Immovable Object, Irresistible Force by Halrloprillalar / prillalar
Prince of Tennis, Atobe/Tezuka, R, 3000 words.
Kyuushuu. It's all in Tezuka's head.
NB: This is an alternate version from canon of Tezuka's recovery. With Atobe. :) Many thanks to kestrelsan for thoughtful beta.
When Tezuka gets back from physio, there are flowers in his room. The bouquet overpowers the small desk and the scent of the lilies soaks the air. Tezuka opens the window before he reads the card.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery. It's signed Atobe Keigo.
Tezuka puts the card beside the flowers. He stares at it, not seeing the words, hearing the voice of his doctor in his head. He lies on the bed and picks up the book from his bedside table. He holds it until it's time for supper.
"Did I send those?" Atobe says when Tezuka calls to thank him. "It must have been one of the staff."
Tezuka doesn't change the water and the flowers bend in defeat, littering the desk with curling petals. He throws them out and gives the empty vase to the woman at the reception desk. The card is gone. He doesn't know where it went.
Inui emails Tezuka every day with information about the tennis club. Oishi sends postcards -- pictures of sailboats on the front and words of cheer on the back. Oishi's hand is thin and precise and Tezuka remembers the extra-fine-tip pens he always carries: one black, one green, one blue.
Oishi wouldn't take the club from him when Tezuka asked and so it's still on his back: Echizen, the others, the tournament. But there's nothing he can do for them from here.
Tezuka's shoulder hurts all the time. Some people live their whole lives with pain. Tezuka is not sure that he can.
"It turns out I sent the flowers after all," Atobe says, not even giving his name first. "I found a note in my memorandum book."
Tezuka holds the phone to his ear and wonders why Atobe is calling.
"Say something," Atobe says. "Don't just breathe at me, Tezuka."
"Thank you," Tezuka says. "For everything."
Atobe laughs. "Don't be like that."
Tezuka doesn't answer and Atobe tells Tezuka a story about his dog, Kabaji, and some double-chocolate mousse.
"I have to go," Tezuka says. He rings off and sits on his bed. Atobe's card is behind the leg of the desk. He kneels on the floor and reaches for it. Pain shoots down his arm. He sits back on his heels and breathes until it's nearly better. He leaves the card where it is.
Tezuka walks around the grounds most afternoons. The sun is hot, but there's a breeze off the ocean. There are mountains in the distance and if Tezuka looks at them long enough, he can feel their cool air around him, their deep stillness filling him through the soles of his feet. He thinks of living there, alone, in a tiny house, rising with the sun and sleeping with the dark, no one to do for but himself.
He reads Inui's email and replies to one in five. He props Oishi's cards up in a row on the desk. He holds his racquet in his hand and lets it pull on his arm. It feels heavier than before, like someone has added lead tape to the frame.
He goes outside and hits a ball against a wall, over and over. He still can't lift his shoulder.
"Your doctor says it's all in your head," Atobe says. Tezuka doesn't ask how Atobe knows what Tezuka's doctor said. "My car will be there at four."
"What?" It's a bit of a leap from Tezuka's head to Atobe's car.
"It's the summer holidays, so I thought I'd come to Kyuushuu." Atobe speaks like the wind blows, his voice easy, like there's nowhere he can't go, no crack he can't slip through. "We're going to my summer house for the weekend."
"I can't leave the facility." Tezuka wonders if Atobe's summer house is in the mountains.
"Be packed and ready," Atobe says. "I don't like to wait."
Atobe's summer house is in the mountains. The grounds are spacious but winding, taking what level space they can. There's a small lake and a boathouse, a single tennis court. Atobe and Tezuka eat supper at the end of a long table in a large room. There are five courses.
Tezuka watches Atobe's hands as he cuts his meat, spoons his soup, lifts his glass. Every gesture is graceful and conspicuous. When Atobe sits back between courses, his face relaxes into a smile. He lifts his chin. "I'm sorry everything is in such disarray. We only have a skeleton staff here now."
"I'm sorry to trouble you." Tezuka cannot see a thing out of place, from the settings on the table to the hair that brushes Atobe's cheek. Except for himself.
After supper, Tezuka goes to his room. He sits in an easy chair, his book in his hands. He thinks about what his doctor said. He doesn't want to believe that he's afraid.
There's a knock at the door and Atobe comes in. "Don't be boring," he says, and takes Tezuka to the other side of the house to play Eight Ball.
He hands Tezuka a cue. "Are you going to shoot right-handed?"
Tezuka shoots left-handed. He breaks and almost runs out.
"Oh?" Atobe smiles. "A worthy opponent after all." He steps up to the table. Tezuka doesn't get another turn.
They play for two hours, chalking up the games. When Atobe leans across the table to make a shot, his smile falls away and Tezuka can see the will to win outlined in his face.
Atobe is ahead three games when they stop. He walks Tezuka back to his bedroom. Tezuka doesn't know where Atobe sleeps. Atobe is five steps down the hall when he looks back over his shoulder. "Tezuka," he says, and Tezuka stops with his hand on the door handle. "I've never taken anything from you that you weren't willing to give."
Tezuka goes inside and shuts the door.
He wakes with a gasp. The room is dark, his body is alive with the sensations of his dream, his pyjamas are sticky. He lies there, eyes shut, remembering what he can: the touch on his skin, the weight pressing him against the ground, the face looking down at him.
His heart sinks. But his mind is jumbled with sleep and sex and all Tezuka can do is let the dream wrap around him until he's hard again and only half-awake. He lives as much of it as he still can before it slips away and he comes with Atobe's face on the inside of his eyelids. He's asleep again before he can begin to think about it.
In the morning, Tezuka feels strange, his gut three beats ahead of the memory in his brain. He stands beside the bed, looking at the stained sheets, and does nothing, because there's nothing he can do.
He masturbates in the shower. He can still feel the ghost of the dream pressing against him from behind, reaching around to help him get off. Tezuka braces himself against the shower wall and comes onto the tile, water dripping into his open mouth. Afterwards, he puts on his glasses and checks to make sure that everything is washed away.
At breakfast, Tezuka means not to look at Atobe. But Atobe is like a video screen in a subway station: it's impossible to look away. Tezuka watches Atobe's hands again. His fingers are long and slender, the nails carefully shaped and covered with a slick clear polish. His palms are pale and Tezuka can't control the part of his mind that wonders what they would really feel like sliding over his body.
"Pass the salt," Atobe says and Tezuka thinks about that voice whispering in his ear, telling him the things that they are going to do. He passes Atobe the salt and takes care that their fingers don't touch.
Tezuka excuses himself from the table and goes back to his room. He leans his forearm on the wall and his head on his arm and breathes until he's calm again, inside and out.
"Do you have a preference?" Atobe opens up a cabinet. "Bruckner's Third Symphony in D minor or Number 5 in B flat major?"
"I think I'll go out." Tezuka finds his way to the front door and stands there for a few moments, breathing the fresh air. Then he chooses a path and hikes up the mountain.
The air smells damp and green and fills his lungs with a fresh cold that wakes him up more fully than he's been for weeks. His body gains energy from the walk, as though it's glad to move in a way that's useful, that's natural.
After an hour, he stops and sits down on a fallen log in a small clearing. It looks like a good place to build his house and he plans out what he will need to live in it, what he can find on the land.
Everything else is below him, back in the house, the hospital, at home. He sits, eyes closed, absolutely still except for his breath, and lets himself fill up with quiet. Time passes, but he doesn't feel it.
"You missed the B flat major." The log rocks as Atobe sits down. Tezuka opens his eyes and looks at him. There is a leaf in Atobe's hair and his shirt is open at the throat. Atobe hands Tezuka a basket. "Lunch."
"Thank you." Tezuka sets it beside him.
"Well, open it up. I'm starving." Atobe runs a hand through his hair but it doesn't dislodge the leaf. He takes the sandwich Tezuka passes him, holding it in its white paper napkin.
Tezuka eats. The sandwich is delicious, but so many of his other senses are taken up by Atobe -- the sight of his long legs stretched out, the sound of his voice, the smell of his cologne -- that Tezuka can't taste it clearly. He can feel every centimetre of distance between them. It's oppressive, heavy like Atobe's body in the dream, and Tezuka feels his heart beat faster with the strain.
"Inui called for you." Atobe wipes his mouth and hands Tezuka the crumpled napkin. "How is your club doing these days?"
"Fine." Inui sends him reports of every practice, every game. Tezuka can't shape the statistics into people so he doesn't try to picture them on the courts. There's nothing he can do for them anyhow. "And yours?"
"What club?" Atobe tips up his head and leans back on his hands. Tezuka looks down at the ground. Hyoutei is out, the third-years are out. Atobe is out. Tezuka hasn't thought about that until now.
"I'm going to practise this afternoon," Atobe says. "I'll be ready for when we play again. If you ever are." He stands and for a moment Tezuka thinks he'll stretch his hand down to help Tezuka up. But Atobe walks to the edge of the clearing. "Do you ever want to stay up here, to live alone in the forest?"
"I don't," Atobe says. "Let's go."
They hike back together. Tezuka doesn't mention the leaf.
Tezuka stands at a window and watches Atobe on the court. He's serving, over and over, stroke and follow-through strong and fluid as the current in a river. Atobe knows Tezuka is watching and Tezuka feels the challenge in each blow, feels the current dragging at him.
But he doesn't know if he wants to face Atobe across the court or pull him down onto it, stretching their bodies together under the hot sun. Tezuka closes his eyes and lifts his arm. It will only go so far. He can only go so far.
Atobe comes back into the house. A bead of sweat rolls down his neck, under the collar of his shirt. "It's all in your head, Tezuka," he says, and takes a towel from a servant.
Tezuka turns back to the window.
Inui calls again. "How's the mountain air? You should do some running. The altitude is good for stamina training."
Atobe comes into the room and sits in an easy chair. His feet are bare and there's a silver chain around his throat. "It's fine," Tezuka says.
"Everyone is on a strict diet and exercise regimen," Inui says. "I would give you a breakdown of our chances at Nationals, but there are too many variables before we know the draw."
The pages rustle as Atobe flicks through a magazine. He crosses one leg over the other and slides his hand through his hair. It falls back across his cheek and Tezuka's joints all weaken.
"Tezuka?" The resonance of Inui's voice is lost over the phone. He is thin and small and far away. "I said do you have any messages for Oishi?"
Atobe looks up. Tezuka is caught, but he doesn't look away. Sweat springs up on his palms and the receiver twists a little in his hand. He wants to climb back up the mountain. "I'll be in touch," he says and puts down the phone. Atobe stands and his magazine falls to the floor.
"I'm going to my room," Tezuka says. Atobe doesn't move, but Tezuka's path curves towards him, and when he stops, they are face to face, a handsbreadth apart. "Atobe," Tezuka says, with the last of his breath. His eyes fall to Atobe's mouth, to the chain around his neck.
Atobe takes Tezuka's wrist and his fingers burn Tezuka's skin. He lifts Tezuka's arm. Tezuka's chest contracts, there's no time to brace himself. But Atobe stops. He drops Tezuka's arm and turns his back. "We can't stay up here forever," he says. "We're leaving in an hour."
Tezuka stands for a moment, looking at Atobe's shoulders. Then he goes to pack.
The driver puts down Tezuka's bag and leaves. Atobe looks around the room. He doesn't say anything, but Tezuka can feel how small and plain it is. Atobe picks up one of Oishi's postcards and turns it over. He drops it on the desk. "Do they know?" he says. And then he's gone.
Tezuka locks the door and lies down on the bed. He can still smell Atobe's cologne in the air. He can still feel Atobe's fingers on his wrist. He undoes his pants and wraps his hand around his dick and doesn't try not to think about Atobe while he comes.
Then he turns on his side, tissues crumpled in his hand, and stares at Atobe's card, still fallen behind the desk. His gut clenches and he sucks in air. He stands and lifts his arm. It won't go all the way.
He picks up the racquet and tries again. The overgrip is sticky against his palm and the strings need to be tightened. He holds it level with his shoulder. "It's all in your head," he says out loud. He imagines the ball coming across the net at him, he imagines Atobe there ready for his return, he remembers the pain. He drops the racquet and throws up in the wastebasket.
Tezuka wipes his mouth on the back of his hand. He kneels and lays his palm against the wall. He slides his hand up slowly as far as it will go. He holds his breath and bites his lip. And he thrusts.
The doctor was right. Atobe was right.
Tezuka's eyes sting and he blinks. And he laughs, bile on his tongue and his arm stretched out above him.
Then he cleans out the wastebasket.
He makes it back just in time for the draw. The hall is full of boys, some he knows, some he's only heard of. Tezuka clasps the hand Oishi holds out. He wants to say he's sorry. "This is our year," he says and the look on Oishi's face makes his chest ache.
He catches Atobe's eye across the room. Inui emailed Tezuka with the news about Hyoutei. They'll be harder to defeat this time. Atobe lounges back in his seat, almost smiling. Tezuka turns back to Oishi.
"So you're back," Atobe says when the butler shows Tezuka in. He stays in his chair and lifts his teacup to his lips.
"Thank you," Tezuka says. "For everything."
Atobe looks up at Tezuka. "Have a seat."
Atobe puts down his cup. He brushes his hair away from his face. Tezuka's skin tightens and his heart pushes against his breastbone. Atobe stands. "Don't disappoint me at Nationals."
Tezuka crosses the room. He looks at the curve of Atobe's mouth, at the hollow of his throat. "I won't," he says. He puts his hand behind Atobe's head and kisses him.
"Oh?" Atobe smiles. And he bites Tezuka's lower lip, eyes open, fingers twisting into Tezuka's shirt.
Tezuka leans into Atobe, grabbing his shoulders, pressing against his chest. Atobe pulls at Tezuka and they stumble to Atobe's bed, tangled and lurching and kissing, open-mouthed and wetter than Tezuka likes.
Atobe pushes Tezuka down and lies on top of him, lighter than in the dream, but just as good, better, until Atobe's hair gets in Tezuka's mouth. Tezuka rolls Atobe over and Atobe pulls up Tezuka's shirt and it's awkward and good and Atobe whispers in Tezuka's ear.
Tezuka can't help arching his back and Atobe, apparently, can't help laughing, and after that Tezuka can't help much of anything at all.
Afterwards, they lie beside each other, not touching. Tezuka's breathing slows. He turns his head. Atobe looks away. He sits up on the edge of the bed, his naked back to Tezuka. "This time I'll take it from you."
"Do your best," Tezuka says and reaches for his shirt.
Comments of any kind are always welcome.