In three parts. The last part wouldn't get finished, even if I know how I want this to end. ARGH.


1. Tezuka comes out as an utter bastard in here. I'm sure he doesn't mean to, but he does. And he doesn't even know it himself.

2. MINDFUCK. As in mental torture, mentally insane, just psychological bullshit. And Ryoma is a bit mentally insane here. Or something.

3. Er, rape. But it isn't really rape. Sort of. Kind of. See number 2.

4. Not for people who have an optimistic view about Ryoma and his lovely future of tennis and his cat. I mean, I do have those fics, but not in this one. Not even close.

Echizen's smile is sharp.

Keigo sometimes sees it, the way Echizen's lips would curve higher and higher, and just dangling, like how a predator might see its victim on the brink of death, and how the predator just waits for the prey to die rather than put it out of misery on its own. The smile doesn't come out often, but when it does, it's strikingly ugly and beautiful at the same time Keigo can't take his eyes away. It's folly, this damn contradiction, but it was also true, and he reaches out one day and traces those lips while they curve up,up,up.

"What are you doing?" Echizen asks him, when his fingers ghost over what has been, what might be, and those lips transforms easily into a scowl like liquid. Those lips plummet, and all Keigo is left with is tracing out the memories, the smooth skin on the boy's pale cheeks, and his fingers stop.

Keigo drops his hands and slide them beneath the boy's shirt, someplace where it would be more appropriate for them. "Nothing," he murmurs, and he tunes out any suspicions from the boy's mouth with a kiss, all tongue and lips, and tries not to think of anything beyond.

It's fascinatingly easy to get Echizen riled up. Keigo doesn't understand why the Seigaku members had failed miserably; perhaps they were all too dumb, or they cared too much for the boy. All he had to do was toss a few mocking words that had keywords into them—tennis, tennis, Tezuka, Nanjiroh—and those eyes would flare up and those pale lips would flatten out in anger. Keigo smirks then, cocks his head and watches, because Echizen does try so hard, doesn't he, to try to conceal those emotions. He learned at an early age that emotions were fruitless, that they provided a gap, a weakness, and he had learned well.

But he, Keigo, had learned better.

Hazel is a sickening color for the eyes. Keigo studies Echizen when the boy is once again silent, when he is angry, and notices that the dim light makes Echizen's eyes shine like gold. His black locks glean around the edges, and that skin—pale, pale skin from staying too much inside and not playing any more tennis—is almost transparent that Keigo wants to touch it, to smooth it.

Instead he sits back in his chair and watches as Echizen slams the door behind him, and all he is left with is an empty house.

It's been a long time since he has ever even thought about Tezuka, but it's still enough to make Echizen bite. Keigo wonders if he should feel resentment.

When Echizen sleeps, it's then Keigo finally feels safe to think of him as Ryoma.

Ryoma sleeps like the dead, barely breathing as he curls up next to Keigo, searching for warmth in a primitive sense. When Keigo touches those black locks fleetingly before stroking them gently, Ryoma makes a sound close to a hum, and his face instinctively burrows further into his pillow, his hands searching for more warmth, more comfort. Keigo gives him his hand, and the boy curls his fingers around it, his breathing still light, but a small trace of that smile making its way up to his face.

It's the closest thing Keigo has seen of the boy looking happy.

Echizen wakes up at noon, fixes himself some coffee, falls asleep after a few sips, wakes up at two, stuffs some cereal into his mouth, watches TV, plays with his cat and does nothing productive at all.

Keigo snatches the cereal box after the first few weeks and places a decent bowl of rice in front of the boy. "Eat," he orders, because it was always easier giving out orders than showing anything of what he might remotely feel. He rubs his temples and thinks vaguely of junior high and high school, wonders if Tezuka too, had to put up with the boy's antics and his tempers, but erases the thought as quickly as it came. Tezuka had never fucked the boy, never toyed with him, never really gave Echizen what he needed, only what was best for humanity in general.

Echizen glares at him, his eyes stretched open wide across his hallow face, and Keigo levels him a stare right back. Echizen reaches out for the bowl after a few minutes.

"You're not my dad," he sneers, and the bowl goes crashing down against the other side of the kitchen.

Keigo is left to stare at the shattered bowl thoughtfully, noticing how the rice grains smear all over the wallpapers like little white insects climbing up until they rolled down to the floor, a sticky end to be met. He winces at the slamming of the doors and wishes Echizen would at least appreciate how much hinging and oiling on those doors day after day costs him.

Echizen grows thinner by the day, his eyes open hauntingly wide. Keigo looks at him and wishes that he could kill off the boy himself; it would be so much easier that way.

Instead he drags a yelping Echizen across the living room and half-carries him to the kitchen and throws him down on the dining table one day, those legs dangling helplessly in the air. Echizen glares at him as soon as he gains balance, like all the other times, his lips a snarl and his hands reaching out for cold blood.

Keigo doesn't give him that pleasure, instead choosing to stuff the boy's mouth with vitamins and fluids, and not stopping to see if the boy had swallowed it all before shoving in another mouthful. Echizen chokes and gags, but that's the least of Keigo's worries, wishing that the boy would actually die from suffocation, and he fists Echizen's hair hard when Echizen tries to spit it all out.

"Swallow it," Keigo hisses, and he yanks Echizen down of the table and onto the floor (like a dog, Keigo notes to himself, not amused by the irony) when Echizen tries to twist out of the grasp, and Echizen's eyes water from the pain, "Swallow those damn pills."

Echizen gives him a look of pure hate that Keigo has seen every day for as long as this has been going on, but he obeys, making a pained face as he shoves them all down his throat, and as soon as he does, his hands scramble for control and reach out to grab Keigo's arms.

Keigo lets go of his black hair in turn, and wisps of them slide down of his palm. He dodges Echizen's advances easily, because he wasn't the idiot who holed himself up day after day, and he snags those wrists and pins them to the floor. Echizen growls, his legs moving next, but Keigo is ready for that too—he hoists Echizen up so suddenly by his hands that the boy loses his balance and stumbles down to his knees.

Echizen's breathing is labored now, as if the anger and the energy spent have been tiring him, and Keigo can think of better days, when Echizen used to play tennis after tennis and never broke a sweat. It's almost disgusting at how weak the boy had become, and Keigo, at that instant, wants to let go of those skeletal arms and go out the door where the past might come rushing at him again.

Instead he raises an eyebrow at the boy's crumbling figure and comments, "Good to know that you finally found a position suited for you." He drags Echizen again before he could snipe back another curse, knees down and all, and doesn't stop even when Echizen loses the balance his knees have, and gives Keigo the impression he is hauling over a dead body.

He kicks Echizen onto the bed and climbs next to him, and Echizen looks at him then, eyes bright, as his fingers scrape a red mark across Keigo's cheek. It draws out blood, and Keigo can't help but lift his lips a little sickeningly.

"Now you're fighting like a woman," he tells the boy, and doesn't give him time to curl those pitiful fingers into fists. He slams down the body onto the mattress and tears those clothes apart, and doesn't give the boy time to prepare as he unbuttons his own clothes before hooking those legs onto his shoulder and coaxing the boy to ooze out saliva by choking him.

His fingers feel like they would break Echizen's neck; he could see the blue veins contrasting with the white skin, and Echizen's eyes bulge as he gags a little, his hands now wresting in vain to pry those fingers off him. Keigo gives a firmer grip, and the boy's body slackens a little, his eyes darkening for air, and a trail of thick, clear liquid seeps out of the boy's mouth.

Keigo coats his fingers with it, and shoves.

Echizen screams.

He screams like a pained person then, and it becomes suddenly uncharacteristically human of the boy that it makes Keigo want to vomit. He gags Echizen with the corner of their blanket and prepares the boy, and fucks him hard, slams into him until there is blood, until Echizen finally stops making the noises of a rape victim and faints.

It's here that Keigo finally feels safe to stagger into the bathroom and hurl.

Echizen is sick the next day.

He coughs and vomits with a high fever, his skin going from the ghostly white to the light shade of grey that Keigo almost believes that it's the end.

Funny, when confronted with even the smallest possibility of the boy dying, Keigo can't bear to face it, not now, not when they've come this far.

Echizen takes the sleeping pills the doctor gives him, but wakes up an hour later screaming.

The scream is a hundred times worse than yesterday, because it sounds too helpless and too sad, but Keigo only walks over to him now and watches him, too tired and too angry and too sick of this.

Echizen sees him, eyes hazy and gone but still sees him, and his screams go down to small gasps, like he had trouble breathing. His pupils dilate, and those eyes dart back and forth. He reaches out for a hand hesitantly.

Keigo almost immediately grasps it, and sits on the bed next to him, knowing his eyes would be red from the lack of sleep. Echizen looks at him again for a moment, before closing his eyes.

Keigo sighs, and glares at the boy, not that it'll do much good when the boy was sleeping. "You're going to give me grey hairs at twenty, I swear," he mutters, stroking the fragile wrist and wishing that he had more common sense than to stay with a boy who was obviously a spawn from the devil.

Echizen's laughs scare Keigo.

He shudders when he laughs that at first Keigo mistakes it for a sob. Those bony junctures crack, and then it's his entire torso shaking, as he chokes out a maniacal laugh that is screechy and almost hysterical that Keigo wonders if the boy is insane.

Keigo had a few share of laughs himself when he was young. He liked to throw back his shoulders and look down upon others, smirking in his superior way, grinning like a lunatic (as Oshitari had always been so kind to point out) and give it out for what it was worth. But his laughter had been bred like that, almost a controlled insanity, and in the greater scope of things, it was another calculated emotion that threw off enemies and set up another stage.

But Echizen laughs like the world is ending and on fire at the same time, his shoulders hunched and his back bent, as he hides his eyes and let his hair cover his face. Keigo can only see the lips, the curve, and it's too sharp to be called something anything other than madness, stretched far out to its limits of destruction.

Then what is he, he thinks to himself wryly, to put up with such act and go along as if this was normal?

Echizen had laughed like this when Tezuka had seen him for the last time.

Keigo remembers Echizen as a child and a teenager. His growth, ever since, has stopped from there.

He remembers the boy next to Tezuka, and all those years the boy (in vain, his traitor mind wants to point out fairly) chased down his captain with the only thing he knew how and how Keigo had watched him with an indiscriminate eye. The boy reeked of foolishness, and he had told the boy this on numerous occasions, but Echizen had only scoffed and gave him suspicious eyes.

"You want him for himself," he accused, his hazel eyes narrowing back then, and had, after a moment smirked (back then, it wasn't so menacing and crackling around the edges).

Keigo had the grace to yank down the brat's hat in response and hide those lips.

Then there was Tezuka, the infallible Tezuka, the Tezuka who wanted to go pro and wished—no, commanded—the boy to do the same. He urged him with those serious brown eyes, and told Keigo about the future plans he had for the boy, and Keigo had listened, swirling his cup of coffee and wondering how Tezuka could be so intense on this one goal that never meant anything to Keigo.

"I plan on turning him into pro," Tezuka told him, and all Keigo could think of was, good of you to take on Echizen Nanjiroh's legacy. I mean, really.

Keigo was not an academic like Tezuka. He had brains, yes, but he was more on his feet. He knew how to read people better, knew the plans and the dirty little secrets people hid from their id, and used that solely for his advantage. He respected Tezuka, in purely tennis-related senses, of course, but when it came to Tezuka using people to his advantage…well, Tezuka was meant to be a doctor of a lawyer, not a man meddling with numbers like Keigo. Certainly not a person to be playing god on other people's futures.

It was one of the few good memories he had of Tezuka.

Echizen bitches for days.

Keigo had to dodge an ashtray, daily newspapers, his ornament collections from Russia ("Those were expensive," Keigo had pointed out, and had met his remark with the kitchen knife), shampoo bottles, all the kitchen equipment before he finally gets annoyed and throws his breakfast in turn.

"So now we're getting reduced to a food fight," Echizen sneers, a tomato in hand as he hurls it across the room, where it left a big red splatter on the walls. Keigo stares at the mark speechlessly for a few moments before he advances on the boy.

"Those walls were white!" He snaps, and chases the boy around the kitchen.

"Yeah, I know, I have eyes," Echizen drawls, and doesn't let himself get caught. He does, however, throw an apple at him, and it hits him square in the head.

After hours and days of Echizen hiding and locking himself up in the bathroom (To do suicidal things to his body, Keigo thinks), he finally decides to remerge out of his lair and socialize for a bit, meaning he rummages around the cabinets and throws out all the medicines and vitamins Keigo had so thoughtfully stocked over the past few months.

"Some of them are mine, you know," Keigo points out sourly; he can't help it.

"Buy some more," Echizen deadpans, and proceeds to make the entire kitchen a downright disaster.

Sometimes Ryoma acts normal.

He watches TV and converses with Keigo in a normally functioning matter (or as functional as Ryoma could get) and sometimes finds time to read a book or two. But those phrases are inconsistent and rare, but yes, there are those moments of achievements. It comes unexpectedly at times, mostly when Keigo nearly feels he's pushing over his edge living with a mentally insane boy and just wants to call it quits, and Keigo is too shocked to register everything in that for a moment he believes in the delusion Echizen Ryoma is normal.

Echizen sometimes reads chemistry books in secret. When Keigo asks him about it, the boy turns red and snaps it was none of his business. But Echizen reads, and when he does, all he does is look into chemistry.

Keigo is not a fool. Not like Tezuka, anyway. So he watches, observes, ponders. He quietly leaves behind a stack of the new chemistry section reports along his wake, and Echizen could be seen, sometimes, hunched over in his chair, his bright gold eyes fervent for something he had never grasped before. He devours those reports when he thinks Keigo is busy with his "motherfucking numbers that ruin everyone's lives and shit" and fails to hide the glee in his eyes when he recites just how many those vitamins might shorten Keigo's already old life span.

Keigo is beginning to think that in Echizen's universe, everyone before Keigo had all been fucking idiots.

They're lying on the bed, silk sheets in clear disarray. Echizen shifts a little, and that's all Keigo needs to feel to know that Echizen is awake.

"Stay, why won't you?" he says lightly, not really expecting Echizen to follow through. They almost never sleep together, Echizen always self-conscious about one thing or the other, and Keigo too tired to hold him back seriously. They fuck, Echizen goes marching off to a guest room and sleep in his sorry state. Or they fuck, and Keigo fucks him so hard that Echizen faints, then Keigo gets drunk enough so he could faint and get a lousy hangover in the morning. It has almost become a pleasant routine.

Echizen looks back at him, and in the little light they have, he is glowing, transparent, and Keigo almost goes out to touch him, because it feels as if he is going to disappear sometime soon. He doesn't know when, but it had always been Echizen's nature to. To flee, to go, to bolt.

Hazel eyes are upon him. He tries to meet them and raises an eyebrow. Nonchalance is his second nature.

"Okay," Echizen says finally, and crawls back into the smooth sheets. His hands brush against Keigo's and Keigo holds them; Echizen's touches are never by accident, they always hold a dual purpose. "Your guest rooms need more silk bedcovers." Echizen rolls over to the other side and stays docile.

Keigo doesn't feel too giddy, because he knows next morning, Echizen would wake up and drive him over the edge and commit asshole tactics that would want to make him strangle the brat all over again—but now was now, so Keigo sighs and fumbles for a cigarette.

"Oi," an annoyed voice snaps, "Light that shit up, and I'll stab that down your throat."

Keigo rolls his eyes but humors him.

Keigo stares disbelievingly at the end of the leash and says, "You have some serious issues," but take the leather anyway. The thin strip is smooth and soft against his fingers.

Echizen gives him a sweet smirk and hooks the collar on his (thin, breakable, pale) neck. "Like you didn't know that already," he breathes, before he leads them to the bedroom.

Really, Keigo thinks warily, Who holds the leash here?

To be continued

Yes, I have about 3 TBC stories around here, but I'll get them all finished! ;_; Just...all of them have been about 95% done, without a plausible ending? I really suck at endings.