Word Count: 3183
Summary: Lately, Atobe's mind is filled with bratty smirks and the colour gold. He's convinced it's got nothing to do with love.
Dedicated to AtobeLover, for being wonderful in every way possible. Again, I couldn't find the inspiration to finish the long drabble one I told you about, so I decided to take the other crappy one and edit it to the best of my ability so you could have something from me. Enjoy how much you can, friend.
"He's such a cheeky freshman, ahn?"
Atobe swiped the towel through his hair, a thoughtful expression on his face. The pool rippled, and the moon reflected off the water. The Hyotei captain sat down on the end of his deck with damp hair, clad in only a pair of swim shorts. "Right, Jiroh?" he asked again, an eyebrow raised at the lack of response.
Jiroh rested his hands on his chin, legs kicking back and forth in the humid night. "He's cheeky because you lost?"
"I didn't..." Atobe frowned, and looked away. "I don't lose. I merely have bad days."
"Bad days where you lose," Jiroh grinned.
"Not lose," Atobe said. Frustration clipped his voice. "He was distracting me by being so cheeky."
"He distracted you, and forced you to lose."
Atobe's eyes narrowed, but he refrained from commenting further, knowing it would only dig him further in his denial. Okay, perhaps he had lost, but it had been a graceful loss filled with dignity. His hair had quickly been grown back in a matter of minutes with this special cream (that only he could afford) and he had played until he was to his unconscious state. That had to count more than what the brat did.
Copying the Tezuka zone. There was no other way his ice world could have been broken.
Jiroh smiled, and sat up as well, mop of brown hair a tangle over his face. "Have you ever noticed that he…the…" he paused, unsure of what to call him.
"That brat," Atobe filled in smoothly. "There's definitely no other way to address him."
"The brat, then," Jiroh grinned. "Have you ever noticed the brat's eyes? They're the sickest eyes in the world. They're gold, Atobe. I swear he's some vampire or something. And his hair? It's not just a normal black. I see green sometimes."
Atobe snorted. "They're just hazel. Nothing special."
"I swear they're gold…"
Atobe tilted his head away, pale face even paler amongst the flicker of moonlight. Maybe Echizen Ryoma did have unique eyes, but that didn't mean he wasn't a cheeky brat who didn't know his place. He most definitely was. And shaving off Atobe's hair when he was unconscious? How cruel and heartless. Cruel, heartless, bratty, arrogant, cheeky, childish; he had so many bad qualities that Atobe almost contained a laugh, ignoring the queasy twist in his gut. Someone with that many cons didn't deserve his attention, didn't have the ability to catch his eye.
At least, that was what he wanted. Atobe's mind flashed imperatively back to the earlier game, where the gold eyes had burned right into his own, stark, clear, and honest.
"To be honest," Jiroh paused, and dipped his legs into the pool. "The brat's kind of cute."
Atobe choked on air. "The brat's not…he's not worthy of being called cute."
Jiroh craned his neck back, eyes drawn to the stars. He swung his legs back and forth, making splashes in the pool. "I don't know, Atobe," he rubbed at one of his eyelids, and yawned tiredly. A lazy smile crept onto his face. "Ya know, sometimes I just see you and him having a match, and I feel like you've never connected with someone more."
Horror fused upon Atobe's face. "We do not connect."
Jiroh shrugged. "Yeah. Or I could just be hallucinating."
"Definitely hallucinating. I have expectations."
Jiroh's eyebrows drew together. "He doesn't meet your expectations?"
Atobe was silent. The gold eyes haunted him, flickering in and out of his mind. "No. He doesn't," he finally said, the response spoken without confidence. Jiroh stared at him for a moment, sharp eyes contemplating, before he reached out and touched Atobe's elbow. The Hyotei captain just blinked, accustomed to the silent gesture of support.
"Ya know, it always hits you unexpectedly."
The corners of Atobe's lips tugged. "Nothing's hit me," he said "I don't know what you're talking about."
Jiroh grinned, and exhaled. "And it's always someone you never expect."
Atobe looked away this time, and the smile changed to a frown. "I don't know what you're talking about," he repeated quietly, eyes unfocused. "He's nothing."
"The entire stadium's chanting Echizen's name," Jiroh slid into the seat beside Atobe in the stadium. He smiled, eyes dancing. "I thought you said he was nothing." The teen continued to grin, but noticed Atobe's gaze was somewhere else, deep in thought. He frowned, and annoyance wedged its way into his emotions.
"Ya know, he's standing out there winning the fucking Nationals," Jiroh clenched his fist. "What more can you want out of a boy?"
"He's good," Atobe's lips spoke absentmindedly. His gaze followed Ryoma's. But not enough, the captain though, despite the thump in his heart. He watched as Ryoma soared, an aura of confidence around him as shots sailed past Yukimura in less than a split second. But he wasn't enough. He didn't have the highest mark in school, he didn't wear the finest clothes, he didn't…he wasn't…
"You're not perfect," Jiroh finally said. "So don't expect him to be."
Atobe glanced at him, and he looked so tired all of a sudden. "I expect more. And I don't know what you're talking about. I wear the best clothes, have the highest quality furniture, my tennis is remarkable, and-"
"And you're afraid of love?" Jiroh said. "Perfect men aren't afraid to chase after what they love, Atobe. And you so have something for-"
"I don't love him," Atobe stood up abruptly, cheeks flushed, gaze still unfocused. He added in a softer tone, "And I'm not afraid of anything." Jiroh watched his tense, stiff shoulders disappear behind the bleachers and bleachers of people, and a sad smile wore down his face. He was trying his best to give Atobe the push he needed, but Atobe just didn't….he didn't…
"Where's Monkey King?" Ryoma trotted up to him, sweaty with a smile. He had just won the Nationals, had been thrown up by his team in the exhilaration, and yet he was standing here, eyes hopeful, waiting for Atobe. Jiroh grinned through gritted teeth, feeling oddly sympathetic for the twelve-year old.
"He watched," Jiroh said after a moment. "He just left a moment ago to…cool off, or whatever."
Ryoma smirked. "Che, I'm the one who played the match."
Jiroh's eyes swept past Ryoma towards where Atobe's head disappeared amongst the crowd. "I don't know. I think Atobe's having a match of his own." In his head. He watched as Ryoma smirked, eyes lit and discretely wandering around for Atobe. If Atobe didn't get his act together soon, he would lose Ryoma.
"He talks about you a lot," Jiroh finally said nonchalantly. If Atobe wouldn't do it, he would have to give another push.
Ryoma stopped, and hid a smile. "Stupid Monkey King."
"He…" Jiroh paused, and his fist tightened. He grinned affably. "I think he's having a party this weekend for the Nationals. He said we can invite whomever we want, as long as their worthy enough." The grin spread to his cheeks, and he knew Atobe would thank him later. "Wanna come?"
Ryoma blinked. "I'm not a part of Hyotei."
A shrug. "But you're worthy. You just won the Nationals."
"I'm worthy?" Ryoma looked bewildered. "Fine. I'll come."
"Good," Jiroh affirmed, and his eyes locked onto Ryoma's. The boy kept his gaze, and Jiroh's fingers itched to take a picture. They weren't hazel, like Atobe insisted. They were a colour he'd never noticed before. It wasn't even really gold, but that was the closest way to describe it. They were unique, special, and so very worthy.
Jiroh concluded that Atobe needed glasses.
"Here's right over there!" Jiroh toppled into Atobe, uncapped coke bottle in his hand. Atobe's party was a huge success; people were everywhere, the food was delicious, and everyone was enjoying themselves. Jiroh himself was having a blast, arms flailing as he bounced over to his different friends, getting more than a few glances from girls.
Atobe grunted. Jiroh noticed he was the only one who looked grumpy.
"Over there," Jiroh steered his head to where Ryoma was. "That's where your attention should be."
Ryoma stood at the corner of the room, arms crossed over his Seigaku jacket, and cap pulled down to cover his eyes. He looked utterly bored, and utterly confused at what he was doing at this party with people he barely knew. He came because of you, Atobe, Jiroh rolled his eyes, and shoved his friend forward. Don't disappoint him.
"I think you have some fantasy of getting me together with that brat," Atobe refused to budge. He tilted his head up at the chandelier. "I already told you, I have expectations and plans for the future, and he's not included."
"He should be," Jiroh sucked on the top of the coke bottle. "You want him to be."
Atobe looked exasperated. "Fine. If you insist, I'll make small talk with a commoner."
"A commoner." Jiroh snorted. "Aren't I one?"
He was ignored, and Atobe slowly made his way past the crowd, flawlessly escaping the clusters of people with fluidity and ease. Ryoma huddled in a corner, looking officially weirded out by all the skimpy girls and perverted guys. He sipped nonchalantly on his Ponta, and Atobe's heart started to thump again.
"Brat," Atobe drawled, hoping his voice didn't shake.
Ryoma glanced up. Relief flooded his face. "Monkey King," he greeted a little too eagerly. "What a stupid party."
"You should be grateful that you were invited to such an exquisite celebration as this."
"Yadda," Ryoma grinned cheekily, and Atobe couldn't help but tug down his cap further at the provacations. Ryoma pushed the brim back up, lips half-smiling, eyes aglow. Atobe cursed, and stepped backwards into the flailing crowd. He needed to get out of here before he fell for someone not worth his time, before he fell for a mere commoner, because he couldn't fall for a mere commoner-
"Your friend over there looks constipated," Ryoma informed him.
Atobe looked back to see Jiroh's face stretched into an enormous grin, tongue stuck out with tease. An annoyed look flashed on Atobe's face. He didn't know what Jiroh was so excited about, about this stupid brat who went around and acted like he was better than everyone. About this brat who probably lived in a house one-eighth of his own, and ate dinners from his mother's hands.
Jiroh just smirked, and pointed tauntingly at his own eyes.
Atobe's face flickered in understanding, and he cast his gaze on Ryoma's face. Bright eyes stared back at him, swirling with emotion and flecked with life; all Atobe saw was gold. He felt his pulse rise, and his knees fall weak against his body. He felt out of control, caving into this ridiculous emotion of affection for Ryoma. The young master grasped onto the wall, breathing faint.
Ryoma was at his side. "Uh…Monkey King?"
"You…" Atobe pushed him away. Ryoma's face flashed with foreign emotion. "Go away. Leave. I didn't invite you."
This time, the emotions in Ryoma's eyes were clear; hurt welled up, but his face quickly hardened. His shoulders tensed, and he turned around. "Fine," he said painfully, and Atobe watched with his throat enclosed as the boy slithered past the people. His fist tightened, and his stomach went queasy again, horror embarked on his insides.
He couldn't love a boy like Ryoma, could he?
"Atobe, it's okay," Jiroh said, immediately by him. His smile wavered. "It's hard to come to terms with something you're not used to."
"I don't have anything to come to terms with." Atobe's voice was ragged. He looked torn in confusion.
"He's a boy, you've never been in love," Jiroh sounded thoughtful. "It's only reasonable for you to be afraid."
"And pretending he's not worthy enough isn't going to make it go away."
Atobe cursed, and his fist inched to slam into the wall and make a dent. Instead, he gathered the remains of his composure, glared at Jiroh, softened his glare at Jiroh's familiar smile, and stalked back into the kitchen. He spent the rest of the party huddled inside; helping the cooks cook, brain muddled with thoughts of gold and a love he never wanted.
He felt cold, and hot, and confused.
He didn't want this, did he?
Atobe lay against his couch, dressed in his satin pajamas, eyes drawn to the weather outside. He watched each raindrop slide down, and with each drop, the knots in his stomach drew tighter and tighter. Images of Ryoma and the hurt in those gold eyes made the knots unravel, but only for a moment. Then they tightened even more, until Atobe felt horribly suffocated. Queasy was a feeling he was now accustomed to.
"Yo, Atobe," Jiroh charged through the living room.
"I never invited you over," Atobe said absentmindedly. His finger traced the wet windowsill.
Jiroh shook the rain out of his damp hair. "Well, I invited myself. We have some serious business to get down to." His goofy smile indicated that the business was anything but serious. The brunette plopped down on the opposite end of Atobe's couch, a grin on his face, hands clasped to start the discussion.
"It's about Seigaku's little Echizen."
"Of course it is." Atobe sighed, but his stomach bolted.
Jiroh spread his arms. "He's fine! He's not depressed about your whole issue, and he even asked me if you were having anymore stupid parties, and that maybe you should invite him so you can have some form of entertainment…." Jiroh laughed to himself. "Those were his words, by the way. The brat's funny."
"The brat…" Atobe's fingers closed. He stared out the window. "I have to think about things."
Jiroh rolled his eyes. "Whatever, King Atobe. You go think. But remember, he won't wait forever."
"He should." Atobe stood up, and his feet dragged. "I deserve the best."
Jiroh watched him. "You do, Atobe," he said, and his voice was soft. "But he deserves the best too, don't you think?"
"Then he can find someone else."
The words were spoken with finality, and Atobe turned his back so Jiroh would get the message. He didn't want to discuss cute little Echizen who couldn't do a thing wrong – he didn't want to mull over how he should get over his fear of loving him. He wanted to stare out the window, watch raindrops race, and eat the finest dinner in the finest clothes.
Jiroh quietly stood up and joined him by the window. "He's a damn cute brat, ya know."
Atobe exhaled, and shook his head. "He's just a kid. I'll get over it."
"My minisicule bout of lust."
Jiroh stared at him in disbelief, before he laughed, long and loud. "I give up," he announced as he flopped onto the couch, arms spread wide. His eyes twinkled, and Atobe resisted a smile as he watched his friend laugh at him, wet brown hair a mop on his head, good intentions finally let loose with his personality.
"One day," Atobe said softly to himself. "I'll meet someone worthy enough."
Jiroh just continued to laugh. "He's already here, almighty Atobe! Snag him when you have the chance!"
"I think there was a day, looong ago, in which you and the brat actually interacted."
Atobe sighed, and lifted his sunglasses the slightest. Jiroh lounged beside him on the beach, a grin split on his face, inevitable determination in his eyes. It was funny how Jiroh just wouldn't give up. He acted like he was some cupid or something, that knew exactly who should go with who, and how they should go about it.
"It was a month ago," Atobe said flippantly. "Not too long."
"He approached me again," Jiroh waggled his eyebrows. "He said, and I quote, 'Monkey King needs to have another stupid party so I can kick his ass in a tennis game.' He also said that you were ignoring him or something, and he looked kind of sad about it."
Atobe rubbed his temples. "Are you my personal love doctor? I have plenty of high-quality staff for those needs, alright?"
"He was sad. Did you not hear me?"
"Leave it be." Atobe snapped. "Okay?"
Jiroh opened his mouth, then clamped it shut. His smile flickered, and his brown eyes focused on the sun. For a moment, Atobe felt a nudge of guilt, like maybe he should have been less harsh, but it was gone in seconds when Jiroh added joyfully:
"Didjya see his eyes? They are gold."
"I don't care about his eyes," Atobe's face shadowed over, and the pit of his stomach churned. The gold of Ryoma's eyes buzzed in his mind, and he wanted to cover his ears and mind. Fucking Ryoma and his pretty gold eyes and his unique little personality; it was the worst thing, because when he really thought about it, Ryoma was starting to become worth it.
And that took out the only excuse he had left.
"Ya know," Jiroh pulled Atobe's sunglasses off. "I think that's him over there."
"The brat?" Atobe screeched very ungracefully. He scrambled to sit upright, eyes darting across every inch of the beach. At first, when he didn't' see anyone and heard Jiroh's laughter, he thought he had been tricked. But then, after what seemed like years, he spotted Ryoma's figure walking to the ocean with Momo.
"Make your move," Jiroh said, eyes lit up.
"No," Atobe said hastily. He covered his face with his sunglasses, closed his eyes, and prayed that he was invisible. Jiroh hummed cheerfully next to him, unconcerned. A few minutes passed, and Atobe was finally starting to breathe again, when Jiroh started murmuring, "He's coming, ooh, he's coming over here…" Discarding it as simple teasing, Atobe kept his eyes closed, and pretended to be tanning.
"Stupid Monkey King."
His lips tightened. Nope. That was Jiroh doing an imitation.
"Monkey King." The voice sounded aggravated now.
Atobe took a breath that was equivalent to a shudder, and slowly lifted the tip of his glasses so he could view Ryoma. The twelve-year old stood in front of him, tanned chest aglow under the sun, bare foot digging into the sand. "Brat," Atobe said in a rush of breath. The familiar thump, thump, thump rhythm started in his heart.
Ryoma smirked. "Tanning? Don't even try."
Atobe gritted his teeth. "Are you trying to call me pale? I have the perfect complexion in the entirety of Japan."
"Vampires these days," Ryoma said, shrugging to Jiroh. "Can't accept their own conditions."
At this, Jiroh laughed hysterically, and Atobe twitched in annoyance. His friend was bursting in guffaws, as if Ryoma had said the funniest thing in the world, one hand on his stomach and the other wiping tears from his cheeks. When he was done his maniacal laughter, he winked at Ryoma, and gave him a look like they were sharing a secret.
Ryoma smirked back, and Atobe felt his throat tighten. His eyes unconsciously narrowed.
"Whatever, go on now," Atobe waved his hand.
A spark lit Ryoma's eyes, and he turned his head to Jiroh, then back to Atobe, like he was contemplating something. "Monkey King was ignoring me," he said solemnly to Jiroh, and Jiroh suppressed a chuckle. Atobe's pale fingers coiled tighter around the beach chair, and his teeth involuntarily clenched. Since when had they been so close?
Atobe glanced up, and found Ryoma's eyes on him. The boy's face was filled with despondency. "Are you going to have another party?" he asked quietly. "Jiroh said he'd invite me if you did. But you never do anymore." He cracked a weak smirk. "Is it because I told you they were stupid? Didn't think you'd actually listen for once."
The hesitancy reappeared. Atobe couldn't believe how incredibly sad Ryoma sounded. It broke his heart into pieces. "I…have better things to do than dilly dallying around," he didn't look at Jiroh's disappointed face. "If I have another party, it would only be for specifically invited guests, anyway. You're not…"
"Jiroh would invite me," Ryoma insisted.
"But maybe I'll send invitations this time, and so it won't be a free for all."
This time, Jiroh's elbow launched into Atobe's side. "Stop it," he hissed.
Atobe winced, and his face paled when he noticed how hurt Ryoma looked. He swallowed, and tugged at the collar of his shirt, before he closed his eyes. It was so hard; he didn't want to see Ryoma upset, never, and yet the nonsense words kept spewing out of his mouth. It was the only way he could stop himself from falling.
Jiroh opened his mouth to chastise Atobe for being an asshole, but Ryoma spoke first.
"I'm afraid too," Ryoma said, so softly that it barely caught air. "But I don't cut you out."
It surprised both Jiroh and Atobe, the so out-of-character words. Ryoma didn't look timid about it, though. He held his gaze, eyes blaring with confidence, like he hadn't just spoken something he normally never would. Jiroh saw something cross Atobe's face, surprise, a flash of emotion, a flicker of change.
"What?" he asked, voice low.
Ryoma swallowed, and stared right back. "I'm afraid too, but I'm not ignoring you."
Jiroh spotted the conflict, and the change in Atobe's eyes, and a smile flitted on his face. He watched as Atobe and Ryoma glared at each other, and even while doing so, Atobe's face had morphed into affection, into acceptance. Ryoma's face was tight with emotion, and Jiroh knew he was too young to understand the relation had abruptly hooked Atobe out of his misery.
"Jiroh," Atobe mused, and he sounded lighter. "We'll hold a grand ball this weekend."
Jiroh's face broke out into smiles. "Yes," he said, and Ryoma's face lit up. "And I'll invite Echizen!"
I feel compelled to tell you that I have no idea what shit I just wrote. I had a plot somewhere in the middle there, but if it made no sense to you, it's okay. It made no sense to me either. I've noticed if I don't have a concrete plot, my writing goes wild on its own and I end up with incoherent messes. And the ending was so shudders wasn't it? I think I'll shut up and leave now.
I hope you somewhat, kind of like it Ato. ;) The other one that I lost inspiration for might be finished one day. Just not in a very long, long time.