24.

They were covered in mud.

The self proclaimed Team Bad Asses were still gushing over their victory as they walked down to the lake where the picnic was set up. There were five blankets laid out on the sand, another one on the picnic table, and each blanket had its own basket.

"We're all muddy," Momo commented, stating the obvious as he pulled at his T-shirt. Then he smirked, pulling his shirt up over his head and his pants down. He sprinted down the docks, doing a cannonball into the lake.

Boy after boy began to strip, though several decided to stay on the lakeside. "Several" being Inui, Yanagi, Hiyoshi, and Atobe. Inui and Yanagi talked, exchanging data. Somehow, the data masters were barely covered in mud, but no one asked how, because they would probably give some physics related explanation that made no sense.

The picnic was amazing, and the boys didn't go back up until the cabin until the sun began to set. Momo and Eiji had started singing Disney songs, Hiyoshi was carrying Mukahi up on his back (because Oshitari said it would be fine to leave him down by the lake and refused to carry him), Ohtori was wearing Shishido's cap (just to see him jump and swear for it), and Sanada was talking to Tezuka.

It was all so normal.

It was all so strange.

.

A large group of boys were hanging out in the second floor lounge, just goofing off. Hiyoshi was sitting in the corner (literally) with Ohtori when Mukahi came over.

"What are you two second years up to?" Mukahi asked. He sat down next to Hiyoshi, looking at the two with a grin. Mukahi only wore that grin after he had sex with Oshitari, and when things were about to go very bad for everyone but Mukahi.

"Nothing, sempai," Ohtori said, smiling back, completely innocent and unknowing; unlike Hiyoshi, who was watching Mukahi like a hawk.

"Really? You two are boring." Mukahi glanced around, as though someone – Oh. He took something, Hiyoshi realized.

As if to prove his point, seconds later, someone came storming over. Ohtori and Hiyoshi had to look twice to realize it was Sanada without his cap. He held out his hand, and Mukahi frowned, pulling a hat out of goddamn nowhere and handing it to the Rikkaidai vice-captain. Sanada walked off with a frown.

"I knew I should have taken Shishido's instead," Mukahi said before he sighed.

I will never understand him, Hiyoshi decided.

.

Eiji sighed, sinking into a chair next to the one Oishi was sitting in. Oishi frowned, concern crossing his face. "What's wrong, Eiji?"

Eiji smiled. "Nothing. Just tiiiired. I feel like I could pass out any second."

"Then go to sleep," Oishi suggested.

"I'm physically tired, not mentally. Does that make sense?"

Oishi hesitated. "No, not really."

Eiji sighed. "Like, my body is tired, but my mind is racing, like I don't want this night to end."

"Why don't you want it to end?" Oishi asked, curious.

Eiji shrugged. "I dunno. 'Cause we're not gonna be together next year? The teams are all splitting. I know we don't get along, but it's going to suck."

"We can still talk."

"It won't be the same."

"I don't understand, Eiji."

"We're not going to be together! All of us! The teams, the rivals! We're going to drift apart."

Oishi looked so desperately confused in that moment. "We can talk. You know that. We won't fall apart."

"Yes, we will. We all will. And I don't want to."

Eiji was simple. His actions were simple, as were most of his thoughts. But, sometimes, Oishi couldn't understand him, no matter how many ways that simple boy rephrased his words.

.

Marui sat in a bean bag with Jirou, turning his neck every which way to watch Niou play pool with Shishido.

Jirou nudged him. "Just tell him. I bet you'll feel better."

"Why don't you just tell Atobe?" Marui asked softly.

Not softly enough.

Jirou nudged him with his elbow, hard, all the blood in his body going to his cheeks. "I-I… it's complicated, Marui."

Marui shrugged. "I bet you'll feel better."

"It's different for me and Atobe, okay? I can say that about you and Niou because you two can actually be together!"

"And you can't be with Atobe?" Marui asked, raising his eyebrows, waiting for an answer.

"Niou looks at you like you look at him. Stop pretending to like Kirihara, and tell Niou," Jirou said, avoiding Marui's question.

"And why can't you tell Atobe?"

"Because he can't even find five seconds to talk to me or ask how I'm doing. He treats me the same way he always has, like a friend. He probably knows I like him, too. Him and his stupid insight…"

Jirou pulled his legs into his chest, resting his head on his knees. He looked so unexplainably sad and hopeless that it nearly broke Marui's heart in two.

"I'm sorry," Marui said softly.

Jirou lifted his head and smiled – fake and big, the Hyotei way. "I'm fine. I'm stronger than I act."

Marui smiled – real and true, the Rikkaidai way. "Okay. Just know I'm here for you."

"I know." Jirou stood up, stretching his arms above his head. He hummed, setting his arms down. "I think I'm gonna head to bed for the night."

"Don't let the bed bugs bite," Marui said as Jirou left the lounge. When he was out of sight, he turned his head. Not to look at Niou, but to look for Atobe.

.

Atobe was down in the first floor lounge on the sofa, staring at the fire in the fireplace flicker back and forth. His laptop sat next to him, long forgotten. He lied down on the sofa, his muscles melting. He was starving, tired, alone – so many things, yet he didn't care because there was nothing he could do.

Work came first, no matter what. Food and sleep and best friends were too much to worry about when he already had so much hanging over his head. If one more thing was added to that weight, he was positive he would snap. When he heard Marui say, "Atobe," he was sure that this was that extra weight.

Atobe sat up, glaring at Marui, who was standing in front of the fireplace. "What?"

"Stop stringing Jirou along," Marui said bluntly. "I said I would break your neck if you hurt him, and you are. I know you like him, and you know he likes you."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Atobe lied. His head was starting to hurt, like someone put razors in his skull and shook his head.

Marui let out a frustrated sigh. "If you go out with Jirou, you'll have to break up with him one day, because you need to make daddy happy. You need to marry some pretty little girl and have pretty little babies for your stupid, pretty little image. So don't play with him, because you're only going to hurt him."

"You're insane."

"No, you are," Marui said, trying not to shout. Everyone was upstairs or in bed, and he didn't want an audience. "Stop playing with him! He thinks you can't be together because you're best friends. He doesn't realize that you can't date guys seriously. He thinks because you screwed around with Oshitari –"

"How do you know that?"

" – that you can date guys! Oh, and I know. You think Yanagi gets data only on your tennis skills? You're an even bigger idiot than I thought. The one thing Yanagi could never figure out is if you two had sex. Does Jirou know if you did?"

"Go away. Now." Marui didn't move. Atobe stood up, hands balled into fists. "Get out!"

Marui took a step to the side, away from Atobe. "I don't get why Jirou likes you. He deserves more than you."

"Get your head out of your ass. Maybe then you'll realize that I don't give a damn if you know about Oshitari and me, about what we were. I can string Jirou along all I want. I can do whatever I want. My father doesn't control my life. You don't control my life!"

Atobe didn't know whether he was lying to Marui to get him to leave, or if he was lying to himself to keep him from losing his mind. Part of Atobe realized that Marui was right. That even if some miracle happened and Jirou and he were together, they wouldn't last.

Marui took another step back, and then made a beeline for the stairs.

Atobe waited until his footsteps faded, and pressed his palms against his temples. He couldn't keep playing with Jirou. But he couldn't manage to just be friends with him. He could never be just friends with Jirou. But he couldn't lose his rock, the one person in the world he treated him like a human.

Atobe left the lounge, heading into the empty kitchen. He crossed the room, heading straight towards the cabinet where the wine was. He grabbed the first bottle he saw, slamming the cabinet door shut. He opened up drawer after drawer, looking for a corkscrew opener. Silverware inside the drawers clattered as he yanked them open and shoved them shut.

He finally found what he was looking for, and violently took the cork out of the bottle. He leaned against the counter behind him, the edge digging into his hips – he didn't care. The only thing he cared about was putting the bottle to his lips and forgetting. Forgetting what Marui had said. Forgetting Jirou. Forgetting the world.

Calm down, Keigo.

The wine tasted different than what he was used to, stronger. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered. His father, Oshitari, school… it was all so pointless in that moment. Jirou was the only thing on his mind, not that Atobe wanted him to be. But after every sip, the blonde was still on his mind.

"Atobe, you know you just turn me on when you drink."

Atobe moved the bottle away from his lips, letting out a long, ragged breath. He watched silently as Oshitari walked over to him, hips swaying. Neither said anything when Oshitari pressed himself up against Atobe, taking the bottle of wine from the heir.

"Half a bottle that quickly? Did something happen?" He reached behind Atobe, setting it on the counter. Atobe didn't say anything. Oshitari tilted his head to the side. "Atobe?"

"Be him," Atobe said softly, wrapping his arms around Oshitari's torso. "Use his voice. Say my name. Touch me like he would."

"Why should I? I offered to do that once, and you said no."

"I want him, and I can't have him, but I can have you because I don't give a damn if I hurt you. So just be him, and fucking touch me! We both win, right?" Atobe asked, digging his nails into Oshitari's skin. "Be Jirou, even if it's only for tonight."

Oshitari smiled, putting his hands on Atobe's hips. "Alright, Keigo," he whispered, his voice higher, softer. Atobe closed his eyes. Atobe stuck his neck out, kissing Oshitari, losing himself. Oshitari pressed harder into the kiss, whispering "Keigo" over and over in Jirou's soft voice. If Atobe didn't look, if he imagined the hands on his hips were smaller, it was Jirou.

It didn't matter anymore because nothing made sense, and if nothing makes sense, then nothing could go wrong.


A/N: I've been busy, I've been taking AP tests, I've been taking the SATs, I've been focusing on "Organized Chaos" and I've been writing a new AU-story which will not be posted until it is finished. Take your pick of excuses.

Also, updates are going to be extremely slow and may not happen until my summer vacation, which is mid-June. I'm busy as H-E-double-hockey-sticks. This story will be updated eventually, I promise. Just hang with me guys.