Title: Inarticulate

Word Count: 2731.



Echizen Ryoma has never stuttered in his entire life, so when he does, it's a bit of a shocker. The entire crowd of people below them falls silent. Atobe Keigo kneels by the microphone, ring box out in his hand, his mouth parted in disbelief. He knows proposing to his lover is a bit of an occasion, but for Ryoma to stutter…

"Echizen?" Atobe asks, and his gray-blue eyes twinkle.

Ryoma just stands there, snuggled in his Seigaku jacket. "What?" he asks weakly, voice hoarse. His knees wobble, and the insides of his throat have gone dry. The words replay in his mind like a ticking bomb, and he wishes he hadn't answered yet. What is his boyfriend doing, anyway? Ryoma is twelve-years old, Atobe fifteen – they aren't even legal adults yet.

"We don't have to get married-married," Atobe rolls his eyes, as if sensing Ryoma's concern. "It's just an engagement ring, so I know you'll stay with me for the rest of my life."

"I-I…" Ryoma's breath cuts off. "Yes?" he tries again, and it comes out awkward, almost like a squeak.

"Of course yes, nobody would dare refuse such an offer from someone like me," Atobe smirks. "Say it with some more confidence, brat."

Even with Atobe's haughtiness returning, Ryoma stands frozen. His voice is stuck in his throat, and he moves his mouth, but nothing comes out. The decision is a heavy weight on his chest – he has already agreed, and he feels right about it, but his stomach is doing rapid loops. Momentarily, the crowd at the dinner-and-dance is forgotten.

"Monkey King," Ryoma says faintly. Heat spreads over his body. He proposed to me. Propose. Marry. The boy lifts his head up, and Atobe is still kneeling on the ground, a Cheshire grin on the upturn of his lips. The stormy gray-blue eyes Ryoma has grown so fond of holds no taunt or mock, only pure, genuine love.

"Yes," Ryoma repeats, before he falls straight for the ground. Atobe catches him just before he passes out completely.


"I can't believe you passed out," Atobe remarks as he slips into the bed next to Ryoma. The boy lies on the other side, back turned, hair tousled against the pillow. With a warm smile, Atobe shifts over and threads his fingers through the twelve-year old's hair. "It's very ungraceful to do. I would never be caught doing such a thing."

"Snob," Ryoma's voice is muffled from the pillow.


"Monkey King."

Atobe stops, and presses two fingers against Ryoma's temple. "That's a vile thing to call someone."

"You're vile," Ryoma retorts sleepily.

Atobe smirks, and leans back against the headboard. They are lucky that Ryoma's father has agreed to another sleepover. It's fairly hard convincing the former tennis pro that they are just studying with the way they interact. But after the dinner event, and Ryoma fainting, Atobe can't resist not being with him for a night. Even now, as Ryoma breathes softly against the pillow, seconds away from falling asleep, Atobe is content.

"Did you like the ring?" he asks after a moment. "I especially picked it out, and they say my tastes are the finest out there."


"The fans."

"You have fans?" Ryoma blinks wearily, and he curls a little tighter. The ring box hugs to his chest, wrapped tightly in his hands, and Ryoma refuses to let Atobe see that he is sleeping with it. The steady motion of his hands running through his hair is making Ryoma tired, but he grips the box tighter, intent on answering the original question.

"The ring was okay," he drawls. "I've seen better."

"You have not," Atobe declares, confident in his choices. He bends over slightly, and the corners of his lips turn upwards when he sees Ryoma holding the ring box in his hands. He opens his mouth to tease him, embarrass him, but he stops himself. The boy is sleeping so soundly, breathing like a newborn kitten, and at that moment, Atobe can do nothing but stare.

They are young still – only twelve and fifteen, and yet Atobe knows he loves Ryoma more than anything in the world.


"I lost it," Ryoma blurts.

The boy shifts in front of the mirror. His eyebrows are knit together, and his teeth are between his lips. Never in his life has he felt this anxious, awful, guilty – and the emotions pound against his chest like a herd of tennis balls. He feels in his pocket again, in case the ring has magically appeared, but nothing is there. Disappointment weighs down heavier.

"You lost what?" Atobe runs a comb through his hair. The early morning sunlight filters in through the window. "You know, if you were organized like me, you wouldn't lose things so easily."

"Monkey king," Ryoma swallows. "I lost it. The ring."

The comb stops mid-stroke. "You lost…the ring?" a hesitant chuckle escapes Atobe's lips. "I gave it to you yesterday."

"I know. And I took it with me for my morning run," Ryoma states. Knots form in his stomach. "When I went to take a shower, I couldn't find it in my pocket."

It takes a moment for Atobe to realize Ryoma is being serious. When he does, the eyebrows on his face shoot up, and a disappointed frown forms on his face. The ring had been a special purchase – Atobe had rummaged through stores and stores, looking for the perfect, most expensive, most precious ring out there. He had even paid extra to have Ryoma's last name engraved. And now the brat had lost it?

"That's careless, as your buchou would say," Atobe snipes. "I can't believe it. After I specially got it for you. This is dishonoring Ore-sama."

Ryoma stares at the ground. "Sorry."

Atobe scrubs the comb through his hair furiously, and his eyes narrow at the mirror. He can feel Ryoma's anxiety behind him as the boy taps his foot against the ground and shifts his weight. Atobe wants to get mad, really, really, stupendously mad, but all he can think about is the night before where Ryoma was clutching the ring box to his chest. He didn't want to lose it. He liked it. Atobe knows he did, despite the lies.

"I really liked it," Ryoma offers quietly.

"I know," Atobe responds.

"You don't have to get me a new one."

"As if, brat. It's not the money I'm worried about, of course. You just don't deserve a new one."

"I said I'm sorry."

Atobe goes silent for a moment, and he drops the comb to the furniture table. He turns around, and sees Ryoma hugging himself with wide, guilty gold eyes. That itself is enough to soften Atobe's heart, and he lets out a grand, defeated sigh. "I know you're sorry," he smirks. "I'll get you a new one. I'm wealthy enough to be able to afford it."

"But- I-" Ryoma blinks.

"Yes, brat, the great Ore-sama forgives you," Atobe shoots him a grin, and in another split second, he crosses the tiny distance between them and wraps him in a hug. Ryoma does not hug back. Instead, he stands there limply, eyes filled with confusion. "I lost it," he murmurs, and Atobe only holds him tighter. "It's just a ring," he whispers back.

That sentence finally makes Ryoma realize that he is forgiven. His shoulders relax and a lazy smile splays across his face. "Geez, Monkey King," he yawns, cuddled in the strong arms, "I liked the ring. Get me a new one that's the exact same."

Atobe sneers, "No way."

Ryoma matches his gaze. "Yes Keigo Atobe. If you don't get me a new one, I'm not marrying you."

"Oi, brat! You're supposed to feel bad!"

"Ch', your point?"

The rest of the afternoon is spent bantering back and forth in a similar fashion. As Atobe reaches for his sweater by the door to drop Ryoma home, an involuntary smile spreads across his face. He seems to be smiling involuntarily a lot, lately. He thinks it has something to do with Ryoma, but he can't be sure.

"Monkey King, I think I set the stove on fire," Ryoma calls from the kitchen.

The sweater drops to the ground and Atobe runs for the stove in panic, and yet, even with the knowledge that his house may be in flames in less than a minute, the involuntarily smile stays firmly plastered on his face.


"This isn't your home," is the first thing Atobe says when they reach the empty beachside. He is supposed to be dropping Ryoma off at his home, but it seems the boy has smugly given him false directions. The beach is empty. Ocean waves crash against the shore, lapping towards the pool of sand. It is quite vile for someone of Atobe's degree to be standing in.

"Ryoma," Atobe says. He waits patiently for an explanation.

Ryoma spreads his arms out, and inhales the ocean scent. "Perfect. Let's get married."

There's a slight pause. "Ryoma, are you feeling alright?"

Kicking his shoes off so his feet are bare, Ryoma smirks slightly, hair blowing in his face. After spending the entire night before mulling over what had happened, he has decided he wants to get married right away. It will be cool to tell people that he got married at twelve. Maybe even a record. He doesn't care if Atobe doesn't want to accept.

He's got the Monkey whipped, anyway. "Let's get married," Ryoma repeats. "We can do it right here."

It takes a moment for Atobe to realize Ryoma is serious, and he loses all his composure immediately. With blaring eyes, an incredulous expression, and his expensive sunglasses sliding down his face, he refuses relentlessly. "Have you lost your mind, brat? Is this your idea of a joke?" he throws his arms in the air. "We are supposed to have a grand wedding, in which millions of people are invited." He pauses. "I can afford it, you know."

"But I don't want one like that," Ryoma states. "I like this beach. And I want to get married now."

"You're twelve."


"Yeah?" Atobe echoes in disbelief.

"I'm twelve. And…" Ryoma stops himself, and a shy expression takes over his face. "…and I do love you, Monkey King, so I don't see the problem."

For a moment, Atobe forgets about the fact that Ryoma is suggesting to properly get married right then and there. Instead, he just stands still as a statue, the words echoing in his mind like a temple bell. He says it plenty to Ryoma, but Ryoma has never reciprocated until now. A dazed expression, unlike his normal cocky smirk, takes over. "You love me?" he says inaudibly.

"Duh, I agreed to marry you," Ryoma points out impatiently. "Now let's do it already."

Atobe nods faintly. "Okay. Okay, I will." He isn't thinking rationally. All he can think about is that he loves Ryoma with every piece of his heart, and Ryoma actually feels the same way back. He half-stumbles forward, forgetting who he is for a second, and envelopes Ryoma in a strong hug. A bit of reality comes crashing back down, but all he does is nuzzle his nose into the boy's hair.

"Okay," he says, "Alright. Let's do this."


"We don't have a priest,"

Ryoma, who is in the middle of waddling into the ocean with his trousers rolled up, looks behind his shoulder at a skeptical Atobe. "We need a priest to get married?" he asks. He doesn't wait for an answer as he keeps going deeper in. He doesn't really care how you're supposed to get married. He hasn't attended a wedding in his life, so his magnificent plan is to let Keigo guide him.

Atobe stares at the sea, before tentatively stepping in. He shudders as chills run up his spine. "It's too cold for me," he says.

"Too bad," Ryoma positions himself in the middle of the ocean. "Here, this is a good spot."

Muttering under his breath, Atobe finds himself actually following Ryoma, ignoring the cold that is seeping into his designer pants. When he reaches the boy, Ryoma gives him a look, and Atobe glares right back at him. This is supposed to be their wedding, dammit. Atobe remembers how many times he has imagined the fancy halls and banquet.

Never in his life would he have predicted getting married in a beach. With no ring. Or a priest.

"Brat, how exactly is this supposed to work?"

Ryoma frowns slightly, and crossed his arms over his chest. "I don't know."

Atobe stands there with his mouth agape, about to throw a very graceful fit, when his heart swells unexpectedly. Ryoma just looks so cute, standing there with rolled up pants, shivering from the ocean breeze. With a fond smile, he reaches down and takes Ryoma's smaller hand into his own, squeezing it tightly. "You know, we could have had a really great wedding. I wanted to show off my money."

Ryoma laughs lightly, and Atobe is awestruck at how pure it sounds. He decides it's a good idea to get married right now. He wants to be that boy's forever and ever, right there and then. "Okay, I'm going to say my line, okay?" Atobe explains, clearing his throat. Despite the fact that they are doing it in the middle of the beachside, the city cars rushing over the sound of the ocean, he is still going to make this spectacular. Atobe needs things to be spectacular. He starts the small speech.

"Echizen Ryoma, will you take me to be your partner in life and your one true love? Will you cherish our friendship and love me today, tomorrow and forever?" Atobe scoffs when Ryoma snorts at the prospect, but willingly continuous, "Will you trust and honor me, laugh with me and cry with me? Will you be faithful through good times and bad, in sickness and in health as long as we both shall live?"

Ryoma inhales slightly, and his gold eyes lock on Atobe's gray-blue ones. Atobe gives him an encouraging nod, and the boy grins confidently. "I agree."

"It's I will," Atobe sighs.

"Oh. I will, then."

There's silence, in which Atobe waits expectantly, and Ryoma bites his lip, trying to remember what Atobe had recited. After a moment, when he can't really recall all the lines, he takes a deep breath and speaks anyway: "Uh, Monkey King, will-"

"Not Monkey King," Atobe grits his teeth.

Ryoma wipes his hand nervously against his forehead. This is harder than he thought, and his heart thumps against his chest. He can't believe he's getting married. "Atobe Keigo, um, will…" he struggles to think of what he's supposed to say, and suddenly, his mind goes blank. The words are on the tip of his tongue, but it seems he has gone inarticulate.

Oh, hell.

"Will you marry me?" he finally asks weakly.

Atobe stares at him in disbelief. "What about the lines?"

Ryoma just glares stubbornly. "Say yes."

With annoyance clear in his features, Atobe grabs Ryoma's wrist and lurches him forward, knocking him towards his chest. "I will," he grumbles, and the arms slide over and around his waist. Ryoma wriggles uncomfortably, but Atobe just kisses the top of his head and keeps him in place. The wedding had probably been the most childish thing he has done in his entire life – no ring, no priest, - and yet, he feels happy about it.

Ryoma is finally his – completely, utterly his.

"I love you," he says kindly, his voice for once lacking any cocky taunt.

The smaller boy just tilts his chin up fiercely. "You may now kiss me."

Surprised, and slightly delirious at the prospect, Atobe doesn't hesitate for longer than a second before he pulls Ryoma closer and forces their lips to meet. The kiss is probably the most awkward thing he has ever done, even worse than the wedding – Ryoma is inexperienced, and their teeth keep banging against each other. And yet, despite that, despite all of it, Atobe has never felt more complete.


I don't know where this came from, but I'm pretty sure it was inspired by AtobeLover's recent updates. I tend to write about a pairing after I read a really good fic about them. xD