FANDOM: Prince of Tennis
PAIRING: Shinya/Atsushi, with appearances from the rest of the SeiRu ensemble
SUMMARY: High school brings about a question that needs to be answered, once and for all. (3000+ words)
WARNING/S: Somewhat switching points-of-view and long, maybe confusing sentences.
NOTES: Originally written for the strudy_exchange.
As odd as it would sound, in all actuality, despite what most of their tennis club seemed - or rather, wanted to believe with the exception of Akazawa, of course (who just couldn’t be bothered); and despite what Mizuki claimed to have witnessed in the dorms on those rare nights after lights-out – as this was still quite arguable, the fact of the matter was that, indeed, neither Atsushi nor Shinya were really of the homosexual orientation. The mere idea itself was preposterous, outrageous!
Point being, Atsushi frowned, that just because a lot of guys on the tennis circuit were indisputably gay, this certainly did not automatically mean that he and his self-proclaimed best friend and doubles partner were, in turn. And oh, with such an expression on his face, leaving no room for argument whatsoever, no one dared to point out that aforementioned best friend, on the other hand, had strikingly replied with a soft, “No comment, da ne” when asked of his opinion. One would have expected something… more perhaps, a violent reaction, sputtering.
Which, in the long run, should have garnered some form of deeper contemplation on Atsushi’s part, confusion maybe after a short moment used to ponder. And unfortunately, well, it did not.
But who could blame him? A busy high school junior had more pressing things to worry about these days, excluding the upcoming mock college entrance exams. Never mind that the actual exams were mostly a year away, leaving sufficient amount of time for preparation; and that, instead, they should be enjoying themselves, what with Christmas fast approaching. Such was the life of a St. Rudolph student, in any case. And as their teachers were often inclined to believe, Atsushi fulfilled this image perfectly.
So, it really shouldn’t have been surprising when, after that brief and somewhat impromptu Q&A session, Atsushi simply sat down as he normally did, leaned forward as he normally did, and brushed his lips ever so softly against Shinya’s ear as he normally did to greet his friend, and thus, went on to enjoy an otherwise uneventful morning as he normally did. Not at all caught off-beat.
Though, sadly and decidedly unnoticed, the same could not be said of Shinya, who had found a rather unpleasant spray of pink on his cheeks for the better part of their first period, which – of course – normally, just did not happen!
And frighteningly enough, that was only the beginning.
“Mizuki-san says that we’re free to leave now.”
Questionable morning aside, Shinya himself had never considered the possibility of being gay, had never entertained the notion precisely because he had never been given reason to think otherwise. After all, like the typical healthy male specimen of seventeen years, he was, to be noted, quite fixated on the female anatomy in contrast. And this was something he had no problem with rambunctiously displaying, whether it be in his own home, in the classroom, or at tennis practice – all of which were in Atsushi’s company as well.
Which was, he later defended, the only reason why the sudden interview had caught him by surprise. Furthermore, just because Atsushi wasn’t as vocal about his decidedly significant appreciation of the female form, this did not necessarily mean that he was leaning the other way. And as his best friend, fists clenched, Shinya could attest to that, all the while making up a teeny white lie about how the raven-haired boy had a secret stash of ready-to-use condoms in his wallet. (Atsushi had later been heard commenting about how two men could make use of condoms, too, though he was ignored accordingly.)
“So, what’ll it be? The arcade, da ne?”
One would have noticed, however, that ever since that morning, something between the two had changed. Though, if asked about that strange tension in air, both would have promptly denied it. Wasn’t it because of the cold? An aftermath to grueling hours of training, Atsushi had answered Yuuta with a soft smile, meaning to dismiss. How could there not be tension?
Shinya had chosen to take another route, had turned his head away and conveniently switched the topic over to something else, something he had deemed far more interesting (such as how their team jerseys would look “frickin’ awesome” next year what with the changes Mizuki had made; a series of chokes was what he had gotten in reply) – which only served to make their ever curious teammates all the more curious, again, excluding Akazawa who pretty much had dibs on captaincy next year and so couldn’t afford to be focusing on much else.
“Have you finished your homework?”
As such, upon seeing the two discuss their plans of heading out into town, pulling their scarves on and looking all too pleased with themselves, it was then unanimously decided that Nomura, Kaneda and Yuuta would be following close behind, binoculars and stylish sunglasses in tow. For the good of our team, of course, Mizuki had explained consequently with a finger tapping lightly at his chin. One would have had to wonder why said manager did not volunteer himself, though there wasn’t enough time to worry about that.
“Of course, I have. Geez, ‘Tsushi, do you ever let up?”
Unfortunately, the trip to town did not yield satisfying results (for whose standards, we cannot be certain). Rather unexpectedly, Shinya had led the way to a newly established arcade and the doubles pair in question had then spent an approximate two and half hours switching from one game to the next, playing to their hearts’ content until it was time to head back before the school gates closed.
It was Yuuta, ever sensible and easily attuned in most situations, who grew tired first of what was, for them, obviously a daily routine. After that, it didn’t take quite so long to bring his other two senpai down and convince them to return to the dorms. In which case, this did not make a very happy Mizuki, who had thus been seen lecturing his teammates about the finer points of successful spying (and stalking) later that night.
Progression though, came in many forms, some more discreet than others, and some evidently hidden behind fairly thick egg white-colored walls. This was easily the case as Atsushi had caught a glimpse of Nomura sometime before they had stepped into the arcade (blame it on the child who had found the sunglasses tacky and tried to whip them off his face, which had led to a few rounds of hair-pulling, name-calling, and one very irritated mother). His doubles partner had remained none the wiser, and the normally silent teen wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“Does it bother you?”
Shinya quickly looked up from the magazine laid out on his bed, an entitled reaction as a buxom blonde winked back at whoever stopped to check, revealing a steamy centerfold, glistening breasts and all. The question had not been anticipated, nor had the sudden weight on his shoulders, his chest pressed further into the mattress.
With Atsushi’s smaller frame poised above him much like how a large, agile jungle cat would have perched itself across a sturdy tree branch, he was inevitably trapped; though this had yet to fully manifest itself in Shinya’s mind, which also suited his doubles partner just fine.
“Does what bother me?” He craned his neck to catch Atsushi’s eye, while the latter leaned down to blow across his nape, breath warm and yet arguably sending chills up Shinya’s spine. He winced.
“The fact that people think we’re gay,” Atsushi replied a heartbeat later, eyelids sliding shut. He leaned his chin against Shinya’s shoulder, arms loosely wrapped around his front, fingers playing with the lining of his collar. Shinya gulped, shook his head and rolled over to his side, effectively tossing Atsushi off. The other boy landed on his back, eyes still trained on him and Shinya couldn’t help but be painfully aware. So very aware.
“Of course not, da ne. We’re not gay to begin with, so it doesn’t matter what other people think.” Shinya had always found it especially difficult to meet Atsushi’s eyes when those very same eyes were boring into him, into his very soul. He frowned and settled for staring at the ceiling, still conscious of the gaze caressing at his skin like a gentle play of fingertips on an old piano, tuning its keys, testing it; feather-light and misleadingly soothing.
It took another full second before Shinya came to realize that there were actual fingertips running along his skin, trailing past his elbow to graze the inside of his forearm. He turned his head, meaning to ask Atsushi if he had a problem or something, and found his own eyes drawn to the way the other boy leaned up, arching his back ever so subtly. That stray hand curved its way across Shinya’s cheek to signal Atsushi hovering closer.
“Aren’t you the least bit curious?”
Shinya blinked, tried to think, tried to wrap his head around the idea and the hints of that proposition and how he should go about replying to it, before he finally, purposefully drew up a blank. His brows knitted together.
“Are you?” He hissed.
The other boy laughed, clearly amused. And Shinya thought that that was the end of it. Of course, Atsushi couldn’t be serious. Of course, there was nothing to think about. They weren’t gay or remotely close to being gay. It was normal, all perfectly normal. It was normal for Atsushi to lean close, it was normal for them to sometimes disregard the boundaries of personal space. There was nothing out of the ordinary about it. Because they were best friends and had been best friends since forever. It was all good, all very well and good.
Grinning, ignoring the odd flutter in his stomach, Shinya pulled the hand away from his face, their fingers laced together, breaths fanning across reddened cheeks (almost in anticipation). He watched as Atsushi, who continued to laugh, made that last stretch and sealed the distance between them, lips crushing his own, tongue sliding against the seam, begging for entrance. It went unanswered. He blinked again. Yes, all very well and good.
“You— stay away from me, da ne!”
Needless to say, reevaluations had to be made. Though as odd as it would sound then, Shinya still did not think that he was gay at all. In fact, neither was Atsushi, for that matter (even if the latter apparently thought otherwise). And it was not just stubborn pride which led him to believe so; however, one could have easily argued that that was the case, seeing as the two had not really spoken to each other in nearly a week. And when one looked just about ready to give in, more importantly, the other promptly did something to change his mind. Out of sight, out of mind? Decidedly not.
“I was going to ask Kaede-chan about our project.”
This was, Shinya thought, precisely why Atsushi could not be of the homosexual orientation. It was a fact that his doubles partner (or ex-doubles partner, depending how one looked at it) was quite popular with the ladies. He didn’t want to admit so, but Shinya had only come to realize this recently. It wasn’t that hard to believe, in any case, since the two were often absorbed in their own little world and thus, did not notice what went on beyond it. Nevertheless, now that he’d had the time and opportunity to witness it for himself, Shinya wasn’t sure how he had gotten by without knowing it sooner. It didn’t help to note that the thought wasn’t making him too happy either, but who was keeping track anyway?
Kaede-chan, braided pigtails and glossy lips, had looked back and forth between the two, muttered something about meeting after class, and quickly gathered her things before she ran off to her friends. An example of the pack mentality, he and Atsushi had once discussed in passing. The conversation had been brief, off-handed, random, and “so like you, da ne,” Shinya recalled himself saying. He hadn’t particularly cared at the time, though Atsushi had replied that it was essential to be aware of these things. (“Because girls can be scary, you know.”)
And with said group of girl friends glaring daggers at him, Shinya couldn’t help but agree. They had been giggling amongst themselves until they’d caught him staring back, which was, really, some kind of recoil action as he was unaware of their disrupted conversation about how cute Atsushi looked that morning. And for a moment, forgetting all about their cold war, Shinya tilted his head to the side, ready to tell Atsushi just what he thought of it. Girls are so shallow, ‘Tsushi. I’m glad we don’t have that superficial pack mentality ourselves, ne? Only to have the back of his friend’s head facing his way; the other boy busy and looking far too interested in what Tomiharu, another junior on the team, was gushing on about.
Shinya gritted his teeth, uncertain whether he should be angry or something else, something he couldn’t quite place his finger on.
“My mom sent a kotatsu. You don’t mind if I bring it out, do you?”
In the long run, maybe, they weren’t really that close to begin with. He frowned, propping his chin against the inside of a palm. Atsushi was setting the table down in the center of their room, just about to pull the thick red and green blanket over it. Bent over like that, with his arms braced on the edges opposite, Shinya had an unquestionably generous view, his mind going on immediate overdrive with case-by-case scenarios, symptoms of withdrawal. The crux of his problem? Unidentifiable, at that point. Though, without a doubt, his patience was wearing thin, paper-thin.
Atsushi leaned forward, using one knee to slide across the tabletop, legs spread further apart. The hem of his shirt rose, uncovering a bit of skin; trousers hugging his thighs and calves accordingly. There was a flash of red in the corner of his vision, Atsushi’s ribbon peaking out of his pants pocket. That was when Shinya’s pencil lead snapped.
“Mm? Oh, no, you don’t have to help. I got it covered,” Atsushi turned to throw a smile over his shoulder to reassure him, but froze upon seeing Shinya come up to his side instead. There was an odd look in his eyes, feverish – he probably did have a fever, but Shinya could have cared less. It was all instinct, blood rushing to his head. Like snapshots with blinding flashes of light. Do now, ask questions later.
Click. Make a grab for his wrist. Click. Reach for the back of his head. Click. Position check. Click. There goes the kotatsu. Click. The blanket should suffice. Click. Hey, they weren’t really that close anyway.
Atsushi hardly had time to breathe, a stray sound in the back of his throat, as they tumbled down, down, down. Slim fingers flew to Shinya’s shoulders, it didn’t feel right. But it didn’t feel wrong either. He buried his face below Atsushi’s ear, the curve where neck met shoulder, smooth, pale flesh. He could barely make out a pulse. Without thinking, he ran his teeth against it before nipping. Atsushi shoved at his face, a halfhearted attempt to push him off.
“Took you long enough.” Shinya knew he wasn’t imagining it then, a harsh shudder across the shell of his ear. His arms tightened, drew themselves along lean shoulders and pressed firm. Don’t let go.
It was, Atsushi agreed, all Mizuki-san’s fault. To be honest, if he hadn’t brought up that one night when everyone had shuffled into the dorms late and heard a crash come from the sitting room, where they had actually been playing a game of table tennis with Kyosuke and Tomiharu, no one would have begun asking. And Shinya wouldn’t have had to wonder, nor would he have had to question his preferences.
It was an unnecessary detour, though their manager did like to believe that it had ultimately helped them. There was that, too, of course. But if anyone (meaning Yuuta) had asked him straight out, Atsushi would have said that he’d already had a plan long before it had happened. After all, one couldn’t rush these kinds of things.
True enough, in all actuality, despite what everyone had thought and despite what everyone was then probably reaffirming, the fact of the matter was that neither he nor Shinya were truly of the homosexual orientation. Point being, he had nodded, that just because most teams on the tennis circuit had their own ‘pair of all pairs’, this certainly did not mean that he and his doubles partner fit the description, in turn.
They both enjoyed the occasional steamy centerfold (with Atsushi leaning towards brunettes and Shinya towards blondes); they both had the habit of flirting with Kaede-chan, who really was such an adorable girl, if only she wouldn’t run off to her man-eating friends every time they tried to have a decent conversation with her; and they both really weren’t attracted to any other guys, to be noted – though Shinya had once lamented on the possibility of crushing on Atsushi’s twin brother, which, one can imagine, did not help matters (but let’s not get into that).
Nevertheless, there were more pressing things to worry about these days, such as how Nomura had managed to get a hold of that large bottle of sake for their scheduled hanami, which was never a good thing, seeing as the boy could not hold his liquor. In any case, they could have easily left that up to Akazawa, who had by then been named captain for the following year – but since he, well, couldn’t be bothered as he was already having a drink or two with their senpai…
“’Tsushi, I found us the perfect spot, da ne,” Shinya reached out, touched his hand against the other boy’s and squeezed. A sakura petal floated to the ground, almost as if it were dancing in triumph. His cheeks were a slight dusty shade pinker; they hadn’t even gotten to the sake yet. Atsushi smiled.
And as they sauntered away, wordlessly, they agreed it was a fitting enough punishment for their flamboyant manager to handle.