Disclaimer: I do not own Prince of Tennis or any companies referenced within this fic.
Note: Niou and Marui grow older as the fic continues. They're fourteen in the beginning and mid-to-late twenties in the end.
"Because you give me the kind of feelings people write novels about."
Marui's lips were tangy the first time Niou kissed him. They were held up in Marui's room, surrounded by pizza box forts and Mountain Dew. It was a breath of a kiss that made Niou feel like he was drowning.
"So," Marui said, licking his lips once it was done, "you like me?"
"No," Niou replied defiantly.
"Do you hate me?"
"I don't hate you."
"I don't hate you too."
The next kiss still tasted like Mountain Dew.
Marui was sitting on the floor next to Niou, who was trying to read over his shoulder. Marui kept moving the book away and eventually Niou got fed up with it.
"What are you reading?" Niou asked. He grabbed the book out of Marui's hands before he could answer. "Harry Potter? Geek."
Marui took his book back. "You're the one who got bored because he just finished beating Pokémon. Again. You're the geek."
"But you're that guy now, Marui."
"The Harry Potter guy." In a deep, rumbling voice, Niou added, "'Yer a wizard, Harry.'"
"Wrong book, stupid. I'm on the third one. Jeez, keep up with me, will you?"
Marui smiled over the edge of his book. Niou pressed his hand against the smooth surface of the pages and lowered the book to show Marui's face. Marui had that look in his eyes and Niou had that grin on his lips.
"Can I Slytherin next to you?" Niou asked.
"Only if I get a Voldemort hug," Marui replied.
The kiss was magical.
"Oh," Kirihara said.
"My," Jackal added.
"Dumbledore," Marui finished. Then, he smiled. "Just kidding. I knew."
The other tennis regulars who did not know stared at the mansion in front of them. Surely, it's not possible, it couldn't be... Sanada looked down at a sheet of paper, then back at the house, then back down at the sheet of paper.
"Are we at the right place?" Sanada asked.
"Yup," Marui said. "That's Niou's house. Mansion. Manor? His big house."
Yukimura frowned. "And to think, we had to do fundraisers to get new nets."
Niou walked out the front door and Marui jogged up the steps. He smiled at the rich boy. "Totally got them to crap their pants just now. We should make pop-corn and watch the security tapes later. "
Niou smirked and quietly replied, "It's a date," so no one but Marui could hear.
On Monday, when tennis practice rolled around, the regulars didn't mention Niou's money or house or family. Sanada made him run laps and Akaya hit him with a ball. When no one was looking, Niou and Marui smiled at each other. Everything was normal and Niou was perfectly okay with that.
Niou knew he was in trouble.
Marui laughing was so hard he wasn't making any noise. The joke hadn't been funny, hadn't made any sense, but Marui thought it was hilarious. Sanada was glaring at them for not practicing. Niou knew he was in trouble.
Marui's stupid red hair caught the light as they walked through the rose garden in Niou's backyard. Marui picked a rose, put it in his mouth, and then spit it out. He shouted something about thorns and chased after Niou, who was running away laughing. The gardener was eyeing them for disturbing the bush. Niou was definitely in trouble.
Marui didn't always chew gum. Sometimes, he spit it out to kiss Niou in the bathroom between classes so no one would see. The door opened and Marui jumped up onto the seat in case someone looked under the stall; two sets of feet would be suspicious. Niou was screwed.
Marui was ecstatic when they were assigned as partners for their psychics project. They spent countless hours in Marui's room drawing blueprints and making their rocket. Marui's eyes got huge when they launched it for the first time. Then, his eyes shrunk when it crashed into his neighbor's window. So, so screwed.
Niou knew he was in trouble because he was in love.
It was hot. Too hot to do anything but sit around.
Niou and Marui sat at the edge of Niou's pool in nothing but their shorts. A pitcher of ice sat near them. Niou dipped his hand inside the pitcher to grab an ice-cube. Marui turned his back to Niou and hunched forward, sighing in relief when Niou ran the ice-cube down his bare spine.
"Masaharu, do that again," Marui said. That was the first time he'd said Niou's given name and it had released little fuzzies into Niou's stomach.
Niou ran the ice up and down until it had melted. Then, he grabbed another cube, stuck it in his mouth, and chewed. He pressed his lips to the back of Marui's neck, smiling around the crushed ice when Marui shivered.
It was hot. But the heat could not compare to Marui Bunta.
Niou realized something was wrong when winter started during their second year of high school. First, Marui stopped chewing gum. Then, he kept forgetting to bring his lunch. After that, he passed out during practice and blamed it on fatigue. His clothes became a little baggier every morning and his arms became a little thinner under Niou's fingers.
Niou knew what it was — the names, the taunts, the ridicule. The jokes and names weren't true, but they had finally gotten to Marui.
Niou waited until they were sitting in his sun room to bring it up. They sat on opposite sides of a wicker sofa, their tangled legs hidden beneath a blanket, mugs of hot cocoa and a plate of cookies sitting nearby.
"You okay?" Niou asked. "You haven't touched your drink."
"Bunta." Niou couldn't seem to swallow. "You need to eat more. It's not healthy."
"I'm just dieting for tennis. No biggie."
"You're starving yourself."
"Masaharu, drop it, okay?"
Marui stood up and left.
When Niou found Marui hidden in his bathroom, his heart broke. The scale was out in the open, Marui's last weight displayed on the screen and it was disturbingly low. Marui had his knees to his chest and his back to the tub. He looked like he was in so much pain. Niou knelt in front of him and ran a gentle hand through Marui's red hair.
"Help me," Marui croaked. "Please."
Niou pulled Marui forward. Thin hands clutched at his shirt and hot breath hit his neck. Marui felt so tiny in his arms, like something fragile that could break any second. Niou held him close, not sure what he was supposed to say, what he could say. So he said what Marui needed to hear.
"I'm here, Bunta."
It was a little too hot and Marui was a little too hungry to stay on his feet. The court was hot when Marui fell during laps and his knee slid against its coarse surface. Niou pulled him into the locker room and pushed his shorts up as far as they would go to get to the wound. As he wrapped a bandage around Marui's knee, he realized something.
"You've gained weight," Niou realized. He looked up at Marui, who looked the other way.
"Well, yeah. You said it was scaring you so I just, you know, slowly... It's not easy, but I'm trying, and I want you to like my body so..." Marui looked down at Niou. "It's just a few pounds."
Niou felt warm honey butterflies flutter in his chest. Marui was healing.
Niou watched as Marui ate his second piece of pizza. When he finished off the last bit of crust, Niou leaned over the box to kiss him.
"Thank you," Marui whispered.
"For what? Just put pizza in front of anyone and they'll fatten up."
"Really," Marui said. He cupped Niou's cheek and saw a flicker of fear in his blue eyes. "Thanks."
Marui went to pull back, but Niou stopped him. He grabbed Marui's wrist, his stomach twisting into knots. He wasn't this nervous when he kissed Marui. He wasn't this nervous when he told Marui who his family was. He wasn't this nervous falling in love.
"You okay?" Marui questioned. "You're freaking me out."
"I'm fine." Niou let go of his wrist. He picked up another piece of pizza and pressed his back to the edge of Marui's bed.
"You know that I love you too, right?" Marui said.
Niou took a bite of pizza.
Niou couldn't say it, but Marui knew, so that was enough for now.
"I have officially flunked my first test," Marui said. "My genius has failed me."
"Join the club," Niou muttered. "I hate music theory. Why did we take this class?"
"I don't know, but my mom's going to kill me." Marui turned to his boyfriend. "High-five before we die?"
Niou high-fived him, smirking. If they were going down, they were going down together.
Eventually, Niou did say it.
"I love you, Marui Bunta."
It was awkward at first. Beyond awkward.
Marui's shirt got stuck as he tried to take it off, Niou couldn't undo Marui's pants, and then they fell off Niou's ginormous bed on to the floor. They knew that nothing between them could ever be perfect, but they had at least expected their first time to go a little better than that.
Then, that awkwardness disappeared as they laughed and smiled and breathed together. Niou pressed a hand to Marui's bare stomach and felt his belly dip at his touch. Half the words that fell out of Niou's mouth didn't make sense, but they made Marui smile and that was enough for Niou.
"I love you," Marui breathed.
"I love you too," Niou replied.
Marui came undone, right there, under Niou's frigid gaze and his molten touch. He was drowning in Niou — in his lips, in his touch, in his breath — and it still wasn't enough.
It would never be enough.
Marui liked the way it sounded on his lips.
It would never happen, but he still liked the idea.
Niou walked through the door with a pizza box and a container of Mountain Dew. He saw Marui through the archway that led to the kitchen. Marui was on the floor cutting open a box labeled 'kitchen.' Niou entered and set their dinner down on a counter since the table was still in pieces. He knelt down next to Marui and ripped the box open.
"This is weird," Marui said.
"Go weird or bad weird?"
"Good." Marui inhaled and felt himself drool at the smell of hot pizza. Then he smiled. "I love how much class we have. We get the nicest apartment money can buy, but we get pizza and Mountain Dew for dinner."
"That's just how we roll. We can use the box as a plate since I don't know where the real plates are."
"I think they're in the bathroom box."
"Whatever. Just find the champagne glasses my sister got us. I want to use those for the Mountain Dew."
Marui laughed. Then, Niou kissed him.
"Welcome home, Bunta."
"Welcome home, Masa."
Niou stared a the little ball of fur on the other side of the cage. The peanut-butter-colored cat started back. Niou stuck his finger through the holes and the kitten licked at the appendage with its rough tongue.
"Do you like it?" Niou asked.
"I think she's cute," Marui said. "We can name her Yoshi. For the video-game character, of course."
Niou and Marui shared a smile.
They couldn't have kids, but that couldn't stop them from forming a family.
Marui threw the door open, chucked off his shoes, tossed his bag onto the sofa, and ran through the apartment to their bedroom. Their peanut-butter-colored cat was sitting by Niou's head, pawing at his ponytail. Niou had his back to Marui and a blanket pulled up to his shoulders.
"Masaharu." He walked over, sitting down on the mattress. Their cat jumped off, scurrying out of the room. "Your brother called me. I left class as soon as I could. Are you alright? Stupid question. I'm sorry. I don't —"
Niou turned and pressed his face against Marui's hip. He slung one arm over Marui's legs, the other tucked safety beneath his body. Marui laced a hand with the one by his hip and ran his other through Niou's hair.
"Don't go," Niou murmured. He hugged tighter, hot drops falling from his eyes and smearing into the bottom of Marui's shirt. Marui suddenly felt so safe and warm, and Niou never ever wanted to let go.
"I'm here. I'm right here, okay? And I love you. I love you so much." Niou's entire body shook as a choked noise erupted from his lips. "Masa... I'm so sorry."
Niou had lost his father and there was nothing Marui could do that would change that. All he could do was give Niou a safe place to mourn.
It happened when they were sitting playing an old Mario Party game on Niou's night off. They bumped into each other as they screamed and fought, each trying to best the other and win the game. It was Marui's comment that made it happen.
"Peach is such a whore."
Niou laughed for the first time in ages.
It was the best sound Marui had ever heard in his life.
On Marui's birthday, Niou went to the store and bought the brightest, most obnoxious blanket he could find. When Marui ripped through the tissue paper and ribon, revealing a fuzzy neon green blanket, he smiled and then kissed Niou. Later that night, Marui sat with his back to Niou's chest, the neon green blanket wrapped around them. Marui tilted his head back against Niou's shoulder.
"Happy birthday," Niou whispered as his arms slid around Marui's stomach.
Marui sat there until he fell asleep, listening to Niou breath.
Marui rolled off Niou and onto his side. He listened as Niou's harsh pants turned into calm breaths. He kissed lazily at Niou's jaw as his body calmed and relaxed. Niou's arms slid around Marui, pulling him close and holding him tight.
"You hurt?" Marui asked. Niou shook his head, Marui's lips dragging against his skin.
"We need to do that more often," Niou murmured. He threaded his fingers into Marui's red hair and pulled his head up so they could kiss, long and slow and tender. When they broke apart, he added, "I love you."
Marui's response was lost against Niou's lips.
When Marui first met Niou, he had no idea that Niou would trust him so much.
Marui was staring out the window holding a mug full of coffee. He pulled his green blanket tighter, letting out a breath he didn't know he was holding in. Yoshi was rubbing at his legs and refusing to leave him alone. Niou walked into the kitchen, turning a rubrics cube every which way and frowning at its missed-matched colors.
"I can never figure these out," Niou mumbled.
"Maybe you're color blind?"
Niou sat down in a chair next to Marui. "Nah. I see colors just fine. Your hair is red. You look amazing in an orange sunset. You give me so many dirty thoughts when I see you eating a certain yellow fruit. That green blanket I gave you drives me up the wall. You love my blue eyes. And purple is the color for peace of mind, which I have whenever I see you smile."
"Congratulations, you know all the colors of the rainbow."
"Exactly. And I know where they are. Suck it."
Marui sighed, putting his mug to his lips.
The water was lukewarm but steam still lazily rose from its surface. Marui and Niou sat facing each other, their hips close, legs tangled, hair damp. Niou ran his wet hands through Marui's red hair, working it back and out of his face. He ran his hands down Marui's jaw, rubbing his thumbs gently against his cheeks.
Marui smiled. "I can't explain how bad my day was if you have your hands on my face."
"Sorry." Niou slid his hands down to Marui's torso, leaving them to tap gently on Marui's ribs. "Continue."
"Then this parent called me and ripped me a new one because her daughter failed my last test. I offered to tutor the girl after school but the mom wouldn't let me. It's not my fault they're both certified idiots."
"And after that?" Niou began rubbing his hands up and down Marui's sides. "I have yet to hear an explanation as to why you were covered in mud when you came home."
"I went to tennis practice and was showing the kids some of my genius moves."
"And one of them hit a bad serve that was going to hit a first year. So I tackled the kid out of the way and I ended up in the mud. I should have just let the kid get a concussion. It's not like it was that good of a serve."
Marui suddenly let out a sigh. He leaned forward and pressed his forehead to Niou's shoulder. He breathed in vanilla and lavender, smiling. Niou's hands slid to his back, rubbing up and down his spine, pressing on just the right spots.
"Yeah, just..." Marui lifted his head. "Just kiss me."
Niou smiled. "Will do."
Marui smiled back as Niou leaned in. When Niou kissed him, the entire world disappeared. It was just him and Niou, and that could make any bad day a good day.
Marui had fallen asleep with his head on Niou's chest. Niou didn't care, he was lying down and he was perfectly comfortable with Marui's arms wrapped around his torso. Niou ran his fingers through Marui's red hair, watching Marui's chest rise and fall with his breath. He looked so content when he was asleep. Sometimes, Niou wondered what he was dreaming about. Marui shifted in his sleep, nuzzling his nose to Niou's belly button; Niou smiled and poked at one of Marui's cheeks.
The red head opened his eyes and groaned, "What?"
"Just wanted to hear your voice. What were you dreaming about?"
"Remember when you first kissed me?" Niou nodded. Marui smiled. "It tasted like Mountain Dew. It was all tangy and my stomach was all weird. I thought you were making fun of me at first, but the I saw your eyes and I knew you weren't. You liked me just as much as I liked you."
"You've been obsessed with me ever since."
Marui laughed softly. "You know it."
"I still don't hate you."
"I still don't hate you too."
Marui slid up Niou's body, resting his head in the crook of his neck. Marui fell asleep to Niou's whispered words that he would forget in the morning and Niou fell asleep to the beat of Marui's heart. It started with a Mountain Dew kiss, but there was no ending.
They were in love and always would be.
A/N: I was talking to someone about Niou/Marui and I was trying to explain why I like them, but I couldn't find the word. I realized there's a lot of reasons why I like them. Then, TA-DA! I wrote a fic.
I suppose this is a sidepiece to True Colors. In that story, I mentioned Niou's father dying and Marui's prior struggle with eating disorders. Yoshi the cat and the green blanket are also part of that story. True Colors took place during "Colors" (I took the scene for that word from my old fic and made a few a few minor changes), but then the rest is post True Colors when Marui has graduated from university, teaches at Rikkaidai, and coaches the tennis team.
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