This is Keigo portrayed as the secret romantic I think him as. And I finally! FINALLY wrote a fic that blesses Ryoma to play tennis and actually feel happy about it. That's not the main point, but whatever. Otherwise, I used too many italics for my comfort, so that's a warning? Kind of?

My apologies for making Ryoma's manager a one-dimensional idiot. I was too lazy to create a concrete developed OC.

Also, I have nothing against Argentina. You'll see when you read more.

That night filled with moonlight, the boy's face glows white and his hands shake pale. Atobe grasps the boy's hand and presses a gentle kiss into the palm and curls it. Echizen closes his eyes and lets out a harsh breath, It's so cold, we should close the windows. He gestures to the open sky, curtains floating gently above them, the December chill drifting in sharp waves towards the bedchambers. Atobe pretends to consider it and with a smirk and a murmur, he says, No, I like this. It's more romantic. He doesn't add that the impossible chill makes the boy's cheek flush and his eyes hazy, he doesn't say that the boy would later curl up to him and he would cradle him close. Echizen rolls his eyes stupid romantic idiot, I hope you feel the same way when I die of pneumonia, I feel sick already, but he doesn't resist the soft kiss Atobe gives him, his eyes, his cheek, his lips.

You could see the full moon, Atobe points out, and the boy's ribs protrude out as he arches to see. Where? He presses a kiss to each bone and murmurs, you need to eat more, this is ridiculous, you need stamina, and Echizen snaps, just show me the damn moon, I can't see it from here. There, see. You need to tilt you head, and there. Echizen stares at the endless night as Atobe traces a finger to his navel and down his bare thighs. I never thought you could see that many stars in Japan, the boy says, and it sounds strangely hollow. Funny, I thought I would have known by now.

For Echizen's birthday, he buys the boy a key.

A key to your heart? Echizen jibes, and even Atobe rolls his eyes at that, Please I believe in romance, not symbolism. It's a key to our flat. The boy starts to laugh but his laughter trails out into the empty air as his eyes block everything out. Our flat? The boy repeats, and Atobe knows what's coming. Our flat? You didn't even sayIt's an option, Atobe interrupts, before the boy says anything he would regret, and Echizen does a lot of inane things, this wouldn't be the first, It's an option because you always wanted choices. I'm giving them to you now.

Echizen stares down at the little key in his hand and when he looks at Atobe he can't read those hazel eyes that shine at him. I would rather it were a key to your heart, the boy says in jest and Atobe feels safe to smile. He lifts a hand and entangles it into the boy's hair, I think, you already have that one. Echizen laughs, short and cracked, Asshole. No one has that, not even Tezuka had it. Atobe's smile freezes but Echizen is too busy studying the key to notice.

Echizen goes to London, New York, Seoul. Atobe never tries to stop him.

Bring back presents, he says dryly, as he sees the boy off with coffee and bagels, and for the love of god, smile for the fans, they're risking stampedes to see you play, Echizen. Echizen scowls and tugs down his hat lower to hide his eyes and Atobe sighs. You're such a kid, and he rips off the hat from the boy's head, Hey! That shit's autographed! Atobe ignores him and presses a kiss to the boy's forehead, Come back in one piece. Echizen twists his lips, Not in public, god Atobe, I thought you would know decency by now. Atobe smoothens the hurt out of his eyes until it ceases to exist and replies I prefer thrill over obligations, I thought you knew that, and shoves the boy's bagels to him.

"Paging for Ryoma Echizen, the Sky Team is ready for boarding at gate 37."

Echizen looks at him, but by that time Atobe turns around and curses, he's late for a meeting, or pretends to.

Later, after hours of paperwork and late night meetings, he turns on the news and cringes to the screams and shouts blasted through the speakers, chanting the name Atobe never whispers.

He carefully deletes the memory of another time of blazing suns and ambitions, Atobe, Atobe, Atobe. He makes coffee and drinks wine instead, his lone glass gleaming in the dark room as he watches the boy's face glow. He even smiles, a small smile barely there, but his eyes come alive and Atobe wishes, for a brief, selfish moment, that the boy would never look like that ever again. He sighs and the moment is gone with another sip of wine.

"Ryoma," he says aloud in the empty room, but that doesn't make it any more real.

The boy takes Wimbledon, he wins Tezuka. He calls Atobe for the first time in two weeks and Atobe doesn't berate him for it. Did you see, did you watch the game? Echizen demands on the phone, and his voice is breathless and excited, eleven hours by plane and no other way to communicate. Of course Atobe watched, from the beginning, every damn game and score until the boy climbed to the top and claimed what he always wanted, but Atobe is tired and childish, No, I haven't, I had my secretary record it, it was a havoc week and a branch needed to be downsized, I'll watch it tonight. And Echizen grows silent.

Oh. Oh, okay. Yeah, that's good. Echizen's glee evaporates, just like that, and when he adds, more subdued and sullen, You know, I just thought, since it was the finals and Tezuka but before he could finish that sentence Atobe snaps, Not everything is about Tezuka, I wish you'd grow up sometimes, it's about my company and a legacy, surely you know all about that and slams the receiver down.

He sends hundreds of roses, anonymous, from your secret admirer, but Echizen already have too many of them across the world, and besides these roses are pure white, pristine and dripping with dew that would all dry once they reach across a continent and an ocean. On the back he writes I wish you'd look at yourself the way I see you, but that ends up in the wastebasket, along with documents he would never see again.

Echizen doesn't tell him when he would come back, so Atobe can't pick him up, and Echizen arrives, silently and suddenly, with Tezuka in tow with his soft brown eyes and brittle lips.

Tezuka, Atobe says, trying to act surprised, Well, this is a surprise. Echizen stands in the front of the doorway and crosses his arms, and Atobe notes that the boy's cheekbones are hollow and paved now, his eyes glinting challengingly, and Atobe graces him with a wry smile.

Atobe, Tezuka returns, I heard that you were Ryoma's sponsor now, and Atobe laughs softly, Yes, I suppose I am, if the boy says so, and raises an eyebrow at Tezuka, Ryoma? Really now, Kunimistu, someone's had a taste of too much Europe. Tezuka's cheeks redden and he amends smoothly Echizen, I meant Echizen, we've been roommates during the tournament so I suppose we got caught up in old times, nostalgia. Tezuka quirks his lips awkwardly, and Echizen butts in, He'll be having dinner in the Imperial, so are you coming? And Atobe shrugs I'm sure my office would survive a night without me. Tezuka smiles, small and innocent. I'll see you soon. Yes, yes, of course.

He leaves the room and Echizen is about to follow him, but he seems to remember something, because he stops and locks his eyes with Atobe. Oh, yeah. He comes towards Atobe and stands across from him, a desk between them, and rummages around his carry-on bag. Before I forget. What he produces out is a dried white rose, pressed between a paperback, and places it down carefully on Atobe's desk littered with paperwork and contracts. You weird sap, nobody delivers 500 roses by personal airmail, not even my richest fans, he scoffs, and Atobe plays dumb, I don't know what you're talking about. He dismisses it with a wave and adds, Tezuka is waiting and he's your guest, I thought I taught you proper etiquette by now. Echizen doesn't frown at that, his lips twitching, you know, I thought I'd never say this, but I missed you like hell. Atobe feels it safe to meet Ryoma's eyes and when he does they look warm and golden; his traitorous fingers are already touching the boys cheeks and he leans over to press his lips with the boy's, gently, I'm glad London did you some good. Echizen laughs. Trust you to erase Wimbledon out of the picture.

Dinner flows smoothly because Tezuka always asks all the right questions and Echizen always eats before he talks. Atobe orders some wine and prevents Tezuka's frown, Lighten up, Tezuka, you went to the semifinals and we're sitting next to the new Wimbledon champion. Echizen stops cutting his steak to direct a scowl to Atobe but he just chuckles lightly and ruffles the boy's hair out of habit.

"I suppose," Tezuka says politely and carefully does not comment on the subtle context and Echizen never notices.

This is pretty stupid, Echizen says, I mean, we both have flats in Tokyo and yet,

And yet here we are, Atobe interrupts him smoothly, resting his hands on Ryoma's waist and shrugging off his suit jacket, Looking down at Ginza, drinking champagne, hotel staffs to cater our every whims (and you have too many of them, don't even start), why don't you have some grandeur in you. Echizen turns his eyes away from the room and at the wide windows, city lights glaring and the noise bellowing below. This is nice, he agrees, London was never like this, and besides, I don't understand damn British English. Atobe laughs, almost carefree, Then maybe I should teach you. I happen to have a perfect British accent. He fingers a random scab and caresses it, making Echizen flinch, Hey, careful, I got that from a sore loser. Atobe's fingers don't really stop but they do slow down.

I'm pretty sure he didn't want to admit he got beaten by a kid, Atobe replies and presses a hard kiss next to the scar. Echizen turns and runs his hands through Atobe's hair as he kisses the boy's flat body, tugs down his trousers. You're impatient tonight, I wanted to finish my drink, Echizen whispers teasingly, but Atobe soon drags the boy into bed and it's not long until Echizen's legs curl around him and he bucks up as Atobe presses down, restraining, hands skimming his legs, his fingers defter and faster, scrambling to touch everything….

His kisses, pressed against skin and trailing down and up as moans, echoed. Echizen grapples the sheets and whimpers, his red lips biting to keep down the noise but Atobe fingers him in, and Echizen almost shrieks, ow, ow, ow, go slower, Atobe, Atobe, but Atobe doesn't stop, one, two, and fumbles around for more lotion, and three.

Keigo, Keigo, it hurts, you fucking bastard, I'm going to kill you when this is over, Echizen swears, and Atobe smiles and it's then he presses softer kisses to Echizen's sweating forehead and stops, feels. Echizen's eyes are closed and his pants are shallow and rough, his cheeks are wet. Atobe dries them carefully.

So sweet and docile in bed, what a lucky man I am, he mocks.

The sheets are tangled and wet but Echizen refuses the sheets to be changed, the Wimbledon champion, openly gay? I don't think so, and so they rid the covers and lie bare, Echizen's hands playing with the edges of his pillow.

So, did you ever watch the game? He asks too casually, so that Atobe knows he's nervous, the way he continues to avoid Atobe's gaze, I mean, I know you're busy and everything but, yeah. Just wondering.

I did, Atobe says, and wants to add, I watch every game you play, what do you take me for, but no. That's taking it too far, so he settles for You played well, I suppose. Echizen gives a little frown and mumbles, that's not really an answer. Atobe hides a smile, Do you really want me to stroke your ego, you have reporters all over the world to do that for you. Yeah, I guess. Echizen's voice turns flat and he turns away. It doesn't really matter. Such a kid, and Atobe prides himself that he's better than Echizen when it comes to maturity, so he tugs on Echizen's arm sharply to make the boy roll back again facing him. What? I'm trying to sleep, he snaps and Atobe rolls his eyes, Echizen, I don't know what you want me to say, I don't waste my time and money on secondary rip-offs, and I certainly don't love them either. Echizen's breathing stops and Atobe could see his lump freeze, and then his adam's apple bobs again. You know, Echizen says, almost smiling, but the moonlight makes it hard to see, You just suggested Kunimistu was a rip-off. Echizen doesn't return anything back and Atobe tries hard to let his heart stay afloat.

Yes, well, Atobe says, and stops, there really isn't anything to say to that. And when did you become that chummy? It's Tezuka, it's always been Tezuka for you.

Just, the obnoxious boy replies, shifting slowly towards him and touching his forehead against Atobe's, wondering if you'd notice.

Ryoma, Atobe says, quietly, stilling the air, Don't call him that.

Echizen studies him, his wide eyes so close, and plants his promise with a kiss. I won't.

Later, Paris, Prague, Busan, Beijing. All the places that make him go and all the places Atobe bids him farewell with a text message, My driver is waiting in front of your flat. Don't miss your flight like last time.

A reply, quick, Flat, seriously? How British.

Echizen travels the world to conquer the media and Atobe doesn't see him for the rest of the summer.

I'm drunk, the boy calls, giddy and high, Korea's beer is shit, but it has hardcore sake like hell.

Careful, Atobe says wryly, That's the plebian Americanism catching up to you.

Echizen's laugh is quiet and soft, echoing and transmitting to a buzzing noise on the receiver. Two hours by plane if he's in Korea, Atobe wonders if he could meet the boy before he heads off to Wien, but he doesn't know when the boy is leaving. Keigo, Keigo, are you still there? Are you at the office? Atobe straightens up and sighs, running a hand over his flattened hair, the heat, the humidity, Yes, yes I'm still here, and no, I'm not, I'm at home even though he still has about three hours more of paperwork to do, he doesn't need to tell Echizen that.

Okay, that's good, Echizen says softly, and drunk with liquor and success, Echizen could be as docile and sweet as Jiroh, Because you know. You push yourself sometimes, do you know that? Atobe cringes and loosens his tie, covers his eyes with one hand, he's too tired for this conversation, this surreal mothering. I'm fine, Echizen, don't go all sentimental on me. It's just a busy month. How's your tour? Did you call to gloat? The boy could jeer and mock but his softness, Atobe is wary of. It gives him false hopes that plummet down like the economy. No, no, there's nothing special about the tour, I just called and….Echizen trails off, uncertainly, I don't know. It seems so long since I heard your voice.

Echizen, it's three. You're drunk and deluded and gloomy. Don't touch alcohol next time, and it'll figure itself out. Atobe walks out of his office chair and walks around the room, collapses on the office sofa that Karupin once tore. I should have a word with your manager, he can't even keep a 20 year old in check, really.

He's asleep. Atobe expects Echizen to bristle and snap he can take care of himself, hang up the receiver with a slam, but all he hears is a small miserable voice, tiny and weak, I mean, it's three. And you're up doing paperwork and lying to me about it. You hate going to sleep late, you like your morning coffee at seven, did you really think I wouldn't know that? Atobe freezes, stops tracing the thin, long scratch Karupin made, those many years ago, lets out a sharp sigh.


That earns him a terrible silence on the other end, no buzzing, no clicks, Echizen, it wasn't that I was trying to lie, but yes, if you must know, this week was long overdue, and—It's always busy, it's always fucked up, Echizen says, clipped tones, sharp ends, I know. I'm not dumb you know. You treat me like such a child and then you fuck me like I'm an adult.


Echizen, it's not that, Atobe starts tiredly, Should we really having this conversation when you're drunk? How many bottles of this hardcore sake of yours did you drink?

You never call me Ryoma, and I always call you Keigo, it's not fair, Echizen continues on, wallowing in pity, and Atobe holds back I say I love you and you never return it, I let you go and be free and you ignore how it kills me, and all he says is, "Ryoma, I call you Ryoma. So Ryoma, how much did you drink?"

He laughs a broken laugh, I don't know why we're doing this anymore, I miss you, I love tennis but I miss you more. Shit, Atobe, you and your fucked up notions of romance, it's contaminating me.

Atobe hangs up before he could say anything else ridiculous. He's saving the boy his dignity. He drums his fingers, he fiddles with his cell. He wakes up the boy's manager, When's Echizen's flight to Wien? Delay it. He calls his driver and pilot, an hour and a half if the wind is good, sir, is there a hurry?

He is silent on the way, skies dark and looming and the clouds a dark gray seeped with specks of hue.

Echizen is awake at six, groggy and red eyed, but still awake. He blinks once or twice and touches Atobe tentatively when he opens the door before Atobe rolls his eyes and enters the suite. The floor rolls with empty bottles and the air is thick with deprivation.

"Eight bottles," Atobe says flatly, "And 20% alcohol in each bottle. Really, one would think you gave up your tennis career." Echizen sulks in the shadows, a small frown, confused and lost, The sake's good here, but what the hell? Why are you here? The boy's tone is back, accusing and sharp, Atobe's almost glad, Since in your drunken state you sang a sweet ballad of how much you missed me, and he turns towards the boy, a curl of his lips, well, here I am. I crossed a small ocean for you, aren't you glad? The boy stays in the shadows unmoving, so Atobe discards the empty rolling bottles and snags Echizen's wrist, imprinting a kiss on his pulse. Your flight's tomorrow evening, I delayed it, so you'll have time to resurrect as a human being again, he informs Echizen, before he kisses him, this time on the mouth and then proceeds to his neck; Echizen tilts his head back but he's strangely silent.

Can we not do this? It's a soft murmur, barely audible, a whiff of breath really, but Atobe hears it and he stops and detaches himself from the boy. His hands cease to touch Echizen, and the boy looks frightened and scared, uncertain.

I mean, I know you just ditched work to come here and it's been two months, (three, Atobe wants to say) but, Atobe presses his fingers over the boy's fumbling mouth, Yes, yes. Let's just go to sleep. I'm tired myself. He kisses the boy on the forehead, light and chaste, and when he backs off foggy hazel eyes look relieved and Echizen lets out a breath. Oh, okay then. Atobe leads the boy to bed and wraps an arm around his torso, whispering, you sound cute when you're drunk, this bundle of insecurity doesn't really suit you though, but the boy is already fast asleep and doesn't answer.

The morning light peaks out and slowly smears its way through the windows.

Echizen looks away every time Atobe catches his eyes, Atobe calmly eats his omelet and orders coffee and more rice, you should eat more, get the alcohol out of your system, here, water, and Echizen looks away again, a game of wills but the boy is foolish, always foolish.

Atobe sighs, Ryoma, grow up. Echizen snaps his head to look at him his eyes narrowed and his irises dilutes in anger, but Atobe proceeds, This is about last night, and you were drunk but I still managed to humor you, didn't I. Echizen worries his bottom lip, yeah. Yeah, I mean. I guess you did. He stabs his cooked fish and is silent again, so Atobe touches his hand gently, Why did you do it? You could have just hung up, go back to your secretary, send me more roses or something. Does he really want an answer? Because, I love you, he says, as dryly as possible, but the boy is silent again, absorbed in his thoughts, and Atobe sighs and let go of his hand. He doesn't feel hungry.

Father, tennis was mine. I'm not sure you understand this because you always chose money over everything else, even your handpicked mistresses, all disposable like imported china, but tennis was something I chose when I was alone and desperate in a blasted foreign country that you made me go to—"Be a better man, my boy," you had said, father, "be a heir the Atobe name could be proud of"—and tennis was something that was myself, I practiced years and years of it all to perfection, and I wanted it like nothing I ever did. You told me once in your rare bursts of fatherly gestures that we all needed to make sacrifices over passion and love, and I swore to myself then that I would never be like you, pretentious and old and shallow.

If your father didn't die, Echizen asked him once, his murmurs like waves in a luring dream, do you think you would have given up everything?

I didn't have everything.

You know what I mean—the name, the wealth, everything.

I thought I did.

And now?

Well, Atobe turned over and stared beyond Echizen, out into the darkness and out the windows, where his empire and estates existed, well, I suppose I grew up. I can't live without them just like you can't live without tennis.

So that's your choice. Echizen lips curved humorlessly.

I chose my name and legacy, if that's what you mean. Atobe looked at him. Despising me for that would make you a hypocrite.

Echizen barely looks at him as he almost boards the plane, his eyes groggy and sleepy, his mouth absentmindedly teasing a strip of toast, Atobe glancing at his watch, Is your plane delayed? And nothing else he wants to say. Two more months and he's already tired of screaming fans so he has his secretary call the airport and cancel the boy's airplane, my pilot will fly you, it's better for my own sanity, don't be flattered. Echizen grouches something and resumes his silence. Atobe doesn't ask when he'll be back.

"Echizen, sir, your plane call will be in two minutes," a pretty flight attendant tells him politely, even though he's the only one on abroad. Echizen laughs carefully, what money can do, eh? Is it supposed to be mocking? Atobe isn't so sure so he chooses not to answer.

Hey. Echizen's fingers brush with his thumb, once, twice. Thanks for, you know. He still stares off into the empty air but his mouth isn't as void. I'm ditching Petersburg this time, it's too damn cold there. Maybe Moscow too, so I'll be here earlier.

I'm honored, Atobe succeeds in keeping his voice bored, and all this for me? I should be weeping with joy. He doesn't expect Echizen to turn to him and smirk, his lips quirking, Is that a promise? Because, duh, I'm doing it for you, why else would I miss a chance for people to worship me? Atobe covers his shock and (hope? No not hope, never hope, or maybe a small flicker of it) happiness by raising an eyebrow, my, all my bad qualities seem to have rubbed off you, your past self would be mortified. Echizen makes a face and Atobe laughs quietly, his fingers touching briefly for a second before retreating. But Echizen surprises him by stepping towards him, planting a small promise on his lips, You better not die of exhaustion before I get back, mark the calendar like a good little boy, and with a mocking wave, he's gone.

His lips tingle where Echizen's had been a moment before.

When Echizen comes back to Japan, it all falls apart.

His eyes are distracted, not focused, distant. His fingers trace Atobe's arms but there are no marks, light kisses on his neck, his lips curved aimlessly.

He kisses him, touches him, his grip grows tighter. He forces Echizen to look at him but the hazel orbs are bottomless, he can't fill it. Why not?

His fingers dig into the boy's ribs, angry welts form, but Echizen doesn't even notice, his mind is elsewhere, and

Why are we doing this?

The boy is curious, empty, devoid of emotions. He looks at Atobe and cocks his head, his lips questioning. He sits at the edge of the bed, a sheet draping between his legs.

Atobe rubs his temples. What, this? We always do this.

No, I mean. This. Echizen gestures around the room, his long fingers skeletal, his eyes probing. During the tour I was thinking of us and, I thought we would end. That we would have ended this, whatever we have, when your father died. He hesitates at death but it doesn't faze Atobe, but now his mind is blank, trying to search for words, groping in the dark to try to even guess where this is suddenly all coming from.

This, he repeats slowly, this, whatever we have. Really? Isn't there a better word to term our arrangement?

I don't know, do I? Echizen says, uncertain, I mean, it's not as if we're going out.

Atobe's heart stops. His lungs constrict. Breathe, Keigo, you always knew you were dealing with an irresponsible, one-sided brat who didn't care about anything except tennis.

No, it's not. When he echoes his agreement, his voice had never been colder. Echizen notices, smart boy he is, and narrows his eyes questioningly. Wait, I didn't mean—

No, you're right. His eyes must hold something too, because Echizen tries to touch him but flinches. No, we're nothing.

Keigo, Echizen says quietly, but Atobe sneers, don't call me that, and he's up and grabbing his pants, and his tie is hanging loosely by his shirt, don't call me that, you have some nerve.

Oshitari's smirk falls off as soon as he sees Atobe, standing in front of his flat.

"Atobe, it's three," he says, as if that would explain everything. Atobe shrugs, irritated, "I wanted some Pinot Noir and my wine cellar is out of them," he says loftily, and with a wave of an impatient hand, "go back to your sexual endeavors, pay me no mind."

Oshitari sighs but proceeds to do just that.

Echizen tracks him four hours and two bottles later.

My, my, Atobe says coolly, isn't this a surprise. Have you been rummaging all over Ginza for me? Echizen's eyes are unreadable, his hands at his sides, his T-shirt is on backwards. I thought you didn't let strangers into your penthouse, otherwise I wouldn't have come here, Yuushi, he continues, ignoring Oshitari's sigh, and don't think I'm drunk enough to catch you rolling your eyes at me, I'm better than that.

"We all know, Keigo," Oshitari says, pleasantly enough that Atobe gives out a small bark. Echizen is standing there, awkward, out of place, his eyes blocked but Atobe doesn't really care to read anything into it right now. He needs to be the child, he's sick of refraining and denying everything from Echizen, this boy, this stupid idiot who makes everything worse by simply existing.

"Oshitari-san, could you give us a moment?" Echizen says, not quite rudely, and Atobe prides himself for a moments that if anything, he might have taught the boy a bit of manners. Oshitari is gone, locking himself in his bedroom no doubt, and soon Echizen is walking towards him, poor, disheveled, drunken him slouching in the couch, and he sneers before he can even be bothered to look up at Echizen.

"Whatever you what to say save it," he says in a clipped tone, and Echizen doesn't come any further, five steps away from him, his eyes holding unreadable messages.

You're being a child, he says tiredly, I'm just trying to straighten things out. Atobe gives out a laugh, that's funny; You think I'm the child here? Echizen, please, of all the years we've been doing whatever the fuck it is we were doing, you were always on the run, away and hopping off. Just when—he sees Echizen's eyes narrow—don't try to deny it, just when we're jolly and well, some instinct of yours is screaming at you to run away, doesn't it? It's always in your nature. Remember Tezuka? Remember Seigaku? Atobe does not pride on himself to be a mean drunk, but he's a honest one, and if he holds bitterness, well, that can hardly be his fault. You don't allow yourself to be cozied up and content, you need to control, to win, he sneers, and laughs even louder when Echizen just stands there, white and still, You can't even deny it! Do you honestly take me as a fool? You run away from me as if you literally need an ocean apart from me to resolve your feelings, and when you fail you pretend this is because of—

All at once Echizen is upon him, pinning him down and digging into his shoulders, his fingers sharp and narrow as he bares his teeth, Maybe, he whispers harshly, coldly, all the things Echizen was, could only ever be, maybe you're right, maybe I do run away from you and from us, but bastard, you selfish egocentric bastard, don't you dare try to say that I did it because of me. It was never about me.

Never about you? Atobe repeats mockingly, Never about you, why, Ryoma, the whole world is about you. Your incessent need to constantly be in the spotlight and not facing real shit problems.

That shocks him from freeing Keigo, wide eyes, gaping mouth. Ryoma takes a step back to access Keigo. He momentarily looks miserable and young, and Keigo resolves himself not to touch him but he's not sober enough to control his words and form an apology, no matter how much the brat is undeserving of it.

I'm sorry, he says tiredly, I didn't mean that, I—Ryoma, don't makes that face.

Ryoma stands there, eyes unblinking, his mouth twisted, and he tries to say, I can't believe—

I'm a bastard yes, Keigo says, and he can't help it he rolls his eyes, but, god. You have to admit that. You run away every time you have an eureka about any newfound feelings you have or might have for me. Is it that hard?

I don't have any feelings for you, Ryoma spits out hatefully, and even though Keigo knows that's far, far from the truth, his heart constricts terribly, God, fine, get drunk and wasted. I hope you have a terrible hangover tomorrow.

With that parting message Ryoma storms out, although to where, Keigo doesn't bloody know. It's five a.m. and Tokyo taxis are not really known for early customers. He represses an ironic snort.

He doesn't hear from Ryoma and when he calls his manager he finds out that Ryoma's in London.

"Training for some partnership?" the (dim-witted, no doubt) manager says dubiously, "I, er, really don't know, Atobe-san. He just left two days ago."

Keigo thanks him curtly and resigns himself to communicating with Ryoma through silence.

Days on end, he tries to erase any doubts or sentiments he might have.

He always came back in the end.

The boy, a few years back, hesistant eyes. I want tennis, will you grudge me for it? An indifferent mask that concealed any anxiety the boy might have.

His own wry smirk, his hands brushing away a few stray black locks from the boy. I can't grudge you for chasing after your dreams, Ryoma.

But. His eyes still hesistant, his grip tight.

A dramatic sigh and a light brush on the forehead. Yes, I'll wait for you, is that what you want to hear?

Blinking, doubtful, twist. It can't be that easy, the boys said dubiously, You're not...well.

Thought you would have to fight for me?

The boy snorted. God no. I'd rather kill myself before I turn into a romantic like you.

Yet the grip on his hand grew tighter.

When he does return, it's in his own bizarre fashion, still a boy, always a boy. Keigo sees him in front of tabloids, in the media, in the front pages-The Japanese Wimbledon Star, No Longer Single?-and he represses a snort every time he sees the news. The picture is of a blurry figure next to Ryoma, blond hair and blue eyes with an innocent smile. The next day a clearer picture is shown, a girl with dimples and a tan, and the story is about the new Californian girl capturing the heart of the otherwise reclusive player.

Those poor fools, oh that poor girl.

Keigo rolls his eyes and doesn't even feel bitter by it. Flattered even, to think Ryoma would go at this length to the media to show that he didn't give a damn.

He sends a text to Ryoma: Americans are so vulgar, but if you're willing to share...

He doesn't expect Ryoma to roam his phone overseas, and is pleasantly surprised when a reply comes five minutes later. Attention-whore, Keigo might say later, a bit sharply, and maybe with affection, and he reads the text. Don't act bloody British, you're dating a Yorker.

Am I? Keigo makes that intentionally vague. Funny, last time we chatted, didn't have the faintest clue.

Fine, a torrid affair. Be back in two days.

Keigo hides a smirk and kisses the screen of his phone.

Ryoma takes him to a French bistro restaurant in the heart of Roppongi.

"This meal would cost a month's salary's worth from my secretary," Keigo comments with a raised eyebrow, "Getting bourgeois, are we?"

Ryoma rolls his eyes, with clothes that are, for once, not jeans and casual. He's wearing a black suit with a silver chain on his waist, a new watch fastened on his skinny wrist. A present from my sponsor, he says smugly to Keigo when he looks, Jealous? Keigo swats him for that.

Am I supposed to ask who the American is now? he asks, as soon as their wine arrives (Not legal yet, Keigo scoffs, and Ryoma smiles all teeth and kicks him under the table), Honestly, I remember you saying that blondes and tans weren't your style of taste.

I was bored, Ryoma drawls out, and smiles, mock-fluttering his eyelashes, Were you jealous?

You would like that, won't you, Keigo remarks, gesturing for the wine glass. Ryoma makes a face and rolls his eyes. Considering the last time you had hold of some alcohol….he trails off, and turns his head, Not such a good idea, Keigo. He tilts his head and smirks, putting the past and questions behind them.

Yet Keigo doesn't want to let it go. Not my fault, he points out flatly, Don't go off starting off something you can't finish.

Ryoma gives him a sharp look for that but Keigo pours him a glass of wine and it proceeds from an awkward silence.

The music in the background is everything that keeps them from suffocating.

What do we have? Ryoma finally asks, two bottles later. He hasn't touched his food, his eyes are unusually bright.

Keigo is less inebriated this time (thank god), and stills his fork deliberately, What do you mean? He counters smoothly, I thought I said don't' start off something you can't finish.

Ryoma shoots him a sullen look. You don't try to define these things, he says, angry now, Keigo could tell because he's speaking in English, So I try to define them.

By not defining it at all? Keigo inquires, Well, I supposed that's an effort.

That's not what I meant, Ryoma snaps, God, you're such a…arsehole sometimes, and you're the one who calls me a child.

Silence regains its order and when Keigo does speak, it's amused. "Arsehole, really? Look who's become British."

Ryoma scowls. That's not the point, you always dance around the point.

The point? Keigo says, justly as flatly, Let me tell you your point. You don't know what the hell we are and you try to define it in every way possible from manipulating the media to taking me out to fancy cuisines and expect me to tie the strings. And when I do you panic and run away to god know where. I already told you my answer, and he stands up, a bit dizzy from the four glasses, I don't know what else there is for me to say.

Your conclusion is crap, Ryoma says harshly.

Well, love is a crappy topic, isn't it? Keigo says wearily, and leaves before Ryoma has a chance to reply.

"To my son, Keigo Atobe, I leave my estates, my company, my name."

The lawyer coughed, looking away and shooting an embarrassed glance at him before continuing, "that is, if he is willing to have it."

Of all the times, dear father, you're giving me a choice in your own deathbed. Keigo sat still, his hands folded, his eyes calm.

"I'm sure he had papers for me to sign, then," Keigo said steadily, gesturing his butler to bring him a pen.

Ryoma chases him out the street, five minutes later, face pale and eyes blazing, grabbing him and stopping him. His driver hasn't come yet, Keigo really should have him fired.

I don't want to talk about it, Keigo says, drained and tired, but Ryoma sneers and tightens his hold on his blazer, his eyes probing.

Two years ago, you made a choice, Ryoma spits out, And now you think professing your romances and giving me a fucking key to some flat in Ginza would make up for anything? Don't blame me for this. You chose your future, he says, even louder, or as loud as Ryoma could possible get when Keigo tries to open his mouth, And maybe I chose mine, but mine didn't involve heirs and dynasties.

Keigo fixes him with a look; Ryoma just glares back, his mouth twisted and angry.

Just because I chose my name, Keigo says resolutely, doesn't mean I chose it over you.

He shakes off Ryoma's grip and motions the driver to open the car door. He doesn't look back.

"You told me you wouldn't," Ryoma said quietly, but he didn't stop Keigo from holding his hand.

"Yes." Keigo sucked in a small breath. "I'm sorry."

Ryoma turned to look at him, eyes sad and blank and muddled. "Don't," he whispered.

A voicemail reaches him when he gets home.

"You think I don't know about his will." The echoes of a voice rings into his house, blank and desolate like the night his father died. "But I do. You're making this more difficult than it's supposed to be."

Ryoma is seen playing with Tezuka at a sponsor match. Keigo nurses another glass of wine and watches them from the screen of his television, the swings he used to know, the serves, the ball, the net.

You told Tezuka once that you'd play in Wimbledon with him, Ryoma had said, uncertain, and Keigo turned to look at him, eyes, hazel, gold, brown.

Not with him, he said back, Not for him. Just…against him. Tennis is tennis.

Ryoma looked as if he didn't understand.

But, he shrugged, turning away, I can't do that now. I have a company to run, clients to torment.

Yet Keigo still takes pride (wants to? Needs to?) in the fact that at least, tennis was something he chose and wanted and even willing to give up everything for.

Just like the boy.

Two months, Ryoma is gone, signing more contracts and playing, playing, the media, the fans, the crowd. Tight-lipped and wirier than ever, Keigo watches him play and slash opponents with his signature Twist Serve.

There are no more messages on his phone, but Keigo phones Ryoma's manager (still the same blubbering idiot), "After the tour, send Echizen to London. I'll meet him there." He hangs up and calls his pilot for more details.

I hate London, Ryoma snipes at him, throwing his bag on the hotel bed, And you can't just call me at beck-and-call. I'm not your lapdog.

Previous incidents are not mentioned, the past is seldom mentioned. They have a relationship bordering on blackouts, and they leave, shutting up doors behind them and moving on with their lives. I'm not a child, there's nothing between us, not going out, never about you or me, don't start off something you can't finish.

Keigo hands him some papers.

Ryoma scowls, are you even listening to me? But stops when he reads the first line of the words, fine print, English. He stares up, his eyes wide in disbelief. You're shitting me.

Language, Keigo says mildly, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning against the window.

You're proposing to me and you're pointing out the choice of my words? Ryoma says, his eyes still wide, I just won some lame-ass tournament and now this. He waves the few documents in front of them and Keigo almost rolls his eyes. I'm not getting married.

It's not marriage, Keigo says condescending and biting, It's a civil partnership. I'd rather not get married, since that would require someplace like Argentina. No thank you.

When Ryoma still stays silent Keigo continues on, Plus we get to split our taxes. Convenient, really.

Taxes, Ryoma repeats, Oh god. Taxes.

And mortgage, Keigo says helpfully, but I suppose that could wait.

Ryoma laughs, spits, really, little bursts of giggles that seems to be sarcastic. Don't be stupid, he says, The hell.

Isn't this what you wanted? Keigo asks, eyebrows raised. I just proved to you I could have both my future and you. Aren't you overjoyed?

Your future, Ryoma snarls, and that's a new tone, it's like a child's really, your future involves another Eton or Harrow offspring, a proper social standing, not some fucked-up dallying going back to your middle school rivalry. Your father wanted that.

I'm glad you have such self-esteem, Keigo sighs, and a wry twist of lips, But really. I never thought you of all people cared of social standing.

I do, Ryoma says slowly, I have to.

He quirks an eyebrow. Oh?

Ryoma rolls his eyes. One of us has to, a terse voice that reminds him too much of Tezuka. Keigo snorts.

Don't try to act the responsible one here, that's not working, Keigo says waving his hand, Or I could just kidnap you and go off to Argentina to seal a marriage.

A smile creeps up to Ryoma's face that seems unguarded. I'd like to see you try.

He smirks, tilts his head, meets those eyes. I'm not promising a forever, he says, a more subtle tone, but I do want something. Don't you?

Ryoma doesn't look away. I always thought you were one of those people, he finally says, the ones who did.

Believe in eternity?

Ryoma makes a face. Maybe not. Even coming from you that sounds cheesy (Keigo hides a smile). His grip on the paper loosens—the sides are slightly wrinkled. Wouldn't I have to be British citizen for this?

You won Wimbledon, I own a good chunk of the British economy, Keigo says, rolling his eyes, I'm sure we'll manage.

Ryoma smiles, a bit soft, uncertain. I suppose. He takes on a more warning look. I don't want Paris for our honeymoon.

Keigo can't help but laugh and after a moment Ryoma joins him.

Why did it go from poetic and angsty to crack and fluff? Erm…feelings. Muses. Real life? I should start writing fics in one setting, urgh.

Reviews are always welcome!

On a side note, I'm currently obsessed into making an Insanes!series of both Ryoma and Keigo, and to re-touching the Hyotei! Fics I've been hinting at (I'm sorry—they're all complete but I'm restraining the urge to rewrite them) AND the sequel or the rewrite for The Things We Fail To See—that'll be one of my Insane!Ryoma ficlets, joy. Thanks for your patience!