The party is loud and stifling.
Ryoma would usually say, if forced, that none of his fellow tennis players aren’t that bad. Certainly they’re nowhere near as bad as the paparazzi, the press, hounding them and never leaving them a moment to themselves. He’d dragged Tezuka into an alley the other day because he just hadn’t been able to bear not kissing Tezuka until they got home, and the next day there had been a video up on YouTube of the two of them, desperate and needy against the brick side of a store.
At least Tezuka had stopped them before things got too out of hand.
Today, though, Ryoma is revising his opinion of his peers. They clamor for Tezuka’s attention (for Ryoma’s, too, but Ryoma doesn’t care about that; he can just ignore them), getting too close, too friendly, too familiar. Ryoma is pressed against Tezuka’s side with a firm hold on Tezuka’s arm, the kind of holding that no one does with anyone they’re ‘just friends’ with, and people are still practically flirting with Tezuka (and, again, with Ryoma, too, but Ryoma brushes that off as unimportant).
The last straw comes when Atobe, the host himself, breaks away from a group of his Hyoutei fangirls to talk to them. “So, Tezuka,” says Atobe. “That bruise from the last tournament has healed, I take it?”
Tezuka inclines his head. “Yes, it’s healed nicely. Thank you.”
“Good, good. Time for another rematch, isn’t it?” Atobe smirks, and Ryoma swears that it’s at least partially directed at him. “It’s been awhile. And with you too, brat,” he adds. Ryoma glowers. “You’re latched so tightly onto Tezuka that I’m hardly going to get him alone, I suppose.”
“That’s right,” says Ryoma, glaring at him. “You won’t.”
“Then I’ll expect a rematch with you as well,” says Atobe. “And this time I’m going to beat you.”
“Keep telling yourself that,” Ryoma retorts.
Atobe just chuckles. “Much as I would love to continue this delightful conversation all evening, as the party’s host I can’t allow my attention to be monopolized.” He says this as though it’s their fault he’s talking to him, and Ryoma’s about to give a sharp reply. But Atobe says loftily, “Well then. Tezuka. Brat,” and saunters away to do his socializing.
“That idiot,” Ryoma mutters.
“Echizen,” Tezuka says, his tone only mildly reprimanding.
Ryoma looks up and their eyes meet, and suddenly Ryoma wishes they were at home, or on the court, or anywhere but here. “Buchou,” he says, not knowing exactly what he’s going to say next because of course they’re not allowed to go home, not yet. They’ve only been at the party for about an hour, and although Ryoma doesn’t care about party etiquette, Tezuka does.
“There is a tennis court out back,” says Tezuka quietly, meant only for Ryoma’s ears.
Ryoma looks up again, startled. “Can we…?”
The look in Tezuka’s eyes is all the answer he needs. Then they’re pushing their way through the crowd, politely because Tezuka insists, but people aren’t getting out of the way fast enough. Ryoma can’t even scowl about it, because they’re going to play tennis, which makes the entire party worthwhile.
The night is dark, especially compared to the brightly-lit inside of Atobe’s mansion. It’s quiet, too, even with the crickets chirping and the faint buzz of conversation that follows them out through the glass doors. “Oh,” says Ryoma, stopping abruptly. “We don’t have-”
“Atobe keeps racquets in the shed,” Tezuka replies.
Ryoma wonders at first how Tezuka knows this, but then they share another look and he doesn’t care. The shed isn’t locked, presumably because of the security guards who prowl the perimeter. “Not bad,” says Ryoma grudgingly, when he finds exactly the brand and make of racquet he wants among the dozens Atobe owns.
And then they are on the court, ridiculous in the dark in their formal suits and ties. Ryoma has never seen something so beautiful as Tezuka across the net, except every other time they’ve played. He shrugs off his jacket and drops it carelessly to the ground. Tezuka is too ready for this match to protest the treatment of the fine clothing. They can afford more, and Ryoma hates it anyway.
“Who’s serving?” Ryoma calls, dropping the extra ball into his suit pocket.
“Go,” says Tezuka, his eyes fixed on Ryoma, on Ryoma bouncing the ball on the court and catching it, bouncing and catching it, tossing it up and serving.
Ryoma can’t hear the low murmur of the people in the house anymore. All he hears is the ball striking the court and their racquets, and his own and Tezuka’s breathing, and the wind in his ears as he moves, almost flies, to make the return. Tezuka takes his jacket off halfway through, tossing it to the side, focusing so hard on Ryoma that he doesn’t care if it gets grass stained and if his expensive leather shoes are getting scuffed, which they most definitely are. Ties should be hard to play in, but Ryoma barely notices his as he smashes a the ball across the court.
They’re both sweat-soaked and panting by the time they’ve finished, trapped in their good clothing. Ryoma pulls at his shirt disgustedly. “Stupid thing.” But he can’t help it; he laughs then, and Tezuka is giving him that rare smile that is less rare when it’s just the two of them alone like this. Then they’re both at the net, somehow, and kissing, Ryoma still having to stand on tiptoes with his arms twined around Tezuka’s neck to be able to reach.
“Atobe was flirting with you,” says Ryoma, breathless. “Don’t let him do that.”
“Only if you don’t let him flirt with you,” says Tezuka, stern and possessive. He kisses Ryoma again, swift and fierce like a service ace, and Ryoma stops thinking about his uncomfortable, sweat-sticky clothing and about the fact that they’re still going to have to go back inside sometime.
Maybe parties aren’t so bad after all.