Thirty Ways A Kiss Could Go - Hyotei Style!
Prince of Tennis - Atobe Keigo, Akutagawa Jirou
Run the gamut from G to NC-17 and back again, with a smattering of serious among the fluff and humour. Enjoy!
1. look over here
Shishido turned at the sound of his partner’s voice, finding the tall junior looking across the tennis courts towards the club room with a strange little smile licking at the corners of his mouth.
He blinked. “What’s up Choutarou?”
Ootori’s voice was oddly… mushy as he waved Shishido over with one hand, never taking his eyes off whatever he was looking at. “Look over here?”
“At what?” Ambling over to his partner’s side, Shishido gave a shudder that wasn’t entirely feigned. “It isn’t Gakuto and Oshitari making out again, is it? ‘Cause I think my retinas are still damaged from the last …” Belatedly catching sight of what Ootori was pointing at, Shishido faltered and gaped in a remarkably un-Shishido-like way.
There, sleeping contentedly amidst a shower of cherry blossoms was Jirou, a happy little smile on his face as he slumbered in the shade of a tall tree. While this in and of itself was nothing unusual – Jirou’s sleeping habits were so well known at Hyotei that the possibility of finding him awake outside of tennis practice was practically an urban myth – the strange part was that his head was pillowed in the lap of none other than Atobe Keigo, their resident self-proclaimed tennis god. But there was nothing smug about Atobe right now, not when he was as gone as the blond boy snuggled against his side, leaning back bonelessly against the rough tree trunk in a rare moment of relaxed tranquility.
“Weird,” Shishido managed finally, staring with morbid fascination at the casual drape of Jirou’s torso across Atobe’s legs, the oddly possessive hand carded into the blond curls at the nape of Jirou’s neck. “Atobe’s not being a jerk. That just seems… wrong somehow.”
“Really?” Ootori asked mildly, brown eyes softer than usual as he tilted his head towards Shishido. “I think it’s kind of cute.”
And then he bent down and pressed a quick kiss against Shishido’s cheek before turning away, slightly red in the face, to help the rest of the team clean up after practice.
Shishido stood frozen for a moment as he watched his partner go, his hand stealing up unconsciously to his cheek and the feeling of lips still lingering there. He glanced back towards the sleeping pair under the tree and grinned ruefully. Maybe he could live with Atobe and Jirou being ‘cute’ a little more often.
RING. RING. RING.
“Atobe here. I’m busy right now, what do you want? ...He what?! How on earth did he… oh, well, I guess that explains it. I assume he was sleeping at the time? Mm-hmm. I see. And what have you done about it? Besides call me, I mean. I don’t care if he says he’s fine, you should have taken him to the… what? No, tell him I will not come kiss it better and I don’t care if he… Shishido! Are you listening? You take him up to the nurse’s office right now and if he’s not being treated when I get there you’re going to be playing doubles with Mukahi for the rest of the month! Oh, just try me. What? Yes, I’m coming right now. Don’t let him do anything else stupid. Good. Ja.”
The push came as a shock, jolting through his body with enough force to send him tumbling to the pavement in a painfully undignified sprawl. Atobe cursed as he skinned the palms of his hands, the dirty ground leaving dark smudges on the sleeves of his carefully pressed dress shirt.
He whirled his head angrily. “Jirou! What was that fo-…” Atobe choked, the words catching in his throat as his own face reflected back at him from the fender of a black car stopped scant inches away from his nose. Jerking backwards with a start, Atobe cast about wildly for the person he’d been walking with only moments before. “Jirou?”
A tangled mess of white and blue fabric was lying several feet in front of the car, ominously still in the middle of a rapidly spreading pool of red. Atobe started numbly to his feet, heedless of the screams piercing the air around him as he moved forward. Up close he could see the way blood turned blond curls to an ugly rust that clashed horribly with the chalky white pallor of his teammate’s skin.
“Jirou.” He slumped down onto the ground next to the boy, feeling the blood seep hot and thick through the fine weave of his uniform pants. His hand reached out to brush uncertainly against Jirou’s face, the dark blood on pale lips leaving wet, gleaming kiss-marks on the tips of Atobe’s fingers.
Jirou stirred weakly, his eyes cracking open enough for Atobe to see the pain hazing over them. “Atobe?” Jirou’s voice was paper-thin. “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” Atobe heard himself say gruffly, his throat strangely tight. “What the hell did you do that for, Jirou?”
It was amazing that Jirou could smile so beatifically in a situation like this. “Couldn’t let you get hurt… Atobe.” Brown eyes rolled back in Jirou’s head and his body slumped down into unconsciousness even as someone yelled that an ambulance was on its way.
Reaching down to grasp Jirou’s blood-slicked hand in his own, Atobe felt another jolt of shock, stronger than the last, as he realized he was crying.
4. our distance and that person
Jirou was pumping Fuji Syusuke’s hand energetically as he beamed at the tensai, looking almost ready to kiss the other boy in his enthusiasm over a game well played.
“That’s enough, Jirou,” Atobe ordered from the Hyotei sidelines, sounding distinctly put out. “Give him his hand back before you break it.”
“Atobe!” Suddenly Jirou was at the dark haired boy’s side, startlingly awake chocolate eyes bright and gleaming as they smiled into Atobe’s own. “Did you see that? That was amazing! Those triple-counters… and that serve! I never stood a chance!”
He oughtn’t sound so cheerful about that last part, Atobe felt, but this was Jirou after all.
Atobe sniffed, and made a great show of looking narrowly down his nose at Seigaku’s Fuji on the other side of the courts. “He’s nowhere near as good as Ore-sama,” he declared. “No wonder you always lose so badly when we play each other.”
“I guess so,” Jirou grinned, still looking far too pleased with himself. “But that’s ‘cause you’re Atobe, right? Maybe when I’m good enough to beat Fuji-san, I’ll be a good opponent for you!”
“Unlikely,” Atobe answered flatly, not acknowledging the hint of a smile that was threatening to turn up the corners of his mouth. “But if you have Ore-sama as a goal, maybe you’ll turn into a decent player yet.”
5. “ano sa”
“Come back soon!”
“Get hit by a bus!”
“I heard that Shishido,” Atobe answered absently, most of his attention on the two men loading his bags into the trunk of his limousine. “Keep it up and you’ll be collecting balls with the freshmen for the rest of the term.”
“We’ll miss you, Atobe-buchou,” Ootori put in politely, quick as ever to cover for his rather more abrasive doubles partner. He jabbed Shishido warningly in the side with an elbow as he added, “I hope you have a good trip.”
“If I ever manage to get under way.” Atobe glanced at his wristwatch and sighed in exasperation. “At this rate, I won’t even have time for an aperitif before the plane leaves.”
“The horror,” Gakuto drawled mockingly, grinning at the scandalized looks Atobe’s fan club threw his way.
As the trunk finally closed on the last suitcase, Atobe turned to bestow a dazzling smile on the crowd.
“Has everyone said their farewells to the wonder that is Ore-sama? Yes? Good.” A single, mildly displeased look was enough to send one of the white-clad chauffeurs scurrying for the door and Atobe bent slightly to climb into the limo.
A quiet, almost diffident voice chose that moment to speak up from within the crowd.
“Ano sa… Atobe? Can I talk to you for a minute?”
“Jirou!” Atobe snapped, rounding back on the diminutive singles player irritably. “I don’t have time for messing about. Whatever it is you want, either say it now or it’ll have to wait until I return.”
Jirou faltered briefly, then his expression firmed with a determination rarely seen outside the tennis court. He snagged Atobe’s dress tie between his fingers and pulled sharply downwards.
“Wha-” Atobe’s eyes had hardly begun to widen when Jirou angled his head up for a kiss, warm mouth slanting soft and deliberate over lips that had gone slack in shocked surprise.
The crowd was deathly silent as Jirou drew unhurriedly back, a distinctly smug expression on his face as he eyed Atobe’s shell-shocked look. “Sorry Atobe,” he apologized, calmly smoothing Atobe’s tie back into place. “I just wanted to say goodbye properly.”
Atobe, to the incredulity of those present, could think of absolutely nothing to say to that.
6. the space between dream and reality
“Jirou,” Atobe murmured, pressing up close to the blond tennis player until Jirou could feel the heat of the other boy’s breath ghosting warm across his cheek. “Say it, Jirou.”
“A-Atobe,” Jirou stuttered, feeling his legs threatening to give out on him as Atobe crushed him against the wall beside the door. His hands came up to grip helplessly in Atobe’s collar and Atobe grinned, a slow, pleased expression that made desire pool and coil restlessly in the pit of Jirou’s stomach.
“Yes, Jirou?” his buchou asked silkily, tilting his head to run his tongue teasingly along Jirou’s chin and up to his ear. “What is it?”
“I… I want…”
Atobe’s expression, if possible, grew even more smug. “What do you want?”
“I… you… I want…” Jirou watched with aroused incredulity as Atobe leaned in, lips parting to bestow a long-awaited kiss…
…and he was hanging upside-down by his ankles as Kabaji shook him vigorously several feet off the ground.
“Ack!” Jirou exclaimed, flailing as his tennis shirt flopped down over his face and filled his vision with white and blue. Kabaji obligingly stopped shaking him and lowered him to the floor where he spent the next several moments trying to escape from his shirt.
“Jirou-sempai.” Ootori was crouched down beside him, leaning back slightly to avoid his thrashing arms. “Atobe-buchou says you’re to go warm up now. It will be your turn soon.”
“Ah, hai hai,” Jirou agreed, staggering to his feet with a yawn. Atobe himself was nowhere to be seen, but that wasn’t unusual considering how far away from the tennis court Jirou had been napping. “Time to get back to reality,” the blond muttered, an uncharacteristically bitter edge sharpening his tone.
“What was that, Jirou-sempai?”
“Ah, nothing,” Jirou dismissed, plastering on a sleepy smile to counteract the concerned expression on Ootori’s face. “Tell him I’ll be right there.”
The interviews started almost immediately after the match had ended, everyone clamoring to get close to the person who had overcome Seigaku’s famous Tezuka Kunimitsu. Atobe was in his element, posing like a prince amid a sea of reporters throwing questions, photographers trying to find his best side and enthusiastic fans vying for a chance to steal a kiss from Hyotei’s awe-inspiring buchou.
“A regular superstar, isn’t he?” sneered Gakuto from where he and the other Hyotei Regulars stood, watching the proceedings as they waited for Hiyoshi’s match to begin.
“No kidding,” Shishido echoed, in rare agreement with the acrobatic redhead. “You’d think he was the only one who won today.”
“But it’s only fair,” a sleepy voice interjected, and they all turned to where Jirou was blinking at them matter-of-factly from beneath blond lashes. “He played the best, after all.”
8. our own world
It was their world.
The ball thumped steadily on the worn clay court, a rhythmic counterpart to the rush of sneakered feet and the precise swish of expertly handled rackets. The rest of the team was long gone. These two still remained, pushing their limits and molding their talent into something higher, purer, stronger – challenging themselves and each other in the same breathless moment.
They were an oddly matched pair. Atobe; cool and collected yet driven by a fierce determination that showed in his intent expression – mute evidence of his drive to win, to be the best. Jirou; easy smiles and boundless energy, his habitual sleepiness nowhere to be seen in the face of such a challenge. Atobe was winning, as often happened, the rhythm of the game bending to his will and slowly, steadily pushing Jirou back.
Then Jirou’s ball flew low, just barely kissing the top of the net with the faintest hiccup in the game’s rhythmic flow. Pattern broken, balance shifting and it was anybody’s game once again, Jirou’s triumphant grin meeting Atobe’s placidly conceding nod over the top of the net and then they were at it again in earnest, their entire world dwindling down to the size of a tennis court, minus the doubles lines.
“What is going on here?” demanded Atobe, striding up towards the bleachers with a disapproving frown. “Why aren’t you all practicing? And what,” he added, looking past his Regulars towards a pair of blue-and-white clad figures pelting headlong across the soccer field beside the tennis courts. “Are those two idiots doing?”
Ootori cleared his throat nervously. “Shishido-san is somewhat… unhappy with Jirou-sempai at the moment, Atobe-buchou,” he explained, colour unusually high.
“You don’t say,” Atobe responded dryly, watching as Shishido charged after a fleeing Jirou, snarls and curses tainting the air. “About what, pray tell?”
At Oshitari’s side, Gakuto grinned wickedly. “About the fact that Jirou kissed Ootori.”
“I see,” Atobe murmured after a moment as Ootori went even more pink. “And why, exactly, did he do that?”
“Well,” Oshitari drawled, not looking away from the floor show Shishido and Jirou were providing. “If the grin on Jirou’s face is any indication, I’d guess he did it to irritate Shishido.”
Atobe was silent for a moment as Jirou and Shishido raced past again, his expression turning speculative. “You know,” he remarked conversationally. “If Jirou moved that fast on the court we could probably have another dash specialist on our team.”
The tenth thing that was perfect about Atobe Keigo was the way he looked on a tennis court.
Jirou cracked his eyes open the tiniest sliver, watching the figure of the Hyotei tennis captain stride onto the court. Proud as he ever was, Atobe walked with the confidence of a hero, the crisp lines of his uniform jersey hanging off his body just right and showing off his toned physique. The sun shone down brightly on the court, kissing the wave of perfectly turned curls and setting the ends of Atobe’s hair to gleaming as he smiled winningly at his enthralled audience.
Jirou had considered telling Atobe about his observations on occasion but, as he yawned and closed his again, he figured Atobe probably already knew.
Atobe was the one who finally found him, curled up like a kitten in a bed of gardenias not far from the main entrance to Hyotei Gakuen.
Shaking his head, Atobe crouched down in front of the figure almost completely hidden by the pale blossoms. Jirou slept on obliviously, his blond curls twining in the green leaves and making Atobe think of the Western fairy story about a sleeping princess waiting within a forest of briars for a kiss from her true love.
Then he realized what he’d just thought and snorted out loud. “Jirou as Sleeping Beauty,” he said wryly, shaking his head. “What an idea.”
Rising smoothly to his feet, Atobe glanced once more at the boy slumbering among the plants before turning on his heel to find Kabaji. And if the thought of trying to wake Jirou using Prince Charming’s method happened to cross his mind, well, he’d just ascribe it to studying too many pithy romances in literature class.
12. in a good mood
“Come on, Atobe! Come on, come on, come on!”
“Jirou-sempai is in a good mood today, isn’t he Atobe-buchou?” Ootori smiled, watching as Jirou waved at them over the net with his tennis racket, hopping up and down on one leg as if to make himself easier to spot.
Atobe rolled his eyes. “And he’s going to be kissing concrete before the match even starts if he doesn’t stop bouncing around like that. Calm down, Jirou!”
“Let’s play!” Jirou caroled, practically thrumming in place. “Let’s go, let’s go, Atobe!”
“Che,” Shishido snorted, sliding into Atobe’s vacant spot as the Hyotei captain strode smartly onto the court. “At least he’s awake for once.”
Ootori thought about pointing out that Jirou was always awake when he played against Atobe, but smiled instead and settled in to watch the match.
13. excessive chain
“Um, Atobe?” Jirou asked, the chime of metal on metal loud in the silence of the bedroom as he shifted uneasily. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“Now Jirou,” Atobe admonished, snapping the ankle cuff in place and drawing back to enjoy the sight of his boyfriend chained to his headboard wearing nothing but metal and a pair of worn jogging pants that hung indecently low on slender hips. “You’re the one who keeps insisting on wriggling right off the bed. Maybe this experience will teach you to behave yourself better.”
Whatever Jirou had been about to say was lost in a sharp intake of breath as Atobe placed a hot, open-mouthed kiss on Jirou’s quivering stomach muscles. Chains rattled sharply as the blond boy tried to arch into the contact, moaning in disappointment when the light touch disappeared.
“Ato…be,” Jirou managed huskily, all reticence forgotten. Atobe smirked, pleased. Excessive or not, he could get used to this.
14. radio-cassette player
Perfect though he was, Atobe would never have believed it if he hadn’t seen it.
He knew intellectually that Jirou was difficult to wake up – it was often him who sent Kabaji to shake the sleeping Singles 2 player into coherence before a match, after all – but standing in the doorway of Jirou’s room and listening to the cacophony of sound coming from within, he didn’t know how even the team hypersomniac could possibly be sleeping through it.
It was actually surprising that the radio-cassette player could make that much noise, the squeaky bubble-gum voice of some perky J-pop singer reverberating through the room at a high enough volume that it was making the walls shake three bedrooms down the hall. It was why Atobe was here actually, the complaints about one of his Regulars prompting Kantoku to send him to deal with the problem before it got too far out of hand. It was an utter indignity, but when the order had come from his coach the only thing Atobe could do was grit his teeth at the noise and stride purposefully into the room, turning off the radio with a violent twist of his wrist.
The sudden silence was staggering, and Atobe found himself looking down at the peaceful face of Akugatawa Jirou. Atobe leaned over and gave Jirou an experimental shake. Nothing. Sighing slightly, the dark haired captain crouched on the floor beside the bed and shook again, harder.
“Jirou,” he tried, leaning in close to the whorl of a small ear. “Jirou, wake up.”
He hadn’t really expected to have any more success this time – not with the way Jirou slept – so it came as something of a surprise when Jirou suddenly jerked up under his touch, ear colliding hard with Atobe’s mouth before the blond boy pulled back to fix Atobe with a sleepy, somewhat sheepish smile.
Atobe rolled his eyes. Another undertaking successfully accomplished. “Ohayo, Jirou.”
15. perfect blue
It was a nice day for a nap.
Jirou flopped down on the sun-warmed grass, blinking sleepily at the vast expanse of sky overhead. The sky was his favourite blue today, a rich, vibrant colour that started out shallow where it kissed the far-away horizon then arched up into forever when you got to the deepest parts above his head. There wasn’t a cloud in sight to disrupt all that pretty sky and Jirou was smiling as his eyes drifted lazily shut.
Then something rustled in the grass beside him and Jirou cracked one reluctant eye open to see who it was. His gaze flickered up past the familiar blue and white jersey of the Hyotei Regular lineup, lingering only briefly over olive skin and carefully styled black hair before falling into blue eyes as deep as midnight and as strong as the sea, full of promises and dreams and challenges. Jirou’s eyes fluttered closed again and he sighed contentedly when Atobe beckoned him closer, turning his back on the sky in favour of a welcoming lap.
Because, he reasoned to himself as a tolerant chuckle rumbled through the chest he was gathered against, a favourite blue was one thing but this was Atobe, and his blue was perfect.
You’re not perfect.
You’re not the best player on our team, you’re a negligent student, you’re not very motivated and you spend far too much time sleeping.
You’re far too cheerful when you’re awake – you smile too much and get overexcited too easily and you don’t spend nearly enough time worrying about what others think of you. Your hair is too bright, you have far too much fun playing tennis to ever succeed at it the way you should, and that innocent, sleep-tousled expression that the girls all find adorably kissable is so not cute.
You’re not the best, the brightest, the most promising. You’re nowhere near ever reaching my level of excellence, yet when it comes to holding my happiness in your too-small to be as strong as they are hands, you’re completely unrivaled.
17. kilohertz (kHz)
“Gene Simmons from KISS!” Shishido declared triumphantly, hitting the game board hard enough to make the plastic pieces wobble.
Gakuto raised an eyebrow. “And why do you know so much about the lead singer of a strangely dressed rock group from America?”
“S-shut up,” Shishido shot back, fitting another pie slice into his playing piece. “I got it right, didn’t I?” He nudged the figure slumped next to him with his elbow. “Come on Jirou, it’s our turn again.”
“Huh?” Jirou started in surprise. “Wha…ahh… what was the question?”
Gakuto snickered and Atobe rolled his eyes expressively, still wondering how he’d been roped into this ridiculous game in the first place.
Shishido sighed. “Just roll the dice Jirou.”
The dice clattered across the board, and Jirou carefully counted out the spaces. “We’re on ‘science’,” he told them with a sleepy yawn.
Gakuto grinned nastily at Shishido’s chagrined expression. “Not your favourite category Shishido?” he sing-songed.
“Eat shit and die Mukahi,” Shishido snarled back. “You know I’m a history student.”
“Well then,” Atobe murmured, pulling out a card. “Let’s get this over with, shall we?”
Shishido grumbled, but nodded. Smoothing out his voice, Atobe read off the question.
“Within the radio frequency spectrum, which band is used for submarine communications and wireless heart monitors?”
“The hell?” Shishido demanded. “Who knows something like that?”
Jirou blinked. “Very low frequency band,” he rattled off succinctly. “On a wavelength of 30 to 300 kilohertz.”
There was a moment of shocked silence as everyone stared first at Jirou, and then at Atobe who flipped over the card and nodded wordlessly.
“How the hell do you know that Jirou?” Shishido demanded.
Jirou yawned again. “We did frequencies in science class a coupl’a weeks ago.”
“You’ve slept through every science class this term!” Gakuto objected. “Hell, I was awake and I still don’t remember that!”
Atobe shook his head in exasperation. “You’re the only person I’ve ever met who learns better while asleep than awake.”
Jirou just gave them a sleepy grin. “Is it my turn to roll the dice again?”
All told, it took Shishido and Gakuto nearly 15 minutes to rouse Jirou from his post-tennis practice nap.
“Aw,” he pouted, once they’d got him into a more or less lucid state. “Why’d you have to wake me up? I was dreaming about kisses.”
Shishido rolled his eyes and muttered something about getting too much information, but Gakuto leaned forward eagerly, a wicked gleam shining in his eyes.
“Annn?” he leered. “So who were you kissing, huh?”
Jirou yawned. “Can’t remember,” he answered with a casual shrug. He smiled wistfully, very deliberately not looking towards where Atobe was correcting two sub-Regulars on their hand grip on Court C. “It was a nice dream though. Almost as good as tennis.”
Valentine’s Day could not be considered one of Atobe’s favourite times of the year. Oh, he could understand the appeal of it well enough, and he supposed it was a good chance for the female population to express their gratitude at being graced with his wonderful presence on a daily basis, but really. His tastes were far too refined for most of the sugary confectionaries his admirers invariably showered him with and all the gifts and letters he received tended to get quite heavy by the time classes had ended for the day.
Not to mention the horribly garish red and pink decorations that always seemed to spring up all over the building, clashing horribly with their school colours and making all the classrooms look like cutouts from a deranged children’s storybook.
The presence of these ornaments seemed to grow more invasive every year, Atobe observed to himself, idly watching as several girls stole up to a sleeping Jirou at tennis practice, stealing kisses and leaving chocolates. Which was odd really – Atobe had summarily rejected the idea of having any of those horrible red hearts plastered up around the tennis courts, yet, as his eyes tracked the girls’ giggling flight back towards the school, it seemed as though he was suddenly seeing more red than ever.
20. the road home
“Come on son, you’ve got to wake up now.”
“Hmmm?” Jirou murmured, blinking blearily at the uniformed person shaking his shoulder. “S’it time to get up?”
The woman above him smiled kindly in the dim light. “I’m afraid so. You were sleeping pretty soundly – I was worried I’d have to drag you out of the train.”
“Where…” Jirou sat up with a yawn, stretching to relieve the tension from sleeping in the chair. “Where am I?”
“The Central Train Depot.” The woman’s lips twitched upwards in a chiding grin. “You’re lucky I checked the cars before shutting down or you’d have been locked in here until morning.”
Jirou mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like ‘wouldn’t be the first time,’ before offering the woman a sheepish grin. “Sorry to bother you.”
“Don’t worry about it dear.” Her lips pursed as she gave him a concerned look. “Will you be alright getting home from here?”
“I’ll be fine,” Jirou told her, getting sleepily to his feet and shuffling out of the train with her. “I’m kind of used to it.” He glanced around the darkened train station as the woman locked the doors behind them. “Ano, could you tell me what platform we’re on?”
“Number three. Are you sure you’re okay? I can call a taxi for you if you like.”
Jirou shook his head emphatically, blond curls bouncing around his face. “Nononono, I’m fine!”
She smiled lightly. “Alright then dear. Have it your way.” She stooped to press a motherly kiss against his temple then turned and ambled back towards the engine. “And don’t go falling asleep on any more trains!” she called over her shoulder.
Yawning, Jirou waved goodbye at the departing figure, then shouldered his tennis bag and shuffled off in the other direction. The train station was dark and eerily quietly as he padded across the polished tiles, heading unerringly towards a bank of pay phones half-hidden in the deep shadows.
The sound of yen falling into the coin box was loud in the silence and Jirou slumped tiredly against the wall, bracing himself for the conversation he knew was coming.
RING. RING. RI-
“Jirou? Is that you?”
“Sorry Atobe,” Jirou said sheepishly. “I did it again.”
“Come on son, you’ve got to wake up now.”
“What’s going on, Chise-san?” Kennichi called, sticking his head round the corner of the door. “It’s way past closing time.”
Chise blew a lock of hair out of her eyes in exasperation. “This boy fell asleep on the train and I can’t wake him up. I’ve tried everything.”
“Oh.” Understanding dawned on Kennichi’s face. “You did the school express today, didn’t you?”
Coming to stand beside his co-worker, Kennichi glanced down at the sleeping figure with a rueful grin. “Figured as much. This is the third time this month.”
Chise blinked in confusion as Kennichi reached past her to pluck something from the boy’s shirt pocket. “Do you know him Kennichi-san?”
“I’m starting to.” Kennichi held out the little professionally engraved card to Chise. “Number’s on the back. Do you want to call, or shall I?”
“Call who?” Chise took the card and looked at it curiously. “…are you serious?”
Kennichi’s smile was almost equal parts resigned and amused. “Oh yes. And the sooner we call, the less he’s likely to yell.”
In the dim light of the train station, the neat gold letters shone almost as brightly as the soft blond curls of the contentedly sleeping boy beside them.
If found, please return to Atobe Keigo.
We have your roommate. If you want to see him again, leave 15 autographed photos of yourself in a sealed envelope on the secretary’s desk in your fan club’s office. We also demand that you take each of us on a date of our choosing. The days, times and preferred locations are listed below.
It would be in yours and Akutagawa-san’s best interests for you to respond quickly.
P.S. If the times are not suitable to your schedule, we will also accept photographs of you and Akutagawa-san kissing as alternative payment.
Atobe crumpled the letter in one hand and sighed heavily. Fangirls.
One of the non-Regulars materialized beside him as he stood watching the practice courtside. “Buchou,” the dark haired junior informed him. “Jirou-sempai is sleeping again.”
Atobe sighed irritably. “Again? That’s the third time in the last half hour.”
The non-Regular shrugged helplessly. “Every time we wake him up, he just falls asleep again.”
“What is wrong with him today?” Atobe demanded of no-one in particular, glaring at the blond boy whose head was currently cradled in loosely folded arms as he dozed over the back of a chair. “Normally he can at least make it through practice before passing out.”
“I believe he was up for most of the night assisting a classmate with their literature paper,” a smooth voice supplied as Oshitari strolled over to join the conversation. The tensai shrugged. “Not much of a problem for normal people, but I expect that Jirou’s suffering from the lack of sleep rather strongly.”
“And he couldn’t sleep before tennis practice?” Atobe wanted to know, but the complaint was half-hearted at best. His eyes strayed back towards where the boy in question was currently curled up, the healthy, sun-kissed glow of his skin standing out in stark contrast to the dark, almost painful-looking bruises etched beneath closed eyelids.
Oshitari’s eyes followed Atobe’s gaze. “Shall I get Kabaji to wake him again?”
“No,” Atobe decided after a moment. “Let him sleep. He’ll be completely useless to the practice anyway.”
“Ah,” Oshitari murmured silkily, his smile knowing.
“He’ll be working twice as hard tomorrow to make up for it,” Atobe declared strictly.
“Of course, Atobe-buchou.”
Jirou was never allowed to eat candy again.
Atobe glared down the hallway at the departing figure of his boyfriend as Jirou careened wildly around a corner, narrowly missing a group of students coming the other way, and dashed out of sight.
Atobe’s tongue darted absently across his lower lip, tasting the sweet, sticky residue left over from a moment earlier when Jirou had run up – wide-awake brown eyes twinkling with mischief – and kissed him. Rather enthusiastically. In the middle of the hallway. With a good two dozen people watching. Without even giving Atobe a chance to retaliate before taking off again.
When his sugar high finally wore off, Akugatawa Jirou was going to pay.
24. good night
Atobe sighed wearily as he allowed himself to slump back against a conveniently placed wall a little ways from the courts. His opponent hadn’t been much of a challenge – far from it! – but this tournament had come at the end of a remarkably busy month that had left Atobe feeling somewhat… fatigued. A few moments rest ought to remedy that though.
His eyes drifted shut almost as an afterthought and Atobe let out a slow breath as he leaned back gratefully, waiting for his heart to slow.
Then something warm and solid dropped onto his lap and he started in surprise.
“Wha?” he managed, looking down at the new growth attached to his legs. “Jirou?! What are you doing?”
Jirou yawned and blinked at him sleepily. “You don’t mind, right Atobe? You’re comfy and I don’t want you to be lonely.”
Much as Atobe objected to being described as either comfy or lonely, he decided that he couldn’t be bothered to waste the effort trying to convince Jirou otherwise. And it wasn’t like Jirou’s company was exactly unpleasant – at least he was quiet most of the time and it was almost soothing the way he was draped so trustingly across Atobe’s lap, as contented as a cat.
Atobe hmphed and settled himself for what would likely be a long rest. “Just don’t bother me,” he ordered, draping an absent hand over Jirou’s shoulders.
“Thanks Atobe,” Jirou mumbled, pale lashes whispering butterfly kisses across Atobe’s fingers as his eyes drifted shut. “Oyasumi.”
Atobe couldn’t help smiling – just a little. “Good night, Jirou.”
The rhythmic swish, clang! of a tennis ball thudding into the back fence was nothing unusual when Atobe Keigo was standing on the court.
What was unusual was the fact that the sound had come from behind him.
Lowering his racket, Atobe looked with something akin to shock at the yellow ball rolling innocuously across the clay court a good distance behind his own baseline. Before he could mentally replay the course of events that had put it there however, the rapid approach of sneakered feet brought his eyes frontward a split second before he was attacked by an over-excitable Singles 2 player doing a remarkable impression of a giddy boa constrictor.
“Atobe!” Jirou’s eyes were wide with pleased surprise and only a few inches away from Atobe’s own. “I beat your Hamatsu e no Rondo!”
“I noticed,” Atobe responded wryly, trying without much success to calm the jubilant bundle of energy hanging from his neck. “You’re still losing though. Stay on your own side of the court while the match is on.”
“Okay!” Far too cheerful considering how long they’d been playing, Jirou planted an exuberant kiss on Atobe’s cheek before bounding away back towards the net. “I’m going to beat you Atobe!”
“Oh are you?” Arching an elegant eyebrow, Atobe gathered up the rogue tennis ball and sank into the ready position. It was time to show this cretin how it was done.
26. if only I could make you mine
“Hit me baby one more time!
Gakuto struck a pose as the music faded, microphone clasped triumphantly in one hand. “Sanku! Sanku!”
“Shut up Gakuto,” Shishido declared disgustedly. “And get the hell down from there – give someone else a turn.”
Gakuto sniffed and turned his nose up at Shishido. “You’re just jealous that I sing better than you.”
“No, I’m just sick of hearing those awful excuses for songs you keep picking. I think my ears are bleeding.”
It was the end of the winter term and the Hyotei Regulars were enjoying their mostly annual group celebration-slash-team building-slash-obligatory bonding session. This year the event was being held at a local karaoke bar, not far from Hyotei Gakuen. Everyone blamed Gakuto for the location but, despite some high levels of skepticism from certain members of the team about the whole ‘singing’ thing, the evening was going surprisingly well. The private karaoke room was large and comfortably furnished and Atobe had seen to it that the food provided was nothing short of divine.
Even the singing wasn’t all that bad. Ootori had the best pitch – which surprised no one – although Gakuto was pretty fair as well. Shishido was passable, while Oshitari’s voice was unexpectedly high and Hiyoshi couldn’t have carried a tune if they handed him a bucket for it. Atobe refused point blank to have anything to do with the proceedings while Kabaji, in the most surprising revelation of the evening, turned out to do a remarkably good Frank Sinatra impersonation.
“Oh fine,” Gakuto huffed, stepping off the low stage and slumping down on the couch next to Oshitari. “Who’s next then?”
“I’ll go,” a voice offered, and they all turned towards the beanbag chair Jirou had collapsed into ten minutes after entering the room. “It’s about my turn, isn’t it?”
“Do you want helping picking a song Jirou-sempai?” Ootori asked, half-rising as Jirou levered himself to his feet and shuffled over to the karaoke machine.
“Nah, that’s okay Ootori.” Jirou spent several minutes flipping through the catalogue of songs, blond head wobbling sleepily back and forth on his neck. Finally coming to a decision, the blond tennis player went to stand by the microphone, his wide yawn echoing hollowly through the speaker system.
“You gonna fall asleep on us, Jirou?” grinned Shishido, although not unkindly.
“M’good,” Jirou denied just as his song began with a rippling cascade of piano keys that dripped from the speakers as gently as a summer storm. Jirou wrapped both hands around the stand – mostly to keep himself upright – and leaned in close enough that his lips were practically kissing the microphone as he breathed out the words to the song.
All the things I never did tell you,
Are weighing hard on my heart.
I let you go without trying,
My silence kept us apart.
If only there was a moment,
Where I could say how I feel.
To turn this loss into loving,
And make my dreams become real.
There were more than a few raised eyebrows among the assembled as Jirou flowed effortlessly into the next verse, completely pitch perfect. There was talent here – an unexpected amount of it, truth be told – yet there was something else as well, something raw and unpolished that cut with a razor’s edge, too sharp to be feigned. Jirou’s voice throbbed with a deep, hidden hurt, one completely at odds with the sleepy eyes and sunny smile they were used to. The Regulars exchanged glances.
If only I could, If only I could,
If only I could – make you mine,
Then I wouldn’t have a reason to hide.
If only you would, If only you would,
If only you would – see the love that’s inside.
Jirou’s voice spilled smooth as honey from the loud speakers as he sang the final refrain, wavering off into silence as the chime of piano keys echoed briefly before fading away.
The room was still enough to hear a pin drop as Jirou took a deep shuddering breath and looked up, blinking as though he’d forgotten they were there. He stared at them all for a moment, brown eyes wide and surprisingly fragile without the ever present protection of sleepy, half-masted lashes.
Atobe was the first to recover. “Jirou…”
“This is fun!” Jirou grinned and suddenly he was the same bumbling, manic Jirou they all knew, bouncing excitedly as he chattered about the other songs in the book he wanted to try and wouldn’t it be fun if they could do some duets as well?
“You’ll join in too, won’t you Atobe?” Jirou asked, rounding on their Captain with innocent enthusiasm. “It’s more fun if everyone has a try!”
Atobe looked searchingly into his Singles 2 player’s face for a long moment.
Jirou blinked, cocking his head ingenuously to one side. “Atobe?”
Shaking his head, Atobe sighed. “Alright Jirou,” he acknowledged, coming gracefully to his feet and ignoring the way Jirou beamed at him. “But only once.”
Atobe took a deep breath and counted backwards from ten. Twice.
“Gomen na, Atobe,” Jirou apologized, looking far too much like a wet, bedraggled puppy for Atobe’s general peace of mind. His pants made a wet sucking sound as he pulled nervously at the clinging fabric. “At least we don’t have to clean the floor now?”
Pinching his nose as a headache began gathering below his temples, Atobe exerted his considerable willpower to keep his tone level. “I told you to come get me if you wanted to have a bath,” he reminded, deceptively calm.
“I know, but…” Brown eyes peeked shyly at Atobe through ridiculously long blond lashes. “You seemed so busy Atobe. And I didn’t want to bother you. I really didn’t mean to fall asleep.”
Atobe sighed. “You never do. That’s the problem.”
Jirou blinked up at him in a disconcerting mixture of apology and hopefulness and Atobe sighed again. “I’m not mad, Jirou,” he stated, doing his best to ignore the ankle-deep water lapping at the hems of his carefully tailored trousers. “But would you please come get me next time? It’s much less of a hassle that way and it doesn’t really bother me all that much when you need something.”
He had meant for the words to come out authoritative yet magnanimously forgiving, with just a touch of irritation in his tone to convey his discontent to his unintentionally absent-minded roommate.
The look of sheer delight spreading across Jirou’s face suggested he hadn’t been especially successful.
“It doesn’t?” Jirou squeaked gleefully, about a half second before he launched himself at Atobe for a flying tackle kiss that, while pleasant, neatly ensured that Atobe’s front was now just as wet as the hyper boy plastered to it.
Jirou pulled back with a happy little smile. “You’re the best Atobe!”
Atobe returned the compliment with a nod. “I know.” Wet fabric clung thickly to his chest and he cringed at the feel. “And I suppose we had better make use of all that hot water before it goes to waste.”
“You’re going to join me?”
“Keep an eye on you,” Atobe corrected, refusing to let a smile tug up the corners of his mouth. “And make sure you don’t fall asleep in the bath and drown yourself.”
“Oh, okay.” Jirou blinked with a final attempt at contrition. “What about all the water on the floor?”
Atobe shrugged. “I’ll call the interior decorators after lunch. I’ve been meaning to replace the carpets anyway.”
28. Wada Calcium CD3
“Calcium supplements,” Atobe echoed dumbly, hardly daring to believe this conversation was actually taking place.
“You’re all at an age where proper bone structure and development is crucial to your continued success in competitive tennis,” Kantoku affirmed, undeterred by Atobe’s bemusement. “And since most youths fail to consume their recommended daily diary intake on a consistent basis, all of the Regulars are required to start taking supplements to remedy the situation.”
“Sensei,” Atobe tried, choosing his words carefully. “I’m not sure that this policy will be especially… easy to implement among our current Regulars. Mukahi and Shishido are sure to object rather loudly, and what about Jirou? He’s hardly awake enough to attend tennis practice – I’m rather doubtful of his ability to remember to take calcium pills every morning.”
“I don’t care if you have to force feed him from your own mouth,” Kantoku overrode flatly. “As buchou, you’re responsible for making sure that Akutagawa and the rest of the Regulars start taking these pills, or you’ll all face the consequences.”
Atobe peered at his coach suspiciously. “You haven’t been talking to Seigaku’s Inui Sadaharu have you, sensei?”
29. the sound of the waves
Atobe quite liked the beach. Not anything as plebian as a public beach of course, but his own private beach on the Spanish coast – one of many owned by the influential and ridiculously wealthy Atobe family. He settled more comfortably in his chaise lounge, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the gentle breeze that was ghosting across his bare skin. The waves kissed gently along the sandy shore, their rolling lull calm and soothing as they drifted teasingly on the edge of land and sea.
It was without a doubt as relaxing and ideal a Golden Week vacation as Atobe could have asked for – if only he could get his mind off a certain sleepy tennis player who would probably enjoy himself here very much.
In the end, it was surprisingly easy.
Jirou melted against him, slim hands looping over Atobe’s shoulders and bunching in the fabric of Atobe’s neatly pressed shirt, mouth open in a soundless gasp of pleased surprise.
And Atobe took the wordless invitation, tongue flickering briefly over Jirou’s bottom lip before pressing further, coaxing Jirou’s mouth open with deliberate, unhurried movements.
They were both breathing hard when they drew apart, Atobe’s hands steady on Jirou’s hips and Jirou’s eyes practically swallowing his face, wide and guardedly hopeful.
“Atobe?” he asked, shyly.
Atobe looked more than a little stunned, but managed a haughty smile that was only slightly goofy around the edges. “There,” he declared, voice rough and chocolate dark. “That’s a proper kiss. I do hope you got all that, Jirou.”
“Erm, I don’t think I was paying enough attention,” Jirou confessed sheepishly. His fingers twined absently in the dark twists of hair at the base of Atobe’s neck. “Do you think you could maybe…”
“Honestly Jirou,” Atobe sighed, his arms wrapping around Jirou’s waist. “You do realize that practicing with Ore-sama will make everyone else pale in comparison?”
“That’s okay,” Jirou answered placidly. “It’s worth it.”