It wasn’t that Yuuta didn’t know what kind of person Mizuki Hajime was. He knew perfectly well. Mizuki was viciously ruthless. He was the kind of person who worked through manipulation because he enjoyed it. He was a flaming control freak and downright obsessive. Yuuta recognized all these things quite readily.
The only thing he refused to admit was where he recognized them from.
Mizuki was also the first, and, for a long time, the only one to recognize Yuuta’s skill, and his weaknesses, as his. The one who had never asked “Oh, did you start playing tennis because of your brother?” The one who took him, and, yes, used him, purely and completely on his own merits.
Of course Yuuta knew he had an ulterior motive for it, he wasn’t stupid.
But that wasn’t the point.
It started with a few casual touches, Mizuki’s hand on his arm or shoulder to call his attention or in farewell. It would have been less noticeable if Mizuki had been the sort to touch anyone, however casually.
That was Akazawa’s part. When a hand fell on a team member’s shoulder for encouragement or camaraderie, or, occasionally, a brisk shaking, it was their captain’s hand not their manager’s. Mizuki didn’t touch. It was typical of the difference between them. Akazawa held them together as a team; Mizuki drove them forward as his personal game pieces. Between the two it pretty much worked out.
So Yuuta noticed those as-if casual touches, and wondered what Mizuki was up to. The idea that he might not be up to anything didn’t even deserve a first thought.
Yuuta got his first clue, though he didn’t recognize it at the time, in a heated discussion between Akazawa and Mizuki that broke off as soon as he approached. Akazawa gave Mizuki a hard look before turning away.
“You had better be right about this not affecting the team,” he told their manager. Mizuki gave him a mock-surprised look.
“You doubt my analysis of the situation?” he asked with a dangerous lilt.
“Just remember who’s always involved when your analysis fails, Mizuki,” Akazawa said, sharply.
“I always do,” Mizuki replied though his teeth. Akazawa snorted. He patted Yuuta’s shoulder, absently, in passing, and Yuuta saw Mizuki’s eyes narrow slightly.
A smile was added to the edged look.
“Shall we work on your serve, Yuuta-kun?” Mizuki ordered as if it were a suggestion, urging Yuuta toward the far court with a hand on his back.
Yuuta didn’t start to worry about what Mizuki was doing until the day Mizuki parted from him after practice with a hand on his cheek and a thumb brushing, ever so lightly, over Yuuta’s mouth. That was when it occurred to him that this might not have anything to do with tennis, which reminded him of the conversation he had heard the end of, and then he spent the rest of the day locked in his room, lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling and trying not to hyperventilate.
Mizuki couldn’t possibly be… well, he couldn’t. Right? Admittedly, he tended to look rather predatory around Yuuta, but that was just how Mizuki was. Wasn’t it? He’d looked like that for years, now.
It didn’t take very long for Yuuta to realize that was not necessarily a reassuring thought.
The next day he was so hyper-aware of those maybe-not-casual touches that he dropped two games. After the second he noticed Akazawa giving Mizuki a very dirty look, and had to escape, pleading a headache. Memorizing his ceiling for the second evening in a row, Yuuta tried to think the problem through. He could do this. His brother wasn’t the only smart one in the family.
If Mizuki really was… well, coming on to him, the first question was, did he want it to stop?
It was actually kind of a hard question. This whole thing was disconcerting, and had him very off balance. But, in a way, it wasn’t actually new. He’d always been flattered, right from the first, that Mizuki paid attention to him, sought him out. He’d gotten used to how… intense Mizuki’s attention was. The idea that Mizuki might want him, personally, made him shiver.
Ok, so maybe he didn’t exactly want it to stop. Next question was, what to do about it?
Actually, was there anything he could do? Yuuta chewed reflectively on his lip. It wasn’t as though Mizuki had done anything very obvious, yet. It was still possible that something else entirely was going on. Mizuki might be experimenting with a new management style, using Yuuta as his guinea pig. That would also explain Akazawa’s irritation.
Or Mizuki could just be waiting for Yuuta to stop jumping like he’d stepped on a tack every time he was touched.
Yuuta glared at his ceiling as though it were responsible for the conclusion that the best thing he could do was wait and see, and try to relax a little. There was no getting around it, though, and he spent the next few days attempting to have more patience than he usually needed. His captain’s temper subsided as Yuuta’s game steadied again.
Sure enough, that seemed to be the signal for the next step.
Mizuki took to, not just touching, but stroking down his arm or across his back. Yuuta stopped doubting his original conclusions. And, as the days slipped by, he started wishing that Mizuki would get on with whatever he had planned. The touches had gone from odd to shocking to commonplace to downright teasing, and Yuuta was tired of waiting.
He asked Mizuki, later, whether every language had a saying about being careful about what one wished for.
Yuuta was finishing a weight workout late in the evening when Mizuki tracked him down. Neither thing was unusual. Yuuta liked having the room to himself, which meant coming in late, and Mizuki liked to check on his training and adjust his regimen if necessary.
“Not even out of breath, Yuuta-kun? Perhaps you should increase your repetitions.”
It was not usual for Mizuki to prowl into his personal space and run a hand down his chest, reminding Yuuta forcibly that his shirt was still lying on the bench behind him. Mizuki’s fingers outlined his muscles, and Yuuta thought sparks might be skittering in their wake. He couldn’t pull his eyes away from Mizuki’s hooded stare to check.
“Excellent definition, Yuuta-kun,” his manager murmured. Yuuta stood, frozen, as Mizuki’s palm skated down his stomach. He shuddered as it stopped there.
“Mizuki-san,” he choked. Mizuki’s lips curved, and his hand rose to the back of Yuuta’s neck.
“Do you have any idea,” he said, softly, “how much it pleases me to know that, if I decided I wanted you right now, on one of the weight benches, you would offer me no resistance?”
The light-headed thought crossed Yuuta’s mind that, yes, he did have some idea how much that would please someone like Mizuki Hajime. Maybe, sometime, he would tell Mizuki that yielding was a reasonable trade for being the center of his focus. That focus was almost as tangible as body heat, as Mizuki leaned forward and whispered in his ear.
“Not yet.” He drew back, graced Yuuta with a demure smile, and strolled out the door.
Yuuta couldn’t make it back to his room this time, and had to settle for memorizing the ceiling of the weight room instead. At least, until it occurred to him that he was lying sprawled on one of the weight benches, and that Mizuki might just decide to come back, and take that as an invitation. He hauled himself upright and forced his shaky knees to support him.
What had that been about? Mizuki touching Yuuta like that and in the next breath assuring him that nothing would happen.
He supposed that Mizuki might have just wanted to ease his anxiety by making his intentions clear. Or it could be that he wanted to be sure of Yuuta’s willingness. It was also quite possible that Mizuki had done it just because he felt like provoking someone. Yuuta would actually have put his money on it being a little of all three. As he tried to convince the adrenaline singing through him to subside enough for sleep, he reflected that it was probably weird for him to be attracted to that combination of whimsy and iron calculation. But there it was. Things that caused most people’s eyes to cross seemed quite normal to him. He’d come to terms with that much.
And he honestly had to admit to himself that Mizuki had gotten it dead right. If he had kept going, Yuuta wouldn’t have stopped him. Yuuta’s backbrain helpfully presented him with an image of Mizuki pressing him down on that bench and running his hands lower.
So much, Yuuta thought, gasping, for lowering his adrenaline.
He spent the next week being ganged up on by his subconscious and his hormones at extremely inconvenient moments, such as when he was called on to read in Literature or translate in English. As a result he wound up with extra homework and spent several long evenings in the common room of his floor, dwelling on the unfairness of the universe and the incomprehensibility of English articles.
“Trouble with your English again, Yuuta-kun? Would you like some help?” Mizuki’s voice inquired from the door. That voice always had an insinuating edge, but Yuuta swore it hadn’t been this suggestive last week. He debated throwing his textbook, but decided that would probably only lead to a longer period of frustration. He settled for glaring.
Mizuki seemed to find this amusing.
This time, at least, Yuuta was ready for it when Mizuki crossed the room, stepped over his legs and leaned his hands on the back of Yuuta’s chair, caging Yuuta under his body. Yuuta rested his head back so he could look Mizuki in the face, offering, waiting, challenging, and could they please actually get somewhere this time? Fire lit in Mizuki’s normally cool eyes.
“Ah,” he breathed. “That’s what I’ve been waiting for, Yuuta-kun.”
Mizuki’s lips covered his, and Yuuta opened his mouth under them. Mizuki kissed the way he did everything else, intense and thorough, his tongue tasting every part of Yuuta. When he drew back it took Yuuta a few moments to realize that his eyes had fallen shut. He opened them to see Mizuki smiling down at him. It was not a smile that gave anything away, and Yuuta found himself having to ask.
“Mizuki-san, what… where… is this going?”
Mizuki trailed a finger down Yuuta’s neck, smile sharpening at the shiver that resulted.
“I think that’s for you to say, Yuuta-kun,” he murmured. Yuuta blinked.
“It is?” he asked, a bit nonplussed. At Mizuki’s nod, he sank back in his chair, even more breathless than the kiss had left him. Yes, this was Mizuki, the one who knew him, the one who had watched him, who knew exactly what would win him. Not just the trade of his pliancy for Mizuki’s complete attention, but giving Yuuta the choice and determination.
So, what was it going to be?
“Dating?” he suggested, eventually, finding no better word for where he would prefer to start.
“Indeed.” Mizuki leaned down again, brushing another kiss across Yuuta’s lips. “In that case, would you care to join me for dinner next Friday, Yuuta-kun?” For some reason, that made Yuuta blush, where the kisses hadn’t.
“Sure,” he answered, glancing aside. Mizuki laughed, low, and turned Yuuta’s face back up to his for a third kiss, long and slow, before he pushed back from the chair. He left Yuuta staring at the ceiling of the common room, this time, and completely incapable of thinking about the difference between a and the. Help with his English, yeah, right.
Yuuta decided it would be a good idea to write to his brother about his upcoming… date. Aniki was usually scrupulous about letting Yuuta go his own way, keeping his manipulations obvious enough to avoid if Yuuta really wanted to. But Aniki really didn’t like Mizuki, and if this was going to be one of the times he lost his temper, and Yuuta lost his prospective boyfriend to a homicidal sibling, well better to know sooner than later.
Five days later he wrote again to say that it had been cheating to send Aniki’s boyfriend’s little sister to try and talk him out of it. They had ended up yelling at each other at the tops of their lungs, across a picnic table on the campus lawn, about pig-headed idiots and interfering amateurs. It had actually been kind of nice to yell at someone who would yell back properly, instead of smiling and speaking softly and making Yuuta feel unbalanced.
Unfortunately, Ann’s rather acidic observations about Mizuki had enough truth in them to stick in Yuuta’s head. He knew perfectly well that Mizuki was focused pretty obsessively on his brother; it was one of the things they shared. When Aniki had said that he wasn’t going to continue professionally in tennis, Yuuta had gone to Mizuki as the only person who would understand his fury over the news. A niggling uncertainty refused to be dislodged.
Though being taken out on a date where, however casual their surroundings, Mizuki insisted on holding the door and pulling out a chair for him, went a long way toward flustering Yuuta enough to swamp it. When it became clear that Mizuki intended to see him back to his door, and quite probably past it, the thought of what was likely to happen next was actually familiar and calming by comparison. Yuuta thought that was probably why Mizuki had gone to such lengths to unsettle him in the first place.
When Mizuki closed and locked the door behind them, and pressed Yuuta gently back against the wall, though, the uncertainty resurfaced.
“Yuuta-kun?” Mizuki asked, as Yuuta looked aside, chewing on his lip.
“Mizuki-san… why?” Yuuta finally asked. “Why me? I thought it was… my brother… you wanted.” He might never forgive himself for actually saying that, but he had to know.
“Mmm. It would be nice to have him, too,” Mizuki agreed, casually. Yuuta’s head snapped back around, jaw loose. “But that has nothing to do with this.”
Yuuta sputtered. Mizuki tilted his head and looked at him, measuringly.
“I want something different from him than I want from you,” he explained. “I don’t doubt I’ll get it, eventually, because I understand him. And there’s something he wants that I can give him.” Yuuta found the curl of Mizuki’s lips and the light in his eye very unnerving. “If I survive the experience, perhaps I’ll tell you what it is. But what I want from you is,” Mizuki pursed his lips, “deeper.”
Yuuta’s heart jumped at the silky tone of the last word.
“What do you mean?” he asked, voice husky in his own ears.
“I want you for good,” Mizuki told him, cool and low. “You’re passionate, Yuuta-kun, and determined in a way he can never hope to be. I like that.” He leaned in. “I always appreciated your looks, of course. Such strong, clean lines to your body,” his hand smoothed down Yuuta’s side, “such expressive eyes, rich and sharp as new steel,” he drew Yuuta down to him, “and such a soft mouth for someone so fierce.” He stroked his tongue gently over Yuuta’s lower lip, and Yuuta gasped.
“But that wasn’t what really drew my eye, at the beginning,” Mizuki continued. “It was the fire in you. Useful and beautiful both; my ideal, Yuuta-kun.” He caught Yuuta’s face between his hands. “And all the more when I saw you knew I would let you destroy yourself to win, and you accepted that. Yet again when you defied me, and took only what you wished of my advice, and still returned to me.” His mouth quirked up. “Helpless things are only of passing interest. You are fascinating. You yield to me and yet keep your own way.”
Yuuta was grateful for the wall at his back, because without it he thought the intensity of Mizuki’s gaze and words would have had him on the floor. And then Mizuki smiled, and shook his head, and said the one thing that Yuuta never, honestly, thought he would hear.
“It was you from the very first, Yuuta-kun. At the start I mostly wanted to defeat Shuusuke as a gift to you. Here and now, he has no relevance. It’s you I wanted first.” He ran a hand up Yuuta’s neck, lifting his chin with a thumb, and pressed his mouth over Yuuta’s pulse. “So?”
Yuuta was shaking as his hands found Mizuki’s waist.
“Yes,” he whispered, harshly. Mizuki’s lips curved against his skin.
He let Mizuki pull him away from the wall, onto the bed. Let Mizuki’s hands strip off his clothes. Lay, breathing fast, waiting to see how far Mizuki would take his consent. Mizuki stroked his fingers through Yuuta’s hair, looking down at him curiously.
“Not completely innocent, are you?” he murmured. “It shows in your eyes. Everything does, of course.” He shifted and ran his hands down Yuuta’s thighs, pressing them apart. Yuuta shuddered, breath stopping completely. The weight of Mizuki’s body settling over his, the softness of his skin against Yuuta’s, pulled a choked off sound from his throat.
“What would you do if I did choose to take this all the way?” Mizuki’s voice brushed his ear. Yuuta closed his eyes.
“I said yes,” he answered, unevenly.
“So you did,” Mizuki agreed, sounding amused. “But perhaps we’ll start a bit slower.” He kissed Yuuta softly, hands stroking him, soothing the trembling. “I am curious about your source of information, though. Let me see.” Yuuta opened his eyes to see Mizuki leaning on an elbow with his chin in one hand, contemplating him thoughtfully.
He bit his lip and turned his head a little away. Mizuki’s rare laugh washed over him.
“You walked in on someone? Probably Akazawa and Kaneda, then.”
Yuuta nodded, though, technically, he had not walked in on them. The sight of Kaneda bent over under their captain had frozen him on the threshold, and Kaneda’s moans as Akazawa drove into him had been loud enough to cover the sound of Yuuta, very carefully, closing the door again.
“Well, let me assure you that I have a far lighter touch than our esteemed captain,” Mizuki purred. “We’ll get to that later, though.”
He kissed Yuuta more deeply, through teasing, and now Yuuta relaxed under him. Mizuki’s touch danced down his body, drawing low sighs from him, and Mizuki’s mouth gradually followed. Yuuta twisted and arched into the glide of Mizuki’s tongue down his stomach, came up off the bed with a sharp cry at the swift, slick heat of Mizuki’s mouth closing around him. Mizuki’s tongue slid down and then up his length, curled around him, coaxing, demanding. Yuuta lost track of time and place, attention narrowing to the hot sensation that wound around him tighter and tighter until the world snapped into glittering shards from it.
When his breath returned, Mizuki moved back up to lie beside him, smiling down at Yuuta with smug pleasure. Yuuta turned on his side and laid a hand, hesitantly, on Mizuki’s hip.
“Mizuki-san… you…?” He chewed on his lip until Mizuki stroked a finger over it to stop him.
“In a little bit, Yuuta-kun,” Mizuki told him, lazily.
The phone rang.
Yuuta glared over at it, wondering who had the bad timing to be calling now. Mizuki smiled and waved in a don’t let me interrupt you manner, so he answered, despite some misgivings. He couldn’t suppress an exasperated sigh when he heard who was on the other end.
“What are you doing calling me now?” he asked.
“I just wanted to make sure you’d gotten back all right, Yuuta,” his brother answered. Yuuta rolled his eyes.
“Yes, Aniki, I got back just fine, and Mizuki-san didn’t eat me on the way home.”
There was one beat of dead silence from everyone before Mizuki folded up laughing and Yuuta felt his face growing hot.
“Yuuta,” Aniki’s voice was getting dangerously pleasant, “who is that?”
Before Yuuta could muster a coherent answer, Mizuki held out a hand for the phone. Yuuta shrugged and handed it over. Redirecting his brother’s attention would be a good thing, and if Mizuki was volunteering to be thrown to the wolf, far be it from Yuuta to stop him.
“Indeed, Shuusuke, I didn’t eat your brother on the way home,” Mizuki said, still chuckling. “I waited until we got back.”
Yuuta was positive he was the color of a radish.
Mizuki handed the phone back with satisfied smile.
“It got rid of him,” he pointed out, and leaned over Yuuta, pressing him back with a hand on his chest. “I can bait him at greater length later. Right now, I have better things to do.”
Ann had asked him, once, how he could stand to be in between two such possessive people. On the one hand was his brother, who would be perfectly happy to rip the lungs out of anyone who looked at Yuuta the wrong way. On the other was his boyfriend, who would be equally happy to break the hands of anyone who touched Yuuta. Not that either of them would ever be so straightforward about their revenge. No one seemed to understand that it was the equal possessiveness that made it work.
Well, that made it work for Yuuta.
His brother detested his boyfriend, and his boyfriend was obsessed with his brother. It was Aniki’s hostility that ensured Mizuki would be careful what he did to Yuuta. What he did without Yuuta’s consent, at any rate. And it was Yuuta’s acceptance of Mizuki that kept Aniki at a little distance, gave Yuuta some breathing room. Yuuta liked his brother’s protectiveness, as much as he liked Mizuki’s touch. As long as there was something to keep each from getting out of hand.
It all worked out for Yuuta.