Standalone: All In One

Ebook cover for the arc

PoT fic that is not part of any arc–wide variety of characters and pairings.

Security

A reasonable extrapolation from the way Ryoma and Momoshiro tend to fall asleep on each other, with some mild character introspection thrown in. Fluff, I-1, anime continuity

Ryouma had decided some time ago that Momoshiro Takeshi must have a teddy-bear fixation.

He had yet to discover any teddy-bears in Momo’s room, but there was still plenty of evidence. It happened about half the time their team traveled anywhere. Current case in point. Ryouma resettled his head on his rather make-shift pillow and wondered idly how quickly Inui-senpai would be able to calculate the actual frequency. Western-style beds sometimes prevented it, but not always. It depended on the circumstances.

Whenever the opportunity arose, at any rate, Ryouma would wake up to find Momo curled around him like he was some kind of oversized plushie.

Elbows in the ribs and kicks to the shins failed to dislodge Momo, or even wake him up. Eventually Ryouma had taken the philosophical approach, and decided that, if he was stuck as Momo’s teddy-bear, Momo did make a passable blanket. He was even a decent replacement pillow. And Momo’s presence at his back was familiar and comfortable. It wasn’t an unpleasant way to wake up, and when you got right down to it that was all that concerned Ryouma.

Even though Kikumaru-senpai did insist on making aren’t they cute faces at them if he happened to wake up first.

That thought made Ryouma rub his eyes and take a look around the room, as best he could at the moment. It looked like everyone else had woken up before them, today. He prodded Momo ungently.

“Momo-senpai. It’s time to get up.”

Momo mumbled something unintelligible and didn’t move.

“It’s time for breakfast. Get up.”

Momo tightened his grasp, making grumpy don’t want to noises into the curve of Ryouma’s shoulder. Ryouma sighed and thought for a minute. “I heard there was ice cream this morning,” he tried.

An inquisitive noise. That was a start.

“So you’d better hurry up, if you don’t want Fuji-senpai to put wasabi on all of it.”

That did it. There was a brief flail as Momo tried to sit up before he completely let go of Ryouma; he ended up propped on one elbow, blinking. Ryouma congratulated himself on the success of his tactic, and turned on his back so he could watch Momo run their conversation past his brain one more time. Eventually his friend looked back down at him with a rather rueful, one-sided smile.

“There isn’t actually ice cream for breakfast, is there?” he asked, with a tinge of hope to his voice nevertheless. Ryouma raised a sardonic brow at his erstwhile blanket.

“Nope.”

“Brat.” Momo ruffled his fingers through Ryouma’s hair, and Ryouma ducked.

“Cut it out,” he said, without heat. When Momo chuckled, Ryouma gave him a half-hearted glare. He didn’t actually mind that much, as long as Fuji-senpai wasn’t around.

Ryouma swore that if he ever found out who had thought it would be a good idea to gift Fuji with a stockpile of small, highly portable, disposable cameras he would make that person regret it. Fuji-senpai had actually mailed one set of pictures, taken before either Ryouma or Momo were awake, to Ryouma’s house. His dad had almost seen them! He would never have heard the end of the teasing.

Ryouma had never again doubted the rumors of Fuji Shuusuke’s sadistic streak.

Momo unfolded himself to his feet and stretched before offering Ryouma a hand up, too. Ryouma accepted it as part of their accustomed give-and-take when they were around each other in the morning. He had to admit, it was nice to have someone there to remind him where he’d put his socks, and also to have something besides the sink to slump against while he brushed his teeth. Being Momo’s alarm clock was a reasonable trade-off. He wondered, sometimes, exactly what would happen when high school ended and they all stepped off the Seishun Gakuen escalator. He thought he would miss not being around Momo like this.

Momo’s arms wrapped around him, and for just a moment he leaned back against the solid support behind him.

“Ready to go?” Momo asked.

“Mm.” Time to think about all that later.

The arms tightened and then let him go, and they set out to see what breakfast their teammates might have left them.

End


Hashira

Some conversation, courtside, about what it means to be Seigaku’s pillar. Drama, I-2, anime continuity

Kikumaru Eiji liked it when his team was relaxed. Which meant he didn’t like it much when scouts came sniffing around the school courts. They ogled the Regulars and distracted everyone else, and Tezuka was more stringent than usual about proper behavior when they were around. Today, in addition to the usual sleek looking scout, smiling over his business cards like a poker shark with a winning hand, was someone who looked like a team manager; and that meant Ryuuzaki-sensei was with them, ready to pounce on any lapse Tezuka might miss.

Personally, Eiji thought they could all do without the distraction, with a bare week to go before Nationals, but nobody had asked him, so he just sidled around the other side of Oishi and tried not to twitch whenever the scout looked his way.

“Fuji-senpai.” Echizen’s voice was low, but rather sharp, and Eiji looked to see what was annoying Ochibi this time.

“Yes, Echizen?” Fuji asked, cheerful smile firmly in place. Echizen narrowed his eyes before spinning on his heel and stalking back to serve. A very hard serve, Eiji noted, that Fuji returned rather lightly. Ah, that was it. Fuji was in a mood to tease, and wasn’t playing for real.

It wasn’t that Eiji didn’t understand the urge, because ruffling Ochibi’s feathers was amusing, but Tezuka was probably going to be annoyed as soon as he noticed. Eiji craned around to check on their captain’s whereabouts, and winced. Not only was he already watching Fuji and Echizen’s match, the scout and manager were right next to him along with Ryuuzaki-sensei. Tezuka never approved of his players messing around, and the fact that Fuji was toying with Ochibi in front of outsiders wouldn’t make him any happier. To Eiji’s surprise, though, Tezuka merely folded his arms and watched silently. Ryuuzaki-sensei, after a long glance at him, tucked her hands in her pockets and didn’t interfere.

“Ah, is that Seigaku’s incredible first-year that we’ve heard so much about?” the scout asked, brightly. “He’s very good, to play a game like that against a third year.”

Eiji winced some more.

The manager only grunted, watching the match almost as narrowly as Tezuka. Fuji let Echizen have the second game, too, and Eiji expected Ochibi to be steaming and, possibly, to pull out a Drive A or two just to make it clear how pissed off he was. It was obviously the day for surprises, though, and maybe Ochibi was growing up a little, because as the serve came back to him he looked up with a smile, bright eyed.

“That’s enough, Fuji-senpai,” he stated, and served straight for Fuji’s racquet. With no excuse to let that one escape, Fuji turned his racquet out and returned very lightly, as if he’d been surprised. Quite calmly, Echizen aimed straight on again. Just as if, Eiji realized, he were practicing against a wall. He covered a grin as Fuji’s eyes glinted and he returned full strength to the corner. Echizen practically materialized behind the ball, smile brighter than ever.

Eiji could almost hear Fuji’s sigh as he finally gave in to Ochibi’s enthusiasm, and the game suddenly vaulted onto another level. When he looked around to check reactions Ryuuzaki-sensei was smirking, Tezuka had a very faint smile, and the scout’s jaw was hanging open.

The manager laid a hand on the fence, chuckling.

“Seigaku’s pillar, eh?” he said, softly. And then he turned a sharp eye on Tezuka. “The next one.”

Eiji wasn’t the only one blinking in surprise.

“How…?” Oishi started, and paused. The manager seemed to understand what he wanted to ask.

“I went to school here,” he told them. “Katsuki Toshiki, pleased to meet you.” Everyone murmured greetings back, sounding just a little dazed that this outsider in their midst… wasn’t.

“Every school has its imprint,” Katsuki-san continued, easily. “That’s part of ours. Has been for years. “

“How long?” Oishi murmured, a bit wondering, glancing at Ryuuzaki-sensei Everyone in hearing distance followed his example.

“What are you looking at me for?” she asked, amused. “That’s always been the business of the team itself. Besides, I only came here a year or two before Katsuki did.”

“Oh, yeah, we all thought it was such great luck, having a beautiful woman as a coach,” Katsuki-san said, suddenly grinning wickedly. “Then we found out what she was really like.”

Eiji nearly choked, trying not to laugh, as Katsuki-san ducked the swat Ryuuzaki-sensei aimed at him.

“Nothing but insolent brats in this job,” she mock-grumbled.

“Ah, no wonder she deals so well with Ochibi; she had practice,” Eiji observed, glancing away innocently as Ryuuzaki-sensei skewered a glare in his direction. His partner gave him a more effectively quelling look.

“He does have a good deal in common with some that I remember,” their coach allowed, relenting.

“Not that much, Sensei ” Katsuki-san said, watching the ongoing match again. “I know you had hopes for him, and Echizen Nanjirou was an incredible player. Singles One both his second and third years. Never lost. But he could never have led the team, much less been our core. This one, he has what it takes.” He glanced at Tezuka. “And you’ve been letting him learn that he has it, haven’t you Tezuka-kun?”

“You were captain while you were here.” Tezuka stated it as a fact, not looking away from the match. Katsuki-san nodded.

“I’ve seen Fuji Shuusuke play a few times, and I wondered why you didn’t say anything. You knew Ryouma could get him to play seriously.”

It was Tezuka’s turn to nod. Eiji, once again, had to increase his estimation of their captain’s potential sneakiness. Really, it was no wonder he and Fuji got along. Katsuki-san sighed.

“That’s exactly what Nanjirou never had. It wasn’t just that he didn’t care about the team. It was almost as though he didn’t really understand the game. There was no real rapport between him and his opponents. I’m sorry, Ryuuzaki-sensei,” he looked at his old teacher, “but I never believed he could go all the way. He didn’t have the spirit.”

Ryuuzaki-sensei shrugged a little. “You win some and you lose some. It’s true for teachers as well as players.”

Kachirou, who Eiji had always considered the sharpest of Ochibi’s cheering section, approached a bit tentatively.

“Do you mean Ryouma-kun really will be able to beat his dad in tennis?” he asked. Katsuki-san bent a narrow eye on Echizen’s game.

“I think so.” And then he smiled down at Kachirou. “You’ve probably seen it. When he plays a challenging opponent, I bet he lights up. And if he needs to, he finds some way over or under or around whatever’s in his way.”

Everyone smiled or laughed, and Eiji had to agree, that was exactly what Ochibi did. Kachirou nodded, shyly.

“And when that happens, he draws people along with him, doesn’t he?” Katsuki-san asked. “His opponents, his own team, everybody.”

On the court, Echizen delivered a smash that should, by rights, have been unreturnable. Fuji caught it, threw it back, waited for the return, eyes sparkling.

“That’s what it means to be Seigaku’s pillar, the center of the team. Not always the team’s leader, though it’s easiest when it happens that way,” Katsuki-san shot a glance at Tezuka, “but the core that lifts the whole up. That’s what my own captain taught me, and it’s what I tried to pass on.”

Eiji suddenly remembered that this man was a team manager, here on a scouting trip, and wondered just how susceptible Tezuka was to flattery. True flattery, certainly, but somehow Eiji didn’t think it was an accident that this explanation was taking place right where Tezuka would hear every word. He also didn’t think he imagined the silent offer of a team that would understand what drove Tezuka, and value it.

“Echizen will do well,” Tezuka said, evenly, “provided he doesn’t get careless.”

Katsuki-san looked at their captain for a long moment before turning to Ryuuzaki-sensei.

“Some you lose. And then, some you win, don’t you? I think we’re done here, today, Sensei Thank you for letting us intrude.” Katsuk-san gripped his scout’s wrist before the man could produce the usual handful of business cards.

“Not at all,” their coach murmured with a small smile, and led her guests off, the scout protesting under his breath. A subtle edge of stiffness left Tezuka’s shoulders, and Eiji felt Oishi’s silent sigh beside him.

Eiji grinned, watching Fuji and Echizen come off the court, Fuji laughing quietly as Echizen smirked up at him and told him he’d never keep Singles Two playing like that. Eiji bounced a little on his toes and trotted to meet them.

“Fujiko-chan,” he called, “play a match with me next, now that Ochibi-chan’s worn you out for me!”

He liked it when his team was relaxed.

End


Irregular

Jackal and Marui on a hot afternoon, and Jackal’s attempts to convince his partner to take it easy. Porn With Characterization, I-4, manga continuity

Pairing(s): Jackal/Marui

It was a hot afternoon, on the kind of day that encouraged sensible people to lounge around in as little clothing as could be arranged and drink things with a lot of ice. Accordingly, Jackal Kuwahara had abandoned all clothing but his favorite pair of worn, cotton shorts, settled in front of a fan with a pitcher of ice water handy nearby, and watched with amusement as his partner made a spirited attempt to stab his textbook to death with a pencil.

No one who knew him would call Bunta particularly sensible.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous!” Bunta declared, with a last vindictive jab. “I mean, look at this! I could deal with irregulars that came in groups, but why can’t mourir act like ouvrir? They end the same; they sound the same; they should act the same! Why did I think Romance Languages were a good idea?”

“Last week,” Jackal noted, “you said you liked the way they sounded.” He refilled both their glasses. Bunta accepted his back, absently, and sipped without looking away from the page.

“I do,” he said. “They sound soft, but they have such a nice, broad rhythm to them. I like that. But it’s no excuse for this!”

Jackal shook his head, caught between a sigh and a laugh. When Bunta was in a mood to be unreasonable one just had to let him vent until he got it out of his system. Sometimes, though, the process could be hastened with a little provocation.

“I’m told that it’s much easier going in this direction then for, say, a native speaker of French to learn Japanese,” he observed.

At that, Bunta looked up with a flash of teeth. “Ha! As if!”

Jackal chuckled. His partner in a high temper was always worth watching. Animation brightened the dawn-colored eyes, and curved his mouth in a razor sharp grin. Bunta knew perfectly well what Jackal was doing, of course, but he rarely turned down the opening. It was one of the reasons Jackal found his partner endlessly entertaining; his dramatics were always perfectly sincere and entirely deliberate, at the same time.

“You have to admit, Japanese not only has irregular verbs, but often completely different words for a single object,” Jackal prodded, perfectly straight-faced.

“That,” Bunta declared, “is all according to rules. Sensible, consistent rules. There’s no consistency to this mess!” He paused, and cocked his head at Jackal. “Is it?” he asked.

Jackal blinked at him. That leap had gone by a bit fast. “Is what?”

“Is it easier going the other way?”

Jackal shrugged. “My family always spoke both Portuguese and Japanese. I wouldn’t know.”

Bunta growled, and dropped his pencil, flopping onto his back on the floor. Jackal took pity on him.

“So, assuming Seigaku keeps winning, who do you think we’ll come up against next time we play them?” he asked.

Bunta’s expression smoothed into something more serious, and Jackal smiled. Bunta got impatient with simple memorization, but give him an analytical problem to sink his teeth into and he focused right down.

“I wouldn’t be all that surprised if they set Oishi and Kikumaru against us, trusting to Kikumaru to get past me instead of trying to counter you at all,” he said, narrowing his eyes at the ceiling. “They might also pull out their wild card and pair Fuji with someone. Maybe that power player Yanagi says they have; the one that didn’t play last time.”

“Kawamura,” Jackal supplied.

“Him,” Bunta agreed. “They’ve relied on their singles players, this year, over doubles, but I doubt they’ll be happy leaving the pattern from last time intact and relying completely on singles to win. Not now that we know how strong they are in singles. And their lineup there will be changing, just like ours; they’ll trust that part of the pattern to hold, I’d bet. It has this long. But they haven’t come this far by being complacent, either. They’ll want to take at least one doubles match, and I expect we’re the pair they’ll focus on beating, considering that we’re more predictable than Hiroshi and Niou.”

Jackal snorted. There were hurricanes more predictable than those two, together. Bunta laughed. And then his eyes turned distant.

“Pattern,” he murmured. “Changing content to maintain the pattern…” He abruptly sat bolt upright and started leafing through his textbook. Jackal relaxed, and crunched on some ice, and waited.

“Ha!” Bunta exclaimed. “It is! It’s preserving the sound pattern!” He beamed at the somewhat ragged book, pulled over some paper and started scribbling. Jackal held off asking until Bunta paused to blow a bubble over his work, something he never did when he was genuinely frustrated.

“Problem solved?” he inquired, mildly.

“Yep,” Bunta declared. “The irregular forms change to keep the overall sound combinations consistent, instead of the particular conjugations. Now it makes sense.”

Jackal shook his head and left his partner to his industry, though he did shift the fan so that it blew over both of them. After almost two hours, however, broken only by intermittent pleased noises and a few particularly satisfied bubbles from Bunta, he decided enough was enough. Bunta showed all the signs of skipping dinner and their evening practice, both, if Jackal didn’t pull him back from the realm of linguistic discovery soon.

Of course, pulling Bunta out of an intellectual spree could be just as difficult as pulling him out of an interesting game.

Bait was often helpful.

Accordingly, Jackal rose and came around behind his partner, and closed his hands over Bunta’s shoulders, digging his thumbs into the knots his partner got between his shoulder blades when he sat over a book for too long like this. Bunta flexed his shoulders back into Jackal’s grip, making yet more pleased sounds, but his attention didn’t stray very far.

“You should take a break, Bunta,” Jackal told him, applying a little more force to a persistent knot.

“Ah! Mmmm,” Bunta said. The inexperienced might have taken it for agreement; Jackal knew better. He heaved a sigh. Extreme measures it was, then.

Not that he objected all that strenuously, to be honest.

Bunta squawked with surprise, as Jackal scooped his partner up in his arms and stood.

“All right, all right, I heard you the first time!” Bunta protested, focusing on Jackal at last. “I’ll take a break.”

“You will now,” Jackal agreed, serenely. “I had something a little more than a break in mind, though.”

Bunta’s brows rose and he gave Jackal an arch look from half-lidded eyes. “Did you, now?” he murmured.


For the first little while he and Jackal had worked together, the… firmness with which Jackal interrupted him when he felt Bunta was focusing too hard on something had rather taken Bunta aback. He’d never really worked with anyone who felt that his flares of intense focus were anything but good. Jackal disagreed, and, unless they were actually in a real match, was perfectly willing to transport his partner, bodily, to attend to the things Bunta sometimes lost track of. Appointments, meals, sleep, little things.

Jackal was also perfectly unscrupulous about taking advantage of Bunta’s weak points to make him rest. One of those weak points was that Bunta loved the feeling of Jackal’s hands on him. Jackal had magnificent hands, large and long fingered, deft and strong, they went perfectly with the rest of his body.

Bunta liked the feeling of Jackal’s body against his, too, but it was the stroke of his hands, over Bunta’s stomach, curving around his ribs, sliding up his back and down his arms, that lodged a lazy purr in the back of Bunta’s throat. He arched back over Jackal’s hands, in a sensual stretch, as his partner straddled him and lifted him up to meet Jackal’s body leaning over his.

“You’re so impossible to budge, sometimes, Bunta,” Jackal said against his neck, reaching to fish out one of the tubes they both kept stashed about their rooms, these days.

“As if you have room to talk,” Bunta sighed, less indignantly than he’d intended. “You’re the most stubborn person I’ve ever known.”

“Completely in self defense,” Jackal answered, a bit muffled against Bunta’s shoulder.

It was difficult to scoff as such an assertion deserved when Jackal’s hands were on Bunta’s thighs, thumbs stroking the soft inner skin, moving, warm, between his legs and then between his cheeks. “Jackal,” Bunta breathed, as those long fingers slid into him. Considering how content Jackal was to let Bunta call the pace of their games, he did tend to… press the pace in bed. Of course, Bunta had to admit, analysis was at far less of a premium, here, than it was when they faced opponents across the net.

Here, Jackal’s quiet, sure action folded around Bunta as powerfully as his partner’s arms, whispering to him to trust Jackal’s strength in a different way. And, after all, the question at the back of those steady, brushed steel eyes always waited for Bunta’s acceptance. Jackal’s fingers quirked, wringing a gasp from Bunta as fire bloomed through him, and he wound his arms around Jackal’s neck, pulling him down.

“Jackal,” he breathed, lips curving against his partner’s ear. “Fuck me.”

The rumble of Jackal’s laugh shivered through him, and Bunta was still smiling when Jackal’s hand lifted his chin and Jackal’s mouth covered his. And then the room whirled as Jackal pulled him upright, and back against Jackal’s chest. Those powerful hands stroked up Bunta’s thighs, spread over Jackal’s, and up his chest, pressing him back into Jackal’s body behind him. Bunta arched in Jackal’s hold, sighing as Jackal’s hands settled on his hips, stilling him.

The feeling of Jackal thrusting into him, deep and hard, drove a moan up Bunta’s throat. He flexed back to meet his partner, as Jackal’s hands moved again, one sliding up Bunta’s stomach, leaving warm shivers in its wake, and the other slipping between his legs. Bunta glanced down and smiled. There was the aesthetic appreciation of the dark skin against light, of course. More, there was pleasure at watching that deft touch closing around him.

Bunta liked feeling Jackal fill him, liked the stretch and heat, liked it smooth and fast and hard, and that was the way Jackal always moved. He also liked seeing Jackal touch him, liked being able to watch the care as well as feel the strength with which Jackal handled him.

And Jackal always handled him with strength.

Bunta spilled onto knees and elbows as Jackal shifted forward, lifted Bunta’s hips up to meet his as he drove into Bunta harder, faster, and Bunta cried out as Jackal’s grip around his cock tightened, pleasure squeezing his nerves just as tight. It was hot and rough, and he rode the wave of it with as much abandon as Jackal was riding him.

The crest dropped them both, panting, in a tangle on the bed, and it was a little while before they managed to extricate themselves from one another, pausing every so often to laugh at each other’s contortions to avoid the wet spot. The finally reached an equitable arrangement lying at right angles, with Bunta’s head pillowed on Jackal’s stomach where Jackal could comb his fingers through Bunta’s damp hair.

“And here I thought you said the best thing to do on a hot day is lie still,” Bunta remarked, yawning. Jackal’s stomach moving under him almost made him laugh as well.

“I know you, Bunta,” Jackal told him. “I needed to wear you out if I want you to take a rest.”

Bunta smiled. His partner was one of the only people who could keep up with him long enough to wear him out, and it would have irritated him if Jackal hadn’t been both caring and matter-of-fact about using that advantage. Altogether, though, Bunta was very pleased with the partner fate had dealt him, and put up with Jackal’s stubborn streak with what he, personally, thought was commendable grace.

It certainly paid some significant dividends, he reflected, stretching muscles that tingled in the aftermath of Jackal’s attentions.

“Does that mean you’ll stay still and be my pillow for a while?” he asked, turning on his side so he could look at his partner.

Jackal’s mouth curved in a wry grin. “Sure.”

Quite significant dividends, Bunta thought, as he closed his eyes and let himself drift off.

End


Fortune

Atobe encounters Yukimura at the museum, they fall to chatting, and events take a rather sharp left turn. Drama With Romance and Porn, I-4, continuity uncertain—possibly hybrid

Pairing(s): Atobe/Yukimura

Atobe Keigo liked to have privacy when he sketched. Which was to say, he didn’t like to have anyone around who would recognize him. Squealing admirers were a distraction, and sneering detractors didn’t need the ammunition.

It wasn’t that Keigo sketched badly, because he was actually fairly good at it. His preliminary work, in fact, was excellent. It was the details that always seemed to go astray. The problem was that he did not sketch superbly. If he’d known, years ago, that he would be expected to affect an attitude everywhere about everything, and defend it the same way he did on the court…

Well, it might not have changed anything, but at least he’d have had some forewarning.

Thus, when a pleasant voice that he recognized immediately spoke over his shoulder, thoroughly invalidating every precaution of stowing his sketchbook in his tennis bag and coming to the museum early in the morning and sitting in the Impressionist gallery, where most people his age tended to breeze through with barely a glance, he was not terribly pleased.

Besides, he was in the middle of trying to capture the shadows of a Cassat, and that was never easy.

“Mmm,” he answered, and kept working.

Fortunately, Yukimura had the grace to let him do so.

After another few minutes, Keigo decided this effort was as done as it was going to get, and held it out, critically, to compare with the painting in front of him. The likeness was unimpressive, and a faint growl of frustration escaped.

“It looks like a reasonable start.”

If Yukimura’s tone had been in any way encouraging, Keigo would have snapped at him. Since his unwelcome company merely sounded matter of fact, he limited himself to a curled lip. The implicit understanding, in that voice, of how deeply annoying shortcomings of any kind were, however, also led him to offer some explanation of his disdain.

“Reasonable for an exercise, I suppose. It works better when I’m drawing a three dimensional subject. This simply isn’t up to standard.”

Yukimura tipped his head and looked down at him, thoughtfully. “My art teachers have always said that copying a masterwork was the best way to learn the techniques the artist used to achieve a given effect,” he noted.

Keigo sniffed. Still, there was honest curiosity in Yukimura’s observation, and a delicacy behind his lack of actual questioning that soothed Keigo’s brief temper. So he stopped and thought about it.

“It’s never really worked that way, for me,” he said, slowly. “When I observe something,” he waved a hand at the Cassat on the wall, “it… sublimates. It comes out again when I actually sketch a real subject, but just copying has never worked out very well. Live models are much better.” He shrugged, dismissing the topic, and stowed away his sketchbook. “Are you here for one of the exhibits in particular?” he asked, standing.

“I didn’t have any in mind, especially,” Yukimura answered, accepting the shift to polite small-talk. “Are there any you would recommend?”

“Their Renaissance galleries are quite good,” Keigo considered, turning toward them absently. “There’s also an excellent special exhibit of Edo period textiles this month…”

Which was how he found himself acting as impromptu tour guide to one of his strongest rivals. They were in the middle of the textiles exhibit before he even realized it. On the other hand, Yukimura’s conversation was informed and insightful, and there were worse ways to spend a morning than discussing fine art in the serenity of a well-kept museum.

Yukimura laid his hand on the glass of a case. “Gaudy,” he said, of the layers on layers of figured cloth inside, “but beautiful. It takes a good deal of dedication to create something this complex.”

“Extremely difficult to move in, though,” Keigo observed. Yukimura laughed, softly.

“Ah, but these were made for court nobles to show off to each other. When it came to actually avoiding a knife in the back… well, that’s what they had retainers for.”

“Indeed,” Keigo smiled, crookedly. Too bad he didn’t have a few of those. Not that he could imagine himself mincing around in the robes in front of them. Yukimura would look well in these creations, though, he reflected, idly. He had the grace of gesture implied by every line of Ukio-e; the trailing style would suit him, for all that the constriction would likely drive him as mad as it would Keigo.

They finally fetched up in the open courtyard of the museum cafe for lunch.

Lingering over coffee, Keigo’s mind wandered back to the question of shadows. How, for instance, would he render the shadows that dappled that handsome bit of Greek statuary under the trees?

“How long does it usually take you to sketch something?”

Keigo blinked at his companion. “Ten or fifteen minutes, unless it’s a very complex subject,” he answered, a bit startled at the non sequitur. Yukimura smiled.

“Well, then, I’ll be sure to take my time getting us some more coffee,” he said, rising.

Keigo stared after him for a few moments before he decided not to question the gift, and pulled out his sketchbook. Now, the arm thus, and the curve of hip so, and shaded here… When he emerged from the concentration of transfer from solid to paper, he sat back, pleased. It lacked the texture of Cassat, but he was getting there.

“You are much better working from life,” Yukimura said, over his shoulder.

Keigo grimly suppressed a start; he hadn’t even realized the other was there. “Why thank you,” he replied, layering irony over courtesy.

Yukimura chuckled, and set Keigo’s coffee down beside him before resuming his seat. “You said live models are best, though?”

“Yes,” Keigo agreed, stowing materials away again. “I know some people prefer subjects that don’t have to breathe, but that bit of movement always adds something to a scene, for me.”

He might have gone on, because Yukimura seemed to have a better understanding of such things than most people he spoke to, but, as he straightened, his eye, still tuned to line and shadow rather than human identity, was arrested by the figure across the table from him. That figure was, momentarily, not one of his rivals, nor a chance companion who discussed artistic philosophy well. Instead, it was a study in contrast: the dark, breaking wave of hair against the pale, stark angles of bone and lean muscle. In that suspended moment, a word drifted through Keigo’s mind. Chiaroscuro. Light and shadow. And another after it. Kikkyou. Fortune. Sunshine and shadow.

He shook his head, and his perceptions settled. Wouldn’t it be superb, though? Now, how on earth to ask something like that?

“Yukimura…” he trailed off, as the gleam in his companion’s eye suddenly registered.

Yukimura rested his chin on one hand, and lifted his brows. He was, Keigo decided, perfectly well aware of what Keigo wanted to ask and was going to sit there with that attentive expression and watch Keigo squirm while he tried to come up with a courteous way to do it.

The hell with that.

So. His coach had taught Keigo that pride was a powerful tool; years of watching his father entertain clients had taught him a much older lesson. Flattery gets you everywhere. Above all else, experience had taught him that the observant ones liked to be amused.

“I’m sure that someone of your elegance has been asked before, often enough for it it be burdensome, whether advantage can be taken of your grace,” he said, as unctuously and expansively as possible. The corners of Yukimura’s mouth twitched. “Will you forgive me for imposing on you with an additional request?”

“That being?” Yukimura prompted, a strain of suppressed laughter in his voice.

“Would you be willing to sit for a few sketches?”

“Draped or undraped?” Yukimura asked, casually.

Keigo came very close to snorting a mouthful of coffee out his nose. Who would have thought, he wondered, swallowing very carefully, that Rikkai’s soft-spoken captain had such a low sense of humor?

“Draped, I think, at least to start with,” he managed.

“Certainly, I’d be delighted,” Yukimura agreed graciously, eyes sparkling. “Did you have a location in mind?”

“I would prefer somewhere outside, where I can get the shadows from sunlight,” Keigo mused, casting his mind over the possibilities.

“What about a garden?” Yukimura suggested.

“That would probably be ideal,” Keigo agreed. “Do you know of one that’s reasonably quiet?”

A half smile curved Yukimura’s lips. “Mine,” he said, softly.

Keigo raised a brow.

“It’s a hobby of mine. And I would be interested to see what you make of it, as a setting,” Yukimura explained.

“By all means, then.”


Yukimura’s garden was beautiful, Keigo thought. It took up one end of the grounds behind his family’s house, a space of low leaves, and tall vines, and subtle flowers, wrapped around a few trees. The shifting light and shadow, over the course of a day, must be charming.

Yukimura fit into that space like a missing part of it, as if one of the plants had unfurled a flower made of steel and let it drop at the feet of the maple. Keigo was normally too practical for such excessive imagery, but the sweeping simplicity of line Yukimura made, leaning on one hand, a length of gray fabric draped carelessly across one shoulder and down, seduced the mind toward fantasy in an attempt to explain it. While Keigo cultivated a considerably more flamboyant image for himself, the clean serenity of this space, folded around this person, appealed mightily to his aesthetic sense. He found more detail than usual appearing on his page, and it was took longer than he had quite expected before he laid down the pad.

“Done.”

“Aaaahh. Good.” Yukimura shook out his arm and turned over onto his back, stretching from fingertips to toes. Cloth slipped off his shoulder, and Keigo found himself, abruptly, jarred out of appreciation of line and proportion and into appreciation of a magnificent body arched back on a black quilt, less than two meters away.

On an impulse, Keigo rose and came to sit just beside Yukimura. Smoky eyes opened and looked up at him.

“Would you like to see?” Keigo offered the pad.

Yukimura took it and smiled, a slow, pleased smile. “You are good,” he commented. He laid it back down by Keigo’s knee, extending both arms in another spine-curving stretch.

Keigo swallowed against a suddenly dry throat. “Yukimura…” he murmured.

“Seiichi,” Yukimura told him, just as quietly. The gleam from earlier was back in his eyes. “If you’re going to kiss me, you might as well call me Seiichi.” Those eyes were half-lidded now. “You are going to kiss me, aren’t you?”

Far be it from him to disagree, Keigo decided. He leaned down, one hand slipping into dark hair.

“Seiichi,” he whispered, against the other’s lips.

Those lips parted for him on a soft breath, and their tongues tangled, stroked together. Keigo shifted, slid his hands down Seiichi’s sides, pushing loose cloth ahead of them. Seiichi pressed into his touch with something very like a purr, a subtle arch of his hips inviting Keigo further. The swiftness of that invitation, of this whole encounter, kicked Keigo’s brain back into motion. He drew back as far as Seiichi would let him, which wasn’t very.

“So, when, in the course of the day, did you decide on this?” Keigo inquired. A laugh brushed against his ear.

“Guess.”

He propped himself on an elbow, tracing fingertips over Seiichi’s sharp cheek bones and down the line of his jaw. Seiichi gave him a tiny smile before turning his head to catch a finger, gently, between his teeth.

“During lunch,” Keigo guessed, when he thought he could trust his voice.

Seiichi hmmed and let him go. “Good aim. It was when you were looking at the statue, actually. Your eyes were so intent, so taken up with nothing but that one thing.” His expression turned wry and wistful. “And I wanted you to look at me with those eyes.”

Snatches of the day’s conversation fell together, leaping into intuition, and Keigo was swept by a wave of disbelief, closely followed by something close to outrage. He caught Seiichi up against his body and kissed him fiercely. Seiichi made a small, startled sound before gradually relaxing in Keigo’s arms and accepting the kiss.

“Keigo?” he asked, when they drew apart, a bit bemused.

“Would you care to tell me how you,” Keigo laid a hand along Seiichi’s cheek, “could possibly doubt the attraction of your own grace and strength?”

Seiichi was very still for one moment, and then lifted a hand to thread through Keigo’s hair. “Only the perception I might expect from you, I suppose,” he remarked. Then he sighed and his eyes turned distant.

“I didn’t used to,” he said, quietly.

Keigo had played Yukimura Seiichi in competition. He had seen the mantle of brilliance burning around him, seen the wild joy in his eyes, in the fierce curve of his mouth. Yukimura’s face was not meant to show uncertainty or doubt.

“Let me convince you?” Keigo murmured in his ear.

A faint laugh escaped Seiichi, and he looked back up at Keigo. “You do think highly of your skills, don’t you?” he teased.

“Of course,” Keigo replied, complacently. “That is why you seduced me, isn’t it?”

The laugh was fuller now, and Seiichi reached out to him. Keigo gathered him up, more gently this time, and laid a path of kisses down his throat and over his chest. Seiichi sighed, arching with Keigo’s hand as it stroked the small of his back, and Keigo delighted in the slow softening of the body under his. Before long, though, Seiichi leaned up on an elbow and tugged at Keigo’s shirt.

“Off,” he said, firmly.

You had to appreciate efficiency like that, Keigo reflected, as he obliged. With one word Seiichi had given notice that he was willing to let Keigo have the initiative in this encounter, and, at the same time, that he had no intention of letting Keigo control the pace completely. Naked, Keigo knelt beside Seiichi and drew away the last folds of cloth covering him. Seiichi really was magnificent, he thought.

Keigo stroked his hands down one long leg, lifted it to lick slowly at the tender skin behind the knee. A faint gasp answered his touch, and he glanced down the length of Seiichi’s body to see his eyes closed and his head tipped back. The heat gathering low in Keigo stomach tightened at the sight.

“Seiichi,” he murmured, letting his voice drop. “Such strength,” he closed his teeth, gently, on the tense muscle of Seiichi’s thigh, moved on. “And such elegance,” he added against the curve of Seiichi’s hip, “smooth as water over stone.” His hands slid over Seiichi’s ribs, traced a spiral over his chest until Keigo’s palm cupped his heartbeat. “And such vitality, fit to cut like the point of a diamond,” he whispered against Seiichi’s throat.

Seiichi was breathing deep and quick. “Keigo,” he husked.

And then his hands were pushing Keigo back, back upright, and he was moving in until he straddled Keigo’s folded legs, pressed tight against him. Seiichi’s fingers wove into Keigo’s hair, cradling his head as Seiichi kissed him again and again. Keigo smoothed his hands up and down Seiichi’s back, soothing, and answered those wild, open mouthed kisses with equal passion until Seiichi calmed.

“Mmm. Makes me wonder whether I should write you poetry,” Keigo said, against Seiichi’s lips.

“That,” Seiichi rocked against him, making them both gasp, “depends on how good the poetry is.”

“You’re right,” Keigo mused. “After all, if it was my poetry, I expect your response would be completely overwhelming.”

Seiichi leaned against him, laughing. Keigo took the opportunity to bite, lightly, on Seiichi’s shoulder until he was sighing, hips moving against Keigo’s again.

“Since you did plan on this,” he said in Seiichi’s ear, “I hope you brought something along to make it easier?” He stroked his fingers against Seiichi’s entrance.

“Hmmmm. I did,” Seiichi told him. “But start without it.” He smiled when Keigo raised both brows at that, and reached down for one of Keigo’s hands. “I like to feel as much as possible,” he explained, before closing his mouth over Keigo’s fingers.

Keigo had to catch his breath at the soft, wet heat of Seiichi’s lips and tongue. It escaped him on a quiet aaaahh as that tongue curled around one finger and stroked up the side, and he felt Seiichi’s lips tighten in a smile. When Seiichi let go, Keigo pulled him closer with one arm, and slid the other hand down, pressing one finger, just barely slick enough, into him, wanting to know Seiichi was drowning in desire just as hot as his.

Seiichi’s parted lips and suddenly heavy, hazy eyes said that he was. When Keigo worked another finger past the uneven tensing of Seiichi’s body, Seiichi tossed his head back and a moan spilled from his throat. The sound drove Keigo’s fingers deeper and the whole line of Seiichi’s body tautened against his, flushed and yearning.

“Seiichi,” Keigo breathed, “let me watch you?”

Seiichi gazed down at him, and the color across his cheek bones might have deepened a shade. “If you like,” he agreed.

“Can you honestly tell me of anyone who wouldn’t?” Keigo asked, laughing low in his throat.

Seiichi didn’t answer, but resettled himself with his ankles crossed lightly behind Keigo. Keigo made a pleased sound and shifted to cradle Seiichi’s hips more comfortably in crossed legs. It appeared that Seiichi was willing for him to go slowly, which Keigo thought was just about ideal. He wanted to savor the flow of Seiichi’s expressions.

He did, however, have to pause to chuckle when Seiichi flipped up the corner of quilt nearest them and dropped a bottle into his hand. There was the forethought and planning of Rikkai’s captain. The oil was cool against his skin, almost shockingly so, but he couldn’t manage to mind when it made the heat of Seiichi’s body so intense by comparison. That heat grasped at him, as he pressed against it, into it, so tightly Keigo had to bite his lip to keep from losing every sense but touch.

Seiichi was leaning back on his hands, breath cut short, eyes closed. He was the single most arousing sight Keigo thought he had ever seen, and when Seiichi arched back further to ease Keigo’s entry Keigo’s hands on his thighs tightened, probably to the point of bruising. Seiichi relaxed with a gasp when Keigo finally slid all the way into him.

“You feel good,” he murmured, opening his eyes.

Before Keigo had quite processed the glint in them, Seiichi leaned in, lacing his hands behind Keigo’s neck. Their voices wrapped around each other as the movement drove Keigo deeper. Keigo’s hands found Seiichi’s back, stroked down, coaxing Seiichi to move with him, and they were rocking together, slowly.

Seiichi’s soft moans, each time they came together, the abandon of his body surging against Keigo’s, the pleasure that lit his eyes more and more intensely, closed on Keigo, gripping him as tightly as Seiichi’s body. Keigo gave up thinking for the present, gave himself to Seiichi, letting the burning heat draw him deeper into this beauty that offered itself so unexpectedly and so willingly.

When pleasure snatched Seiichi over the edge, it was the break in his voice that pulled Keigo after him. When his eyes cleared, it was the lax contentment in Seiichi’s face that stole any remaining strength. Keigo let Seiichi down onto the quilt, and subsided next to him. He leaned over and stole a lingering kiss from Seiichi’s still parted lips.

“So, now do you believe me?” Keigo asked.

Seiichi touched his cheek and looked at him for a long, considering moment.

“I suppose so, yes,” he said, at last.

Keigo widened his eyes in such mock dismay that Seiichi laughed. “I was hoping for something a bit more certain than that,” Keigo sighed. He looked sidelong at Seiichi. “Perhaps there will be some opportunity in the future to see if I can’t coax somewhat greater assurance out of you.”

A small smile curved Seiichi’s lips quite enchantingly. “Perhaps,” he agreed.

About to seek another kiss, Keigo was assailed by a sudden and somewhat unpleasant thought.

“Is Sanada going to attempt to break valuable parts off me over this?” he asked.

He had one moment to see Seiichi’s mouth tighten and his eyes flash, and then the world whirled and his back hit the ground, hard.

“My decisions and choices are my own,” Seiichi said, low and dangerous, leaning over him.

“I believe you,” Keigo assured him, entranced by the fire that had flared in Seiichi so abruptly. “Does Sanada?”

Seiichi’s sharp eyes narrowed, and one of his hands wove into Keigo’s hair, tilting his head back, demandingly, as Seiichi bent down. Keigo wondered whether he would ever bother to amend his habit of prodding dangerous things just to see how dangerous they were. Altogether, and considering the way his heart sped as Seiichi pressed him down more firmly, he rather doubted it.

“He does,” Seiichi stated, lips hovering just over Keigo’s.

Now that, Keigo didn’t doubt in the least.

“Tired of everyone assuming you’re his lover?” he asked, a bit breathless.

“To say the least,” Seiichi murmured, and kissed him deeply.

Keigo was breathing heavily when Seiichi drew back. “I will ask once more,” he said. “How can you possibly doubt yourself?”

One blink, and the fine edge left Seiichi’s expression, replaced by a moment of startlement and then a shy smile. That smile stunned Keigo more than anything else that had happened all day, and he reached out to gather the gift he had been given closer. Seiichi lay down against his shoulder, and the peace of the garden settled around them.

“So,” Seiichi said, after a while, “can I get you to return the favor and model for me?”

Keigo looked over at him, surprised. “You draw too?” he asked, slowly.

“Mm. It’s one of my favorite classes,” Seiichi confirmed, easily.

Which meant that Seiichi’s remarks on Keigo’s work had not simply been a means to an end, but serious judgements of his ability that also operated as means to an end, which went beyond multi-tasking all the way to Machiavelli…

Keigo pulled him closer, and buried his face in Seiichi’s hair, laughing low and helpless. “I’m never going to have a moment’s sure peace again, am I?” he asked, at last.

“Do you want that?” Seiichi asked, raising his brows.

“Not in the least,” Keigo decided, and kissed his lover again.

End


Games for Fun

Suppose that Sanada and Atobe were roomates at Senbatsu. Now suppose that Atobe is feeling provocative after their match in ep. 140. Now suppose gratuitous sex ensues. Porn Without Plot, I-3, anime continuity

Pairing(s): Atobe/Sanada

Genichirou emerged from the shower, toweling the last water from his hair, and suppressed a sigh. His roommate was sprawled languidly, and quite typically, across his bed, smiling smugly at the ceiling and not saying a word.

Atobe could be quiet louder than anyone Genichirou had ever met.

“Good game, today,” Genichirou said, hoping to head off any of Atobe’s more histrionic gloating. Judging by the grin, Atobe knew what he was trying to do.

“It was,” he agreed, conversationally enough, though. “Too bad we couldn’t play to the end. I was looking forward to breaking that perfect form of yours.”

Genichirou snorted, stretching out on his own bed.

“Don’t think I could?” Atobe asked, lazily. “You’re too used to winning, Sanada.”

Genichirou cast a disbelieving glance at the next bed. “I’m too used to winning?” he echoed, and shook his head at Atobe’s smile. “You really never do change.”

“Of course not. Life would be boring if I did. Or, at least,” Atobe gave him a sidelong look, “your life would be.”

Genichirou propped himself up on his elbows, the better to stare. “I beg your pardon.”

Atobe shrugged. “It’s obvious you have to rely on other people for a sense of fun, not having any of your own.”

“And I suppose you can explain just what use that would be to me?” Genichirou challenged, exasperated.

Atobe’s suddenly speculative look was just a bit worrying.

“I could, I suppose,” Atobe said, rolling off his bed, and stepping toward Genichirou’s. “But I find demonstrations are far more effective than lectures.”

“Atobe, what are you doing?” Genichirou asked, warily.

“Demonstrating,” Atobe murmured, and leaned down and kissed him.

Startlement held Genichirou still through the rather lingering caress of Atobe’s lips against his. It was, in fact, several moments after Atobe drew back, with a gleam in his eye and a wicked smile, before Genichirou managed to get his voice working again.

“Atobe,” he choked, at last, “have you completely lost your mind?”

“No,” Atobe told him, calmly, settling on the edge of Genichirou’s bed. “It’s simply my unfortunate fate to love a good challenge. Unfortunate because I don’t get many of them. Getting you to loosen up a little, though, definitely qualifies.”

“And exactly what makes you think I’m interested in you?” Genichirou inquired, evenly. He ignored his hormones, which were taking notice of the apparently willing body now beside him, with great determination. That response was just a reflex; it didn’t count.

Atobe leaned down again, until he could murmur, deep and soft, in Genichirou’s ear. “Aren’t you? Don’t you want more of that passion you felt earlier today? Don’t you want to finish it? Don’t you want to feel skin under your hands? Don’t you want to feel fingers stroking you until can’t feel anything else?”

Genichirou closed his eyes, breath shuddering in his chest. The hot velvet glide of Keigo’s voice was more inciteful than another kiss could have been. This was still completely insane. But he was starting to find a sneaking appeal in the idea. Which, come to think of it, was a reasonably good description of Atobe in general.

Atobe’s mouth covered his again, and Atobe’s hands smoothed down his bare chest, fingertips circling gently here and there, making his skin tingle. Genichirou considered his options. He could be sensible and make Atobe stop, but his body was nearly screaming for him to just take what was offered. And, to be honest, he was just as frustrated by their aborted game as Keigo sounded. This was certainly one way to solve that. He sucked in a hard breath as Keigo’s palm brushed low across his stomach, just above the loose waist of his pants.

“You spend a lot of time listening to what your body tells you,” Keigo said, between kisses. “Don’t stop now.”

“Do you always have to get your own way?” Genichirou gasped, letting himself fall back against the cool sheets.

“Not always, but it is a nice feeling,” Atobe told him, pausing to get rid of his shirt before sliding down to join him. “You should try it some time, Genichirou,” he whispered.

“Oh?” Genichirou murmured, pulling Atobe’s weight on top of him.

“Mm,” Atobe agreed, smiling against Genichirou’s throat, and then sucking softly on his pulse. “Let me show you.”

Genichirou couldn’t help a laugh, though it was a bit breathless. “Always the same,” he repeated. “So show me, then.”

Keigo’s hands were slow, soothing, massaging his shoulders, his stomach, loosening the muscles that wanted to tense, smoothing Genichirou’s response to the touch on his skin from something sharp to something warm and relaxed. When Atobe’s teeth bit, softly, at his neck, at the soft skin below his ribs, and then, as Atobe slid cloth out of his way, inside his thigh, Genichirou only sighed. The sharpness made the warmth brighter. Atobe slid back up his body, and now they were completely bare to each other. Keigo’s tongue lingered over a nipple, and his hand slipped between Genichirou’s legs, fondling, coaxing; Genichirou moaned, softly, hands finding Keigo’s back and pressing him closer.

When Atobe’s fingers sought further back, though, he stiffened.

“Atobe.”

Atobe lifted his head, brows raised. “You didn’t strike me as the nervous sort. Surely this isn’t your first time?”

Genichirou narrowed his eyes. “Either way, what, exactly, makes you think I’m interested in yielding that way to you?”

Atobe’s brows climbed still higher, and he snorted. “Traditionalists. You’ll be the death of me. What,” he leaned over Genichirou and twined fingers through his hair, “makes you think I want you to yield?”

Genichirou blinked at him.

“This isn’t a game of winners and losers, you know. Who have you been going to bed with?” Atobe kissed him, somehow both languorous and impatient. “If it’s played right, everyone wins.”

Genichirou pushed Atobe back a little, so he could see his eyes. They were bright and open and sharp, the way he had only ever seen them when Keigo was in the middle of an all out game. There was no question of his sincerity, and Atobe apparently detected the softening of Genichirou’s rejection because he smiled, slow and wicked, and closed the distance between them until his lips brushed Genichirou’s ear.

“Let me touch you,” he coaxed, voice low and husky. “Just touch you. Let me stroke you inside. Let me taste your pleasure when your entire body tightens and climbs and burns. Let me touch you, Genichirou.”

Genichirou bit back a groan. There should be a legal limit on how many times Atobe was allowed to use that tone of voice in one night. “Remind me what the point of this exercise was,” he said, just a bit strained.

Atobe propped himself up on one elbow. “To demonstrate the value of a sense of fun,” he recited promptly. “Are you having fun yet, Genichirou?”

The quicksilver change of mood broke Genichirou’s tension, and he found himself laughing. He pulled Keigo down, and kissed him, hard.

“You’re the most infuriating person I think I’ve ever known, Keigo, not excluding Akaya,” he murmured against Atobe’s lips.

“Thank you,” Keigo smirked.

Genichirou sighed. “All right,” he agreed, at last. “On one condition.”

Atobe looked inquiring, and then arched a little as Genichirou ran a hand down his back and over his rear.

“That you let me return the favor at some point,” Genichirou said, hearing his own voice deepen almost to a growl.

Teeth gleamed in Keigo’s smile. “It’s a deal,” he purred back. He held Genichirou’s gaze while he sucked two fingers into his mouth and slowly drew them back out. Genichirou parted his legs to let Atobe settle between them, looking back with as much cool challenge as he could assume at the moment.

Genichirou couldn’t hold back a harsh sound as Atobe’s mouth closed, swiftly, over him, soft and wet and teasing. He twisted against Atobe’s weight over his hips as Keigo’s tongue swept over and around the head of him, almost too gentle, too warm. This pleasure was a maddening thing, enveloping him but impossible to grasp. This time, when Keigo’s fingers pressed against him, he welcomed the touch, firm enough to keep him from being driven absolutely wild. Keigo’s fingertips circled, nudging inward, a quiet insistence in counterpoint to the way his tongue flirted with Genichirou. When the fingers slid inside, the touch of Atobe’s mouth changed. He sucked, gently at first, but harder as his fingers thrust deeper, hot, sharp pleasure drawing Genichirou taut.

When those fingers curled, Genichirou cried out, the spike of sensation taking him by surprise. Keigo’s fingers stroked him, hard, relentless, sweeping him up in a rush of fire that denied any possibility of pausing or holding back. The sheet tangled in Genichirou’s fingers as he clutched at it, and he spread his legs wider, almost without meaning to, arching up into the hot pressure of Atobe’s mouth, the soft rasp of his tongue.

It was the pleased sound that Atobe made, a sliding murmur that hummed around Genichirou, that finally broke him. An electric tingle shot through the heat, drove up his spine, seized him and thrust him over the edge. A long moan wrung from his throat as fire clenched down on him again and again and again. When it finally subsided, he drew in a long breath and opened eyes he hadn’t realized were closed.

Keigo stretched, and laid himself over Genichirou’s body again. He propped an elbow at either side of Genichirou’s head and looked down at him with insufferable smugness.

“That isn’t a particularly endearing expression, Atobe,” Genichirou pointed out, dryly.

“You only say that because you’re lamentably ignorant of my better qualities,” Atobe told him, and then paused and looked judicious. “Less ignorant now, of course.”

Genichirou closed his eyes again and reminded himself, strenuously, that he had known for a long time that Keigo lived to get a rise out of people.

Speaking of rises, however… His mouth quirked and he ran his hands down Atobe’s body to his hips, lifting them until Keigo was braced above him on knees and elbows. Keigo raised his brows at him, but the dark blue eyes slid half closed as Genichirou reached between them and smoothed his hand down Atobe’s cock.

“Do you like this?” Genichirou asked, mindful of courtesy, even with a partner like Atobe.

“Mmm. Very much so,” Atobe murmured. “Such powerful hands you have, Genichirou.”

Genichirou tightened his grip, and Keigo stopped talking. His sighs were every bit as expressive as most people’s words, though, and Genichirou took a good deal of satisfaction in listening to him, in watching Keigo’s eyes fall closed and his lips part, in feeling him moving over Genichirou, rocking into his hand. He combed his free fingers through Keigo’s hair, softly, enjoying the faint curve it brough to Keigo’s mouth.

He was even willing to admit, strictly to himself, that Keigo was beautiful when he threw his head up, arching his back and driving himself into Genichirou’s hold with a low cry.

Not that it made him any less infuriating.

Genichirou knew he was smiling when Atobe dropped back down against him, limp and panting. He was still smiling, not quite able to stifle it, when Atobe slowly regathered himself and raised his head to look at him. Atobe snorted.

“As if you have any room to talk,” he muttered, letting his head fall back to Genichirou’s shoulder.

Genichirou stroked a hand down his back. “At least I have the manners to apologize if it annoys my partner,” he pointed out.

“Manners, is it?” Keigo said, somewhat muffled. And then he propped himself back up and gave Genichirou a lingering kiss. “Thank you, then. You were very gentle; I enjoyed it a great deal.”

Genichirou looked up at him, stunned. Atobe smiled, and hauled himself off the bed to saunter toward the closet where the extra towels were stacked. It took a few seconds for Genichirou to realize that Atobe had, very effectively, gotten the last word.

He rolled over and stifled a resigned sigh in his pillow, and reminded himself to look on the bright side. Only another handful of days, and he wouldn’t have to deal with Atobe anymore. Even though they were both going to be on the final team, singles players could get away with ignoring each other. Just another couple days, and he’d be fine.

End


Favors Returned

Companion piece to “Games for Fun”. Set after the US-Japan Senbatsu matches. Yet more gratuitous sex. Porn Without Plot, I-3, anime continuity

Pairing(s): Sanada/Atobe

The end of the matches against the US team left everyone just a bit euphoric, and, in some cases, downright giddy. Keigo had expected that. And, having taken the measure of the players involved, he had known that the showers were likely to be the site of considerable horseplay. Judging by the sound of Echizen not-quite-yelling at Kikumaru, he had been right on target. He congratulated himself on having the foresight to hold off on cleaning up until the others were done.

The fact that Sanada had apparently reached the same conclusions simply proved that fate was smiling on Keigo, as it generally did. Keigo eyed Sanada’s back and smiled with appreciation as Sanada tipped his head back and the spray sleeked down his hair and emphasized the sharp planes of his face.

“Sanada.”

“Hm?” Sanada cast a look over his shoulder, brow raised.

“I recall you saying something, a while back, about returning the favor.” Keigo stretched under the water. “This is a good occasion, wouldn’t you say?”

Sanada turned all the way around and regarded Keigo, head tilted to one side. “Just for my curiosity, what did you do after your match with Tezuka?” he asked, mildly.

Keigo laughed. He did like the sharpness of Sanada’s mind; it made him entertaining, if one could edge around all the dour seriousness to reach the slight streak of playfulness underneath.

“I nearly climbed the walls, actually,” he replied, easily. “It was the first time I’d had a match like that. It’s probably just as well,” he added in a thoughtful tone, “that Tezuka and I live as far apart as we do.”

The implication did not make Sanada blush; that was probably too much to hope for. His eyes did widen just a touch, though, which was almost as good, considering. Keigo’s lips curled, pleased. He was absolutely delighted, however, when Sanada’s eyes narrowed again and gleamed just a bit, and he paced toward Keigo. That hadn’t taken nearly as much provocation as Keigo had expected. He sighed as Sanada’s hands settled on his hips, warm from the heat of the water. He stepped into Sanada’s body and drew a deep, satisfied breath as Genichirou’s hands smoothed up his back.

“I hope that doesn’t mean you object to bringing someone home with you,” Sanada said, softly.

Keigo raised his brows, leaning back a tad to see Sanada’s face. There was a slight smile on it.

“I will admit to a certain temptation, when you’re determined to be annoying, to press you up against the nearest wall just to shut you up,” Sanada told him, quite calmly. “But if we’re speaking of favors, I had something slower in mind.”

Keigo bared his teeth. “As if you could handle me.” He leaned closer, raked his teeth very lightly over Sanada’s earlobe. “Slower, hm? Planning to tease me?” He lowered his voice. “Do you think you can make me beg, Genichirou?”

“No,” Sanada replied, clear and simple.

Keigo blinked, and drew back again to examine him more closely.

“I take care with my partners,” Sanada told him, hands firm and still on Keigo’s back. “It’s no more than a fair return.”

Keigo took a moment to process the fact that Sanada, apparently, did not seek or expect submission from someone he made love to. Considering the mild uproar when it had been the other way around, that was rather unexpected. Keigo shelved a growing suspicion for later thought.

“I’ve had guests before,” was all he said.

“Good.” Sanada had that slight smile again. “Then let me help you finish, here, and we can be going.”

Keigo leaned against Sanada’s body as Sanada’s hands, now slick with soap as well as warm, kneaded down his back. This promised to be… very pleasant. He sighed as a hand slid between his cheeks, moaned softly as Genichirou spread him open and water ran, hot and soothing, over him. When Genichirou’s hand closed around Keigo’s erection and stroked, Keigo kissed him, hard, to muffle his own voice against Sanada’s mouth.

Sanada coaxed him over the edge quickly, and as Keigo rested against him for a moment, panting, he had to wonder just how long Genichirou did plan to draw things out, if he was troubling to take the edge off, now.

“Shall we?” Sanada asked, lips brushing Keigo’s ear.

“I think we shall, yes,” Keigo murmured.


Keigo smiled when Sanada’s arms wrapped around him as soon as he closed the bedroom door, and leaned back into the embrace. He had been a little surprised that Sanada had kept in contact with him pretty much the entire way home: a thumb brushing the inside of his wrist, a palm sliding up his thigh, a finger tracing the lines of his palm. Not that it had been a problem in the back of a chauffeured car, just a little startling from someone who was normally so undemonstrative and contained.

He was starting to doubt Sanada’s assertion that he didn’t intend to tease.

Keigo made an appreciative sound as Genichirou’s lips traced down the side of his neck, and gasped as long fingers rubbed, gently, down his hardening length. So very gentle… He closed his eyes and dropped his head back against Sanada’s shoulder.

“Genichirou…”

“Hm?”

Keigo opened his eyes and looked at the ceiling. “What do you want?”

The lips against his neck quirked. “I would have thought that was reasonably obvious, by now.”

Keigo turned in Sanada’s hold, and wound his fingers through thick, black hair so that he could draw Genichirou’s gaze up to meet his. “Why are you taking this much care?” he demanded. “We’re not exactly friends, we’re only temporarily teammates, and this is more care than pleasure requires. Why are you doing this?”

“Perhaps I want to see what you’re like when you’re disconcerted,” Sanada told him.

Keigo examined him narrowly. It rang true enough, but it wasn’t the whole truth. “And?” he prodded.

“Your ego doesn’t need to hear the rest of it,” Sanada said, firmly.

Keigo didn’t bother to hold back a smirk. He very much doubted he had actually captured Genichirou’s permanent interest, but it was still good to know Genichirou hadn’t escaped entirely. It would do to go on with.

With that in mind, he drew away and started undoing his clothes, precisely, with just a bit of flourish because he couldn’t quite resist. The faint, unwilling, curl at the corners of Genichirou’s mouth egged him on. Keigo tossed the last of his clothing over his reading chair and lay down on the bed, stretching provocatively. He watched Genichirou from under his lashes. Interesting. It wasn’t just Keigo’s body, apparently. Genichirou reacted like any normal person to seeing a body like Keigo’s naked and inviting his touch, but there was still a certain detached amusement in his face as he followed suit and folded his clothes over the back of the chair and approached the bed.

Sanada ran a hand down Keigo’s side, and Keigo decided analysis could wait.

He didn’t try to restrain his sighs and murmurs as Genichirou stroked him, following the lines of his body with open hands. He’d never taken anyone to bed who hadn’t been encouraged by that responsiveness, and Sanada didn’t look like an exception. In fact, his expression caught Keigo’s attention, as he arched up into Genichirou’s body, purring at the fingertips circling against his lower back. The amusement was still there, but the detachment was gone. So, Genichirou liked watching Keigo’s pleasure? Well, Keigo could relate; he had enjoyed watching Genichirou, too. And the results were… delectable.

He relaxed into Genichirou’s hands, savoring the slow touch, sometimes firm enough to soothe taut, tired muscles, and then light enough to entice tight-strung nerves. Keigo moaned, softly, when Sanada’s mouth tracked down the inside of his thigh, licking and then biting, gently. He spread his legs wider as Genichirou’s lips brushed over his erection, but those large hands massaged his hips and thighs lax again.

Keigo enjoyed the slow pace a great deal. It was rare, in his experience, to find someone willing to take the time pleasure deserved, willing to build it gradually, and the corner of his mind still thinking was impressed with Sanada’s patience. But there did come a point where even his hedonism drew the line, and finally he pulled Genichirou down against him, shivering a little at the sleek weight.

“I think,” he said, pulling a leg up to twine around Genichirou’s, “that you would feel very good inside me. Now.”

A chuckle rumbled through the chest pressed to his. “You know, I think I see, now, why you didn’t think that you were asking me to yield,” Sanada remarked, trailing his fingers down the side of Keigo’s neck and then combing them through his hair.

“I’m happy for your enlightenment,” Keigo gasped. “But if you don’t hurry up you’re not going to live long enough to appreciate it, do you understand me, Genichirou?”

Genichirou looked down at him with a tilted smile. “Yes, for once I believe I do understand you, Keigo.”

“Good.” Keigo declared. He fished in the headboard, and waved a small bottle at Genichirou before dropping it beside them.

Genichirou rested his forehead against Keigo’s shoulder and laughed out loud. “So direct about these things,” he said, when he recovered.

“As if you’re not,” Keigo snorted, and then had to bite back a startled breath as Genichirou rolled both of them over pulling Keigo over him. Keigo murmured approval when Genichirou’s hands stroked down his legs, parting them. His attention sharpened when he caught a heavy, sensual anticipation in the normally hard eyes watching him. It was all the warning he needed, and he moaned low in his throat as Genichirou’s fingers pressed against him, seeking entrance. “Don’t hold back on me now, Genichirou,” he whispered.

“With you? I know better,” Genichirou told him.

Keigo’s breath broke into short gasps as Sanada drove two fingers, slowly, into him. He arched his back, pressing into that hard stretch and felt Genichirou’s other hand run up to his neck and tangle in his hair, clenching into a fist before he let go. Keigo looked down at him, seeing the dark eyes turned hot and the stern lips parted. He smiled, slow and pleased.

“Like what you see, Genichirou?” he asked.

“Hmmm.” Genichirou drew his fingers back and thrust down again, smiling in turn at Keigo’s groan. “Like what you feel, Keigo?”

“More,” Keigo demanded.

Teeth showed in Sanada’s smile as his hand smoothed down Keigo’s shoulder, over his chest, thumb pausing to circle a nipple, and Keigo jerked. “Sit back, then.”

Genichirou was having far too much fun playing with Keigo’s responses.

Keigo knelt back, over Genichirou’s hips, and reached behind him, gripping, stroking, guiding Genichirou against him. Genichirou gasped, and bucked up, sharply, which was exactly what Keigo had hoped for. He bit his lip, concentrating on relaxing, and let Genichirou’s own movement drive him into Keigo. Genichirou’s hands closed, hard, over his hips.

“Keigo!”

Keigo breathed deeply against the sudden tight stretch. “If you want to take me slow, Genichirou, I don’t mind in the least. But I won’t be toyed with.”

Sanada’s eyes narrowed. After a long moment, one side of his mouth curled. “Slow it is, then,” he agreed, “without teasing.”

He rocked up to meet Keigo, who let his head fall back with a breathless sound for the hardness filling him. Genichirou’s thumbs stroked the hollows of Keigo’s hips, almost tickling, and Keigo closed his hands around Genichirou’s forearms, feeling the flex of corded muscle as Genichirou guided his hips up and then back, stretching him achingly open with each thrust. It was a slow and steady rhythm, not the advance and retreat that would have been teasing, but an easy, sustained movement and taut fullness. The heat of it flowed through Keigo like a river, a single, strong current, never stopping. Genichirou’s hand closed over Keigo’s cock in the same long, slow rhythm and Keigo had to brace his hands on Genichirou’s chest as pleasure hummed through him, sang down his nerves, hovering.

Genichirou’s gentleness held him in that tingling, drenching warmth for longer than Keigo would have thought possible.

When the end came, it was like a stumble, a trip in that sleek rhythm, and the warm, hovering pleasure turned bright and hard, closing around Keigo like the pressure of deep water, ready to drown him. He felt his muscles tense, strain, as burning sensation dragged through him over and over and over. The waves of it were as slow and deep as Genichirou’s thrusts, and for a suspended moment Keigo wondered if it would ever stop and how long he could bear for it to continue. His throat clenched around a harsh moan.

And then it was fading, and he slumped down over Genichirou, felt Genichirou let him down to the bed. After that drawn-out intensity, it felt very good when Genichirou drove into him harder, faster; it was familiar, relaxing. It shook the trembling out of his muscles. And the release and repletion in Genichirou’s face when he tensed over Keigo, made Keigo smile.

All things considered, he was also fairly impressed.

Eventually, Genichirou stirred against his shoulder. “Towels?” he murmured.

“In there.” Keigo waved a languid hand in the direction of the attached bath.

Genichirou untangled himself and strode bath-wards with, Keigo smirked, only a bit of unsteadiness. He returned with a handful of fluffy cotton, and Keigo purred a little at the touch of the soft cloth.

“You weren’t joking about taking care of your partners, were you?” he commented.

“Of course not.” Genichirou leaned beside him on an elbow, and Keigo gave him a sleepy smile. Genichirou’s mouth softened, and he brushed back Keigo’s hair. “You’re much easier to deal with when you aren’t being insufferably pretentious, you know.”

Keigo sniffed. “You have your management techniques, I have mine,” he said. “I could say as much about you, when you aren’t being uptight and unthinkingly condescending.” It would, he reflected, probably be less annoying if the condescension were deliberate.

Genichirou’s brows rose. “That’s a management technique?”

Keigo eyed him. “Extraordinary talent wishes for an extraordinary personality to focus on. You must know that. If, somehow, you’ve missed it, ask Yukimura some time.”

Sanada’s eyes shadowed, and turned distant. Keigo nodded to himself, sure now of his earlier suspicion. He laid a hand on Sanada’s chest to call him back.

“You’re his lover, aren’t you?” he asked.

Genichirou looked at him for a long moment before thumping over onto his back. “I expect I’ll regret asking,” he said to the ceiling, “but how did you know?”

Keigo chuckled. “I certainly can’t think of anyone else you would submit to so readily that you never questioned it, and yet not expect the same from in return. It shows.”

He was utterly delighted to see a faint blush cross Sanada’s cheekbones.

“Well,” he added, breezily, “I expect Yukimura will be able to break you of those terribly traditional habits of yours sooner or later. I have no doubt you’re accustomed to bending to his will, already.”

The tone of the second sentence was as laden with innuendo as Keigo could manage, and he laughed at the expression on Sanada’s face until Sanada, growling, flipped back over and kissed him quiet. Which had, after all, been much of the point.

The night was young, and it would be a terrible shame to waste a favor.

End


Demonstration

In honor of issue 250 of the manga. After that match Tezuka and Oishi have wild sex in the locker room. Porn Without Plot, I-4, manga continuity obviously

“That wasn’t necessary,” Tezuka told him.

Shuichirou tossed aside his towel and smiled over his shoulder. “Yes, it was.” As he turned back to his locker for fresh clothes, Tezuka’s hand wrapped around his wrist, not quite firmly enough to hurt.

“There were other ways it could have been done.” That cool deep voice was close behind him, now. Shuichirou shivered as he turned back to face his friend and captain.

“It was worth it.” Which was only the truth. The club had needed to know Tezuka was back as strong as ever. And, then, too, Shuichirou didn’t often get a chance to push Tezuka that hard on the court; receiving that much of his strength made for an exhilarating match.

The shadow of a smile said that Tezuka heard the double meaning. He shifted his grip on Shuichirou’s arm and tugged him closer.

“There are easier ways to get a demonstration from me. Ways that don’t involve stressing an injury right before major games,” Tezuka pointed out.

“No there aren’t,” Shuichirou contradicted with a chuckle. “You never show off.”

“Perhaps not in public,” Tezuka allowed. The way he stepped into Shuichirou and pressed him back against the wall, though, added the unspoken rider that they were in private, now. And Tezuka was, apparently, still just a little wound up from their match. That made two of them. Shuichirou closed his free hand in Tezuka’s shirt and pulled him in tighter.

Tezuka’s mouth found his, hard and demanding, and Shuichirou forgot the slight chill of the wall at his back. A hand slid down his stomach and shoved down the waist of his boxers, calluses scraping just faintly. Shuichirou made a harsh sound and his hips jerked into the touch; Tezuka’s grip on his hardening erection was as firm as his grip on Shuichirou’s arm. He wasn’t quite rough, but the urgency in his hands added an extra tingle to the heat flushing every inch of Shuichirou’s skin.

Distantly, Shuichirou wished there were a way to predict Tezuka a little better. Sometimes a hard game made him pensive and gentle. Sometimes, like today, it made him aggressive. Both were good, each in its own way, but it would be nice to know which was coming. Well, he could worry about that later.

Shuichirou yanked on Tezuka’s shirt. “Off,” he demanded. He couldn’t tell whether Tezuka’s slow smile was for Shuichirou’s answering urgency or for his obviously limited coherence. In any case, Tezuka shed his clothing with customary efficiency before leaning back into Shuichirou. Shuichirou moaned softly at the smooth resilience of Tezuka’s body againt his chest and legs contrasting with the smooth hardness of the wall behind him. Tezuka’s sleek muscles shifted under Shuichirou’s hands as they searched over Tezuka’s back and shoulders. They sighed together, swallowed into a kiss, as one of Tezuka’s hands smoothed down Shuichirou’s spine in turn. The other hand pressed between Shuichirou’s legs again, and his sigh broke into a louder moan.

“Tezuka,” he said, hoarsely, as strong fingers, stroking, spread heat through his stomach.

“Hmm?” Tezuka murmured, and bent his head to nip Shuichirou’s neck with sharp teeth.

“Ah! Tezuka…” Shuichirou leaned his head back against the wall, panting now. “You took me slow once already today. Hurry up.”

Tezuka laughed low in his throat at this interpretation of their match. “If you like. Turn around, then.”

Shuichirou turned, bracing his arms against the wall and resting his forehead on them while the sounds of brief rummaging came from behind him. Then Tezuka’s warmth was at his back, and Shuichirou found himself pressed full length against the wall. Tezuka’s hand closed around him again, slick this time, sliding fast and tight, even as long fingers pressed against Shuichirou’s entrance. Shuichirou gasped and his entire body bucked at the insistent sensations. Tezuka was certainly taking him at his word, he decided, slightly dazed.

Tezuka’s fingers drove into him, and Shuichirou shuddered, slumping into the wall as his body opened, clenched, relaxed again. Tezuka’s fingers worked him roughly until Shuichirou was straining against the warm press of Tezuka’s body, legs spread wide, almost clawing at the cool plaster in front of him, gasping for breath between the flickers of electric heat snapping down his nerves.

When Tezuka took his fingers away and replaced them with his cock in a long, hard thrust, the sound he made was as harsh and breathless as the sound Shuichirou made. Shuichirou smiled, teeth bared for a moment. Whether it was on the court or off, he took a certain satisfaction in making Tezuka pant and sweat. Then Tezuka thrust again and Shuichirou lost the thought on a long moan at the stretch and burn and force of it.

“Good?” Tezuka gasped, sounding as though he was speaking through his teeth.

“Yeah.” Shuichirou pulled in another breath. He almost never said things like this to Tezuka, but today it seemed appropriate. “Tezuka. Fuck me hard. Fuck me as hard as you play me.”

A deep, wordless sound answered him. Both Tezuka’s arms were around him, now, holding him, and it was a good thing as Tezuka drew his thumb over the head of Shuichirou’s erection and thrust in again. He drove Shuichirou hard up against the wall each time, drove fire up his spine higher and higher, and it didn’t take long at all before Tezuka’s powerful strokes unraveled him, just like they did on the court. Shuichirou jerked against Tezuka’s hands, almost thrashing as orgasm snatched away the tension of his muscles in a burst of heat and sharp, drenching pleasure.

Shuichirou leaned, laxly, against the support of Tezuka’s arms, grinning at Tezuka’s choked off moan as he thrust against the lingering clench of Shuichirou’s body. He was relaxing again when Tezuka followed him, rhythm breaking short, and they both finally stilled. Tezuka’s arms settled around Shuichirou more loosely, and his breath brushed the back of Shuichirou’s neck as they rested against the wall for a few moments.

“Thank you,” Tezuka murmured, at last.

“Definitely my pleasure,” Shuichirou told him, laughing a little.

Tezuka’s mouth pressed to Shuichirou’s bare shoulder. “For both.”

Shuichirou turned around, muscles twinging and complaining a little. He sighed, pleased, as Tezuka’s hands dropped to his thighs and rear, massaging the complaints away. “You know you don’t have to thank me for either.”

Tezuka looked down at him, bittersweet brown eyes lightened with calm. “Yes. I do.”

They smiled, quietly, at each other.

End


Wild

Pet Shop of Horrors crossover. While visiting the US, some of the tennis boys come across an unusual pet shop. This evolves, as such things do, into some strange situations for a few of them. Drama, I-2, Future PoT anime continuity, middling PSoH manga continuity

Ryouma strolled down the narrow street, trying not very hard to more or less keep an eye on most of his teammates. It helped that he’d expected for, weeks, to be doing this. He’d been roped into playing tour guide the last time it was the US’s turn to host the Kantou vs. West Coast competition, too, so he’d been ready for it this time and only put up a token protest.

“Hey, Echizen!” Momo’s hand emerged from the crowd and snagged Ryouma’s arm, dragging him in front of a window display. “What are all these?”

“How should I know?”

…though he did spare a few moments to wish that the regular teams of the chosen players hadn’t all managed to come watch. He might have gotten out of this altogether, if they hadn’t. The only player from his temporary team who was along today, and not one of Seigaku, was Yukimura-san. Everyone else had split up like a handful of same-pole magnets as soon as the closing ceremonies were done. Tachibana-san was with his own team today; Sanada seemed to be hiding out in his hotel room; and Ryouma hadn’t asked where Atobe was going. He did wonder why they all seemed so eager to get some distance again. After all, it wasn’t like the coaches had done anything really cruel with the lineup this year.

Well, not to them, anyway. Pairing Tachibana-san and Yukimura-san for Doubles One had turned out to be pretty cruel to the other team. Ryouma didn’t think he’d ever seen a match played so… fiercely.

“This is a busy part of the city, isn’t it?” Fuji-senpai asked, appearing beside him. “And such a varied crowd! Did you ever come here to watch the people?”

“No.”

Then again, he’d probably have been stuck anyway, Ryouma decided, watching Fuji-senpai slip through the clumps of people. If nothing else, Fuji-senpai would have latched onto him for a good audience to act all nonchalant in front of. Ryouma had been fairly impressed that Sanada managed to keep Fuji-senpai serious all through their match, but he’d known it wouldn’t be permanent. Fuji-senpai liked to play around too much. On the bright side, at least Inui-senpai had carried Kaidou off to the Natural History Museum to look at bones, and Kikumaru-senpai had been dragged away by Mukahi and Oshitari-san.

He hadn’t asked where they were headed, either.

Ryouma leaned against a shady bit of wall, hands tucked in his pockets, and relaxed while his teammates darted back and forth across the street, dragging this person or that to be shown the newest interesting shop. Having repelled the latest attempt at this, Tezuka-san leaned beside him.

“Good choice of location,” he commented.

Ryouma grinned at his captain. “I thought so.”

If anyplace could hold the interest of his senpai when they were determined to play tourist, he’d figured Chinatown would be it. Something was always happening.

“Risi, not that door!” a faint voice exclaimed. A few doors down, a bright bird with a long tail flitted into open air and nearly crashed into Yukimura-san. A quick snatch captured it, and he held it gently while it cheeped in protest.

“Hush, now,” Yukimura-san told it, petting the small head with a fingertip. “I don’t think the owner would like it if I aid and abet your escape.” The bird eyed him for a long moment before it settled down in his hands with a coo and a ruffle of feathers.

“Well, at least she didn’t go far.” A young man in formal clothes emerged from the shop doors. “Although,” he added, in Japanese, tipping his head, “I can’t say I’m surprised she likes you.”

“Really?” Yukimura-san’s eyes narrowed a little, and his smile sharpened.

Ryouma wondered for a second whether they knew each other or something. Yukimura-san was usually impenetrably charming with strangers. He drifted toward them. Actually, everyone was gathering back around them.

“What a beautiful bird,” Oishi-senpai said, softly.

The man smiled. “She’s a very rare breed; the shop specializes in exotic pets. Would you care to come in and look?” He ushered them all inside, and accepted the bird back from Yukimura-san. “Now, are you going to behave?” he asked it. The bird cheeped and bobbed a few times, and he nodded. “Good.” He set it on an open perch, where it settled down and started to preen its trailing tail feathers.

“Is it a songbird?” Fuji-senpai asked, coming to stand beside him.

“Oh, yes,” the man answered, low voiced. “She sings at dawn.” His smile looked very strange for a moment, and Fuji-senpai gave him a sidelong glance.

Ryouma observed that, while most everyone else was fanning out to make impressed noises over the animals, Fuji-senpai seemed more entertained by the proprietor.

“Dottybacks!” Oishi-senpai exclaimed from the cluster of aquariums one corner. “And is that one… a Cypho?” he looked over his shoulder at their host, wide-eyed. “How do you keep this many of them alive when they can see each other?”

The owner perked up. “Ah, you’re familiar with the breed, then?”

“I would love to put together a coral tank, and maybe even keep a breeding pair of these.” Oishi-senpai touched a finger to the corner of the tank, looking longingly at the tiny fish.

“Wow,” Momo whispered, peering into the tanks, “look at those colors.”

“But they’re so aggressive,” Oishi continued. “They’d take a lot of attention to make sure the young didn’t all kill each other off. Not to mention they’re worse escape artists than that bird.” He made a deprecating face, and turned away from the tanks with a last, lingering look.

“Most fish owners simply take a certain percentage of loss for granted,” the owner said in a very neutral voice.

“That’s irresponsible,” Oishi-senpai frowned. “Of course they can’t be controlled completely, they’re living animals after all. But when we take them out of the wild, we have a duty to do our best for them.”

The owner gave him a long, measuring look and smiled slowly. He reached for pen and paper, and wrote something out quickly and neatly. “This is our address. If you think you might be interested in some of our animals, there are a few trans-Pacific shippers that I trust. Just let me know.”

Oishi-senpai glanced around at the shop full of cheeping, growling, gurgling animals, at the sheet of paper and back at the owner, looking a bit dazed. “Thank you. I’ll keep it in mind.”

“You do seem to have a talent for keeping the peace between your tenants,” Yukimura-san noted, looking down at a racoon sprawled asleep on top of a small bear, “Mr…”

“D,” the owner supplied.

“Of course.” Yukimura-san smiled. “This place has a very relaxing atmosphere.” He turned. “Don’t you think so, Tezuka?”

Tezuka-san was not, naturally, oo-ing and ah-ing. He was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed and his eyes closed. “Very,” he agreed, without looking up.

Ryouma blinked. Tezuka-san did actually sound relaxed. Fuji-senpai stopped beside their captain and asked something, softly. Tezuka-san leaned his head back against the wall and shrugged one shoulder. Fuji-senpai abruptly left off his curious examination of D and focused on Tezuka-san. Yukimura-san was looking very amused for some reason.

“The incense helps with that,” D answered, drawing Yukimura-san’s eyes back to him. “I blend it myself. That way I can always send a packet with the more sensitive animals, to give them something familiar while they settle into a new place.”

Ryouma was really starting to wonder if he was missing something, because Yukimura-san was looking at D with wide eyes. “Send it with them?” he repeated, still staring.

“Oh, yes. It’s very helpful.” D smiled, and for one second it was sharp as a knife. And then he was looking cheerful again.

Yukimura-san gave him a tilted return smile, and his eyes glinted. “Indeed.”

“So, who’s up for dinner?” Ryouma put in. He figured hunger was probably making him lightheaded. The conversation would surely make more sense after he’d eaten.

A chorus of agreement answered him, Momo loudest of course. D recommended a restaurant down the street and waved them goodbye at his doors.

“Do feel free to stop in again, if you’d like,” he called. “Any time.”


D closed the doors after his visitors. “Well! That was something you don’t see every day.” He turned toward the back. “T-chan, you can come out now.”

Tetsu shouldered through one of the curtains, grumbling. “Why couldn’t I be out here?! What if one of them had gone nuts? Worse, what if one of them decided he liked you?”

D smiled indulgently at Tetsu’s ferocious glare. “They were both wild, T-chan. Neither of them was likely to stay here.”

“Yeah?” Tetsu bristled. “That tiger sure looked like he was thinking about it.”

“Actually,” D sighed, “I hope he comes again before he goes home. For his own sake.”

Tetsu snorted, cynically. “And because you want to grill him about how he’s managing to pass.”

D chuckled. “All right, that too.”


Kunimitsu walked down streets without really looking where he was going. He knew quite well that it was dangerous to wander a strange city alone, at night, but right now he was too agitated to care. In fact, for the first time in a very long time, he was almost hoping for the appearance of some lowlife who would give him an excuse to set aside his self control.

He scolded himself for the thought, but his heart wasn’t in it.

Today had been more stressful than usual, and Yukimura’s sense of humor hadn’t helped. Who would have thought that they’d find someone who recognized them while out playing tourist? He’d spent the remainder of the day torn between the relief of knowing there was someone he might talk to, if he chose, who would understand, and the reflex terror that someone knew what he was.

A familiar sign caught his eye, and he stopped short on the sidewalk. Count D’s Pet Shop. Kunimitsu snorted, silently. It seemed his instincts had had a destination in mind after all. Now, if he could just decide whether that was a good thing or not.


About to lock the doors, a faint sound caught D’s ear. A chopped off rustle, very much like someone standing outside the doors and wondering whether he should approach or not. D smiled, and if there was as much darkness as sympathy in the expression, well, his visitor couldn’t see him yet.

“Welcome to Count D’s Pet Shop,” he said, more softly than he would have for a human. “Please, come in.” He opened the doors to meet the very level gaze of the young man outside, and his smile turned more cheery. “Would you care for some tea?”

Tezuka-kun’s mouth tightened. “Thank you.” He didn’t sound grateful at all, but he did stalk inside. D stifled a grin, and closed the doors behind him before making a comforting and domestic fuss with the tea set.

“So,” he said, as they sipped, “if I gathered correctly, you and the other young men here this afternoon play tennis?”

Tezuka-kun nodded, gazing into his tea.

“A useful outlet for competitiveness,” D mused.

Tezuka-kun gave him a mildly exasperated look. D decided that one of his friends must have a habit of speaking obliquely, too. Very well, then, he would be a bit more direct.

“It must be very stressful, living in a city, among such crowds, when your instincts call for space,” he suggested.

“There are adjustments that have to be made,” his guest agreed, sitting back. D nodded. The scent of the shop was starting to relax Tezuka-kun again.

“Adjustment, adaptation,” D nibbled a cookie. “They’re the true wonders of the natural world. That which adapts lives. And animals are capable of the most amazing feats, really. Changing from rural to urban habitats; from being carnivores to being omnivores.” He looked back up into the opaque brown eyes across the table. “From a range that consists of land to one that consists of people.”

Tezuka-kun’s eyes narrowed, and topaz flashed in them for a breath. Another observer might have thought it was only the lamplight.

“Yes, I thought that might be it.” D sipped his tea. “Those others who were with you, they are your team?”

“Yes,” Tezuka-kun said, and an edge of vibrato had entered the deep voice. He was tense again, coiled to move.

“I make no claim on them,” D assured him, softly.

Tezuka-kun took a deep breath and sat back again, passing a hand over his forehead. “My apologies,” he said, at last. D waved this off.

“It’s only in your nature. Actually,” his mouth quirked, remembering, “I was surprised that you and Yukimura-kun dealt so peacefully with each other, seeing that he was in the middle of your territory.”

A shrug answered him. “He has his territory, and I have mine; we don’t interfere with each other that way.” Tezuka-kun’s mouth twisted. “This week of being on the same team hasn’t been especially easy,” he admitted.

D was fascinated. “And it’s all subsumed into this game. Territory and challenge, and all. Truly an amazing adaptation.”

Tezuka-kun looked away, abruptly. “Maybe.”

“Is there a problem?” D asked quietly, not pressing.

Tezuka-kun was silent for a long moment. “In school, there are times I can’t properly mark or defend my territory. And after this year I will have to find another. As you said—stressful.”

D considered this. No wonder Tezuka-kun was tense. His kind were not terribly social animals, and while he could ameliorate that a little by considering some humans his territory, humans didn’t hold still the way landscape did. Stressful, indeed. Still, he thought Tezuka-kun might be overestimating his trouble; not uncommon in the young of any species.

“Surely your territory won’t be entirely broken, even if you part ways somewhat,” D pointed out. “That nice young man, Oishi-kun will never abandon you, I’m certain. And the quiet young man who smiled so much. Not to mention,” D’s mouth quirked, “the one who was rolling his eyes at everyone else.”

That made Tezuka-kun look thoughtful. “Oishi and Fuji I might be able to keep, I suppose,” he said at last. “Echizen, though, is almost ready to go looking for his own territory. I wouldn’t do either of us any favors by trying to stop him.”

D raised his brows. Interesting. It sounded as though Tezuka-kun regarded Echizen less as part of his territory and more as one of his own kind. Well, that had no bearing on the situation right now. “You should relax for a while, Tezuka-kun.”

The look he got this time was completely exasperated. “In the middle of a city? Where?”

“I’ll show you.” D rose, and beckoned his guest through the door to the back.

A corner of Tezuka-kun’s mouth twitched as they walked down the long halls, but he didn’t bother asking how it was possible. His eyes did widen a bit when D finally opened a door and they stepped through into a cool, rustling forest. D set down the censer he had picked up, and settled on a patch of grass next to it. D saw Tezuka-kun take a deep, deep breath of the breeze, and laughed gently as longing crossed his face. “Run and hunt here as long as you like,” he said. “I’ll stay with you; follow my scent to come back to the door, here, when you’re ready.” He had to take his own breath in at the burning, wild desire in Tezuka-kun’s eyes when they met his. Brown lightened to topaz, and Tezuka-kun turned toward the trees, and in a few steps he was bounding on four velvet paws.

D smiled as the jagged stripes in Tezuka-kun’s fur blended into the forest. He had rarely been thanked so… thoroughly. He leaned back and inhaled deeply again, waiting for the scent of blood on the breeze.


Ryouma stalked down the streets that he hadn’t necessarily shown his senpai during the day. He’d been restless after they all got back to the hotel. Not the only one, either. Tezuka-san and Fuji-senpai had both gone out, too. A day like this one should have left them all tired enough to sleep, but it looked like not. Ryouma felt a little wound up, actually. Not dissatisfied with the recent games, but as if he was ready for another right now. He’d considered prodding one of the others into a match in the hotel ballroom, but when he’d mentioned the idea he’d gotten a vehement veto from Oishi-senpai. So, walking it was. He didn’t pay too much attention to where he was going, besides making sure to follow lit and crowded streets.

He didn’t notice Fuji-senpai until they nearly ran into each other.

“Echizen,” Fuji-senpai smiled. “Revisiting today’s sights?”

Ryouma blinked at him, and then at their surroundings. A familiar sign caught his eye. Count D’s Pet Shop. Of all the places to wind up.

“Not really,” he answered. “You?”

Fuji-senpai eyed the doors. “I did wonder whether Tezuka had come back here. When I asked him if he felt all right, earlier… Well.”

Ryouma gauged Fuji-senpai’s worry by what he had almost said directly, and decided it was greater than he’d seen it since their captain injured himself. “The shop did have a nice, relaxing atmosphere,” he offered.

Although, now he thought about it, he’d been feeling whatever he was feeling ever since they’d come out of this place. Well, there was one way to find out. He tapped on the doors, and pushed them open, hearing Fuji-senpai come in behind him.

The shop was empty of any humans, though the animals all eyed them with interest. The doors in the back wall were open. Ryouma glanced up at Fuji-senpai, who was frowning faintly. Part of Ryouma’s head was pointing out that they should announce themselves, or find a bell to ring, or something, and just ask whether Tezuka-san had been in. The rest of his mind didn’t seem to be listening, and when Fuji-senpai moved toward the back doors, Ryouma followed him.

He was positive that Tezuka-san was back there.

They made their way down a long hall, which, the logical part of Ryouma’s mind pointed out, was a little peculiar, even for this part of town. Logic seemed to be fighting a losing battle, though. The hall dead-ended at yet another pair of tall doors. This was the place. Ryouma pushed them open.

The two of them stepped into a forest.

Ryouma felt only vaguely surprised, though it would occur to him later that he should have been completely freaked out. Fuji-senpai certainly seemed shocked, standing still as a stone, wide eyes darting around. Then he stiffened. Ryouma followed his gaze and saw Tezuka-san lying stretched out, uncharacteristically lax, with his head resting in D’s lap. D’s fingers carded through his hair, and Tezuka-san seemed to be asleep.

“Tezuka?” Fuji-senpai choked.

Tezuka-san stirred, and a tiger lifted his head from D’s lap to blink at them.


D raised his brows at the two intruders. Well. He certainly hadn’t expected them to follow Tezuka-kun—hadn’t expected them to be able to. Fuji was shaking his head and staring very much like someone who distrusted the evidence of his senses. Echizen…

Echizen walked forward, grass swishing against his shoes. “Buchou,” he said, with surety.

Tezuka-kun narrowed his eyes and growled, tail flicking twice. Echizen ignored this sign of displeasure as if he’d had practice, and kept coming. His eyes, now that D could see them, were very calm and a little distant, and, as he came closer, their bright brown flickered with gold. Two more steps, and another tiger paced toward Tezuka-kun.

Tezuka-kun tucked his chin down and his growl scaled up into a startled, inquiring sound. He glanced at D.

“I think you saw more truly than you were aware, Tezuka-kun,” D murmured, thoughtfully. He was ready to swear that Echizen was entirely human, but the speed of this change said that the boy had a powerful affinity for the wildness in himself.

Tezuka-kun snorted, and stalked toward Echizen, glaring. Echizen twitched his ears and stood his ground, head tipped to one side. D put a hand over his mouth to hide his smile. Echizen either didn’t really understand the language of his current shape or else liked living dangerously. The young tiger ducked Tezuka-kun’s swipe, and made to nip the raised paw. A brief tussle of fur and growling resolved with Tezuka-kun lying on Echizen’s shoulders and washing his ears vigorously. Echizen-kun sighed, and laid his chin down on his paws.

Footsteps sounded beside D, and he looked up to see Fuji staring down at him with hard eyes.

“Have we been drugged?” the young man asked, very calmly.

D sighed at this echo of his detective’s favorite accusation. Humans. “You are under the influence of something,” he answered, gesturing to the smoking censer, “but it isn’t a drug.”

“What is it?”

A corner of D’s mouth curled up. “You might think of it as reality,” he suggested.

Fuji looked from D to his two friends, and D could see reluctant understanding in his tight expression. He was actually a bit impressed with this boy’s iron refusal to give way to panic or hysteria. His mind was evidently still working, in face of what must be very strange to him, and that was rare. Possibly troublesome, too.

“Tezuka,” Fuji said, quietly, “why…” He gestured to D. Probably, D decided, asking why someone so strong willed had let another person meddle with his integrity. An honest answer, which he had little doubt Tezuka-kun would give, would reveal far too much. He really might have to do something about Fuji’s interference.

Tezuka-kun leaned his forehead against Echizen-kun’s fur for a moment and sighed before he looked up. “Because this is what I am, Fuji,” he answered, his voice equally low. “You should forget.”

Fuji gazed at him for one frozen moment before his calm broke into a glare and he stepped toward Tezuka-kun. “Forget?! Forget that you turned into a tiger? Excuse me?!” His sharp gesture of denial turned into an upsweep of wings, and he fluttered up to a branch where he assaulted everyone’s ears with some very strident commentary.

Echizen-kun rolled onto his back, under Tezuka-kun’s arm, and propped himself up on his elbows. “I’d have thought you’d be bigger, Fuji-senpai,” he commented, with an insolent grin.

“Lovely markings, though,” D cut in over a particularly piercing rejoinder. “The Eurasian variety of Lapwing is a lovely bird.” He smiled up at Fuji, who had paused to cock his head in a remarkably skeptical manner. “Their common name refers to the irregular rhythm of their flight, a great fascination to bird watchers. They’re also one of the breeds that will feign injury to lead predators away from their nests.” Fuji flipped his wings at D, clearly not mollified much.

Echizen-kun, on the other hand, was bright-eyed and looking deeply amused. “Suits you perfectly,” he prodded.

Fuji-kun spread his wings, looking ready to dive at his young friend, and Echizen-kun crouched, ears back, tail lashing. Tigers weren’t technically able to grin, but he was definitely grinning. Fuji-kun flung himself off the branch, only to pull up at the last minute, and peck Echizen-kun soundly between the ears. Echizen-kun’s claws parted Fuji-kun’s tail feathers, for his trouble, and they were off through the trees, leaping and diving at each other. D was now very impressed with Fuji-kun’s amenability to the wild when he finally acted.

Tezuka-kun put a hand over his face and laughed, silently. D laid his hands on Tezuka-kun’s shoulders, urging him to lean back against D. Tezuka-kun gave in with a sigh. “He really should forget,” he said.

“Perhaps,” D murmured. “Your Fuji has more in him than is immediately obvious.”

Tezuka-kun snorted, settling his head against D’s chest, and purred as D combed his nails through Tezuka-kun’s fur. D contemplated the evening’s events, Echizen-kun’s part in particular. The speed of his change was unusual. Normally, a little of the incense D blended merely enabled humans to see what they normally did not. It took a higher concentration for human consciousness to enter into that part of the world they regularly ignored, and higher yet for a full transformation to follow. Fuji-kun had followed that pattern, though the break in his temper seemed to release a transformation hard on the heels of the second stage. Echizen-kun, though… to move so quickly, and into the shape of Tezuka-kun’s spirit…

D smiled down at the tiger snoozing on his lap. Tezuka-kun had had a good hunt, earlier, as D had hoped. He had brought Tezuka-kun here only to relax and refresh him from the strain of living among humans, but it might turn out that there was more for him to do tonight.

Tezuka-kun woke when the other two returned. Echizen-kun flung himself down in a pleased sprawl, panting. Fuji-kun landed on his head, ignoring the resulting ear twitching. Tezuka-kun sat up, adjusting his glasses.

“We should go soon.”

Echizen-kun heaved a vast sigh, and hauled himself upright, too, crossing his legs. D held out a hand for Fuji-kun to flutter down to, and stroked one finger over his head. Fuji-kun stretched, lacing his fingers together over his head, and smiled cheerfully at Echizen-kun.

“Maybe next time,” he suggested. Echizen-kun sniffed.

“That could be a bit difficult,” Tezuka-kun pointed out, dryly.

Echizen-kun looked at him, biting his lip. “Not for you, though,” he said, slowly. “That’s what you meant, isn’t it?”

Tezuka-kun nodded, silently. Echizen-kun pursed his lips, and looked from him to D with a question in his eyes.

“There are ways for a human to take on another nature,” D told him, evenly. “They are not reversible.”

“D-san!” Tezuka-kun exclaimed, sharply, and frowned at his protege. “Echizen…”

Echizen-kun looked up at him, solemnly. “If it’s reality, like he said, why shouldn’t I want it?”

“Echizen,” Fuji remonstrated, softly, leaning to take the other boy’s shoulder, “it can’t be easy; and it must be dangerous.”

Echizen-kun made a derisive noise, ignoring Tezuka-kun’s definite nod. “Like pro tennis is easy and safe?”

“Tennis isn’t something you have to hide from everyone you know,” Tezuka-kun pointed out, approaching a glare.

“Not everyone,” Echizen-kun answered, simply.

Tezuka-kun had to swallow and take a long breath. D folded his hands in his lap, hiding his sympathy for both sides of the argument. When Tezuka-kun seemed unable to speak, though, he felt compelled to add a practical warning.

“It is unlikely you and Tezuka-kun would be able to have much contact, outside of your competitions.”

“No,” Tezuka-kun put in, at last. “We could share to an extent.” He shrugged, as D’s eyes widened. “You spoke of adaptation. My family learned to take the females’ way, when we started to take humans as mates, and share territory. Inside the family, at least.”

“Remarkable.” D felt the little bubble of joy that rose in his chest whenever he encountered some animal managing to win in spite of everything.

“I want this,” Echizen-kun said, very firmly, looking both Fuji and Tezuka-kun in the eye.

Fuji sighed, and smiled wryly. “If you’re that determined, I suppose that’s all there is to it.” He turned a sharper eye on Tezuka-kun. “And if you suggest, now, that I forget…”

Tezuka-kun ran a hand through his hair. “No, I won’t suggest it again.” His eyes softened a shade as he glanced at Echizen-kun. “The choice is yours.”

Echizen-kun gave him a bright, wicked smile. “I know.”

Tezuka-kun looked down his nose, and D chuckled. They would do well.

“Come here, then, Echizen-kun,” he directed. When Echizen stood in front of him, D drew his finger along one sharp corner of the censer, cutting it. He marked Echizen with his blood between the eyes, on his palms and over his heart, and called. A sharp twist of wind and scent swirled around the boy, and he folded up, gasping. When it left, Echizen-kun looked back at D with gold eyes and arched his whiskers in question. D held out his hand, and Echizen-kun swiped the blood off his fingers with a long, rough tongue. A second later he looked mildly revolted, and folded his arms.

“Done?” he asked.

“Done,” D smiled.

“Doesn’t feel all that different,” Echizen-kun observed.

“No, it wouldn’t I imagine,” D agreed. “You were half way there already. The result of accepting Tezuka-kun’s influence, I believe.”

Tezuka-kun blinked.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” D admitted, “but I have to wonder whether this would have happened, eventually, in any case.” Tezuka-kun and Fuji both moved closer to Echizen-kun, who relaxed a little, probably calmed by their scents. D ruffled Echizen-kun’s hair, getting a glower in return, and looked around at his three guests.

“It will be well.”


Ryouma yawned his way through the breakfast buffet, weaving among hotel guests back to the tables his teammates had secured. Tezuka-san, of course, had already efficiently filled his plate and chosen a seat. Ryouma contemplated the high proportion of meat on Tezuka-san’s plate, and then on his own, and sighed. At least his mother would probably be happy when his eating habits turned more to the Western food she prefered. Ryouma deposited his plate at the next place, glancing around to see who else was up and about, and ground to a halt.

“Echizen?” Fuji-senpai asked from behind him, setting down his own plate and laying a hand on Ryouma’s shoulder. He’d been doing that a lot, since last night; Ryouma didn’t mind, especially right now. Having Fuji-senpai’s scent so close steadied him.

“You didn’t mention that,” he muttered through his teeth to Tezuka-san.

Tezuka-san raised his brows, and followed Ryouma’s glance. “Ah. Yes. You get used to it.”

“What do you see?” Fuji-senpai asked, softly.

“Yukimura-san is a dragon,” Ryouma said, very flatly, not taking his eyes off the members of Rikkai who had just come through the door.

Fuji-senpai was silent for a long moment. “That could explain a few things,” he said, at last, in a contemplative tone. Ryouma glared at him, but couldn’t keep it up for long before his eyes were drawn back to Yukimura-san.

Who was now staring back at Ryouma.

Waving his team to an open table, Yukimura-san strolled toward theirs. Tension wound through Ryouma’s whole body, as Yukimura-san’s scent fanned over him, sharp and blue like lightning. “I see the reputation of that family for meddling is the truth,” Yukimura-san said, looking Ryouma up and down with a slight smile.

Ryouma jerked his chin up. “It was my own choice,” he snapped. He had a strong urge to claw that look off Yukimura’s face. His tension eased again as Tezuka-san’s scent folded around him. His captain had risen and stepped forward, nudging Ryouma just a bit behind him.

“Don’t push him yet, Yukimura. He’s still new to this.”

“Of course,” Yukimura-san murmured, stepping back. “I can wait.” His eyes narrowed for one moment, wild and glinting, and then he smiled at them sunnily and turned back toward his team. Ryouma took a deep breath, throttling down his own fizzing aggression, and leaned against Fuji-senpai.

“So, eventually, I get to bite his throat out, right?” he asked.

Fuji-senpai laughed, and even Tezuka-san’s shoulders twitched with what looked like suppressed amusement.

“Figuratively,” his captain specified, sternly.

“Ok, I can work with that.” Ryouma pulled out his chair and started in on his breakfast. As the comforting chatter of his team surrounded him, punctuated with Momo and Kikumaru-senpai stealing each other’s bacon, he relaxed further. He could work with this.

It was reality, after all.

End

In order to make locations and participants match up, I have hypothesized that the coast v coast competitions take place on the high school level, as well as the junior high level.


Verbalize

In which Momoshiro is inexplicably exhbitionist. Also featuring Atobe Keigo, Sex God. Genre: Smut Recollected in Tranquility. Pairing: Yes, lots. Rating: I-4. Continuity: Not particularly

Nearly limping back toward his room, praying quietly that the beds had been remade by now and there would be some nice, cool sheets for him to collapse on, Momo paused to check the bath more out of hope than any expectation there would actually be room at this time of day. Rather to his surprise, there was only one head showing over the edge. Maybe the coaches had decided to torture everyone today, and he was just one of the first back. Not about to look a gift horse in the mouth, Momo hobbled in, shedding his uniform and scrubbing off as hastily as he could. Which wasn’t very.

“Momoshiro,” the other occupant greeted him, cracking an eye.

“Am…” Momo broke off to grit his teeth as he hauled his second leg over the edge. “Amane,” he finished on a sigh, sinking into the water across from his roommate.

Amane’s brows lifted. “Hard practice?”

Momo leaned back with a groan. “I know that it’s a great chance for the Junior High level players to be able to play against the best of the High School level, and I know how rare a mixed seminar like this is, and it really is great to be able to measure up against our senpai without feeling like a pest for bothering them when they have their own training to do. I know all that. But I’ve gotta tell you, Amane, Kurobane-san could give Tezuka-san and Sanada-san a run for their money when it comes to ruthless drills, and the coach just stood there grinning.”

Amane closed his eyes again, smirking faintly.

“Yeah, yeah,” Momo said with a grin, good nature restored by hot water. “Your ex-partner ran me into the ground. Just don’t forget who won the official matches this year.”

“You’re a better analytical player than I am,” Amane shrugged. “That’s why I like doubles. So be ready for it when Bane-san and I play together again, next year.”

Momo examined his roommate, thoughtfully. He’d been meaning to ask, and it seemed like a good time. “Hey, Amane? Are you and Kurobane-san lovers?”

The water rippled as Amane started a little, and gave Momo a wide eyed look. Momo shrugged. “Just wondering. The way you sound, sometimes, when you talk about him.”

Amane tilted his head and his eyes narrowed a bit. “What about you?” he challenged.

Momo’s mouth curled up. It was always kind of fun when he could get people to play this game, especially someone who didn’t like backing down. He’d given the viper a nosebleed, once, that way. “Well, I’m with someone else now, but the first person I was with on my own team was Tezuka-san.”

The water sloshed as Amane sat bolt upright and blinked at him. “Tezuka-san?” he repeated, deep voice scaling up in disbelief.

“Yep.” Momo chuckled, reminiscently. “It was just the once. I caught him at the right time. And, um, I kind of pushed it,” he added, running a wet hand through his hair. “It was after some of the Prefectural matches, last year; it had been kind of a tense day in general, and I had lost my temper with someone from another team. Tezuka-san had to call me back, or I would have tried to pound Akutsu into paste, I really would have. When we all got back that night, I went over to apologize to Tezuka-san for acting like that. For making things harder for him, when I knew how much pressure he was under already. And he actually smiled.”

Momo gazed up at the tiled ceiling, remembering that moment. The tiny quirk of Tezuka-san’s lips, and the hint of fondness in his even voice.

“He told me if I felt guilty about it I could run punishment laps the next day. And I honestly don’t know what I was thinking, maybe Echizen’s match had wound me up more than I thought, but I asked him if that was the only punishment he ever gave, and if he couldn’t think of something more imaginative.”

A faint choke came from Amane, and Momo laughed.

“Oh, yeah. The only thing that kept me from spontaneously combusting from the embarrassment was that, for just one second, his eyes were on fire. I couldn’t breathe, looking at him. So when he covered that up and gave me The Eyebrow I came and stood right up against him and said if he wanted me he could have me. So he took me.” Momo decided to leave out the details of how hot Tezuka-san’s hands had felt, closing on his shoulders, or how much like begging it had been when Momo had looked up and whispered his captain’s name.

“It was kind of overwhelming,” he said, instead. “Tezuka-san all over. Not that he was rough, really.” Momo grinned. “In fact, since there wasn’t anything else handy to make it easier, he bent me over the side of his bed and opened me up with his tongue, first.” A glance at Amane showed a bit more flush on his cheeks than could quite be blamed on the heat of the water. Momo grinned wider, and continued, airily, “So my brain wasn’t working too well in the first place, being pretty much taken up with how incredible that felt, but when he got around to fucking me properly, I couldn’t think of anything but how deep every thrust was. And how I could feel him everywhere, with his arm around me and his cock inside me and his mouth on my neck.”

Momo traced two fingers over the curve where his neck met his shoulder, and couldn’t hold back a shiver, remembering Tezuka-san’s teeth scraping there, lightly, tongue following after, slowly, and how he’d nearly come with the shock of it when Tezuka-san finally bit down hard.

“And when it was over,” he finished, “he helped me get cleaned up, and kissed me once, very gently, and let me go.”

The bath room was silent for a long moment, until Momo broke it with a bright, “So, what about you and Kurobane-san?”

Amane sputtered for a moment before getting a grip. “Yes, we’re together,” he managed.

Momo lifted his brows, and have Amane a cool, challenging look. Was that all? Amane glared just a little. Momo decided to prod him. “What’s he like, with you?”

Amane actually stopped to think about that. “Strong,” he said at last, “gentle. He likes to be able to laugh.” A sudden smile lightened those still features. “He teases, sometimes. Touches with just his fingers until I tell him to hurry up already.”

These two made a cute couple, Momo decided. “Atobe likes to do that, too.”

Amane’s jaw dropped.

“You didn’t know?” Momo blinked, genuinely taken aback. He’d thought everyone knew. “Oh, yeah. For most of this year. He was a lot more aggressive about it than Tezuka-san, of course.”

“How…?” Amane asked, finally tempted into a question. Momo stifled a snicker.

“Well, Atobe shows up at the street-courts a lot,” he said, expansively, making ripples in the water with a toe. “And I always thought his attitude sucked, when he did. So one time I told him off about not respecting the other player. And, of course, he looked at me like I was speaking gibberish and said he respected good players.” Momo snorted, remembering. “I told him just respecting Tezuka-san didn’t count. So then he said he respected me. And then my mouth kind of got away from me again, since I was pretty surprised, and I asked if he’d respect me in the morning.”

Amane snorted, himself, and Momo scrunched down in the water a little.

“Yeah, yeah, I know. Kamio asked, later, if I had a death wish or something. Atobe really can’t resist a challenge; he’s almost as bad as Echizen, that way. The next thing I knew, we were in his bedroom, and he had me down on the bed, kissing me like there was no tomorrow. But, yeah,” Momo swerved back to the topic at hand, “he likes to tease. He has the most amazing hands, and he’ll just… stroke until I’m nearly going crazy.” Momo let his voice drop, remembering Keigo-san’s silky voice in his ear, Anything you want; tell me what you want. “Until I’m spreading my legs and telling him to fuck me so deep I can taste him.”

Momo smiled lazily, as he noticed Amane’s blush was back in force.

“The thing is,” he continued, “it isn’t a power trip, or anything. It’s just that he wants to hear it, to know that I want him. Atobe is very generous when he feels wanted.” Momo stretched, dripping water over the edge as he flexed his hands behind his head. “The first time he finished with me I couldn’t even stand. And he kisses hot enough to make you forget your own name.”

Amane finally broke, and got out of the bath. “I’ll just go ahead back to our room,” he murmured.

“Yeah, see you there,” Momo replied, pleasantly.

He didn’t break out laughing at his roommate’s obvious flusterment and even more obvious erection, until the door closed.


Momo strolled down the hall to his room, whistling, in a far better mood than he had been an hour ago. Echizen said he was getting bad habits from his boyfriend, but Momo had always liked competitions, and especially winning competitions. The fact that very few people had the basic brashness to match him at this particular game didn’t make watching the usual results any less fun.

“Amane,” he said, as he closed the door behind him, “did you want to go down a little early to dinner… errr… um, I didn’t know you were busy, I’ll just go take a walk, how’s that,” he finished, taking in a magnificently naked Kurobane-san leaning over Amane, on one of the beds, licking his way down Amane’s bare stomach. He couldn’t help noticing, also, that Amane looked very sexy with his head thrown back and his lips parted as he arched up toward his lover. Now was clearly not the moment to pause in appreciation, though. Momo made a smart about face, and had taken two steps back toward the door when Kurobane-san’s voice stopped him.

“Momoshiro. You don’t have to go.”

Momo paused, trying to decide how he should take that statement, and two strong arms wrapped around him, pulling him back against a warm, lean body.

“After all,” Kurobane-san added with a soft chuckle, “it’s mostly your fault.”

Momo cleared his throat. “Ah, well.” Anything else he might have said was lost on a gasp when Kurobane-san nipped a path down the side of Momo’s neck. His eyes fell closed. He hadn’t mentioned the part about liking teeth, had he? It was a little hard to remember at the moment. Especially when one long, capable hand moved down to cup between Momo’s legs. “Kurobane-san,” Momo breathed, and moaned when strong fingers rubbed over his growing erection.

“Bane,” Kurobane-san… Bane-san corrected. “My whole name is a pain.”

Momo could sympathize with that. He’d sympathize with anyone who had such warm hands and used them to fondle and massage him like this. Let alone someone he respected as an excellent player, both singles and doubles.

Wait, wasn’t there something missing, here?

A rustle came from behind them, and then other hands, broader than Bane-san’s slid under Momo’s shirt, lifting it up and off. Momo opened his eyes to see Amane standing in front of him, with a wicked gleam in his sharp, blue eyes.

“It is mostly your fault,” Amane reiterated, “and since you seemed to want to know, I thought showing would be more effective than telling.”

Momo burst out laughing. “Much more,” he couldn’t help but agree. The laugh slid into a groan as Amane’s thumbs circled Momo’s nipples, teasing, while Bane-san’s palm stroked against him, promising. “If I start begging now, will you skip the teasing?” he asked, a little strained.

“You don’t even have to beg,” Bane-san told him, magnanimously. His teeth raked Momo’s earlobe, lightly, drawing out a shudder as his fingers slid the last of Momo’s clothing down. Expecting Bane-san’s hand again, Momo took a few moments to process it when Amane sank to his knees.

“You forgot to ask what I’m like in bed,” Amane pointed out, hands tightening on Momo’s hips.


Keigo raised his brows, as Kurobane and Amane came out of the room Amane was sharing with Momoshiro. They looked… sated. “Shall I take it Momoshiro is out for a walk somewhere?” he asked.

“Oh, no,” Kurobane replied, dark eyes glinting with amusement over something. “He’s right inside.” He swept his partner off down the hall, taking care, Keigo noted with some curiosity, to stay between Keigo and Amane. Interesting.

Keigo tapped on the door, and entered to find Momo sprawled on his bed with a towel barely wrapped around his waist, giving the ceiling a somewhat dazed examination. “Momoshiro?” he asked.

“Keigo-san.”

Keigo weighed the combination of the pleased curl at the corners of Momo’s mouth, and the slight color across his cheekbones, and shook his head. “Someone finally one-upped you, I assume.”

“Kind of,” Momo admitted, breaking into a grin. “Amane and I called it a draw.”

Keigo tossed back his head and laughed. Yes, that was his lover, all right. He slid onto the bed, nudging Momoshiro over with a hip. “So?” he asked, threading his fingers through still-damp black hair. “I trust they were worth it?”

“Mmm.” Momo’s smile softened. “You’d like Amane’s mouth. Hot and soft and strong, and he obviously likes to use it. Never mind cherry stems, he almost tied me in a knot with his tongue. Good thing Bane-san was there to hold me up, when Amane was done with me. Bane-san was the one who figured out I like teeth, though.”

Indeed, Momo’s nipples looked a little redder than usual, and Keigo ran his thumb over a bite mark on Momo’s shoulder. Momoshiro made a soft sound and shivered, and Keigo smoothed a soothing hand over his skin. He could just imagine Momo’s muscles standing out hard as he surged up against a rough mouth on his chest, and strong hands holding him to the bed; he’d felt Momoshiro’s body strain under his often enough, when Keigo did something like that, after all.

“He was careful,” Momoshiro added. “It’s strange. He’s so solid, so there, but it felt so light when he touched me. Even when he was lying over me with his arms wound around me and his mouth on my throat. Light, even when his cock was sliding in and out of my ass, and he was lifting me up so he could drive in deeper. Amane was right; Bane-san is strong, but he feels like laughing.”

“Very poetic.” Keigo smiled down as Momoshiro turned on his side, transferring his head to Keigo’s leg instead of the pillow.

“Mm.” Momo’s eyes were sliding shut. “And you feel like breathing, Keigo-san.”

Keigo stroked Momoshiro’s hair for a few minutes, until he was sure Momo was asleep. Then he fished out his pocket copy of Theory of Colours, and settled down to read.


The door clicked open and Kurobane’s voice floated through the room.

“…knew you liked him. You even snitched dinner rolls for him.”

“Bane,” Amane growled, and then rocked to a stop as he spotted Keigo and Momo on the bed.

“He’ll appreciate that,” Keigo noted, glancing up from his book. Momoshiro stirred, but didn’t wake. “Supposing he has time to eat them before leaving,” Keigo added. “Don’t both of you have a meeting to be at pretty soon?”

Amane checked the time, and nodded, dropping a package on the end of the bed and gathering up a notebook. Keigo set his book aside, and shook Momoshiro’s shoulder. “Momoshiro. Wake up.”

An indecipherable sound answered him, and Momo burrowed into his lap. Keigo considered for a moment.

“You’re going to be late, and Tezuka is at this seminar. How many laps will he make you run?”

Sure enough Momo rubbed his eyes. Ten years from now, Keigo swore, Tezuka’s team would still jump if he gave them an order. “What time is it,” Momo mumbled, looking up hazily.

“Twenty till. You have five minutes.”

Momo blinked twice, and then his eyes widened and he scrambled up onto one elbow. Keigo caught him by the back of the neck.

“You’re not late yet, though,” he purred, and kissed Momoshiro with concentration. He leaned over Momo as his lover sagged back down to the bed, covering Momo’s body with his weight, pressing a leg between Momoshiro’s. Momoshiro’s mouth opened under Keigo’s, hot and wet and willing, and an eager sound vibrated in Momoshiro’s throat. His hips jerked up a bit against Keigo’s thigh. Keigo drew back, and smirked down at him.

“Just something to remind you to hurry back, after the meeting,” he murmured.

A spark lit Momo’s eye, and his lips drew back off his teeth. “Right.” He shoved Keigo’s shoulder until Keigo let him up.

Momoshiro pushed himself off the bed, hauled on his clothes, and paused, only then noticing Kurobane and Amane, both silently watching the show. Momoshiro’s grin tilted, and he glanced over his shoulder at Keigo, now reclined on his bed with the book open again. “Possessive bastard,” he said affectionately.

“Don’t forget the rolls,” Keigo answered, nudging the napkin wrapped package toward him.

Kurobane leaned against the wall, contemplating Keigo as their respective lovers left. “You know he’s going to be deliberately late getting back, now,” he remarked.

“Most likely.” Keigo smiled and crossed his legs, pushing Momoshiro’s pillow a little more firmly behind his back. “It will give me time to think how to greet him properly when he does.”

Kurobane rolled his eyes and shook his head. “I think Davi-kun will be staying with me, tonight, seeing as Fuji said he’d be visiting Saeki. You have fun.”

“Definitely,” Keigo pronounced with confidence, and returned to his reading.

End


Confession

This is an answer to a challenge, the challenge in question being to write a serious story featuring Girly!Sanada and, preferably, Manly!Yukimura. Valentine’s and associated pratices seemed to offer a useful occasion for this. See Yukimura get chocolate from an unexpected source; see Sanada fidget and blush. Seriously. Romance, I-2, manga continuity

Sanada Genichirou paced down the sidewalk beside his captain, listening with half an ear to Seiichi’s amiable comments on exams and how nice it would be to watch the third years finally graduate and leave the high school to them. Genichirou made listening noises, but his attention was elsewhere. Part of him was still howling in futile disbelief that he had actually done what he had done this morning. Most of him was searching for things to focus on besides his nerves.

A very small voice in the back of his mind was praying fervently to any kami that might listen and feel merciful that Niou never, ever found out about this.

Ostensibly, he was going home with Seiichi today so that they would each have some moral support while they sorted through this year’s Valentine’s chocolate and wrote thank you notes. It was a yearly tradition for them. For the first time, though, Genichirou found himself with a personal interest in one of those boxes; it was the one he had placed in Seiichi’s locker, atop several others even by that early hour, after making very, very sure no one was around to watch.

He had never been so nervous in his entire life. Not for exams. Not when he was called to demonstrate for his grandfather’s advanced classes. Certainly not for any match he had ever played! His respect for the courage of the girls who delivered their gifts in person had increased rather abruptly today.

Seiichi’s mother was dotingly amused by their little tradition, and waved them both up to his room with the briefest formalities. Genichirou was grateful, since he didn’t know how much longer even his self control would allow him to make casual small talk without starting to fidget. Why had he done this to himself?

Well-trained memory recited that Valentine’s Day was the proper and traditional day for confessing affection to its object, and that chocolate was the proper and traditional, and appealingly nonverbal, way to go about it. The holiday had been instituted in order to give people who normally didn’t have such an opportunity the chance to actually express their love. Genichirou was simply taking advantage of it. High school was the proper time for this. All told, this was about as much buttressing from tradition and propriety as Genichirou could give the desire that had managed to weave itself into the friendship and admiration he’d always felt for his captain. The increasingly strident voice of cynicism, which Genichirou normally and properly muffled and ignored, noted that Genichirou sounded more and more like he was trying to convince himself. What was he going to do next, in this traditional progression, wait to be asked on a date?

Seiichi paused by his desk, as Genichirou tripped over thin air, and looked at him with some concern. “Are you all right? I hadn’t thought today’s practice would have tired you that much.”

Genichirou collected himself and sat on one end of Seiichi’s bed. “I’m fine. Just a little distracted.” Anxiety, he decided, must be making him lightheaded. He tried to breathe more slowly. This was ridiculous.

It shouldn’t last much longer, though, one way or another. Seiichi settled on the other end of the bed and they both spilled out their piles of small boxes and bags over the thick, blue blanket. Genichirou managed to sort through his as briskly as ever, only slightly impeded by having one eye always fixed on Seiichi’s pile for the appearance of one particular box. Thankfully Genichirou hadn’t received any homemade this year, and only three items were extravagant enough to require a note in return. He set them aside, sweeping the rest back into his bag and wondering how many he could pawn off on his brother and father.

And then he had to shove his heart back down out of his throat and fold his hands together, hard, because Seiichi had picked up a small, dark red box without any logo. Here it was. Either Seiichi was about to charitably suppress laughter, or… or something else.

“Only one homemade this year,” Seiichi remarked. “It seems the girls are finally learning.”

Genichirou throttled down a flinch.

His captain’s long fingers flicked open the attached fold of paper, and Genichirou’s nerve broke. He couldn’t watch. He fixed his eyes on the blanket instead.

“Genichirou?” Seiichi’s voice was quiet.

It was a very nice blanket. The last one had been worn to a rather dull shade of green before Seiichi consented to replace it. How long ago had that been?

Seiichi’s hand reached out to touch Genichirou’s chin and lifted his head again with uncompromising pressure. Genichirou swallowed. He had really thought he was used to how penetrating Seiichi’s gaze was; perhaps not. He could feel his face heating.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen you blush before, Genichirou,” Seiichi observed. “It really was you who gave me this, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” Genichirou managed, just a bit stifled. He did not, however, look away.

Seiichi’s eyes focused on him as if they were playing a match. “I’m honored.”

Genichirou relaxed slightly; at least kindly restrained amusement didn’t seem to be forthcoming, and this was a significant relief. A traditional offer had been made, and accepted in a traditional fashion. This was also reassuring. He stiffened again, though, when Seiichi’s thumb brushed the very corner of his mouth and Seiichi smiled.

The last time Genichirou saw that speculative smile it had been directed at Echizen. The time before that, at Kirihara. This was not especially reassuring. It got even less so when Seiichi came up onto his knees, leaning over Genichirou, lifting his chin further still. Was he really going to…

Genichirou’s eyes fell shut as Seiichi’s mouth covered his. It was a compelling kiss, warm and vibrant, much like Seiichi himself. It wasn’t until Seiichi’s tongue stroked out, coaxing Genichirou’s lips to part, that an uncertain sound found its way up his throat.

Seiichi drew back, not very far, running his fingers through Genichirou’s hair. His eyes were considering as he looked down. “Was that your first kiss?” he asked, softly.

Genichirou sternly ordered the flush rising back to his face to go away and nodded.

Seiichi’s lips gained an extra curl, sharp and pleased. “Good.”

His second kiss was hard enough to press Genichirou down to the bed, hot enough to steal his breath and leave him gasping under the weight of the hands on his shoulders. “Seiichi…”

Seiichi drew back again, rather reluctantly, but he smiled more gently this time. “Too much?”

Genichirou glanced aside. This kind of intimacy was not a casual thing, to him, and while he was reasonably sure it wasn’t casual with Seiichi either, he would prefer just a little longer to be more sure. He did not, however, protest when Seiichi kissed him again, light and easy. This was, after all, exactly what he had offered; his captain knew him, knew that. And, really, it wasn’t as though he was unused to just how forceful Seiichi could be, after standing across the net from him all these years.

A shiver coiled down Genichirou’s spine at the thought of Seiichi kissing him as fiercely as he played when they were serious.

Seiichi slid a searching hand down Genichirou’s chest, laughing low in his throat. “I have to say, this is by far the best Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had,” he murmured.

All things considered, even with the unaccustomed nerves and the problems of making chocolates in dead secret from his mother, Genichirou had to agree.

Seiichi’s eyes glinted. “And now I have a real excuse to give all those girls.”

A kiss swallowed both Genichirou’s growl and Seiichi’s laugh.

End


Distance

Inspired by ep. 174, and the anime version of the Rain Scene. Just how might Fuji answer the demands Tezuka is making? Drama with UST, I-3, anime continuity

Pairing(s): Tezuka/Fuji

Chill radiated from the glass behind Shuusuke’s head, creeping through the dampness of his hair. He searched for words to explain why he played matches like the one just past. “Tezuka. I don’t really think I have the passion for winning.”

“Fuji.” There was startlement, maybe even apprehension, in Tezuka’s voice. Shuusuke tried not to react.

“I think I just enjoy the thrill of seeing my opponents play to their limits.” He looked up at Tezuka, searching for understanding in dark, guarded eyes. “What about you?”

The stern focus of Tezuka’s gaze on him never wavered. “What do you mean? I’ll win; regardless. Winning Nationals is all I can think about right now.”

Ah. Everything for the team. Yes, that was their captain all over. Strictly responsible—the leader, the teacher, taking nothing for himself anymore. Shuusuke’s eyes fell. “If it is a mark against me, then please remove me from the Regulars.”

Now Tezuka stirred. “Don’t let that happen.”

The fresh edge in his voice pulled Shuusuke’s eyes back up, for all that he didn’t want Tezuka to see the helpless frustration he was sure showed there. He couldn’t go against his own nature, so what did Tezuka want from him?

He remembered enjoying the silent pleasure with which Tezuka watched his games. Remembered seasons of offering Tezuka his encouragement, and learning that particular angle of brow and faint curve of mouth with which Tezuka returned it. He wished he understood why he was losing these things this year.

He held a hand out to Tezuka, though he wasn’t entirely sure what he was asking for or offering any longer. Finally, Tezuka’s eyes softened, only serious and not hard—the eyes of his friend. Tezuka touched Shuusuke’s fingers, lightly, before their hands fell apart again.

“Fuji,” Tezuka said quietly, “I am the captain of this team, now.”

Meaning, of course, he would not, could not, lessen his demands even on a friend. Shuusuke closed his eyes. “I know,” he whispered.

They flickered open again, wide with surprise, when Shuusuke felt a hand, still cool from being rain drenched, touch his face. Tezuka was standing much closer over him, now. Shuusuke’s breath caught; it was so rarely Tezuka who moved close.

“Is there anything you do have passion for?”

A shaky laugh escaped from Shuusuke. “You’re asking me that right now?”

Tezuka’s brows tipped up, and Shuusuke smiled up at him, a little rueful for that unthinking admission.

Tezuka’s hand slid over his shoulder, down his arm, caught Shuusuke’s wrist and pulled him to his feet. An arm tightened around Shuusuke’s waist, drawing him snugly against Tezuka’s body.

“Show me.”

The moment fractured in Shuusuke’s senses as his thoughts froze. Little things stood out: Tezuka’s fingers, closed lightly around his hand; rough, damp creases of cloth, pressed between their bodies; the lag between a flash of lighting and the rumble of thunder that followed it.

He didn’t think he could speak to save his life. So he abandoned words for the time being. It was easier, and surely clearer, to slide his free hand into Tezuka’s hair, ruffling it even further than Tezuka’s rough toweling had. Clearer to lift his face and open his mouth under Tezuka’s. Surely nothing could be clearer than his moan, as Tezuka’s grip tightened.

“Show me,” Tezuka murmured again, against his lips, and Shuusuke shivered. He wanted to. He tugged his hand free of Tezuka’s fingers and wound that through Tezuka’s hair too, threading his fingers into the strands drying in messy spikes. He smiled at the stray thought that the chance to disorder Tezuka didn’t come along every day. Shuusuke kissed him fiercely, searching, asking, and was answered. Both Tezuka’s arms closed around him, hard enough to lift his weight off his feet, and his breath left him on a pleading sound. More than Tezuka’s tongue stroking against his own, that firm hold occupied Shuusuke’s mind and defined the world for him at that moment. It was so unmistakably Tezuka holding him. Powerful, demanding, overwhelming. He felt so light in Tezuka’s grasp, as if Tezuka might breathe him in.

Shuusuke pulled away and buried his head in Tezuka’s shoulder, panting. “Tezuka…”

Immediately, Tezuka’s hold gentled. A hand lifted to settle on Shuusuke’s hair. “It’s all right, Fuji,” Tezuka told him, evenly.

Tezuka stroked his hair while the thunder died away into the distance.

End


Relational

Twenty thoughts of Niou Masaharu. Character Sketch, I-2, manga continuity

Character(s): Niou Masaharu, Rikkai

Yagyuu puts a wall of reflective glass between himself and the world. For Niou, the distance between his eyes and his thoughts is sufficient.

Yanagi’s strategy encompasses more detail than his own; Yanagi’s concrete observations range far wider. But Niou knows there is a space of colorful intuition at the heart of his own strategies that Yanagi does not like to enter.

His initial equation to describe Sanada was ‘winning equals everything’. His new equation is ‘winning equals everything, but duty equals everything squared’. The line this equation describes has become interestingly curved.

Yukimura, on the other hand, is the same quadratic equation he’s been since Niou met him; equally gentle or merciless depending on how he calculates. Which is the positive conclusion, and which the negative, Niou has never tried to resolve.

He suspects he will need calculus to graph Kirihara properly.

Marui, he puts on like a festival mask when they play together, showy technique concealing unsmiling concentration. They smile at each other once the game ends.

Jackal’s quiet sense of humor curbs Niou’s dispassion. It wasn’t until he met Jackal that Niou understood dispassion could be as wild and out of control as any emotion.

Steel tipped darts have the most satisfying weight in the hand. It requires weight to fly true.

Red meat has the same weight in the body, and the richness of its taste has the same weight on the tongue.

Watching opponents on the court stumble and freeze and fail has the same weight in his soul, round and satisfying.

He likes the numbers that describe fractals; he finds it typical that he prefers the numbers alone, while Yukimura always sketches the design out in the margin of a notebook.

He likes the taste of greens with sesame; it tastes like fresh air. He knows that he thinks so only because his mother often makes it in the fall, as the heat passes and the windows are opened, a stubborn association that isn’t shaken no matter how often he eats it in other seasons. The irrationality of this delights him.

He likes the blues of the sky best at sunrise or sunset. When they’re changing.

He thinks Yagyuu’s taste for standing outside in storms is a bit much. But he joins his partner to watch what he’s like, then.

He thinks Yagyuu is very like water. He takes on the shape of his container until he breaks it. He takes on the colors around him and remains clear in himself.

He thinks Yagyuu’s eyes are the color of water.

Niou and Kirihara have an even record of winning at Ou-sama, because no one has found a truth either of them hesitates to tell. Unless, of course, the King is Yagyuu, because they both like the dares he comes up with.

Perception calms him; it is precise and uncompromising. There are times it feels like anger, that way. The sure knowledge that Sanada would never understand this comparison amuses him.

To deceive is to control the perception of others. Niou would rather like a match against Hyoutei’s Atobe some time. He wonders how much it would be like playing Marui or Yukimura.

No one will control him. The point of the whole thing is freedom.

End


305 The Way It Should Have Been

An exercise in rewriting canon, in cooperation with Kizu. Atobe does it himself. Drama with Mild Crack, I-2, manga continuity

One

Keigo watched with dazed detachment as the world faded back into arm’s reach. He took a slow breath and blinked hard a few times, pulling the court back into focus.

And then he almost regretted it, because Echizen was trotting toward him with a smirk, waving an electric razor in one hand. “You lost,” Echizen announced with insolent cheer, and flicked on the razor and held it out.

Keigo regarded the buzzing implement with a sneer. Unfortunately, a quick look at the scoreboard showed that Echizen was telling the truth. Keigo had lost. And he had also made a deal.

And Atobe Keigo did not go back on his word.

Keigo plucked the razor out of Echizen’s hand, loftily ignoring the brat’s grin. He lifted it and then paused. There was something missing, here. He considered it for a moment, lips pursed and head cocked and slowly turned to regard his club members. If he was going to do this, he was going to do it his way.

“Why,” he quietly asked that sea of wide eyes and pale faces, “aren’t you cheering?”

Oshitari’s brows vanished under his bangs while Mukahi choked. Shishido sat down, hard. “Atobe, have you stripped a gear?” he asked, weakly.

Keigo gave him a cool glare. “Certainly not.” He waved a hand at the club and snapped his fingers imperatively.

“A… Ato… be…” a voice in the crowd faltered.

Well, it was a start. Keigo nodded graciously and ran his fingers through his hair, lifting it so it wouldn’t matt in the clipping edge.

“Atobe…” a few more voice breathed.

Keigo carefully ran the razor around his ear, working up in sections. No sense doing this in a haphazard, un-classy manner. He shook strands of hair off his fingers, taking a certain satisfaction in the way they shimmered, blowing away in the sunlight.

The voices of his club picked up momentum and volume. “Atobe! Atobe! Atobe!

Keigo ran a hand over his head to be sure he hadn’t missed any spots, which would be unsightly, and nodded with satisfaction. He tossed the razor, flipping it through the air, and caught it again, and raised it fisted in his hand. His club roared.

Echizen’s smirk, when Keigo looked, was as wide as ever, but there was a faint, grudgingly impressed, crook to it. Keigo smirked back.

“Better luck next time.”

Echizen blinked. “I won,” he pointed out. “What do I need better luck for?”

Keigo caught his coat as Shishido, mouth twisted ruefully, tossed it to him, slinging it over his shoulder with a stylish flair. He looked back at Echizen, head high. “You won once.”

Echizen snorted, and eyed Keigo, and the chanting club, and Keigo again. And then he laughed.

Keigo strode off the court and tossed the razor to Kabaji. Echizen wasn’t getting it back, not after making such a nuisance of himself over it. That razor was, by damn, going to be Keigo’s trophy of this match. “Pack that up, Kabaji.”

For once, though, Kabaji didn’t acknowledge his instructions. Instead he looked, for a long moment, at the razor in his hand. Then he clicked it on.

The chanting of the club faltered on the first pass, but as Kabaji calmly made another and tufts of black dropped to the clay, the cheering swelled again, louder than before.

“Hyoutei! Hyoutei! The winner will be Hyoutei!

It was Keigo’s turn to laugh, throwing back his now-bald head and lifting a hand to conduct the cheers.

Two

Ryouma shook his head, stuffing his hands in his pockets as he strolled back to his team. Seeing the monkey king bald was pretty satisfying, and all of Hyoutei bald should be even better. He’d have to see. He grinned at his teammates as he approached. Oishi-senpai still had a faintly horrified expression, but Momo was laughing so hard he had to lean on the fence and the corners of Fuji-senpai’s mouth were curled up.

Tezuka-buchou, on the other hand, had his arms folded and shook his head. Ryouma tucked his chin down just a bit, looking up from under the brim of his cap as he rejoined them. Okay, so it hadn’t been very nice. Or gracious or any of that stuff. But Atobe had been the one to bet, and Ryouma had won. And Tezuka-buchou wasn’t actually frowning. He actually looked just a little pleased—just a quiet little bit, as he watched Ryouma and Atobe.

Who looked to be directing a riot by now.

Ryouma took a long drink of water and jerked his head toward the other team, where half the club was flocking down to line up for a turn at that razor. “They’re all crazy.”

Inui-senpai adjusted his glasses, suspiciously straight-faced. “I believe the phenomenon is commonly called mass hysteria.”

Momo-senpai finally managed to catch his breath and slung and arm around Ryouma’s neck. “Only you!” he laughed. “Only you would get a whole club to shave themselves bald!”

“That part wasn’t my idea,” Ryouma pointed out, trying not to be pulled off his feet.

Momo-senpai considered that. “You’re right. Only Atobe,” he corrected himself.

Tezuka-buchou made what might have been a snort of agreement. So Ryouma didn’t bother hiding his grin as they watched the breeze blow strands and puffs and tufts of hair away from the Hyoutei tennis club.

Omake

Shishido grumped as he fumbled with the back of his head. “Can’t believe I’m cutting my hair again for this damn club…”

Atobe sniffed. “No one asked you to.”

Shishido growled at him direly, and then yelped as the razor nipped the skin at the back of his neck.

“Here, Shishido-san, let me,” Ohtori offered in a soothing tone, taking the razor. “You missed a spot in the back.”

Shishido hmphed but sat still while Ohtori finished him off.

Mukahi ran a hand over his head thoughtfully. “Actually, you know, this is kinda nice. It’s a lot cooler for summer, that’s for sure.” He rubbed at his head again. “Feels kind of weird though. Hey, Yuushi, let me feel yours.”

Oshitari caught his partner’s reaching hand. “Later,” he murmured.

“Doubles pairs,” Hiyoshi said, very quietly, handing the razor back to Kabaji, who packed it away with what might have been a tiny glint of satisfaction.

Atobe looked over his, now largely hairless, team with something like affection. “All right. Time to be going.”

End


Untitled Drabble

The first true drabble I ever wrote. For Athena, in a drabble exchange. Humor, I-1

Character(s): Atobe Keigo, Shishido Ryou
Pairing(s): Atobe/Shishido

“‘Young and fun loving’?”

“Are you saying it isn’t fun to win?”

“You’re the only one winning! What about ‘Generous’?”

“Who paid the membership fee for us to play here?”

“You know, I should have known it was you as soon as I read the bit about ‘too elegant and refined for a personal ad to encompass’.”

“So why are you here?”

“Because it sounded funny, before I knew it really was you!”

“And now we have objective proof that you admire me.”

Shishido glared. “I am never using a dating service, ever, ever again,” he declared.

Atobe just smirked.

End


The Law of Rikkai

Possible origin of Rikkai’s “law”, and what it means to different people. Drama, I-3, manga continuity

Seiichi stands behind the coach’s bench with his companions, one new and one old, watching the team captain take point after point. Seiichi isn’t even breathing hard from his own match, just finished. His voice is low, though, as he says, “We can’t lose.” That surety sings through him, like the blood through his muscles; he feels it. Not just his own strength, but the strength of these two with him.

They will meet the best. They will be the best. He wraps his hand around that certainty and feels it like the familiar grip of his racquet.


Genichirou’s spine pulls a little straighter. “Of course,” he states, frowning a little. It’s unthinkable that he, that they, would lose. Loss is not something to be tolerated by the strong. Not something the strong should permit themselves. Contemplating the possibility of loss is a failure of the spirit, only worthy of contempt.

They can never lose.


“We will not lose,” Renji agrees. It’s quite clear that this is the case. Even though his figures on these two as yet barely fill a dozen pages of the fresh, white notebook he bought when he moved, the curve those figures will graph is already evident. He suspects it will be an asymptote in the end, but for now the curve is steep, and its movement is upward.

There’s beauty in that curve, and it soothes his still rather sore heart. He will follow it.

End


Three Plus One

A scene that might come just after issue 339. Kirihara angsts a bit until his team makes him see reason. Drama, I-3, manga continuity

Akaya looked down at his knuckles turning white where he held the rail behind the coach’s bench. Out on the court, Sanada-fukubuchou was cutting down his opponent, but Akaya knew how that looked, he didn’t really need to watch.

And he wasn’t sure he wanted to meet anyone’s eyes right now.

He wanted to ask “why”, except that that was obvious. He had been really struggling with his opponent. His teammates hadn’t. He knew why, it was just…

Wasn’t it ever going to change? No matter how much his game evolved, no matter what tactics he found to make himself stronger? Where they always going to be ahead of him like this?

“Yukimura-buchou.” He’d spoken before he realized he was going to, and bit his lip. What did he think he was going to say, anyway?

Yukimura-buchou didn’t look away from the game. “Did you hear what they were calling you?”

Akaya blinked. “What?”

“While you were defeating the other player. Did you hear what the crowd was calling?”

Akaya thought, but he couldn’t really recall much besides the beat of his pulse in his ears. “No.”

Now Yukimura-buchou looked over his shoulder, smiling though his eyes were chill with the edge of being on the court. “Demon.”

The thought fluttered around Akaya’s mind, that that was kind of neat, after all it was what they called Yukimura and Sanada and Yanagi, wasn’t it? The three demons.

His eyes widened.

“I won’t be waiting,” Yukimura-buchou said, voice soft. “But I will be ready.” He turned back to watch the game and added, more briskly, “You know you can do it, now, so stop lazing around.”

“Yes, Yukimura-buchou,” Akaya managed. He stepped back and sat down on a bench with a thump, where Niou-senpai promptly messed up his hair and asked, “Dense much?”

“Ah, don’t mind,” Marui-senpai put in with a lazy bubble. “It was kind of fun. Good practice for precision and all that.”

“And you justified our trust admirably,” Yagyuu-senpai added with a faint smile.

Akaya scrunched down a little and said “Okay” in a small voice. His senpai took care of him; he was used to that.

“And you’re still conscious and standing,” Yanagi-senpai noted a bit wryly, from where he, too, was watching Sanada-fukubuchou. “So obviously you were also well up to the endurance training menu Seiichi had Genichirou construct for you.”

“I was?” Akaya thought about that. “Oh. Good.”

Marui-senpai groaned. “He didn’t even notice! Is he really human?”

Niou-senpai smirked, thin and sharp. “Definitely a demon.”

Akaya straightened at that, determination gripping him, fierce and familiar. “Yes.” He would be. He would find his way and catch them all and be number one. He grinned up at his senpai. “Thanks.”

They smiled back at him, bright and sharp, as the match was called. Rikkai’s victory.

Just the way it should be.

End


Six Examples

Takes place after the Sanada v Atobe match (manga). With some prodding from Yukimura, Sanada loosens his brain up, and finds some new techniques. Also with sex via tennis. Drama with Sub-Romance, I-3, manga continuity

“I would not have lost.”

“Yes you would. Perfection is your weakness.” Yukimura stowed his racquet away and held out his hand, eyeing its steadiness critically. “That’s why you lost last time, too.”

Sanada snorted. “That was chance. A chance no sane player would have counted on. It won’t happen twice.”

Yukimura shook his head and smiled, though his eyes still glinted sharp and cool. “You know your own strength. And, unlike nearly every other player in the middle school or high school circuit, your confidence in it is fully justified. And that,” he added, pointedly, “is what slows you down in face of the unexpected.”

Sanada frowned, leaning back against the low wall around their courts. He wanted to say he didn’t need to develop new responses, because his tennis already had perfected responses to any situation. If that had been true, though, Atobe would not have taken so many points from him this afternoon. “Perhaps.”

Yukimura tossed his bag up onto the grass and leaned beside Sanada, sighing. “I hadn’t thought it would matter. Until now it’s really only been Tezuka we had to think of. You know his strength, too; I knew you wouldn’t underestimate him. But this Echizen…”

“Mm.” Sanada’s mouth tightened. “Our margin of superiority against Seigaku is going to be lower than we had planned for,” he admitted.

Yukimura looked over the emptying courts, distant and thoughtful. “Tezuka. Echizen. Perhaps even Fuji.” He was quiet for a moment. “We’re going to have to push Akaya harder. If we can bring out his true strength by the time we face Seigaku, we’ll have the advantage again.”

Sanada nodded; he’d actually quite like to see what form Akaya’s real game would take, before they had to leave their kouhai to his own devices.

Yukimura thumped him lightly on the shoulder. “And you have to take care of your own problem.” He pushed up to his feet and slung his bag over his shoulder. “I don’t care how you do it. But we can’t afford to have you paralyzed whenever someone besides Tezuka actually manages to push you.” He looked back over his shoulder, laughter bright and wicked and cutting in his eyes, the way it hadn’t been for too long. “Hurry up, too, or I’ll do it for you.”

Sanada gave his friend and captain a rather dour look. Yukimura’s notions about how to help out teammates who were stuck in their training were… strenuous.

Yukimura laughed.


Sanada spend the evening feeling mildly out of sorts. Restless. He fidgeted through his chores. He couldn’t focus on his science homework, and finally set it aside, resolving to get up early and do it in the morning.

At last, he pulled on his hakama and gi and made for his practice room, determined to regain his focus one way or another.

Kata calmed him, as he’d know they would. The rough weave of the tatami mats against the soles of his feet was familiar, soothing. The constant chase after perfection in each breath, each step, eased his tension into something smooth and poised. At the end, he sank down to the mats to rest, eyes closed, feeling his spine loosen and straighten. Slowly, his thoughts took up their spiral again, more controlled this time.

This fierce peace was what he always returned to. It balanced the wild thrill of matches, whether with shinai or racquet.

In the fresh silence of his mind, the thought rang false.

Sanada opened his eyes and frowned. How could this have changed? Against the surprises of competition with opponents, he held the steady striving with himself that kata involved. Today was the perfect example. He had come to this pointed serenity to balance the uncertainty of his match with Atobe.

The uncertainty… that it had taken Yukimura’s interference to point out to him.

Sanada sucked in a slow breath, taking a firmer grip on this idea. How long had it been since he’d felt the rush of uncertainty during a tennis match? Had it really been since… Tezuka?

And yet, it had been there in his matches with Echizen and Atobe as well. He’d just discounted it. Had he really let himself think that only Tezuka could bring that thrill to a match? Had he let his mental discipline slip that badly?

Sanada snorted. Pitiful!

He surged to his feet and stalked back to his room. There was one sure way to get a grip on his game again. He fished out his phone and dialed one handed while he changed his clothes.

“Yukimura,” the laconic answer came.

“Are you free for a game right now?” Sanada asked without preamble.

After a moment of silence, Yukimura answered. “Sure. Meet you on the little court down by the river?”

“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”


Yukimura rested his racquet over his shoulder, regarding Sanada’s expression as they finished warming up. “That was quick. Good.”

“I’m not done yet,” Sanada said grimly. Indeed, thinking he was done, that any part of his game was completed, was the problem.

“Of course not.” Yukimura’s smile cooled with the chill of a game. He set his racquet down with precision and spun it. “Which?”

“Rough. You can do this?”

Yukimura’s mouth quirked as the spin ended on rough. “Yes.”

Sanada nodded and walked back to serve. He spared nothing, and Yukimura sent the ball singing back, slicing through the air like a knife.

It was hard and fast because that was how Sanada needed it to be. He needed the driving, brutal precision of Yukimura’s game to take into himself and answer.

The ring of the ball against clay and the harsh panting of their breath drowned out the cicadas. This was the thrill he remembered seeking, the dripping exhaustion he remembered pursuing. The uncertainty that needed the peace of kata to balance it.

Fire vanished without a ripple into Yukimura’s return. Sanada had to reach for the steady measured strokes of Forest to break Yukimura’s rhythm and keep himself from being caught up in it, and as he did he wondered. When had his balance fallen? When had his game become so stiff, so closed?

Move like the Wind.

Stately as the Forest.

Raid like Fire.

Immoveable as the Mountain.

They were powerful because they could shift and move. Even the stillness of no-self moved!

As the last ball flashed by to strike behind him, the purity of the moment shuddered up his spine. Yukimura’s game broke his open, stretched him as far as he could go. That openness called to be filled with the all the force and brilliance both of them could wring from each other.

That was a match.

What he had been playing this year was… kata.

Sanada braced himself against the light pole to catch his breath. He frowned when he saw Yukimura had collapsed on the bench beside the court. “You said you could do this.”

Yukimura’s teeth glinted in the streetlights. “I won, didn’t I?”

There was that, Sanada had to admit.

“You weren’t the only one who needed this,” Yukimura added, more quietly.

Sanada smiled and held out a hand to pull Yukimura up again. “Let’s walk to cool down, then.”


The dark river water glimmered with occasional lights up the embankment. The soft lap of it rippling against the shore filled the cooling evening air.

“I don’t think you need to actually rework any of your techniques,” Yukimura said, finally. “Just wake up some more.”

“Mmm.” Sanada turned that thought over a few times. It was true enough, but… “There’s something. I could tell as we played. There’s more I can do.”

Yukimura smiled. “There’s always more you can do. Especially you.”

“That means something, coming from you,” Sanada said dryly.

Yukimura laughed, low and bright. “Once you remind me of my courage, yes.” He turned and climbed a few steps up the embankment, stretching out in the grass. “It would be hard to integrate anything else into FuuRinKaZan, though, wouldn’t it?”

Sanada joined him and leaned back into the cool, green-smelling hill. “The techniques do come as a complete set,” he agreed.

And then his breath stopped as a thought seized and shook him.

Not complete.

Wind, Forest, Fire, Mountain, Shadow, Lightning. There were six in the original.

“Invisible as Shadow,” he whispered. “Strike like Lightning.”

Yukimura watched him, head cocked.

Sanada took a long breath, already testing possibilities in his head. “Yes. Yes, there is something more. It will work.” It would work, and he would move forward the way a player should, and crush his opponents the way Rikkai should.

“I never doubted it,” Yukimura said quietly, lying back in the dusk.

End

A/N: Sanada’s technique names echo those Takeda Shingen took from Sun Tzu’s dictates on the movement of armies. Takeda, though, only used four of the original set of six. For Nationals, Sanada seems to be calling on the remaining two.


Lignin

Loosely based on the Five Stages of Love prompt. Yukimura and Sanada, over the years. Drama with Romance, I-3, manga continuity


Seed (Attraction)

Seiichi ran his eye over Rikkai Dai middle school’s tennis courts, judging them. The other first years clustered together, most chattering and excited. The knots of older members were more aloof, a few of them already rallying on the far courts. He noted the calm ones, the ones who knew enough to watch quietly, and his lips quirked at the few senpai who knew enough to watch him.

Ah. There.

He moved over to the wall and let his bag drop beside another’s. "Sanada. It’s good to see you here."

"Yukimura." Sanada nodded a greeting, turning from his own contemplation of their new club to focus on Seiichi. "You chose Rikkai also, then."

"It’s the best." And that was all that really needed saying. Seiichi nodded toward the rest of the club. "What do you think?"

Sanada crossed his arms, gazing across the courts again. "I’m glad you’re here."

Seiichi threw back his head, laughing. "Yes. They’re good, but we’re better." He tipped his head, glancing sidelong at Sanada. "Shall we warm up?" And perhaps show the club who they were and save having to argue about it.

The gleam in Sanada’s eyes answered him. "Yes."

Seiichi ignored the muttering as they took a court. He knew it would stop soon enough. Right now, he had one of his two best opponents from the entire Elementary circuit across the net from him and nothing mattered but the brilliance of the game.

When it ended, and they came to the net to clasp hands in the middle of the silent courts, they held on for a moment longer than usual. Satisfaction melted into agreement where their hands and eyes met, and Seiichi showed his teeth for a moment before they turned to face the club captain.

He and Sanada together would make this team something that had never been seen before.

 

Sprout (Romance)

Seiichi liked watching Sanada play, especially in tournament matches. The way he drove his opponents was artistry.

"You can’t win with your strength!"

The next ball tore past the opponent’s racquet, inches beyond the other boy’s flustered reach.

Seiichi leaned on the rail next to Renji, smiling, eyes fixed on the proud straightness of Sanada’s back. "Sanada’s confidence makes such a strong weapon."

Renji’s mouth curled. "Intimidation is most frightening when it’s only the truth."

Seiichi laughed, stretching upright slowly, careless and relaxed. "It is, isn’t it?"

Renji’s eyes slid past his shoulder, measuring the reaction of the Shitenhouji players. "Not to mention it’s a weapon you and Genichirou both enjoy using."

"As if you have any room to talk." Seiichi met Renji’s eyes for a moment, dark and pleased.

"Well, perhaps," Renji allowed with a tiny smile.

Seiichi turned back to the court to see Sanada’s last play, taking in the way he set himself, the clarity of his voice as he called the shot, the fierce focus in his eyes as he hit it. A frisson danced down Seiichi’s spine at the beauty of that drive, pure and untouchable.

"Game and set!"

Seiichi drew in a slow breath, savoring the taste of their victory; he could already feel the weight of it in his chest, though there was still his match to go before the rest of the world knew it.

Sanada strode off the court and nodded to their captain before his eyes turned to Seiichi, questioning, challenging. Seiichi paused beside him, racquet in hand, and murmured, "You should be harder with them next time. Shall I show you?"

Sanada’s even expression didn’t flicker but the ferocity flared again in his eyes. "If you can."

Seiichi stepped out onto the court, head high, thrill singing in his blood, and prepared to do so.

 

Root (Intimacy)

Seiichi waved good night as Renji turned off onto his street. "So," he said, as he and Sanada continued on, "the club is ours now."

"Mm." Sanada glanced at him. "Are you going to bring in Kirihara?"

"Oh yes." Seiichi eyed his friend back, curiously, though. "You’re that sure it will be me?" He had expected Sanada to hold out to the last.

Sanada was silent for a moment. "You will make a good captain for Rikkai."

Seiichi breathed out, slowly, and rested a hand on Sanada’s arm. "Thank you." Sanada’s fighting spirit commanded his respect the way few things did. Sanada’s support would be priceless.

Sanada smiled a little and repeated, quieter. "You will be a good captain." His words said that only practicality made him accept it, but his tone said something more.

They were at Seiichi’s turning and he let his fingers slide down Genichirou’s arm as he stepped away. "I’ll see you tomorrow, then."

"And we’ll start making our third National win," Sanada agreed, nodding goodby.

When Seiichi looked back, halfway down his street, Genichirou was still standing at the turn, watching him.

 

Leaf (Passion)

Seiichi stood in the door of Sanada’s practice room, looking out into the summer dark, listening to the snick and rustle behind him as Sanada put away his sword and started gathering up the dismemberd straw bundles. "You know we won’t be able to play like that tomorrow," he said quietly.

There was silence behind him.

"Power is only a part of strength." Seiichi’s voice sharpened. "You will not lose sight of that, Sanada."

"Not with you to remind me, I suppose."

Seiichi’s mouth tightened with some exasperation as Sanada came to stand in the door beside him. "Stubborn."

Sanada chuckled, leaning against the frame. "Of course."

A corner of Seiichi’s mouth twitched up; of course Sanada would take it as a compliment. "We will win," he stated, soft and dangerous.

Sanada’s eyes glinted in the low lights as he turned to look at Seiichi. "Yes." The heavy, dark heat of the night curled around them. "We will."

Seiichi relaxed, letting go some of the fierce control that had kept him standing upright these weeks of retraining and planning. Sanada agreed with him; he didn’t have to force this part to happen.

Sanada’s mouth curled in answer. "Of course we’ll win," he said quietly, words floating on the darkness. "It’s what we are."

Seiichi felt the words catch fire inside him, the fire they shared to forge the team they had. The victories they had. It had always called to him. He tipped his head, considering the winter and the summer and the matches they would play tomorrow, and slowly reached out to close his fingers in Sanada’s kendo gi.

Sanada laughed and stepped forward to meet him. They kissed in the doorway, mouths open against each other. Seiichi ran his fingers into Sanada’s hair, eyes sliding half closed at the tightness of Sanada’s hands on his hips, and growled low in his throat. Tomorrow he would have to be controlled, remember their strategies, not be swept away in the heat of the match.

Tonight, though, he could forget all of that and drink the fire down straight.

He pushed Sanada back against the door frame and they laughed, hot and husky as the night air around them.

 

Flower (Committment)

"So, what now?"

"Now?" Seiichi leaned back on his hands, watching the setting sun glimmer on the pool in his back yard and gild the long, slim leaves of the irises. He felt a bit like those plants, relaxing from the heat and busyness of summer into the cooler flowering of fall. "Now I suppose we take our exams and start over." He chuckled. "I wonder if our senpai will be pleased to see us again."

Sanada snorted, leaning against the porch rail, arms crossed. "They’d better. We’ve held up Rikkai’s name against harder competition then any they’ve faced." He waved a dismissive hand. "They won’t hold out this time any longer than the last."

"Quite likely. Will you be there for it?"

Sanada’s head turned, brows lifting. "Why wouldn’t I be?"

Seiichi’s mouth tilted and he kept his eyes on the water. "I know your grandfather would like you to pay more attention to your kendo. I’ve been wondering which you would choose to follow, during high school."

Sanada was silent beside him for a long moment before he finally said, quietly, "It isn’t a matter of which. It’s a matter of who."

It was Seiichi’s turn to look up. Sanada’s eyes, on him, were level and calm, and the curve of Seiichi’s lips softened into real amusement. "Would you really follow me that far?" he murmured. Warmth curled through his blood at the thought and flared into heat as Sanada smiled, showing his teeth.

"All the way."

Seiichi laughed out loud in the slanting sunlight, and reached out and pulled Genichirou down to a kiss. "Then that’s how far we’ll go," he whispered into Genichirou’s mouth.

 

End


If It’s One That You Can Keep

Yukimura and Sanada have victory sex in the shower, after Nationals. Porn with Characterization, I-3, Canon? What Canon?

Seiichi tossed his head back under the spray of the shower and laughed softly just because he couldn’t help it.

He had won.

In spite of everything, and there had been a damn lot of everything, he had lived and recovered and won. He felt so light he might float if it weren’t for the weight of water on his skin. The sound of his team rummaging around and getting dressed beyond the tile wall was both immediate and distant, the way everything had been since the blinding moment he realized the last point was his.

He was glad for it when warm arms slid around him and pulled him back against a solid chest.

"You were incredible," Genichirou said against his shoulder, tongue stroking water drops off his skin.

Seiichi leaned his head back on Genichirou’s shoulder, smiling. "Mm, so were you, in case I hadn’t mentioned that yet." His laugh turned husky as Genichirou’s mouth slid up his neck. "So, was Tezuka good for you?"

Genichirou snorted at his teasing and Seiichi turned so he could pull Genichirou tight against him, pull him down for a hot kiss.

"Not as good as you," Genichirou murmured into his mouth, satisfaction heavy in his voice.

"Just the way it should be," Seiichi purred back. This might be the perfect ending for the day, pressed tight against each other, hands running over wet skin, feeling each other’s strength.

Perfection got better when Genichirou slid down his body to the floor and closed his mouth on Seiichi’s cock.

Seiichi leaned back against the cool tile, light-headed and breathless once again. "Oh. Yes." His fingers wove through Genichirou’s hair and he moaned low in his throat as wet heat stroked over him. "Genichirou."

Genichirou was going slow this afternoon, taking his time to be thorough. His tongue slid over and over Seiichi’s cock, slow and firm and Seiichi’s fingers flexed in his hair with every curl of hot pleasure. Seiichi watched Genichirou under his lashes, eyes following the breadth of his shoulders, wet and gleaming under the shower’s lights, the bend of his head as he ran his mouth down Seiichi’s cock. And Seiichi smiled as Genichirou’s hands slid up the back his thighs to curve around his ass, encouraging. He took the offer, letting his hips rock forward. Genichirou’s moan answered his as he thrust slowly in and out of Genichirou’s mouth.

"We did it." Seiichi tipped his head back against the wall, panting. "Our promise. We kept it."

Genichirou looked up at him, eyes dark, and a soft shudder ran through Seiichi. His hand slid around the back of Genichirou’s neck and he pushed into Genichirou’s mouth slow and deep. The low sound Genichirou made sent heat straight up his spine. When Genichirou’s hand ran down between his legs, closing on his own cock, the heat turned fierce and wild.

Seiichi moaned as pleasure wrung him out, letting his hips flex hard, eyes never leaving Genichirou’s as his cock slid between Genichirou’s lips in fast, short thrusts. When Genichirou’s eyes closed and his breath caught Seiichi smiled. They stilled slowly, touches lingering on each other.

Seiichi finally pulled Genichirou up against him and they stood under the spray of the shower, leaning together. After a moment, Seiichi sighed. "I’m not sure I believe it’s over."

"Nothing ever ends," Genichirou said, quietly, against his hair. "And nothing ever starts."

"Doesn’t it? Then we’ll go on," Seiichi answered, just as soft. "We’ll all go on."

He liked that thought.

They stood close until Renji tapped on the shower wall and Akaya called cheekily that the team would leave without them. Seiichi laughed.

"Let’s go."

 

End


Reconstruction

Twenty things about Yukimura. (Because Konomi lost his thread completely and I don’t find Yukimura’s Svengali Tennis the least little bit convincing.) Character Sketch, I-2, manga continuity

Character(s): Yukimura Seiichi

At first he thought it was strange, playing tennis in teams, but he’s come to like the school club. It makes inside and outside clear.

People on the inside are the ones who see him smile, who hear him shout. People on the outside only see his calm.

His team makes him smile the same way his garden does, to see subtle and bright colors unfurling in harmony, to see the fierce, unrelenting desire all things have to grow. He loves that.

He thinks Akaya might have gotten a bit frost-nipped at the start, but he seems to be recovering, finally shedding dead leaves and putting his energy into new ones.

Then there are the ones like Yagyuu, his morning glory—charming and ruthless. Only trees are strong enough to bear up a morning glory and not be strangled.

He’s sure few people would imagine Niou anything as firm and solid as a tree, but he thinks it’s appropriate.

He thinks he will come to his art after he’s done with tennis. Mathematics, though, he keeps with him at all times. That isn’t a career; it’s the underpinning of his world.

Sometimes tennis and art tangle in his mind. Jackal reminds him of the Impressionists—solid and everyday, but always striking in the texture of his existence, in the way light falls on him.

Marui, on the other hand, reminds him irresistibly of Mondrian, all stark, strong lines and cheery, primary colors.

The time his class was assigned a self-portrait, he used dark outlines and intense colors for the background. His image looked at the sky, though, and he painted that a pale, clear blue.

All things have a pattern. All things can be described and understood. He shares that conviction with both Niou and Renji, though they show it in three very different ways.

His own technique is really quite simple. He fills the space that the game creates—whatever that is. Renji says he’s like water, pouring into different shaped containers. He likes the image.

The shape that his games with Sanada make is brutal and complex and fine as the edge of Sanada’s sword. Sanada makes him think of the stone and earth that plants grow out of.

For Sanada, muga no kyouchi is an extra step into concentration, discipline, purity. For Seiichi it’s like pulling muscles out that last bit into a full stretch.

When he stretches out on the court, no-self exists in the spaces between his breaths.

As an artist, he knows, a blank sheet is not empty; the moment eyes and intention touch it it holds color and line that the artist must find. His tennis is like that, too.

It was not his strongest opponents who named him Kami no Ko. The strongest can throw off his domination, keep their will to fight. It’s only the weak that he stuns simply by uncovering his spirit.

Renji teases, gently, that Seiichi’s spirit is the sun of this garden, his team. Seiichi says that, if so, Renji is the rain. He isn’t teasing; without rain, the sun would only scorch.

He knows he will stay with his club and his team through high school. He loves the competition that runs down the years, woven tight and intimate. And only here is there the devotion that saw him through months of slow terror and helped him stand at the end of it.

He knows the love and pride of these years will live on in his heart even after he leaves. But he’s never let go of anything he’s truly wanted. He sees no reason to start.


Full to Overflowing

Arriving in high school, Kirihara gets a nice welcome back from Sanada. Written for Porn Battle, with the prompt: Sanada/Kirihara, size queen. Pure Smut, I-4

Akaya moaned, rubbing against the pile of towels he was currently bent over, and again as large hands tightened on his hips.

"Hold still, Akaya."

The deep, velvety purr from behind him brushed a shiver down Akaya’s spine. "Yes, Sanada-san," he murmured, husky, and gasped as Sanada-san’s cock thrust into him deeper. "Ohh…"

The day couldn’t get much better than this. It was a new year; he was a Regular on the high school team; everyone else had gone home and Sanada-san was fucking him, hard and big, stretching Akaya open perfectly. "Mmmm. Oh, harder…"

Sanada-san laughed. "Demanding, aren’t you?" Strong hands lifted Akaya’s hips higher and Sanada-san drove into him hard.

Akaya gasped, breath hitching. It felt so good to have Sanada-san’s cock filling his ass over and over, stretching him mercilessly wide on every thrust. The heat set Akaya panting, approval and entreaty tripping over themselves on his tongue. "Nn, yes… so big… mmm, please, more…"

"Haven’t found your limits yet, hm?" Sanada-san asked with a teasing edge. "Good." He pushed Akaya down firmly against the towels, holding him still as he shifted over Akaya and rode him, fucking him fast and rough.

Akaya’s words dissolved into breathless moans as Sanada-san gave him exactly what he wanted and hot pleasure tightened low in Akaya’s stomach. The thickness of Sanada-san’s cock worked his ass ruthlessly, making his whole body tingle in response, making him feel intensely, incredibly full until, at last, the fullness was more than he could take and fire rushed down his nerves. He bucked helplessly, groaning as the bigness of Sanada-san’s cock inside him kept his body from wringing tight, drawing it all out until he was totally limp from pleasure. It didn’t take long before Sanada-san stilled, over him, and slow hands ran down Akaya’s back.

"Mm. Welcome back, Akaya."

Akaya grinned, hearing the smile in Sanada-san’s voice, and wriggled a bit, pleased with the hint of soreness in his ass. "Glad to be back."

Very.

End


Elemental

Kirihara’s view of Yukimura. Written for the Porn Battle prompt: Yukimura/Kirihara, elemental. Character Sketch with Porn, I-4

When Seiichi-san made love to him it was pure and intense and wiped Akaya’s mind clean of everything but the body over him, inside him, the hands spread against his back, the dip of Seiichi-san’s dark head over him.

And the heat.

It almost wasn’t even pleasure. It was sensation, the trembling of nerves screaming a pure signal of yes, the tingle in muscles stretched and flexed, the throb of his cock rubbing against Seiichi-san’s stomach with bright flashes of heat that burst up his spine until they were light behind his eyes.

It was Yukimura Seiichi.

And Akaya gave himself to it completely, gladly, opening his hands to let the rest of existence flutter away and closing them instead on the firm, long muscles of Seiichi-san’s arms, letting his body flex and buck, wild and abandoned, as Seiichi-san’s cock drove into him again and again, letting himself scream as the heat finally condensed and exploded through his whole body.

It was incredible, hot and brilliant and overwhelming. There was nothing else quite like it, and it wrung Akaya out like a rag every time, left him breathless and lax and a little dazed. But it was the next part he thought he might love the most.

Because Seiichi-san gathered him up, held him tight and shuddered against him, whispering Akaya’s name. And Seiichi-san didn’t let go, just slid back and close again, cradling Akaya against him and kissing him softly until Akaya was pliant and trembling in his arms, more undone by the tenderness than by all the wild sensation. This was what he clung to.

It was Seiichi-san.

 

End


Things to Wear

Yukimura really, really likes the way Sanada looks in a kimono. Written for the Porn Battle prompt: Yukimura/Sanada, traditional dress. Porn Without Plot, I-4

Seiichi liked how Genichirou looked in traditional clothing. The falling lines of a kimono or even yukata displayed Genichirou’s broad shoulders and straight height, reminded everyone who watched of the power waiting in that still, composed figure.

The crisply wrapped fabric hid the long muscles that a shirt and shorts showed, but that very thing invited anyone who had watched Genichirou play, who had seen that much of him uncovered, to imagine the sleek, hard flex of his body from shoulder right to ankle, all of one, bare piece under the cloth.

And wrapped cloth was so easy to draw aside.

He swallowed Genichirou’s husky sound, pressing him back against the smooth wood of the wall, one hand slipping inside Genichirou’s clothes to tug loose his equally traditional underthings and close firmly around his cock.

"Seiichi," Genichirou gasped, hips pushing into Seiichi’s hand, "I should be inside."

"You should be right here," Seiichi murmured against Genichirou’s throat, drawing his tongue up the taut line of tendon. He stroked his thumb back and forth over Genichirou’s head and smiled as Genichirou’s hands worked on his shoulders. "Your grandfather can hold this reception without you for a bit."

He caught Genichirou’s mouth again, stroking Genichirou’s tongue slowly with his own, deliberate contrast to his demanding grip on Genichirou’s cock. He savored the openness of Genichirou’s moan, and the texture of his cock in Seiichi’s hand, hard and thick, and the way Genichirou leaned against the wall and let his hips buck into Seiichi’s hand as he came.

Seiichi took in the sight of Genichirou flushed and breathless, kimono pulled open over strong, bare thighs, and stored it away to see him through the next couple hours of a rather boring reception. Genichirou’s mouth quirked and he shook his head as he re-ordered his clothes before pulling Seiichi close for another kiss.

"I should stop having you invited to occasions when I have to dress like this," he murmured into Seiichi’s mouth.

Seiichi laughed. "Don’t you like the effect it has?"

Genichirou’s stern expression was spoiled by the gleam in his eyes. "Afterwards."

"I suppose I can save up, then." The outside lamps flashed on teeth as they smiled at each other and turned to go back inside.

 

End


Fire and Gravel

Guessing gift for Lynn. A moment of tension before a match reminds Ibu of why he fits in with Fudoumine, past and present. Character Sketch, I-3

Shinji listened to the murmurs that followed his team, braiding together into one curious and surprised and speculative strand.

"…first years, come on."

"They made it Nationals that year, didn’t they?"

"Next one too…"

"Only because they didn’t come up against any strong teams. It was a fluke. Only the captain is really good."

Shinji’s head turned, eyes tracking the one who’d made that last, disparaging, comment. He could feel the old, quick rage boil up, the fury that wanted to claw that smug dismissal to ribbons, that raged against the wall of disbelief.

The heat of his teammates closed more tightly around him, and he knew they had heard it too, were also angry with slow-burning memory. He leaned into that; it was the thing that had bound them together from the first, that had made him welcome. All of them were looking in the same direction, now, and from the corner of his eye Shinji saw Tachibana-san’s glare, not smoldering but bright and fierce.

The one who had spoken swallowed and stepped back quickly.

"No need to listen to the howling of stray dogs." Tachibana-san’s statement gathered them back up, moved them forward again.

Shinji’s anger didn’t fade, though; it just banked, waiting for fuel to make it flare again. He wasn’t really surprised when Tachibana-san fell in next to him and laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Let it go, Shinji," his captain murmured. "You know you’re better than that."

Shinji hesitated and bent his head. "Yes, Tachibana-san." He supposed he did know. It just didn’t make him any less angry.

The hand on his shoulder shook him gently. "Come on. We have a match to play. Remind yourself how good you are, until you really know it."

Looking up, Shinji saw Tachibana-san was smiling at him, intent and wry with a glint of starting fire. This time, he smiled too. "Yes, Tachibana-san." He straightened.

There were other bonds, and better welcomes, than anger, now. He would try to remember.

End


Time-lapse

Post-canon. Yukimura has recovered and Fuji has left tennis. They cross paths over art and weave a new acquaintance. Drama with Romance and Porn, I-3, implicit spoilers

Pairing(s): Yukimura/Fuji

Thirteen Months After The End

Seiichi walked slowly from one classroom full of art to the next, scribbling impressions in his notebook. One more session and the workshop would be done; he was still amazed at how much Sumitomo-sensei had fit into one weekend. It had certainly been a good experience for him, and he wanted to give good responses to his fellow students’ work—especially, perhaps, to the media he was less familiar with since that had been part of the project for this workshop.

"What are you thinking?"

It was not the kind of question Seiichi expected to hear out of the blue, but he recognized this voice and so it surprised him less. "Fuji." He turned away from the first piece of the photography section. Fuji was standing at his shoulder, watching him, head tilted just a bit as if to catch a faint sound; he looked relaxed, smiling, but his gaze was sharp. Seiichi had to smile, too. He’d rather missed seeing that expression across the net, this year. "Just considering the difference between a painter and a photographer."

Fuji seemed to turn this answer over behind his eyes for a moment. "And what is the difference?"

"A photographer looks for what’s present, to capture it." Seiichi spread his fingers toward the line of black and white images that flowed down the wall. He paused there, wanting to see what Fuji made of that, and wanting, with a spark of amusement, to prod back at him for having started the conversation so bluntly, so personally.

"I suppose that’s true enough," Fuji finally murmured, when Seiichi didn’t go on. "And a painter?"

Seiichi folded his arms, looking back at the room he’d just come from and the sweep of oil paints down canvas, colors over and under each other. "A painter looks for what isn’t there, to create it."

"So. Photography is merely derivative?" There was an edge in Fuji’s voice, sliding underneath his smile. "I think Hatakeyama-sensei might disagree."

Seiichi’s mouth curved in answer. "Is reality derivative?" he countered.

Fuji’s weight shifted back and Seiichi almost laughed. This was different from a game on the court, but similar enough to draw him. Getting Fuji Shuusuke to be serious was interesting under any circumstances.

And he hadn’t had a chance to on the court, this year, after all.

"Reality simply is," Fuji finally answered.

Seiichi shrugged slightly. "And I would say the same of imagination."

Fuji was quiet for another moment, puzzlement and amusement tangling together in his quirked brows. "A moment ago you were saying how different the two art forms are," he pointed out.

"Nothing is all one color." Seiichi flashed another smile, sharper this time, deliberately provoking. "A painter learns that early on."

"And what does a photographer learn? This hasn’t been a very productive seminar for you if you can’t answer at least some of that," Fuji shot back.

A good shot, Seiichi acknowledged. He had to think about this one more deeply. "Answering that might take more time than we have left," he returned lightly. "Perhaps I should write you instead."

"And buy extra time," Fuji murmured. His smile grew slowly. "If I give you a time-out, I think I should get to finish the discussion face-to-face."

Seiichi had never backed down from a challenge in his life. "How about the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum, then? Next weekend?"

"Two o’clock," Fuji agreed, chin lifting.

Seiichi was looking forward to it.

Five Months Later

"Do you miss tennis so little? Or do you just miss it that much?"

Shuusuke blinked, looking down from the huge multi-media canvas, and his lips curved. Yukimura had gotten him with that one; he’d have to ask.

"What do you mean?"

"You didn’t come to watch any of the matches last year." Yukimura ran a fingertip over the plaque with the title, head tipped as though contemplating the canvas or the question.

"Well, Tezuka is gone, isn’t he?" Shuusuke returned lightly. It was harder to tell how frustrated Yukimura was by that, but you could practically see the steam coming off both Sanada and Atobe whenever Tezuka came up.

Yukimura’s eyes cut toward him, dark. "I hadn’t thought Tezuka was your only friend on that team."

Shuusuke stifled a spurt of irritation. Of course he wasn’t. Eiji was still playing. And Inui. And Taka always tried to watch the matches, himself. And none of that really mattered, because Yukimura was turning the topic. "I’ve taken everything I can from tennis," he said, firmly turning it back.

When he saw Yukimura’s tiny smile he let out a soft breath. So he’d fallen for the false bait, had he?

This was why he liked conversations with Yukimura.

"So Tezuka is part of what tennis gave you?" Yukimura probed, circling back around.

Shuusuke was silent for a moment, moving to the next canvas, this one all in greens and grays and titled Mountain, Sky. He let his eyes follow the curves of paint as he thought. Yukimura reminded him a lot of Tezuka, sometimes. Other times not. Yukimura might just understand his reasons.

"It isn’t as though I found my tennis just for Tezuka," he told the silent presence behind his shoulder. "Not in the end."

Yukimura made an agreeing sound.

"But who is there, now, who can tell when I’m doing my best or not?" Shuusuke finished, quietly.

"We could."

When Shuusuke looked over his shoulder Yukimura’s arms were folded. That was a sign of judgment, he knew now—of suspended patience. He couldn’t help a dry laugh at the thought of how close he’d come to facing that on a regular basis.

"I thought about transferring, you know. For a while." Shuusuke turned around and leaned against the wall. "I decided not to, but—" he broke off, unsure he wanted to share the rest of it. The temptation he felt watching a game, now.

"But?" Yukimura’s head tilted again, dark hair feathering over his cheek. "You still could you know."

Now it was Shuusuke’s arms that were crossed, tightly. Their conversational game was getting too close to the truth. "Tennis isn’t what I’m going to do when I graduate, though. Why should I transfer just for that?" He meant it to come out light and didn’t think he’d managed very well.

Yukimura bowed his head. "True enough." He was the one who led the way to the next painting this time. Shuusuke rested his eyes and mind on the indigo and sleek white of this composition.

They didn’t speak of anything other than artistic technique again until they were choosing sandwiches from the vending machines.

"Whatever it is, you should come watch the matches. Or you’ll never settle it."

Shuusuke glanced at Yukimura to see what kind of gambit this was and stopped short, leaning half over to pick up his lunch. There was no calculation in Yukimura’s expression. Not pushing, not pulling, not lying in wait. Just a simple moment of kindness, and Shuusuke found himself at a loss how to answer it.

Finally Yukimura smiled and shook his head. "So? Where should we go next time? It’s your turn to choose, again."

Shuusuke regathered his wits. "Konica Minolta Plaza will have some new work by Nishigaki Kanako next month."

Yukimura laughed. "And you can scout another gallery location while we’re there, right?"

Shuusuke smiled back, back on balance. "I think about the future."

That got another sober look from Yukimura. "Yes. You do. And that’s good. But we all need something that takes us up completely in the now, too."

Shuusuke thought about that so hard he didn’t taste his sandwich as he ate it.

Five Months Later

Finishing National matches swiftly had a psychological value that Seiichi appreciated. He thought he liked the practical value better, though, getting a chance to scout some of the other teams without having to rely on third parties. In a generation of strong players, lesser players and club hangers on quickly lost the range to judge some games and teams accurately.

Renji made a satisfied noise as they stopped by the fence and Sanada snorted in answer, crossing his arms.

"I’m simply pleased to see Sadaharu playing as I expected," Renji answered mildly.

Seiichi eyed the scoreboard. "It looks like we’ll be seeing them in the quarterfinals. You think he’ll place himself in Singles Two, then, against you?"

"Quite likely," Renji murmured, tilting a brow at Seigaku’s third year captain, standing on the sidelines looking both pleased and stiff while Seigaku’s current singles ace played, and Ooishi and Kikumaru behind him, toweling off and talking together quietly. "He will have made the same calculations I have, and that will be the deciding match."

"No mistakes this time, then," Sanada stated.

Renji’s gaze didn’t leave Inui’s match. "Certainly not," he murmured.

A flash of light on the sidelines drew Seiichi’s attention away from their half teasing, half serious exchange and his own brows rose as his eyes found the source.

Fuji was standing around one side of the court, camera in hand, photographing the match. A tiny smile tugged at Seiichi’s mouth and he resettled his jacket on his shoulders and strolled around the corner. Fuji probably heard him but ignored his approach, completely absorbed, hands moving swift and sure over focus and lens adjustments and he snapped frame after frame. The last one caught Inui’s final shot with what looked to Seiichi like perfect timing. He stood quietly as Fuji snapped a few more of the players’ realization that the round was over.

Finally Fuji lowered his camera with a sigh and surfaced. "Yukimura." He nodded.

"Fuji." Seiichi leaned against the fence, biting back a smile. "I’d heard something about you shooting at the Prefectural games."

Fuji’s eyes glinted for a moment. "Coming on my own terms seemed worthwhile."

"Always," Seiichi agreed, and watched as Fuji’s hand relaxed on the camera case. "I would be interested to see how it all comes out. If you decide to show any of the results."

Fuji actually laughed at that. "I’m sure you would." His eyes turned distant as he looked across the courts. "We’ll see."

Seiichi accepted that with a nod. Some things couldn’t be rushed, and by now he was pretty sure Fuji was one of them.

"I might get some interesting shots of you, I suppose," Fuji mused.

Seiichi’s mouth curled. "Any shots you can get you’re welcome to, of course. It’s a public court."

"No studio shots, then?" Fuji asked with a sly sideways glance.

Seiichi considered that for a moment and leaned back, satisfied, as the answer came to him. "If you’ll sit for me in turn."

Fuji rocked back just a bit himself. Seiichi wasn’t surprised; he had a few reservations about sitting still to be examined that intently and he doubted Fuji felt much different.

"I’ll… think about it."

"Of course," Seiichi murmured. He couldn’t take too much more time aside for this but he couldn’t resist just one last shot. "Perhaps we’ll see you for the next match as well, then."

Fuji gave him back a smile, sharp and slanted and oddly companionable. "Perhaps. It’s a shame you didn’t come by in time to see Shiraishi’s second round match, too."

The teasing malice of the observation drew Seiichi back, turned him to lean into Fuji’s return gambit. "Oh? Is he playing differently this year?"

Fuji gave him a perfectly sunny look, shrugging the camera strap over his shoulder. "Perhaps."

Seiichi’s teeth flashed in a quick smile and he shrugged, casual. "Surprises are no problem. For those with sufficient confidence."

"I’ll ask you how it went in two weeks, then," Fuji tossed over his shoulder as he moved toward the gate to join his ex-teammates.

Seiichi was chuckling under his breath as he rejoined his own.

"What was that all about?" Renji asked, curiously.

Seiichi waved a hand. "Nothing to do with tennis."

He didn’t actually hear what he’d just said until both his friends turned to look at him. Then he had to pause, himself, and reflection tugged his mouth into a more rueful line. "It’s just… something different," he murmured. And that might well be his motto, regarding Fuji Shuusuke. "He did mention Shiraishi," he added, "but I’m not entirely sure he wasn’t just teasing."

Sanada’s brows rose and Renji looked amused. "Indeed? Well, I suppose we’ll see in the finals."

Seiichi spent a moment looking forward to the art-date in two weeks, and then put it aside to concentrate all his attention on the game they were really here for.

Four Months Later

Shuusuke settled into his seat with a sigh of pleasure for warmth of winter sunlight through the window and sipped the Pokka Lemon he’d found in the third vending machine.

Yukimura shuddered delicately. "I have no idea how you can drink that straight."

"I like tart things." Shuusuke chuckled reminiscently. "It’s even come in handy every now and then."

Yukimura raised a brow and clearly refrained from asking. Just as well, perhaps; Shuusuke didn’t know how someone who held his team’s reins as tightly as Yukimura did would take Inui’s wicked sense of humor.

"You’re so serious," he murmured around his straw, following the train of thought. And then, because it was so apropos, teased, "You should smile more often."

Yukimura leaned his chin in one hand, mouth quirked. "I smile plenty often. But I also concentrate seriously when it’s called for."

"Mmm." And that sent his thoughts right back to the gallery they’d just left, and the techniques Shuusuke had observed there. "If I were trying to capture what you are," Shuusuke mused, "I would use black and white, just like that showing. As fine grained as possible. You have so many shadings to you."

"I’ll model for you when you model for me," Yukimura returned, the argument months old and well worn, now. Then he tipped his head, though, eyes dark and curious. "Is capturing what I am something that matters to you?"

He’d never asked that before and Shuusuke answered without thinking, caught up in the usual speed of their exchanges. "Yes."

They looked at each other for a long, silent moment before Yukimura finally looked away, finger tracing a bead of condensation down his water glass. His voice was soft and neutral and undemanding when he asked, "Why?"

Shuusuke opened his mouth and closed it again slowly. Because it’s so hard to find was the first answer that came to his tongue, but… it didn’t feel complete. If the question had been part of their usual sparring that wouldn’t have bothered him. Yukimura had asked this one differently, though.

That difference was owed honesty.

"The challenge appeals to me as an artist." Shuusuke laid out the words carefully, wanting to be sure of their composition. "And being able to see what you are appeals to me as," he hesitated, but the sentence led him to it, "as a friend, I suppose."

Yukimura looked up and this smile was one Shuusuke had never seen before, bright and gentle. "All right, then."

Shuusuke blinked.

"I wasn’t entirely sure, you know." Yukimura took a sip of his water. "Whether we’re going to these galleries as opponents or as friends."

Habit prompted Shuusuke to ask, "How much difference is there?"

Yukimura’s chin was in his hand again and he tipped his head in wry acknowledgement. "For me, sometimes not much. But I think it’s different for you."

The tingle of the alertness that their sharper exchanges always brought brushed over Shuusuke, but this time it didn’t make him brace as he usually did. He glanced down, moving his straw back and forth with a fingertip. "Maybe so." He looked back up. "You’ll really do it?"

Yukimura laughed. "Well, I’ll go first, anyway."

"Thank you." Visions of lighting effects and calculations of film speed danced through his thoughts as he stared off over the plaza, and he supposed he couldn’t honestly blame Yukimura when he kept laughing.

Four Months Later

"So, this is an art classroom, right?"

"Mm," Fuji agreed around the canister top between his teeth.

"Then there must be heaters hidden around here somewhere. Go find them."

Fuji blinked. "Mm?"

"There’s nothing between me and the tile floor but paper," Seiichi pointed out, tartly. "I’m about to freeze something off."

"Mm." Fuji took the top out and closed up his latest roll of film. "Okay, hang on."

Somehow, Seiichi was not surprised when Fuji turned to adjust his tripod instead of rummage in the classroom’s cupboards. "Fuji," he said, low and definite, "either you pull your mind out of the inside of your cameras and get me the heaters or I’ll go look for them myself."

"No, no, no! I just got the shadows right!"

Well, that had gotten his attention, at least. "Then get me the heaters," Seiichi repeated with, he thought, great patience for someone who was freezing his ass off far more literally than was usual.

Fuji sighed and finally went to root through the cupboards. "Last time you complained that the lights were too hot."

"Last time I was wearing more."

"What is it about captains and perfection? You’re never satisfied." Since Fuji was shifting two small heaters over while he said it, Seiichi let that one go. "Happy?"

Warmth radiated from the grilles on either side of him and Seiichi sighed. "Much better."

Fuji looked over his shoulder as he adjusted the tripod again, with a teasing curl to his mouth. "I notice you didn’t actually say you were happy. What did I just mention about perfectionism?"

Seiichi’s brows rose. "And who is it who’s taking fifteen minutes to get the angle just right for shots that are going to take about two minutes, if that?"

Fuji blinked as if it hadn’t occurred to him and Seiichi couldn’t help settling back a bit, vindicated. Fuji put his hands on his hips.

"Don’t move."

"Not moving," Seiichi agreed, letting out a deep breath and holding still again as Fuji slipped behind his camera and the first click of the shutter licked through the darkened room.

Seiichi held himself still, impassive, watching the edges of the lights sliding off counters and stacked desks as Fuji moved around him. This was very odd, really, almost like some kind of meditation. It wasn’t very inward, though. The touch of Fuji’s attention on him was like the heat of the lights—almost a pressure. The focus wasn’t entirely unfamiliar, but he was used to responding to it.

"You could smile, you know," Fuji interrupted his thoughts. "If I wanted a stonefaced model, I would ask Tezuka next time he’s home."

An image of Tezuka, arranged nude on the cold tile and paper flashed through Seiichi’s mind and he snorted helplessly. "Fuji! You can’t tell me to hold still and then make me laugh!"

Fuji snapped three shots, rapidfire, and emerged from behind the camera looking faintly smug. "I certainly can."

Seiichi looked up at him, arrested. "You wanted me to laugh?"

Fuji made a sound of agreement. "Line and texture and shadow are one thing. I’ve got some shots already I think will come out very well. But something that shows how alive you are… well, that’s different."

Seiichi was quiet while Fuji moved the lights for the next pose, and finally asked, "Are you going to turn that one in with your portfolio, too?"

Fuji paused, back to him. "No."

Seiichi tucked the warmth that answer brought carefully away and leaned obligingly on the box Fuji dragged over, stilling himself for the next set of planned, artistic shots, occupying his mind with where they should go for their next outing. Perhaps he would choose something besides art, this time.

Three Months Later

"Shuusuke, you have a visitor."

Shuusuke looked up from arm-deep in a bag of sandy potting soil, expecting to see Yukimura, or perhaps Eiji, and got a surprise. "Tezuka!"

"Fuji." Tezuka stepped out onto the deck with a polite bow to Shuusuke’s mother.

"I thought you weren’t going to be home for another four days." Fuji stood, brushing off his hands and arms and waved his friend to one of the deck chairs.

"I found a standby seat on an earlier flight." Tezuka settled into the second chair and looked with approval at the plate of onigiri Shuusuke’s mother had left out for him earlier. "It’s good to be back."

Having heard Tezuka’s opinions of Western food before, Shuusuke chuckled and nudged the plate over to him. "So it went well."

"Fairly well." Tezuka took a bite and leaned back in his chair a bit. "The final match was close, and I’m satisfied with it. And I have an offer for endorsements."

"Tezuka, that’s wonderful!" Shuusuke knew that an endorsement deal meant more money to travel and enter the important tournaments. Tezuka did not, of course, agree with him, but he smiled faintly and that was just as good.

"Everyone seems to be doing well here," Tezuka observed instead.

Familiar with his friend’s thoughts, Shuusuke had no trouble decoding this. "Yes. I think Seigaku might just be at Nationals this year. It seems appropriate, for our third year again." Well, his third year, anyway, and Inui and Eiji and Ooishi’s. Tezuka was on a different time table now.

Though, even if Seigaku got past Hyoutei, there would still be Rikkai to deal with. Shuusuke and Yukimura weren’t talking about that this week. Instead they had argued about whether Shuusuke’s translation of Mallarmé’s "Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard" for his French class was taking too much poetic license, and how much was too much when translating a poem, after all.

Tezuka was looking at him with a brow quirked and Shuusuke realized he was smiling at nothing. "How long are you going to be home for this time?" he asked.

"At least a month, I think." Tezuka’s fingers tapped on the arm of his chair and Shuusuke read impatience in that kind of fidgeting. "There has to be time for filming as well as training, now."

"Perhaps you can get me in to watch," Shuusuke said, lightly, and chuckled at the dour look Tezuka gave him. "Seriously, though, will it eat into your training time that badly?"

Tezuka’s mouth thinned a bit. "I want to train toward entering the Australian Open, this winter."

Shuusuke sat back, letting out a slow breath. "Aiming for Federer already?"

Tezuka brushed a few grains of rice off his fingers and glanced over at Shuusuke with a tiny smile. "Of course."

Yukimura would get that glint in his eyes when he heard, Shuusuke reflected. He was already annoyed enough that Tezuka had gone on ahead, without Tezuka starting on the Grand Slam tournaments. "This should be interesting," he murmured.

"I hope so," Tezuka answered, and Shuusuke had to shake his head to pull his thoughts back onto the conversation.

"Well, if you do happen to have a day free anywhere, let me know." He smiled cheerfully.

Tezuka gave him a long look. "You have something in mind?"

"I had thought I might visit some of the area botanical gardens, this summer," Shuusuke murmured, which was entirely true. He and Yukimura already had plans for a week and a half on. There were other gardens he thought would do Tezuka more good, though.

"Which one?" Tezuka asked with prompt wariness, undiminished by over two years out of Shuusuke’s immediate range.

"I was thinking an outdoorsman like you might enjoy Atagawa park in Shizuoka." Shuusuke nibbled delicately at a rice ball.

"I’ll see, then."

Shuusuke looked forward to the email he’d get when Tezuka looked Atagawa up and found the bit about the alligators. He grinned behind his snack. He liked to think that, when Yukimura went pro, he and Tezuka might meet at tournaments and have the extra bond of both having been teased by Shuusuke. He’d consider it his personal contribution to their professional rapport.

When Yukimura went pro and Shuusuke’s weekends were reduced to repotting his cacti and buying new lenses without anyone along to talk to who understood why light was important and days without anyone who laughed at his teasing. Without someone who sometimes, lately, touched the back of Shuusuke’s hand in a way that made his breath catch. Shuusuke quashed a sigh. He didn’t want to think about that.

"So, at any rate, tell me more about this last tournament." He settled back in his chair and prepared to listen.

Eight months Later

Seiichi dug through his drawers and frowned. "Do I already have a blue T-shirt in the packing pile?" he called over his shoulder.

"No, just the black one."

Seiichi made an annoyed sound and went to rummage through his closet. "Are you sure you should be helping me pack instead of getting a start on your reading for classes?" he asked over his shoulder.

Fuji shrugged. "I can catch up. You’re going to be gone for five weeks this time."

Seiichi smiled, folding his blue T-shirt. "Maybe you’ll have some new art to show me, when I get back, then, instead of having to go look at other people’s."

Fuji shorted. "In between my coursework."

"Since when has that ever stopped you?"

Fuji shrugged again, and Seiichi frowned a little. "If you wanted to go professional right away, you could have…"

"Like you?"

The question had an edge to it, one Seiichi didn’t often hear from Fuji any more. He tossed the T-shirt into his bag and turned to look at Fuji directly. "What’s wrong?"

Fuji looked away. "It’s nothing."

Seiichi waited, patiently.

Fuji crossed his arms, frowning down at them. "Everyone’s leaving," he murmured, finally.

"Not everyone, surely," Seiichi said softly.

"Both my best friends take up a lot of space when they’re gone." Fuji still didn’t look up.

"You know we’ll always come back, though."

Fuji’s mouth tightened.

Seiichi sighed to himself. So that’s what it was. He laid a hand on one tense shoulder and said, quietly, "Shuusuke."

His friend’s eyes widened a little. It was the first time Seiichi had called him by his given name.

"This is still home."

Shuusuke smiled, but the shadows didn’t leave his eyes. "I know."

Seiichi stifled a snort. No one had ever budged Fuji Shuusuke when he didn’t want to be budged, and he’d clearly decided he was going to lose something. Seiichi had practice overcoming the immovable and impossible, though, and he had no intention of being lost, no matter what Shuusuke thought.

He turned his hand over and cupped Shuusuke’s cheek, thumb stroking over his cheekbone, and Shuusuke leaned into the touch, but those shadows stayed, flavored with a hesitance that made Seiichi’s voice gentle, even in his exasperation.

"This is home," he repeated with deliberate emphasis, and leaned down and brushed his lips over Shuusuke’s.

Shuusuke’s hand closed tight around his wrist, and Seiichi’s mouth quirked. Even after that, Shuusuke wouldn’t reach for what he wanted, wouldn’t hold Seiichi in place, would only ask around the edges. Time to try something else, then.

"Listen," he murmured against Shuusuke’s mouth. "Whatever else is happening, even if it’s a major tournament, even if it’s a Grand Slam tournament, I will be here for your first gallery showing. I promise."

Shuusuke’s breath hitched against his lips, and he stared up at Seiichi, last of the shadows finally wiped away by shock. "Seiichi…"

Seiichi smiled. "I promise."

Shuusuke closed his eyes and laughed, husky, and took a long breath. "All right." When he opened them again, his eyes were clear.

"I believe you."

Three Years Later

"An amazingly good show, Fuji-san, all things considered. I’m sure we’ll all have to keep an eye on you in the future!"

Shuusuke smiled quite insincerely at the woman and murmured his thanks. He resolved to apologize to Yuuta the next time they were both at their parents’ house for dinner; the condescension of the art critics was making his jaw clench in a way he found extremely familiar from watching his brother, and if this was how Yuuta had felt for years, well. A lot of things became clearer.

He passed on, mingling with the respectable crowd, being sure to smile and nod politely no matter how inane the remarks. He wished Seiichi could have been home for this show. He was better than Shuusuke at being charming and imperious at the same time.

In a way, of course, Seiichi was here. Shuusuke smiled genuinely as his gaze passed over the sequence of five photos that had pride of place in the gallery. The fluid arch of Seiichi’s spine, and the shadows that turned the muscles of his legs into an abstract had turned out just the way Shuusuke envisioned, and he had named the series "Edges of Perfection".

His face was starting to ache from the constant smiling, though, and he thought it was time for a break. Slipping past some unused panels into the back room, he rummaged out a paper cup and ran some water. His mouth was certainly grateful, after so long chatting.

"Hiding from your fans?"

Shuusuke’s eyes widened and he had just started to turn when arms slid around him, catching him back against Seiichi’s chest. He laughed softly. "Weren’t you supposed to be in France this week?"

"I told my manager it would cost about the same to fly home and back as to live there for the time until the tournament. I started telling him as soon as you wrote to say you had a showing." Seiichi dropped a light kiss under Shuusuke’s ear.

Shuusuke leaned back with a pleased sigh. "Mm. You don’t have to make it home for every one."

"Just all of them that I can." Seiichi’s lips curved against his neck. "So are you hiding out, back here?"

Shuusuke let his head rest back against Seiichi’s shoulder. "Just taking a break. First one this evening, I should point out." He could feel Seiichi’s laugh against his spine.

"Good. They won’t miss you for a little while, then." Seiichi’s hand slid down Shuusuke’s chest, and further down his stomach. "I missed you," Seiichi murmured in his ear, hand finally coming to rest between Shuusuke’s legs.

"Seiichi…" Shuusuke’s voice was suddenly husky. He could feel the heat of Seiichi’s palm through the fabric of his slacks. "You pick the strangest places."

Seiichi laughed again. "What, you didn’t think the studio was appropriate?" His fingertips rubbed up and down Shuusuke’s length. "It was just the way you were looking at me."

"Through a lens?" Shuusuke teased back, breathless.

"Focused," Seiichi corrected, tongue tracing lightly over Shuusuke’s ear. "Completely intent. I love seeing you that way."

"Seiichi," Shuusuke said, low and insistent, and lifted a hand to twine through Seiichi’s hair, tilting his head back until he could catch Seiichi’s mouth. Seiichi’s hand tightened between his legs and he made an approving sound.

"Since you’re sure," Seiichi murmured, and his fingers worked Shuusuke’s slacks open and slid inside to wrap around him.

"Very," Shuusuke agreed, a bit distracted. The heat of Seiichi’s fingers was taking up all his attention, and the faint roughness of Seiichi’s calluses. "Nnnn…" He leaned back into Seiichi, hips rocking up into the touch. Seiichi’s hands always made him stop thinking, especially when they moved over him slow and hard and deliberate, and he tipped his head back further as Seiichi’s mouth moved down his throat. The wet slide pulled a shiver down his spine; this was Seiichi, present and dense and sensual, and later he would want to capture those things in light on film, but sensation was their medium right now and this picture, this pleasure was too immediate for him to want anything but to complete it. Seiichi pulled Shuusuke back more tightly against him and his hips ground hard into Shuusuke’s rear. The sound Seiichi made, half moan and half growl, made Shuusuke’s stomach tighten, and the hardness of Seiichi’s cock pressing against his ass made him think of sun-warm afternoons draped naked over the velvet arm of their couch, and thinking of that sent a tingle of heat through him so sharp that it condensed pleasure around it. Shuusuke had just enough mind left to bite back the open moan as he came. Seiichi’s mouth covered his again, kissing him fierce and hot as Seiichi’s hips jerked against his ass.

It took Shuusuke a few minutes before he could say, breathless and laughing, "Welcome home."

"Mm. I’m back," Seiichi murmured against his ear.

The visceral proof of the polite phrases left a warm glow in Shuusuke’s bones and he breathed out a soft sigh. They stood together for another moment until Seiichi reached past him to the towels over the sink and Shuusuke had to laugh again, quietly, with genuine amusement, as they cleaned themselves up. Seiichi drew him back for another kiss, when they were done.

"So, have you had enough of a break?" There was a certain amount of mischief in Seiichi’s eyes.

"You want to go back out with me and watch people admiring you?" Shuusuke teased back.

"Admiring your work," Seiichi corrected serenely.

They strolled side by side through the crowd and Shuusuke was amused to watch how many of the critics suddenly found a reason to simply smile and nod at him. They paused by the images of Seiichi, and the original looked up at them thoughtfully.

"I’ll tell you another thing that photographers learn," he murmured.

It was their second oldest game, the only one they both still played, and Shuusuke tipped his head inquiringly.

"Photographers learn that there are two subjects in any photo: the one in front of the camera and the one behind it." Seiichi looked back down at Shuusuke with the smile that was reserved for him, gentle and intent.

A delicate shiver brushed down Shuusuke’s spine. There was nothing he would trade for the way Seiichi saw him, saw all of him.

Nor for the way he saw Seiichi.

He reached out to lace their fingers together briefly, out of sight of the crowd. "If they have subjects that touch them. Yes."

Seiichi’s thumb stroked the inside of Shuusuke’s wrist before he let go. "You didn’t get much of a drink earlier. Come get another, and tell me things."

Shuusuke smiled. "Well, I’ve been asked to teach at a workshop on artistic technique next week…"

End