Kippei tracked him down on a small, sunny hill in a quiet corner of the park near Shuusuke’s house. He sat down beside Shuusuke, close but not touching.
“Eiji called me,” he said, quietly. “He said you were acting strangely at practice today. He was worried.” Shuusuke shrugged one shoulder.
“I was… out of sorts I suppose. Tezuka kept me away from most of the other club members. I suppose it is a bit strange for he and I to play much.” He snorted, remembering. “Echizen had the nerve to tell me I play better when I’m calm, afterwards.”
“That sounds like him,” Kippei smiled.
They sat in silence for a while, and Shuusuke tried to gather his thoughts. He should have known he wouldn’t be able to avoid Kippei for long; he really hadn’t been thinking very clearly. At last he leaned back on his hands, looking up at the clear, pale sky.
“I had,” he paused to fish for a neutral term, “an altercation with Mizuki two days ago. It got… a little out of hand.”
Kippei waited, and Shuusuke relaxed a little when he didn’t push for an immediate explanation.
“I was already angry that day,” he went on, and released a half laughing breath. “It sounds so petty when I tell it out loud. But that morning…” he paused again, trying to find the beginning of the sequence in his memory. “Everyone pretty much knows who will go on professionally, from the club, and who won’t. Everyone knows by now that I won’t. Some know that my brother probably will. I suppose I’m not one to talk about competitiveness,” he smiled tightly, “but sometimes I could do without the side effects. One of the second years was saying that it was too bad Fuji Yuuta would be the name the tennis world remembered. And then he realized I was listening and hurried to say that he was sure people would always remember Yuuta’s talent as second to mine.”
“Quite,” Shuusuke murmured. “I was unsettled enough to message Yuuta over lunch and ask how his training was going. I really should know better by now, don’t you think?”
Kippei moved around to sit behind Shuusuke and wrap an arm around his waist. Shuusuke leaned back against him with a sigh. The next part was going to be harder.
“I don’t know whether Yuuta mentioned it to Mizuki, but Mizuki was waiting for me on my way home. He… challenged me.”
“To what?” Kippei asked when Shuusuke didn’t continue.
“A game. I suppose.” Shuusuke sternly told the hollow feeling in his chest to go away for the nth time in almost three days. It made breathing feel like work. Once again, the feeling refused to go anywhere. Kippei’s arm tightening around him reminded Shuusuke that he wasn’t alone. And that there had, in fact, been a total of four parties fairly intimately involved in what had happened. On an impulse he turned and kissed Kippei.
It was a little wild, a little desperate, and Kippei started out returning it more gently, trying to soothe Shuusuke. As the seconds ticked by, though, Shuusuke thought the fact of the kiss fell in with what else he had said, and gave Kippei some of the shape of the “altercation”, because his lover’s kiss changed. It became deeper and hotter, demanding in a way that Kippei rarely was. Ironically, that calmed Shuusuke faster than the earlier softness. When they broke apart Kippei raised a hand to his cheek and held his gaze, eyes dark and serious.
“You aren’t the only one who’s possessive, Shuusuke,” Kippei told him.
Yes, Kippei had an idea what had happened. But not all of it. Shuusuke shook his head, laying a hand on Kippei’s chest.
“What he offered, what I did, it wasn’t about sex.” Kippei’s lips tightened as Shuusuke confirmed at least the mechanics of the encounter, but he didn’t protest Shuusuke’s interpretation. Yet.
“What was it about?” he asked, quite calmly under the circumstances Shuusuke thought. He turned again so he could lean back against Kippei.
“Control,” he answered, biting down a grimace as he remembered Mizuki’s voice gliding over that word. “Knowledge. I suppose,” he summoned a small smile, “it was more like a game of go than anything.” Entrapment, oh yes. He had to hand that to Mizuki, and he should have recognized it sooner.
“A game of go with a bed as the board?” Kippei suggested, sounding amused despite himself at the idea. Shuusuke smiled more genuinely, letting the intellectual metaphor carry him over his discomfort.
“Mmm. More like the bed, and the bodies, as the stones. The board was the mind.”
There was silence behind him for a moment before Kippei closed both arms around him.
“Shuusuke.” He didn’t sound amused any longer. He sounded a little shaken. Shuusuke supposed that made two of them. He didn’t really want to dwell on that.
“Besides, I never let him touch me,” he added, veering back to the original question and keeping his tone casual. Kippei’s hold tightened, and Shuusuke realized he’d probably just given away a little more of the mechanics than he’d really wanted to.
“Mizuki accepted that?” Kippei asked, both surprise and a touch of distaste in his voice. Shuusuke laughed, wearily.
“Oh, yes. Mizuki waylaid me, provoked me until I was extremely angry, invited me to take him any way I pleased and accepted everything I did, just to prove a point.” Shuusuke leaned his head back against Kippei’s shoulder. “He knew what he was doing, Kippei.” He fell silent, hoping his lover could unravel that and wouldn’t ask him to put words to the details.
“He knew?” Kippei asked at last, carefully. Shuusuke’s mouth twisted. Kippei had gotten very good at reading under what he said.
“Every last step,” Shuusuke confirmed with false cheer. He never did that for long around Kippei, though, and let it go to turn in Kippei’s arms until he could curl up against him.
“And it’s so easy,” he whispered. “To do that to people. To control, to break. Because I can. And when I’m in the middle of it it’s so satisfying, but afterwards, when I stop and look back… it doesn’t feel right.” Kippei stroked back his hair.
“I know,” he said. Shuusuke stirred at that. Kippei wasn’t like that.
“I know that you don’t really enjoy going that far. It’s pretty obvious.” Kippei smiled down at him when Shuusuke raised his head to give him an inquiring look. “All the people you’re most drawn to are ones you can’t control.”
Shuusuke ran a quick catalogue in his mind, and decided Kippei was right. Tezuka, who wouldn’t let him. Eiji, with whom there was no point. Taka-san, who was too sweet to tempt him. Even the firebrands like Echizen.
And Kippei, of course.
“So,” he smiled, reassured enough to tease a little, “you’re not worried about it at all?”
Kippei turned on his side, spilling Shuusuke into the grass, and dropped a kiss on his forehead.
“Of course not. I recall saying once that you don’t strike out unless you’re unbearably provoked, and never on your own account. It’s still true. Mizuki prodded you about Yuuta, didn’t he?”
Shuusuke nodded, holding back a snarl at the mere memory. From the quirk of Kippei’s mouth, he didn’t think he’d been entirely successful. That was all right, though; Kippei was the one person he could show anything to.
“So,” Kippei continued, “you might not want to admit out loud that Mizuki won this round, but it’s clear from what you have said that he asked for everything he got.”
Shuusuke opened his mouth to protest, and then closed it. Unfortunately, that statement was correct on every count. He had been focusing on how much he disliked the aftermath of getting carried away to distract himself from the thought that Mizuki was every bit as much to credit, and possibly more, as himself. And he hadn’t quite realized it until Kippei pointed it out. He felt a faint flush heating his cheeks.
“You’ve never been much good with your own motivations, Shuusuke,” Kippei pointed out, gently. “Let it go and stop worrying.”
Shuusuke took a stern hold of himself and considered his possible causes for worry. Was he dangerously out of hand? No. Was he, he sidled around to look at the thought with dislike, seriously concerned that Mizuki knew him well enough, now, to hurt him? To hurt him the way he knew, in a dark, back corner of his mind, Kippei could by knowing him so well. That one took more consideration, but the manner of Mizuki’s approach implied that he didn’t think he could overwhelm Shuusuke; and Shuusuke was now on his guard. So, no, not really. Was he really worried that Yuuta wouldn’t forgive him for what he’d done to his brother’s lover, be it ever so consensual? Shuusuke knew he had come very close to breaking Mizuki; it was why he had let Mizuki go with his success intact even when he realized what it had all been about. Somehow he doubted his brother would agree that any aftereffects were anything other than Shuusuke’s fault.
All right, perhaps he would still worry about that one. He sighed and reached up for Kippei.
“Mostly,” he allowed.
Kippei’s smile was wry as he leaned down. Shuusuke sighed again, against his mouth, for quite different reasons, as Kippei’s kiss folded him in weightless warmth like the sun on this hillside.
“No one but you touches me like this,” he said, softly, as they parted. Kippei answered by catching him up in another kiss, this one slow and deliberately sensual, a sliding dance of tongues. The hollowness in Shuusuke’s chest that had persisted for three days finally faded away. Shuusuke felt as though Kippei’s breath helped fill his lungs all the way. He drew Kippei down until his lips were at Kippei’s ear.
“Kippei,” he murmured, “make love to me.”
“Right here?” Kippei’s tone was half serious and half teasing. Shuusuke shook his head, and spoke slowly.
“No. I think I want to remember who belongs in my bed.”
When Kippei’s arms closed around him hard enough to drive his breath out, he knew his lover had accepted that sideways apology.
Lying against Kippei’s side, later, in the cool afternoon shadows of his bedroom, and far more pleased with the world, Shuusuke wondered whether he should call Yuuta. It would be nice to know whether his brother was upset with him or not.
The message tone rang on his phone.
“Someone has bad timing,” Kippei muttered. Shuusuke made agreeing sounds, but craned for a moment to check who it was from.
Then he leaned across Kippei and snatched at his phone so that he could glare at the sender from close range.
He stabbed the message button and read. His lips pulled back from his teeth, though he managed not to snarl out loud. That arrogant, insufferable, little…
“Shuusuke?” Kippei repeated, a bit cautiously.
“Dear Shuusuke,” he read off the message, “Please don’t be concerned. Yuuta’s opinion of my sanity has been confirmed, and he doesn’t blame you for any of it. Except, possibly, the bite mark. Regards, Mizuki.” Kippei didn’t make a sound, but Shuusuke was leaning over his stomach and could feel the muscles trembling, holding back what was probably a laugh. He transferred his glare, dropping the phone pointedly over the side of the bed. So, Mizuki thought he knew him that well, and had the gall to reassure him?
“I don’t think I ever fully appreciated just how much Mizuki likes to play with fire,” Kippei observed, mildly. “Can I hope you’ll chose a different way of burning him next time?”
The glare lost a good deal of force, and Shuusuke laid his head back on Kippei’s chest.
“Of course,” he confirmed, softly, pressing closer. Kippei’s hand stroking his back lulled him, and he set out to ignore Mizuki’s baiting in favor of Kippei’s heartbeat.
He could teach his would-be rival a lesson later, Shuusuke decided as he slipped into a doze, rocked by the rhythm of his lover’s breath.