In the Atobe residence the phone begun to ring at one hour past midnight. Although that didn’t happen often, the buttler stood up and picked it up without any complaints.
„Good evening, this is the Atobe residence.“ He greeted politely, his voice showing no traces of sleepiness.
„Good evening.“ A deep voice answered politely, albeit sternly and obviously angry. „Could you please explain to me why it is that I found Atobe, I mean Keigo, at one hour past midnight sleeping on my porch, soaking wet and delirious?“
„Sanada-kun.“ The buttler said understanding. „Young master Keigo was thrown out because of his disobeying Atobe-sama.“
„You mean he didn’t do what his father wanted him to and had been thrown out?“
„Do you know anything more about it?“
„Yes, I do.“
„Could you tell me?“
To Sanada’s surprise, the buttler hesitated. „I’m not sure if I am the one whom you should hear it from.“
„It looks like it might take a while until I hear it from Atobe.“
„How is young master Keigo doing?“
„He has high fever, is trashing in his sleep and moaning in pain. He wakes up every five minutes and says delirious things.“
„I’m exceedingly sorry for this.“
And so the old man told him everything.
When Atobe woke up it was due to warmth and light and gentle carresses on his face. He felt hot. He opened his eyes and came face to face with his boyfriend.
„Sh. You have fever.“
„You ran away from home. Your father found out about us.“
„What the...ungh...“ he groaned and put a hand on his head, memories flashing through his head.
„Rest now. I will be here.“
Suddenly Atobe’s eyes blazed with feverish anger. „But you weren’t. You weren’t there. You ditched me. And then you didn’t answer my call. And then you weren’t at home. You were never there!“
„Atobe calm down.“
„I will not! I abandoned everything for you and-!“ he was silenced with a kiss.
„I know. I thank you. But you really need to rest. I’ll explain to you after that where I was. And I want a proper explanation from you in return.“
„You will stay?“ Stormcloud eyes found golden hues.
„Yes.“ And to emphasize that, he took Atobe’s hand and squeezed it gently, knowing that a sick Atobe always needed comfort. A depressed
, sick Atobe even moreso. „I’ll stay.“
Atobe closed his eyes. „I just wanted to choose at least once. Choose what I wanted to do, not do what I didn’t want to. Is that so wrong? Is it wrong to want something? Maybe in the end I’m just a spoiled brat. But I still wanted to choose...“
Sanada listened to the silent muttering before Atobe fell into another restless sleep. But at least he wasn’t trashing this time. Sanada stayed with him for the rest of the night.
The second time Atobe woke up, it was to the smell of food. Upon realizing this, his stomach churned loudly and he remembered that the last time he ate, was to lunch. And that could’ve been a good day ago. He sat up and looked around. He knew where he was. He remembered everything. It was weird...to be free. But it wasn’t unpleasent. He drew a deep breath. This was a new day. Something new began. His old life was thrown away and left behind. A new life was waiting for him. A life he chose. A life where he could get a medicine for his hurting head by himself.
No. That wasn’t the right way to approach this situation. He chose this, he would get through with this. If for nothing else then only for knowing that he could do. He rose from the hard bed and noting that the world didn’t spin anymore, he went out of the room. The house was small, even tiny, in comparison to the Atobe mansion. It wasn’t even a two storey house, but traditionally japanese and with a dojo attached. It was nowhere near to what he was accustomed to, but he guessed, that since he would be probably living in such enviroments from now on, he better got used to it. And also, in spite of his upbringing, he couldn’t but feel good, as he walked through the house. But that could’ve been the feeling of freedom. And also, he knew that this was the only place he could go to. No matter how spoiled he was, he wouldn’t be complaining about the only option he had left.
He found the kitchen easily enough and as he stepped inside he came into sight with an apron-wearing Sanada.
„Atobe!“ he laid down whatever it was he was making and approached him. A warm hand found it’s way to his forehead. „Your fever went down, but you’re still quite warm. You should go and rest a little more. Or did you want something?“
„Sanada what are you wearing?“
„It’s called an apron. It keeps the food dirtying your clothes.“
„I know how it’s called. I am asking why you are wearing it.“
„For the same exact reason it exists: To keep the food from falling on my clothes and dirtying them.“
„You are cooking?“
„A soup. It should be the right thing in your condition.“
Atobe looked behind Sanada to see the pot from which steam was escaping. It started to sink in. „So this is the life simple people lead, huh?“
Sanada raised an eyebrow.
„I never realized that people who don’t have servants have to cook by themselves. And that they are actually wearing aprons for that prupose.“
Sanada’s eyes narrowed in realization. „You start to see how real life looks like.“
„And? Are you ready for it? Or will you back out?“
„Ore-sama will not back out of anything.“
Sanada blinked before a smile started tugging on his lips. „I’m glad you are getting better. I was worried for a second that you might be dying.“
„Did you just make a joke?“
„The times are changing.“
They looked at each other getting serious again.
„You will explain everything, once you get better, won’t you?“
Atobe nodded. „I already feel better.“
„That’s good, but I’ll listen to you later. It would be a shame if I burned the soup.“
Atobe smirked. „That would royaly suck, since I would have to eat it.“
„You wouldn’t throw it away?“
Atobe shook his head. „Now that I’m a commoner, I need to eat burned food too.“
Sanada almost laughed. „So this is how you imagine a commoner’s life – eating burned food.“
„Are you making fun of ore-sama?“
„I wouldn’t dare to. Now, why don’t you sit down and let me finish the cooking?“
While Sanada cooked, Atobe watched him intently. So it was normal wearing an apron. It was normal to cook. And it was normal to eat at the kitchen table. Things he wouldn’t have dreamed of just yesterday, were waiting for him as of now. It would probably take time to get used to it. But on the other hand, it would be an expierience for life. Litteraly, as Atobe noted. He guessed it will be hard. But Atobe Keigo wasn’t one to be taken down easily. He had made up his mind.
He was brought out of his brooding by a plate being laid in front of him.
„Here’s your soup.“
Atobe started eating. It didn’t taste bad. It was actually quite good.
„How does it taste?“
„It’s quite good.“
„I’m glad. I made it for you.“
A short silence.
„Aren’t you forgetting something?“
„Common people say thank you when they get something from others. The only ones who don’t say it, are thieves.“
Silence. Then Atobe smirked. „I still need to learn a few things. Well then: Thank you for the food.“
To say the truth, Sanada was a little sceptic about Atobe being capable of leading a normal life. The most basic things, kids were taught since an early age, were completely alien to him. He would need to learn how to live from ground zero. He would need to start from a scratch. Everything he had and was until now had no meaning. He would have to become a completely other person. But on the other hand, this was Atobe. And Atobe was able to accomplish anything he wanted to. ’What ore-sama wanted, ore-sama got’ was it? Sanada sighed invardly.
He set his eyes on Atobe again and slowly a smile started tugging at his lips. Somehow, he found himself proud of his boyfriend.
„You’re late for school.“
This brought Sanada back to reality. „I called in sick.“ He explained. And I also made your buttler call you in sick. I will nurse you today and tomorrow we will be attending again.“
Atobe paused eating. „I seriously doubt that I’ll be able to set foot into that school again.“
Sanada’s eyebrows went under his cap.
„Why is that?“
„Father surely called them to expell me.“
Realisation struck Sanada like lightning. However he regained his composure with the next word Atobe said.
„You know, in the end I’m really screwed up...“ There was something terribly wrong with his voice: It sounded so...broken... „I don’t have money, I don’t have a home, I will be expelled from the school, I will loose tennis...“ Sanada saw Atobe’s hand on the handle of the spoon trembling as he put his face onto his clenched fist. „In fact, right now, I have only you and Jiirou’s clothes...“
„I threw them out. They were completely ruined because of the rain. I didn’t know they belonged to Akutagawa.“
The choked sob shocked him. In the next moment he was sitting next to Atobe, one arm around his shoulders.
„I...I guess my father was right: Without him, I have no guarantee for the future.“
„Are you afraid of it? Afraid of the future?“
He was even more shocked as he saw Atobe nod. And in that moment he made a resolve.
„I will be there. I will be there and take your fear. Let me
be your guarantee.“
As Atobe looked at him, Sanada’s heart skipped a beat. He was crying
„Keigo. My name is Keigo...I’m not an Atobe anymore...“ his lips started trembling again. „And I don’t know who else to be...“
He expected everything but a slap. He didn’t see it coming until the open palm of his boyfriend colided with his cheek.
„In the end, you really are trying to back out.“
Keigo looked at him with shocked eyes. „I...“
„You are scared because just now you realized in what a mess you are. But there’s not backing out of it – if you call yourself a man, you will find your way through it. You know you can. Don’t lack the courage to it.“
Something in those amber eyes calmed him down and his resolve came back. „Ore-sama is not lacking courage.“ He frowned, making it sound as if Sanada had insulted him badly.
„Of course not. Something just got into your eyes.“
They looked at eachother again.
„I will not back out. I can’t.“
„That’s what scares you. But that’s alright. I will be there whenever you waver.“
„I will not back out.“
„No. You won’t. You aren’t the type to back out from a challenge. You tango your way through it.“
Atobe smirked. „Which reminds me – do you still have that cd?“
„Of course. Do you want to listen to it?“
„I’ll go get it.“ Sanada stood up.
He paused for a small moment. „You’re welcome.“
Even if he didn’t turn around, Keigo knew he was smiling.
It was already noon when the phone in the Sanada residence rung. The Rikkai’s vice-captain picked it up almost instantly, not wanting to disturb Keigo’s nap. He finally found some peace and Sanada would be the last one to disturb it.
„Sanada residence, Sanada Genichirou on the line.“ He lowered his voice just enough to be heard through the phone, but not in the neighbouring living room. He couldn’t have known that the small slip of a ring already stirred the youth sleeping there from the sweet oblivion and was now staring at the door as if it was responsible for his entire misery.
„Coach of Hyoutei?“ he was still talking in a hushed voice. It made him feel as if he was plotting something. He dismissed the thought quickly.
In the next room, Keigo hoped they would just shut up already. His head still hurt and that ’lowered’ voice wasn’t helping. But if he didn’t get up, the conversation would probably continue for an unknown time and if he was honest, it would be easier to get over with it now, instead of waiting, drowning in misery, because, as he suspected, he wasn’t going back to sleep anytime soon. Not after hearing Sakaki call. So he sat up and rubbing his eyes, he made his way out of the room.
„The one and only. I need to talk with Keigo and I have information that he is staying at your place.“
„He’s asleep now.“ He heard Sanada say and smiled ruefully. It was good to know that his boyfriend could be wrong too. „He had a rough day and didn’t sleep well at night, so I would appreciate when you could call later.“
„There’s no need to.“
„Keigo!“ Sanada turned only to see his boyfriend leaning on the doorframe, with an annoyed look in the tired eyes.
„Your whispering would wake the dead.“ He said dryly and pushing himself from the wall, he approached Sanada. „Give me the phone.“ And without waiting for Sanada to comply, he snatched the phone from him. „Hello?“ His voice was annoyed and tired, just as he himself.
„Keigo. It’s me.“
„Tarou. Calling to tell me that I was expelled? And that it exceeds on tennis too? That it would be better not to get near to that school?“
He knew he was being unfair and rude, and that his coach was just as concerned about him as his boyfriend was, but he couldn’t help it. It was just as Sanada said: he had a rough day and even the little peace he got was being disturbed. He was distressed, annoyed, tired, tense and he needed a target to release it on. And if Tarou was calling to tell him things he knew anyway, he provided the perfect target. Even though he probably only worried about him. And to be at least a little fair, he expressed also that option. But he still didn’t skip the sarcasm.
„Or are you actually going to tell me in a gentle voice that everything will be alright? I have heard enough of that. If you don’t have anything new, then let me just sleep.“
„None of that.“
This froze Atobe. For some reason, he suddenly felt really guilty about his words.
„I call to tell you that you will get your royal rear tomorrow to morning practice. And after that, you will proceed to your classes, followed by afternoon practice. I don’t care if you live now on the other end of the city in the middle of nowhere. I will not let you skip school and training just because you are depressed. If you plan to be independent you need to grow up.“
With every word Sakaki said, Atobe’s eyes widened and his lips parted until he was openly gaping. „What do you mean with that? I didn’t get expelled?!“
„Do you think I would let the best player leave the team only because the school board is a bunch of scared nerds who piss their pants at the thought of an angry Atobe Keichiirou?“
„I...“ For once in his life, Keigo didn’t have an answer. Sakaki...the second man closest to a father he ever had, had saved his future. Someone fought for him. Another person other than Sanada. An ally. To think how he just sniped at him... He knew he should say something, but something in him was cutting the words off.
„And I also doubt that the team would let you go.“ His coach carried on. „A revolution would break out if that happened. You should’ve seen their reactions as Jiirou told us what happened. I’m actually thinking of hiring the special forces to restrain Kabaji, just in case.“
Atobe couldn’t stop himself from laughing. It felt good. Really good.
„And then there’s your fanclub. They would go into a frenzy if it was made popular. Maybe I will
actually hire the special corpses.“
Atobe laughed even harder. He couldn’t stop himself. Somehow those few words drained all the distress and annoyance from him and combined with the laughter he suddenly felt...alright. Good even.
„I see you’re doing better than I thought. In that case, don’t dare skip morning practice, or I will make you run laps until you drop dead.“
„Roger that, coach!“ Atobe wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes. His voice was no longer tired and annoyed, but refereshed and energized. He felt the determination in him again.
„Good. See you tomorrow.“ And he hung up.
„Good news?“ Sanada asked.
Atobe found himself grinning.
„I will go tomorrow to school. And I absolutely can’t miss morning practice. What train do I take?“
In the late afternoon another surprise knocked on Sanada’s door. As the tall vice-captain opened he came face to face with Seigaku’s team-captain.
„Tezuka. What can I do for you?“
„I came to see Atobe.“
„Not sleeping.“ Atobe interrupted him in mid-sentence as he came from behind Sanada. He had been interupted in his relax a second time that day. It was starting to get annoying. But at least this time he hadn’t been sleeping, contrary to what Sanada had been assuming, so he headed to the door immediately. „Tezuka. Nice to see you. Thank you for yesterday.“
It took all of Tezuka’s self-control not to blink. Since when did Atobe Keigo say thank you?
„You’re welcome.“ He simply replied.
„I see Inui told you why I called him.“
„Of course.“ His glasses glinted and for a split second Atobe wondered if he didn’t spend too much time with Fuji. That glint suggested something else than just a simple question-answer session. Atobe wondered if Tezuka made Inui tell him and how. ...On other thought he didn’t want to know.
„The loyalty of your team impresses me.“ Atobe smirked.
„It’s merely a matter of respect. You of all people should know it.“
He snorted. „Why doesn’t that surprise me?“
Tezuka’s eyes narrowed. „You are not going to change the subject. You swore to explain to me properly everything. I’m listening.“
Atobe sighed and stepped aside. „Come inside.“
„Always the master of the house – even if it isn’t your’s.“ Tezuka couldn’t keep himself from commenting.
„I’m living here now.“
Atobe sat down onto the cushion, Sanada next to him, Tezuka opposite them.
„I figured as much. So, what happened?“
Secretly, Atobe was thankfull for Tazuka that he came to visit. Before he knocked on the door, Atobe had been indulging in thoughts about his future and right now, those weren’t exactly those kind of thoughts to cheer him up, or make his life seem briliant.
„Don’t you already know? I’m sure your data guy, Inui, figured out an explanation with 100% possibility.“
Tezuka looked at him intently before he answered.
„I want to hear it from you.“
Atobe sighed. „Short story, or long?“
„Short, considering how you meassure that.“
„I got kicked out of the house because I didn’t want to break up with Sanada, whom, as my father found out, I’m dating. My phone was out of battery, Sanada’s turned down, I didn’t know the adress, since it was always the responsibility of my driver to know such things, so I had to call someone who knew. Jiirou came to the idea that Inui would know and that you would know Inui’s number. I called him and you know the rest.“
Atobe nodded. „I went to his place to borrow his GPRS, but unfortunately, it was out of battery.“
Tezuka waited for a few moments. „And? Don’t tell me that’s all you’ve got to tell.“
Atobe raise one perfectly sculptured eyebrow. „What did you wait for? An epic story about love and betrayal? I’m not Oshitari.“
„I was waiting for a little more complaining.“
„Why should ore-sama be complaining, ahn? I’m perfectly fine at the moment. I have food, clothes, a roof over my head and my beloved at my side.“
Tezuka regarded him for a long moment. „You’ve changed Atobe. And it took only one night.“
„Be awed at my prowess.“ Atobe smirked.
Tezuka stood up. „As I see, you are doing well. I will leave the two of you to yourself.“
„Really? What a shame. I was just about to offer you a cup of tea or coffee. You came here all the way from Seigaku. It isn’t exactly what people would consider near.“
Tezuka didn’t know whether to be surprised, or relieved. As much as it looked like Atobe changed, many things about him were the same as before. For instance that arrogant smile, the over-confident way he held himself, or even the fact that he invited to a cup of coffee anyone who came by, mostly only to show off, what he had. But right now, due to the current circumstances, he had nothing to show off with.
Maybe it was an old habit. Or maybe he just liked inviting people. Maybe it had been always like that and everyone assumed the wrong thing. Tezuka had always thought, that there was more to Atobe than the eye met. And right now he felt he was being proven right. Maybe he wanted to just share his wealth back then with anyone, who was interested in him. And now he wanted to show something through it. Maybe he wanted to make clear that even if he had nothing, he still wouldn’t give up to regain it, through his own sweat, tears and blood, if necessary. Or it was simply a well-meant invitation.
Whichever it was, if Tezuka wanted to show Atobe that he thought of him more than an arrogant brat, there was only one thing he could do.
„A cup of tea would do.“
The force of habit won over Atobe for a split second, as he started: „Kaba-“ he caught himself quickly enough. Tezuka was almost amused at how he bit his lips and closed his eyes, eyebrow twitching in annoyance. He drew a deep breath. But Sanada, with lips twitching upwards in amusement, to Tezuka’s startlement, beat him to it.
„Usu. I’ll get it.“ The bewildered look Atobe gave him, was almost ridiculous. He stood up and with a squeeze on Atobe’s shoulder that seemed almost sympathetic, he left the room.
„You let your guard down Atobe.“
Atobe gave him a sharp glance and his eyebrow twitched, but suddenly his shoulders started shaking and he laughed richly. „Old habits die hard, Tezuka.“
„So I see. But it’s reassuring to know that some things never change.“
Atobe smirked. „That I’m poor, doesn’t mean I’m less awesome, ahn?“ It was a rhetoric question.
„I take back my words. You haven’t changed at all.“page 4