Touched, by kishmet. TezuRyo, PG(-13), 2025 words. I really shouldn't be allowed to write when I'm tired. Someone's got to start taking away my notebooks. I either really love or really hate this fic, I can't decide which.
At first, Ryoma thought that knowing Tezuka, playing Tezuka, and eventually beating Tezuka, would be all he would ever want or need. Each time he stood across the court from Tezuka, he knew himself and he knew his opponent more thoroughly than he'd ever known anyone before. Their matches made him feel as though he was walking the right path for the first time in his life. Touching Tezuka through tennis was like touching a piece of the sky.
That was before he became aware that touching Tezuka could mean something else entirely.
He'd heard Momo-senpai and Eiji-senpai talking about girls before, of course. They'd talk about this girl or that girl in some class who was cute. They'd tease each other (and Kaidoh-senpai and Kawamura-senpai, who both blushed uncontrollably) about asking the girl out to the movies or for ice cream sometime.
Once in a while they'd even talk about kissing, saying how it felt really good and made you shiver all over. Ryoma suspected this was mostly to make Kaidoh and Kawamura blush again, because Momo and Eiji were both pretty vague, and Ryoma didn't think they'd ever actually kissed anyone before.
When Ryoma experienced something that made him shiver all over, though, he didn't associate it in any way with Eiji-senpai, Momo-senpai, girls, or kissing.
Ryoma had just beaten Momo again, and Tezuka and Oishi were going to use the court for a game. "Eh, not fair, not fair," Momo complained, wiping his face with a towel as he walked out of the court. "You beat me, and you're still going to make me pay for lunch!"
"Mada mada da ne, Momo-senpai," said Ryoma smugly, sauntering off the court himself. "Buchou," he added, nodding a greeting to Tezuka. At the moment when Ryoma stepped out of the court, Tezuka stepped into it, and they passed each other with only an inch of space between them. The backs of their hands brushed together. Ryoma felt a chill that went all the way through him. It was almost the way he felt when he was just about to start playing a match he knew was going to be a challenge, but not quite. Ryoma stopped right there, giving Tezuka a look of puzzled wonder.
Tezuka stopped too, and looked down at him. "Well played, Echizen." Then he continued into the court.
Oishi walked past him and smiled, saying, "Very good game, Echizen." He put a hand on Ryoma's shoulder and then followed Tezuka. Oishi's touch barely managed to snap Ryoma out of his thoughts, and it certainly didn't make him feel that surge of whatever.
"Eiji-senpai, want to come out for burgers with us?" Momo called as Ryoma caught up to him. "That way I don't have to pay for your huge appetite!" he added to Ryoma, grinning amiably.
"Look who's talking," Ryoma muttered. It must have been buchou's tennis that made him feel that way. Passing Tezuka walking onto a court made Ryoma feel as though they were going to play.
That was what he assumed, anyway, and he didn't think about it again until that night, when he sat in bed looking at his hand and wondering why that had never happened before.
It had never happened before, but Ryoma knew that he wanted it to happen again. It was like someone had played some move that he'd never seen, and he had to see it again to invent a counter for it. The best way he knew to see a move again was to keep on playing. The problem was, he didn't know the rules to this particular game, or even if he was playing a game at all.
He decided to try a move of his own, and to see how his opponent reacted.
Ryoma made sure to stand next to Tezuka while Oishi and Eiji played against Inui and Kaidoh. Inui served the ball and Eiji returned it with a flip that wasn't necessary at all. Showoff, Ryoma thought. Now, he guessed, would be a good time to try out his move. He put his hand on Tezuka's arm.
Tezuka turned away from the match to look at him. "What is it, Echizen?"
"Nothing," said Ryoma. "I just felt like it." He wanted to see if Tezuka would tell him not to do it again, or if Tezuka would move away from him, or if Tezuka would make him run laps.
Instead of doing any of those things, Tezuka only looked at him for another minute. He began to say something, then he turned back to the game. "Aa."
"Fifteen-love!" called Momo, who was playing referee.
That's right, Ryoma thought, smirking under his cap where no one could see him. Fifteen-love, Echizen leads.
Other people used stupid excuses to touch one another. Eiji-senpai hung all over Ryoma and Momo and any other kouhai unwise enough to come near him, but even Ryoma knew there was a point to it. Eiji-senpai did that so it wouldn't look weird when he hung all over Oishi-senpai. Ryoma didn't think it would have been weird anyway, but apparently Eiji thought so.
Ryoma sometimes made stupid excuses too, but only to people who deserved them. He didn't count pretending to be Horio as a stupid excuse. It made Horio look better.
Buchou was one of the few people Ryoma knew who didn't deserve to be given a stupid excuse.
Just as Tezuka was leaving the clubroom, ready for practice, Ryoma walked up next to him and took his hand. This time, Tezuka did try to take his hand away. Ryoma held on tight and wouldn't let him.
"What are you doing, Echizen?" Tezuka asked.
"Holding your hand, buchou," Ryoma replied, since it was obvious. He ran his index finger over the tendons and the veins and the knuckles on the back of Tezuka's hand, feeling them and wondering what Tezuka would do.
Tezuka brushed his thumb ever-so-lightly against Ryoma's finger.
Ryoma's eyes widened. He stared up at Tezuka, startled. Tezuka almost, but not quite, smiled as he stepped out of the clubroom and into the sunlight. Ryoma walked along beside him, thinking that if there was such a thing as an ace in this game, Tezuka had just scored one.
After practice, when everyone else was gone, Tezuka and Ryoma played a game on A court. Ryoma didn't know how he'd known Tezuka would stay. He'd rejected Eiji-senpai's offer to treat him to food, no matter what the reason, and he'd stayed behind, purposely lagging behind all of the others. When he came out of the clubroom, he was still wearing his tennis clothes. He saw Tezuka, also in tennis clothes, and he knew that he'd been right.
They played without keeping official score. Ryoma still knew exactly when Tezuka needed one more point to win. He dove to catch the drop shot he knew was coming. He always knew it was coming, but he still couldn't stop it. He caught it on his racket, but he couldn't hit it high enough to return it. It bounced into the air and then came down.
Ryoma got to his feet, breathing hard, wiping away the sweat that threatened to drip into his eye. He looked at Tezuka, across the net. He felt a shiver go through him. He recognized the surge of adrenaline that came from a brilliant tennis game, but that something else was there, too.
"Echizen." Tezuka held out his hand over the net, and Ryoma grasped it and held on like his life depended on it. He wasn't sure that it didn't. When Tezuka let go, Ryoma felt as though he'd lost something.
They walked back to the clubroom side-by-side. Ryoma badly wanted to touch Tezuka, maybe only to put a hand on his arm again, but he didn't do it. The air between them felt alive, the way it did before a match, but different again. He had to see what was going to happen.
Once inside, Ryoma leaned his racket against the wall, next to Tezuka's. He turned to see if Tezuka was changing or packing his bag, and then Ryoma didn't have time to do anything else because Tezuka was kissing him and Ryoma was kissing back because that seemed to be the right thing to do. He backed up so that he was pinned between the lockers and Tezuka's warm, sweat-soaked body. He wasn't sure that he'd be able to stay standing if he didn't have those twin supports.
Ryoma pulled Tezuka down to his level, both arms wrapped around Tezuka's neck. One of his legs went up so that his knee was resting against Tezuka's waist, and Ryoma couldn't remember having decided to do that. He didn't care. It brought Tezuka closer, and that was all he wanted. They were pressed firmly together as much as they could be. It still wasn't enough.
Tezuka's hands were on the bare skin of Ryoma's back, because Ryoma's shirt wasn't tucked in. One of them slowly (too slowly) slid down the path of Ryoma's spine, tracing it with strong fingers, one vertebra at a time. "Buchou," Ryoma whispered. Some part of him was vaguely annoyed that the word had come out as a gasp. That part was too small and inconsequential to pay attention to, though.
Then Tezuka broke the kiss and the embrace too, leaving Ryoma feeling stunned and suddenly very young and small. He stared at Tezuka. "Buchou..."
"No." Tezuka's voice broke, and he had to clear his throat. "Not yet." He turned and walked out the door, closing it behind him and forgetting his tennis bag and racket.
During the next week, Tezuka didn't speak to Ryoma except when he had to. In fact, Tezuka didn't speak to anyone unless he had to. No one outside of Seigaku would have noticed any difference, but the people who knew Tezuka best knew that something was going on.
Ryoma heard Oishi-senpai talking to Kawamura-senpai, saying, "I don't know what's wrong with Tezuka...he's been acting strangely." Oishi sounded very worried. "Do you think it's his arm hurting him again, Taka-san?"
"No, I'm sure he'd tell you if that was..." then they moved too far away and Ryoma couldn't hear them anymore.
Ryoma didn't know how to make the game move forward. He wished Tezuka would have just hit a drop shot and scored and been done with it. The way it went, both of them had lost control of the pace completely.
Then again, both of them were very, very good at tennis. Even though this wasn't tennis, it had a lot to do with it, and there had to be a way to get the game moving again, until one or the other or both of them won. Ryoma wouldn't have said it was possible for both of them to win only a week or two before, but after thinking about that day by the lockers, he'd changed his mind.
Whether he won or lost, Ryoma wanted to keep playing, because it was with Tezuka. The next move was going to be up to him, then.
Ryoma waited after practice again. Tezuka and Oishi talked about the next tournament with Ryuzaki-sensei, and then Ryuzaki-sensei went back into her office. Oishi said something else to Tezuka, and then left. Tezuka walked past the place where Ryoma was hiding, around the side of the building. Then Ryoma stepped out, his hands clenching nervously even though he told himself to stop.
Tezuka said nothing. He met Ryoma's eyes, though, and Ryoma had to stop himself from grinning. Tezuka still wanted to play the game too, he could tell. But for once, Ryoma knew the next move while Tezuka did not. Or maybe...maybe Tezuka knew his own next move, just not Ryoma's. It was up to Ryoma to serve this time, that was all.
Ryoma regarded Tezuka solemnly. "Buchou. Does 'not yet' mean 'someday'?"
"Yes, Echizen," said Tezuka, his voice barely rising above a murmur. "It does."
"All right," said Ryoma. As Tezuka started walking again, so did Ryoma, falling into step beside him.
And he let his hand brush lightly against Tezuka's.