Notes: This is more or less shin-Tenipuri compliant. It was written after I was inspired by all of the wonderful Atobe and Tezuka panels in the new manga. I just wish there were more of them.
Atobe's fascination with Tezuka started two months into his JHS career when he heard rumblings that Rikkai and Seigaku both had powerful first years. He had visited Rikkai to spy on their tennis and while impressed, was not terribly moved by their playing styles. Then, he visited Seigaku. He didn't get to play Tezuka or watch long but what he saw moved him in a way that few things had. He knew then that he must play Tezuka.
"Tezuka!" Atobe called out across the courts. "I demand you play against me."
Tezuka looked over at him and blinked slowly, "This isn't your school," He said simply, "you should leave."
"Not until you've played against me," Atobe haughtily delcared as he strolled to the fence that seperated him from the court.
Tezuka gave the smallest indication of what was probably a smile and then looked over Atobe's shoulder. Atobe had just started to look behind him when a hand landed on him.
"I'm going to have to ask you to leave. Hyoutei students aren't allowed to watch our practices," The man, Seigaku's captain, said as he started moving Atobe toward the school gates.
"Wait. I don't want to spy. I just want to play a match against Tezuka," Atobe had tried to explain and he looked back over at his new rival. But Tezuka had already turned back to the courts and his own practice.
Deciding to give up for the moment, Atobe allowed himself to be led away by the somewhat eccentric captain.
He tried to play Tezuka but at all matches, training camps and practice areas, Tezuka managed to evade him.
But every time he had the opportunity to watch Tezuka, his heart would race. It was like the most beautiful artwork he'd ever seen set in motion.
Tezuka was a skilled and efficient player who clearly hated wasted movements. Atobe could tell that Tezuka did not approve of his showmanship and it amused him to make Tezuka frown. He could also tell Tezuka was swiftly moving toward new moves and a higher level of tennis and Atobe vowed to not be left behind.
Atobe trained harder, devised his own moves and Tezuka continued to avoid him on the courts. But not completely off of them.
They shared enough in common to hold conversations when they met and surprisingly, to both of them, they had more to talk about than just tennis.
"Tezuka, I heard you're quite the outdoors-man." Atobe draped himself artfully against a tree as he waited for Tezuka to exit the school grounds and join him.
Tezka gave a noncommittal noise and a slight head nod that Atobe had decerned meant 'Why yes, I am. Thank you ever so much for asking. May I inquire as to why you brought up this topic of conversation?' in Tezuka speak. He was becoming quite the master interpreter.
"Well, as you may or may not have heard. I am also a fan of the great outdoors. Just last week I was fishing off the coast of Chichi-jima. Have you ever been?" Atobe asked. He thought the location had been charming and certainly quiet enough to appeal to Tezuka's near hermit tastes in socializing.
"No. But I've heard many good things about the area," Tezuka said and Atobe was pleased at successfully drawing Tezuka into a two-sided conversation.
"Then you'll have to come with me the next I go."
"That's very kind. But it won't be necessary," Tezuka demured and Atobe found it charming how Tezuka liked to pretend he wasn't captivated by the Atobe charm like everyone else was. He'd conquered all of Hyotei in a few short weeks, there was no way Tezuka hadn't succumbed yet.
"Then how about a trip to Gifu. I've heard the onsens scattered around the Okuhida mountain area are very restoring."
Atobe was expecting Tezuka to decline again, as he did for every invitation Atobe gave involving some place outside of Tokyo but received a shock when something else entirely happened.
"Are you a fan of climbing then? I sometimes go hiking with my grandfather."
Atobe stared for a moment before recovering. Tezuka was not only participating in a conversation but asking questions and volunteering personal information. Atobe smiled and launched into some of his favourite hiking spots and found himself involved in a real conversation with Tezuka that had him getting just as passionate as tennis.
Finally, after more than two years of trying, Atobe got his game. It was perfect, it was wonderful, it had him winning, it had Tezuka playing right into his hands... it was hollow. He couldn't remember winning ever feeling so bad.
He had wanted to play Tezuka,not this partial and lacking version of him. When he looks at Tezuka for weaknesses he should see none. And that's how he wanted to win.
So, he visited him at the hospital, filling Tezuka's room with enough flowers and balloons to open a gift shop.
"Perhaps you should," Atobe remarked when Tezuka had made the comment, "You can give the proceeds to the tennis club. Make a few upgrades."
"The club's fine." It was an old argument by now. Atobe couldn't quite understand how such a high ranking player could be satisfied playing in such a substandard space. "We did win, Atobe," Tezuka added after a small pause.
Atobe let out a chuckle. "Ahhn, very true. This time. But don't expect us to go easy on you again," Tezuka may not be as flashy as himself, few were, but he certainly wasn't lacking in confidence or pride. Though it did sting to know that he won against Tezuka and still lost the match. He blamed Tezuka's luck at being handed a super rookie.
"That was easy?" Tezuka asked his eyes licking towards his damaged shoulder and arm. The first hint of accusation that Atobe had received from the other.
"Would you have been satisfied if your match was?" Atobe asked after a slight hesitation. It seemed he only ever hesitated around this man. It was troublesome.
The room was silent for a moment, not even the beeping of machines since Tezuka wasn't hooked up to any.
"I heard you're going to a rehabilitation center in Kyuushu," Atobe said when the quiet began to shift into uncomfortable.
"Nn," Tezuka responded, "but that's supposed to be a secret still." Fortunately Tezuka seemed more resigned and perhaps partially amused than upset at Atobe always knowing everything.
The conversation hadn't lasted much longer. Atobe refusing to apologize and Tezuka too proud to admit he'd been an idiot.
So, Tezuka went to Kyuushu to properly recover. And Atobe continued train. It was through luck and Hyoutei facilities being used for Nationals that Atobe managed to gain a spot. They even had the luck of the draw to be facing Seigaku, though Atobe would have preferred them to face them near the end of the Nationals, confident in his team's ability to reach the top.
Still he had been excited to face Tezuka again. Of course, Tezuka had the audacity to place himself in singles 2 knowing full well that he would never play anything less than singles one. The spot where the top player belonged. And no, Atobe did not believe that Echizen was a top player, though he certainly had some potential.
He supposed he could understand the tactics. It did make sense to stack stronger players early on and hope to sway the matches in their favour. It also gave Echizen a chance to play him another strong player who would challenge him to grow. Atobe hated how Tezuka was always putting the team and that brat above his own needs.
"Tezuka, I'm disappointed in you," Atobe had said.
Tezuka had raised an eyebrow at him but had said nothing. But since he didn't walk away, Atobe took it as a sign to carry on.
"You're playing singles 2," Atobe clarified.
"Ah... I've played singles 2 before." And he had, he'd also placed himself as the reserve player but Atobe felt that he deserved more than either of those options. At least Tezuka wasn't playing doubles. Atobe had respect for doubles players, he just had no desire to be one.
"Yes, but you should be playing against me. Not sending your first year brat to do it."
"Echizen won't be able to grow unless he can face the strongest of players," Tezuka explained
"And what do I care about the brat, Tezuka?"
"That doesn't matter. You just need to play the way you always do."
"And how's that?" Atobe asked, curious to know how Tezuka perceived his playing style.
"By taking advantage of weaknesses and playing to win," Tezuka explained in a neutral tone but Atobe still felt the smallest flinches of guilt at the barely there insinuation that Atobe had taken advantage of Tezuka's injury and ruthlessly used it to win.
But Tezuka was right, he would play that way no matter his opponent. And even though he didn't want to play Echizen, if it got to singles one he would play the way that Tezuka wanted him to.
And with a final nod, Tezuka turned and left.
That was all well and good, to speak of how a match would go and his play style. But that brat grew at an amazing rate and absorbed information and play styles too fast. So he had lost and he had loathed the feeling of humiliation he had felt at Echizen's hands. His precious hair shaved off as he stood there in an exhausted haze. But maybe Tezuka had placed himself in singles two for more than Echizen. Because he had suffered through worse than that humiliation and defeat and just like before it had made him work harder and come back stronger. He figured Tezuka would never confirm his suspcions one way or another, but he liked to think that Tezuka knew that the matches would be good for all of them in the end.
It also helped to soothe his ego when Tezuka had mentioned that he liked Atobe's new hair style. Or at least that it had suited him. Which was as much as a compliment as anyone could expect from Tezuka. And as Atobe stood their preening under the light praise, he had to wonder just when did Tezuka's words became so important to him.
Still wondering about that question, Atobe had watched the nationals and wondered if he'd ever get a chance to play Tezuka now that the current tennis season was over again.
But then the invitation to the U-17 training camp came and he had hope again.
"Tezuka, are you going?" Atobe had asked the second Tezuka had answered his phone. Niceties were for lesser people and people with less important things to do with their time. Atobe also knew that if he didn't get to the point that Tezuka had a bad habit of hanging up on people.
"To?" Tezuka asked clearly not trusting him to not be talking about some exotic or strange locale.
"The under seventeen training camp. I can only assume that since your team won Nationals that you would have been invited." There was really no doubt in his mind that Tezuka would be invited even if his team wasn't. But it didn't hurt to see who else would be there.
"The invitation for the team came today," Tezuka replied, still not answering Atobe's question.
"Yes, but are you going?"
There was a noise that Atobe would swear was a chuckle coming down the line. "I'll be there."
Satisfied, Atobe said his goodbyes and hung up. Suddenly the U-17 camp seemed that much more interesting.
It was during this time between the phone call and stepping foot at the camp that Atobe came to the startling realization; Tezuka was not just a worthy rival who filled him with burning passion nor a mere friend. Atobe was attracted to Tezuka the same way a ball caught in the Tezuka Zone was. Absolutely helpless to resist and being played right into Tezuka's hands.
But was he? He reviewed his and Tezuka's past interactions with this new insight. It was possible... Tezuka, while never encouraging his lavish ideas, never turned him down in the way he'd seen him do with lessers beings. Tezuka could be a right bastard when inspired. Atobe had to admit that he had always been amused by Tezuka's strong personality and he might even find it a bit arousing.
The night before they were to arrive at the U-17 camp, Atobe wondered how he should approach Tezuka. He decided to just act normally and see how Tezuka reacted to it with his new insight. So the first day, he showed off with Hyotei's coach bus and kept as much as attention on himself as possible.
And when Echizen reappeared from America and started to steal all of Tezuka's attention, Atobe had made sure to make his presence and prowess known to both Tezuka and Echizen. It never hurt o put the brat in his place.
But none of his tactics that day had given him any new leads on how to progress with Tezuka. The only thing the day taught him was that he was definitely interested in more than friendship from Tezuka. But would a direct wooing work on him? Or was Tezuka the type to appreciate a slow subtle approach?
He spent the night in his room mulling over this dilemma. He decided that no matter what he needed to focus his attention solely on Tezuka. Which certainly wouldn't be a hardship. The more he thought about Tezuka the more he wanted him.
Which made the following morning difficult. He found himself thankful for the interesting matches that were taking place as usual doubles pairs had to face each other in singles. Atobe had had a feeling that this twist was possible and he planned to take full advantage of it. Still, as he thought of how to teach Hiyoshi the most in one match, he stood near Tezuka and watched the other games be played.
He felt a small thrill whenever Tezuka and him made a comment to each other. And then they were playing side by side against their replacement captains. Atobe was disappointed he couldn't watch Tezuka play especially since it had seemed he was playing with the Kaidoh boy but he had Hyotei matters to attend to and not even his future love life could take precedence over that.
The results of the day, Atobe found, had been good all around. Sanada and the brat were gone, Tezuka was still in top form and they would have even more chances to spend together.
By the time they had moved onto form and strength training Atobe was finding it difficult to concentrate on tennis, a very distressing thing for him. With his new insights he was so keenly aware of how worthy Tezuka was of his affections that Tezuka's curt, efficient movements were near erotic and halfway driving him crazy.
When they started on swing practice, Tezuka had taken up a spot beside him and even with all of his insights, Atobe couldn't figure out if it meant something or if Tezuka just wanted to avoid some of the lesser players around him.
They were on swing 83 of 300 when Atobe couldn't take it anymore. This taking things slow and being subtle just wasn't what Atobe did. He was a man of action that got results.
He stopped swinging, the move catching Tezuka's attention immediately but not enough for him to stop his own precise movements. The play of muscles under skin was momentarily distracting but Atobe regrouped and stepped closer into Tezuka's space, putting himself at danger of a swinging racket.
"Tezuka," He started, taking another step closer and forcing Tezuka to stop his movements, "I've decided that you're worthy of my affections and I'm going to kiss you now," He declared loudly and with confidence.
He had nothing to be ashamed of and while he would have liked to have planned a full string orchestra and rose petals to be raining down on them for this moment a large audience to witness this historical moment would have to suffice. He did, however, vow to make their other firsts even more memorable.
Before Tezuka could form a proper response to his declaration, Atobe reached out and placed a hand at the back of Tezuka's neck to pull him down to the necessary height to kiss.
Atobe pressed his lips to Tezuka's not even noticing the faint colour on Tezuka's cheek or the way his racket moved to hang limply at his side before clattering to the tennis court. Atobe's attention was fully on the feel of Tezuka's lips against his. The kiss, had honestly gone better in his most recent fantasies, but the knock of his nose against Tezuka's, the bump of flesh against glasses and the clack of teeth against teeth was all so wonderfully real that it was fantastic.
When he pulled back, for all good things must come to an end, Atobe took in the skewed glasses and the rosy flush on Tezuka's cheeks and gave a cocky smile. "Would you like me to kiss you again?"
"No, I think the once will do," Tezuka said as he went about straightening his glasses and composing himself. Atobe thought he should be lauded for not giving into his sudden urge to both chuckle at Tezuka's lack of composure and to run around the camp shouting aloud that he had just kissed Tezuka.
"I really think it won't," Atobe said but taking in the public area and the numerous members of the U-17 staring openly at them, it was probably best to wait until a more private setting to explore further kisses. "Perhaps later?"
"Perhaps." Tezuka had bent down to retrieve his racket so he nearly missed the quiet reply but he would be holding Tezuka to it.
This time, Atobe did give into a small chuckle, and mimicking a move from earlier, swatted Tezuka's rear with his racket lightly before moving off to finish his swing practice next to Jirou, ignoring the looks and comments as he passed.
He only spared a quick glance back at Tezuka who had clearly been looking at him until he'd been caught.
Atobe had a feeling that this stunt might cost him later, but for now, everything had been worth it.