start that the boy looked remarkably similar to him when he had been that age. A few differences, but the resemblance was uncanny.
"Sekiba Keigo. Jirou-kun told me that you were very understanding about our situation." The boy said straight-forwardly. He had to raise an eyebrow at the name. A little too similar.
"I assume that you are the other party?"
"I see." Atobe watched as the boy stiffened in apprehension and pulled his grandson closer. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught his son glaring at the two. "Well." He paused. "Make sure you take care of my grandson."
He almost laughed when he saw the boy's mouth drop open in slight shock before composing himself. "Thank you." He said, sounding as if he was in disbelief. Atobe supposed that it probably was a surprise to know that the patriarch of the Atobe family was so accepting of their relationship when the parents were not.
He glanced at his son. "Call Takashika-san in." He assumed the lawyer was waiting outside the room as he had every time his own parents had been in the hospital.
As the man entered, Atobe told him to hand him his will. He wanted to look it over before he left. As he scanned the papers, he felt a presence settle next to him. He leaned back into Jirou's embrace. "Look good?" He asked. At Jirou's nod, despite the majority of the room's occupants' confusion, he signed and dated it before handing it back to Takashika. "Ore-sama expects that that be fairly released as it says. Aan?" He commanded, falling back onto his old habits now that Jirou was here with him.
Jirou's sister and brother stared at him for a moment before chuckling. "I never thought I'd hear him say that again." The sister commented. Atobe only gave a secret smile.
On the other hand, the rest of the room was shocked at his tone and speech patterns, having never heard him like that before. Except for two people.
"Grandpapa...? Where did you learn to speak like that?" Jirou-kun asked, sounding almost afraid of the answer he'd hear.
Atobe raised an eyebrow. "Stopped after high school." He dismissed, but not before catching the looks the boy and his boyfriend shared. He decided it was better that he didn't know, however.
"Son, that conversation you had with Jirou-kun. I do not ever want you speak like that ever again. It is his life to live, not yours. I did not force you to marry your wife, and I expect you to give the same courtesy to your children." Atobe narrowed his eyes at his son.
His son opened his mouth to protest, but Atobe cut him off again. "I realize I was not the ideal father for anyone to have, but you do not want to go there. Your grandfather attempted to do to me as you are doing now to your son. He succeeded, but not before causing someone's death."
His son froze. "I..." He bowed. "I apologize."
"Not to me."
His son frowned as he stood up, but apologized to his own son.
"Should either of you find yourselves in trouble financially, my will shall take care of it. I have alloted a fortune to the both of you. I trust that you will be able to take care of it?" Atobe gave Jirou-kun and his boyfriend a stern look.
"Yes, sir." The two bowed to him, realizing what was happening.
Atobe looked at his wife. "I apologize for not being the husband you would have liked to have."
She smiled tiredly at him. "It's fine. I knew there was a very slim chance you would fall in love with me when I married you." She said wistfully.
Atobe then turned to Jirou's sister and brother. "I don't know if you know why exactly Jirou died or if you held me at fault for not being able to save him." He looked away.
"We don't blame you. It wasn't your fault."
He gave a bitter bark of laughter. "Were you aware he was in a relationship?"
"Yes, and if only I had told him sooner, he wouldn't have ran away that day. He wouldn't have run into the street and gotten hit." He ended softly. Jirou pressed himself tightly against Atobe, attempting to comfort him.
'It's not your fault.' The voice echoed.
Atobe closed his eyes tiredly. He didn't want to think about the past anymore.
'It's almost time. I left a journal in my top drawer if they want to know more.'
He opened his eyes. "Jirou says he left a journal in his top drawer if you wanted to know more. I, myself, have a set sitting on my top shelf. Do as you wish." He said before laying back down on the bed.
"Wait, what are you...you have a lot of explaining to do when you wake up." Jirou's siblings said. They looked both confused and frustrated.
"Grandpapa...goodbye. T-thank you." His grandson's voice wavered.
Atobe smiled softly. "Take care." He reached for Jirou's hand, clasping onto it tightly before closing his eyes and drifted away.
When you and I were together, we rushed through all those irreplaceable days
Even so, we were not lost, this love was...
When you and I were together, we rushed through all those unforgettable days,
Those were the days I will cherish the most
"Waah!!" A little blond boy stumbled over a rock and fell to the ground. He sniffled, crying in pain.
"Aan? What's this?" The little blond stopped wailing and looked up at the boy standing over him. The boy gave a sigh. "C'mon. Ore-sama will help you." He held a hand out for the blond to take. Distantly, he couldn't help but feel that the blond child looked very familiar.
The blond looked curiously at the hand, then the boy, then the hand again before deciding that the pretty silver-haired boy looked like a nice person. He reached for the hand and it pulled him up. He stood silently for a moment as a lifetime's worth of memories flashed through his mind. He shook his head, clearing it of any thoughts, and looked at the other boy who seemed to be in a similar trance.
Then the silver-haired boy glanced down at this joined hands. He didn't know what that just was, but he had time to sort it out later. Right now, he wanted to spend time with his adorable new friend. He turned back to their school building and tugged on the blond. "We have to get back to class soon. You may sit next to Ore-sama."
The blond gazed at the silver-haired boy wonderingly. The other boy turned back to him. "Jirou."
A smile slowly formed on the blond-haired child's face. "Kei-chan!"
Those were the days I will cherish for eternity.
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