title: Games People Play
fandom: Prince of Tennis
characters/pairings: Fuji/Tezuka, Fuji/Atobe, then Fuji/Tezuka again, Oishi/Eiji, Yumiko, Yuuta/OFC, some Yuuta/Mizuki, Inui, Taka, Yuushi/Gakuto, Saeki/Ann, Yukimura/Sanada, Momoshiro, Kaidou, Echizen
rating: M
warnings: me pretending to know things about actual tennis, vicious flirting, sex (many kinds), one rough non-con scene, emotional pain
summary: Misunderstanding, hurt emotions, pain, sex, love... all tools in the game.
notes: takes place post-series, much post series... there is Atobe/Fuji. And Fuji/Tezuka. ultimately, and initially, fuji/tezzie, but there will be a great deal of fuji/atobe in the meanwhile.

It was annoyingly sunny. His sunglasses, of course, were at home, with all the rest of his things. Yuuta had given him a shirt and sweats to wear. He was too warm, but it was all Yuuta had that would fit him right. He smiled at the receptionist as he walked past her. She definitely wasn't expecting him in today; she was wearing just a tank and a skirt. Her name was Yumi, and she had extraordinary hands, which was why he had hired her.

"Fuji-sama! Excuse me, sir, but... I'm... I'm glad you came in today. We received a delivery of twenty dozen roses!" She smiled brightly.

Fuji sighed. Her lipstick was too pink. It didn't suit her darker skin. "Mm, did we? Get whoever is around, and pull the petals off. Put them in freezer bags, and store them in the refrigerator. We can use them sometime."

"Fu-Fuji-sama!" She stilled, completely befuddled. "But... Ah, there is a card..."

"Is there?" He sighed, opening his door. Twenty dozen roses was a lot of roses, even for Atobe. And they were all the most beautiful shade of red. "Have that shredded, please. And get rid of all this. I can't stand the smell."

"Y-yes, sir! Right away!"

He sighed softly, and slipped into the darkroom. He still had the rolls from the hot springs to process. He had developed the film, but he hadn't printed any pictures yet. He took a few minutes to clean his equipment, even though it couldn't possibly be dirty, and then he pulled out the negatives.

So many of these pictures were just boring landscape images. He did manage to get a few of Yuuta when Yuuta wasn't looking.

And there were pictures of Atobe. So many pictures of Atobe, because Fuji had never had a more willing subject for his photography. There was never a time when Atobe didn't enjoy having his picture taken.

He hung the pictures to dry. He could scan the negatives of the rest, and print them from the computer, if he chose to; he had printed out the pictures of Yuuta, which, as always, failed to capture that which made his little brother so special. And he had printed a few of the pictures of Atobe.

In the dull red light of the darkroom, things tended to look quite different than they did outside. Some of these pictures were quite good. There was one of Atobe with one eye open, smirking, in bed, that he wished he had printed before the show. There was one from the car trip in that was of generally poor quality, but still, when he looked at it, he felt as if he were in the car again.

His heart felt heavy.

He wished he had some pictures of Tezuka from this trip.

When he left the darkroom, the flowers were all blessedly gone, but their scent lingered. He sat down at his desk, and booted up his laptop. There was nothing for him to do here and no reason for him to be here. He had intended to spend the day at home, in bed.

He poked at his computer for a bit, not really paying attention to what he was doing. He was about to put his head down and take a nap when the door opened, and Atobe swept in; he knew this was bound to happen, but he hadn't prepared for it.

"I see you have received my offering and rejected it." Atobe stood in front of his desk, and put his hands behind his back.

Fuji smiled. "It was inconvenient. There were too many of them."

"Of course," Atobe shrugged. "I'm not going to excuse my behavior, because there is no excuse. Even frustrated and angry, I should never have treated you like that. I actually prayed last night, in gratitude, that you stopped me. I can only give you my regret and apologies, and swear to you that it will never happen again."

"Mm, no, it won't," Fuji turned his eyes to his computer screen, and opened up the internet, checking his email.

Atobe looked away. "I was worried about you last night, when I realized that you had left. Did you go to your brother? Eiji?"

"Does it matter?" Fuji yawned. He had too much email, as always. It was bothersome.

"I suppose if you went to him, you wouldn't be here to be talking to me now."

Fuji glanced over at Atobe momentarily. His tone and posture were unusual. That was bothersome, too. "I wasn't really in the mood for sex last night."

"You plan to sleep with him," Atobe smirked, looking away.

Fuji shrugged. "I don't plan on anything right now. I have this terrible headache."

Atobe flinched.

Turning his back to Atobe, Fuji sighed. "I don't want to talk about this. Just... go home."

"That's it?" There was a pause, a moment of brittle silence.

"I feel like going out to dinner tonight," Fuji sighed. "Asta. I feel like something... perfect. You can get reservations, right?"

"Naturally," Atobe replied, a thread of surprise coloring his voice.

Fuji nodded. "Late dinner. I'll be home before then to change. I didn't like the clothes you picked out yesterday."

"I'm sorry," Atobe nodded, and stepped back. "I'll look forward to it. Syuusuke..."

"Tezuka would never have done that to me, Keigo," Fuji sighed.

Atobe didn't say anything more as he left.

Fuji closed his eyes, and leaned back in his chair. He put his hand over his face, and laughed, because it wasn't at all funny. He picked up the phone, and dialed quickly. He listened to the phone drone at him, and then he heard the familiar greeting. "Sae-san, why don't you love me anymore?"

Saeki laughed loudly into the phone. "Fuji-kun, you know I love you like crazy."

"Mm, you weren't at my show last night," Fuji pouted.

There was more laughter, and the sound of a child's laughter, too. "Well, you know, Ann wanted to go, but with the baby, it's hard to get into to Tokyo for a night. We'll come soon, though, I promise. Ann wants to spend a few days with her brother, anyway."

Fuji sighed. "Tachibana-san is more important than I am, isn't he?"

"Never. Did you miss me, Fuji-kun?"

Fuji tilted his head to the side. "Are you at the beach?"

"Yup!" Saeki was grinning, Fuji could tell. "Starting to teach the wee one to swim."

"How does Ann-chan feel about that?"

"She's very watchful," Saeki chuckled.

"I'm sure," Fuji yawned. "Mm, Sae, come to Tokyo and run off with me."

"You want me to, Fuji?" Saeki purred. "I'm not sure my wife would approve."

"As long as we let her watch, I'm sure she would."

"Probably," Saeki sighed. "What's the real reason you called, Fuji?"

Fuji grinned. "Don't you think I want to have a mad affair with you?"

"You should," Saeki teased. "So are you going to spill, or are you going to tease me all afternoon?"

It sounded like Saeki's daughter was crawling all over him. It was ridiculous. Saeki had gotten so domesticated. "Even Tezuka came to my show. You should have been here."

"Indeed," Saeki sighed, and Fuji hated how knowing he sounded. "That complicates things. Or maybe it doesn't."

"Hm," Fuji dismissed. "I don't think you love me anymore."

"Love you 'til the day I die. And what about 'Keigo-kun'...?"

Fuji didn't say anything.

"You should come to Chiba, Fuji. You know you always have a place in our house."

Smiling, Fuji sighed. It was nice to have friends like this... "Your house is too crowded, Sae-kun. And anyway, Tezuka is coming on Monday."

"That should be interesting."

"Always. Anyway..."

"Yeah. Don't wait too long before calling again. Oops! Heh, Ann wants to talk to you, but..."

The phone disconnected. Fuji hung up, and laughed.

His headache was slowly going away.

It felt like his head was wrapped in cotton, and he was in some sort of vacuum. Everything was so devoid of vitality. The door locking behind him sounded so loud, final. He went straight to the kitchen, and placed the containers of leftovers on the glass shelf neatly. Their refrigerator looked very sterile and neat, everything in rectangular glass dishes, or in boxes. He grabbed a bottle of flavored water before heading upstairs.

Atobe was following him with narrowed eyes. Dinner had been cordial, which was rather strange, all things considered. They had never really 'dated,' at least, as far as Fuji was concerned, but they were never cordial to each other. It irritated Fuji.

It seemed longer than a night had passed where he had not slept in this bed. He slipped out of his suit coat, and tossed it aside without regard to where it would fall. Normally, Atobe would sigh, and tell him to pick it up, but today, Atobe merely bit his lip, and retrieved the garment himself.

This was intolerable.

"Could you do me a favor?" Fuji smiled, cold affection bleeding through his disdain.

"Anything," Atobe answered immediately.

"Spend the night in the guest room. I want to sleep in my own bed tonight." Fuji turned his back to Atobe, and started to unbutton his shirt.

Atobe stood perfectly still. "Just for a night?"

"Mm," Fuji rolled his shoulders around. "Why don't we leave tomorrow to tomorrow?" The room was too quiet, and Atobe was too quiet, and Fuji's headache was coming back. He stood so that Atobe could see the bruises he had on his arms and back.

Atobe watched Fuji carefully. "Will this be your excuse to leave me and go to him?"

"It wouldn't really be an excuse, would it, Keigo?" Fuji tilted his head to the side, an air of honest confusion easily affected.

"I suppose not," Atobe sighed. "But that won't be the real reason, would it? In four years, I've never touched you in violence, have I?"

"There was one time," Fuji smiled. "There could be another."

"Do you believe that?" Atobe crossed the room, and stood directly in front of Fuji, brushing his knuckles over Fuji's cheek. "I love you, Syuusuke."

It was funny, the intensity of Atobe's eyes. Fuji had never stood opposite of him in a tennis court when he could really play, but he knew those eyes well, regardless. "That's either a lie, or a non sequitur."

Atobe was annoyed, and there was a small part of Fuji that felt fear because of it, but he wasn't about to flinch. "I am sorry, you know."

"I know," Fuji sighed, and turned away. "I'm tired, Keigo."

For a moment, Atobe did not react. "May I have a goodnight kiss?"

Fuji was smiling before he had considered how to react. He turned to look into Atobe's eyes, and found the familiar challenge there. It was something that did not irritate. He leaned up, and brushed his lips over Atobe's, putting his hands on Atobe's chest. Atobe did nothing to hold him in place, or deepen the kiss.

Licking his lips, Fuji waved his hand in Atobe's face. "Go to bed, Keigo."

"Goodnight, Syuusuke," Atobe sighed, and he left, taking the time to close the door quietly and securely.

There were times that he slept in this bed alone, but they were few over the years, and often, at those times, he did not sleep well. He did not bother doing much more than brushing his teeth, and stripping to his skin. He slipped between the silk sheets, and slid over to Atobe's side of the bed.

Their linens were changed frequently, and were scented delicately with lavender at all times. Atobe used many different products in his hair, and on his skin, and thus, his scent was most often an amalgam of carefully chosen fragrances, all of which combined to leave an airy, pleasant sensation. It was something that was easily replicated, should he ever wish to do so, but it lacked the earthy appeal of sweat.

Fuji slept, and dreamed of sweat, and snow, and when he woke up, he was left only with the lingering feeling of wanting what he had just seen preserved on film.

Once again, he walked through the doors of Grand Slam, but this time, it was like walking through a completely different door. There were no crowds outside or in, and he was able to actually see the displays. An overly friendly girl with very bright lipstick approached him, but he demurred, and went into the main showcase room.

The photographs were mounted on cardboard, and covered in thin glass. They were haphazardly arranged on the walls, some so low, he had to crouch to get a good look, but most at about eye level. The main pieces were larger, and the lighting of the room was designed to draw attention.

Tezuka examined each piece carefully, slowly. Somehow, he had an image of Fuji coming up and putting his hands on Tezuka's back as Tezuka was considering a piece. They would start by talking about photography; it would be easy.

He spent over an hour just staring at the various pieces, but Fuji never showed up. There were pieces that were of Atobe, some of which were very... risqué. There were pictures of friends of Fuji's, that used to be his friends, too. Some of the subjects were clearly just candidly captured, and some were models. Tezuka didn't really know much about photography. He knew only enough to know that some photos were interesting to look at, and some were not. Fuji's photographs were very interesting, but he would have thought that about anything Fuji did.

It would be nice to have Fuji with him now, to talk him through these, and point out the little things he was undoubtedly missing. He became irritated with himself; he should have made a more definitive plan with Fuji, but he allowed himself to be carried away by Fuji's playfulness. Reluctantly, he approached the girl at the reception desk, who smiled too widely as soon as he came near.

"Can I help you, sir?"

He tried to affect a less stern appearance. "I'd like to see Fuji if I could."

She blinked, and he got the impression he misspoke somehow. "Fuji-sama is in his studio, in the middle of a shoot. He cannot be disturbed."

He bit his lip. "He asked me to come to see him. Is there any way you could get him a message, let him know that Tezuka is here?"

She blinked several times in rapid succession, blanching. "Tezuka... Tezuka..." She shuffled some papers around on her neat desk, and pulled out a small, neat piece of notepaper with Fuji's handwriting on it. She turned red. "Ah, Tezuka-san, I didn't realize... Please, ah, come with me..."

She shoved the paper back under the stack of brochures, so Tezuka didn't get a chance to see what was written on it. She led him back to a discreet door, and she knocked softly, once, before opening it for him. She held the door open for him, but did not follow him through.

The room inside was much larger than he expected. The walls were all painted a rough black; to the right, and far back, there was a large desk, made of dark wood, and a door with a red unlit light bulb above it; to the left, Fuji was taking pictures of a slim, beautiful man wearing nothing but a pair of very tight jeans that hung low on his hips, who was surrounded by filmy white silk and flowers painted silver.

Fuji looked over his shoulder when Tezuka entered, but he did little more than smirk to acknowledge his presence. Tezuka did not want to interrupt him at his work, so he slipped into the shadows by the door, where he found himself shoulder to shoulder with someone who looked vaguely familiar.

"Tezuka-san," the man nodded, returning his gaze to the model. He was tall, with jet-black hair, neatly cut over his eyes, and broad shoulders, but it took Tezuka a moment to place him. It was really only when he took another look at the model that he put it together.

"Sanada-san," Tezuka nodded. Astonishingly, the slim young man who had Fuji's attention was Yukimura. Tezuka remembered them both from junior high, and it was a bit odd to see them now, older. Of course, they were all older, but it was easy to forget that.

Fuji was wearing a white shirt that was much too big for him, and khaki cargo pants. He moved around, cat-like, bare foot, taking pictures every few seconds. He switched between three cameras he had slung around his neck. It looked like the two of them were just having fun, like they were playing a game, really, but Fuji was definitely looking for something specific from his model.

"Is that Tezuka-kun?" Yukimura asked, slumping slightly, seemingly to showcase his body. He put his hands in his hair, and pouted. "How interesting! We're used to seeing Atobe-kun, aren't we, but this is a nice change of pace... It's good when old friends reconnect, isn't it, Fuji-kun?"

Laughing, Fuji winked. "All depends on what you mean by 'reconnect,' Yukimura-kun."

"Fuji-kun has a dirty mind," Yukimura sighed. "That's ok; that's one of the reasons we like him."

Sanada snorted softly, almost inaudibly, but there was gentleness to his expression.

"Good luck at Wimbledon, Tezuka-kun," Yukimura smiled. "I'm so jealous. I always wanted to play on the lawn. And you're an old man now..."

Fuji shook his head. "We're only twenty-six, Yukimura-kun. Don't make it sound like we're ready to enter the old folks' home just yet."

"Twenty-six is young for a photographer, or a writer, or a teacher, but it's old for a tennis player, or a model," Yukimura sighed. He slipped his thumbs under the waistband of his jeans. "There's only so much time for anything. You have to enjoy every minute of what you have."

Sanada nodded seriously at Yukimura's words, his gaze unblinking as he watched Yukimura's every move.

"Tezuka still has one good run left in him. Don't you?" Fuji looked over his shoulder with a smile that brought back a thousand memories.

"With luck," Tezuka replied.

Fuji laughed. "Well, don't be careless, Captain. People will be watching."

"Captain... Mm, been a long time, and yet..." Yukimura winked at Sanada, and Fuji's quick camera caught it. "So when do you leave for England, Tezuka-san? Shouldn't you be there already?"

"I'll be there in a week; that will be plenty of time." Sanada turned to glace at Tezuka for just a moment, but Tezuka couldn't read his expression at all.

"This must be old hat for you now," Yukimura sighed. "You and Fuji-kun, and that little brat Echizen. I'm so jealous! Fuji-kun?"

"Mm?" Fuji grinned.

"These are the most uncomfortable jeans on the whole planet. And I swear to all that is good, they make me look fatter than a hippo. How much longer until I can take them off?" Yukimura pouted, his arms akimbo, and once again, Fuji's camera caught it all.

"I have no objection to you taking them off now, Yukimura-kun, you know that," Fuji winked, stepped aside for a moment to change the film in one of the cameras.

"Ooh, interesting..." Yukimura laughed, and he put his hands over the buttons in the front. "What do you think, mm, Genichirou? Should I take off this horrible thing?"

Sanada lowered his chin, and narrowed his eyes, but that only got a laugh from Yukimura.

"Every teenager is going to want those jeans in a few weeks when these ads go out, Yukimura-kun," Fuji snapped picture after picture as Yukimura ever so slowly undid the first button of the jeans.

"We are contributing to an evil business, Fuji-kun," Yukimura sighed.

"True," Fuji shrugged, utterly unconcerned. "But it pays for our artistic endeavors."

"Indeed," Yukimura shrugged. "Saw your show. Very nice."

"It was mediocre at best," Fuji corrected.

"Depends," Yukimura finished undoing another button, and pushed the jeans down a bit more on his hips. It was clear he wasn't wearing anything under the jeans. "Maybe you just need a new muse." He winked at Tezuka.

Tezuka crossed his arms over his chest, and narrowed his eyes. His cheeks felt warm, but he didn't think it was obvious. Fuji laughed.

"We'd better stop, Yukimura-kun, before your handsome lover grabs you and runs off with my best model." Fuji turned and nodded to Sanada, who was looking a bit peeved. "May I borrow your hands for a moment, Sanada-san?"

After some hesitation, Sanada did step forward, his hands at his sides uncertainly.

"Come here, step behind Yukimura-san... Please, put one hand here, right above the opening of his jeans. Good. And put your other hand here, right over his heart. Ah, that's perfect, really... Just let me...." He kneeled down before them, and lined up his shot, but he didn't start snapping pictures. "Ah... Tezuka, could you please... that light over there, could you angle it away from the subject a bit...?"

Tezuka moved forward jerkily, wanting to quickly comply with Fuji's instructions, but not entirely sure what to do. The light in question was adjustable, so he moved it around, trying to keep the light steady until he got Fuji's approval.

"Ah, more to the left... a bit up... that's good, just a bit more... Perfect, leave it there. Good!" He took several pictures from all three cameras , and then he sat back and smiled. "That should do it. Thank you for your efforts, Yukimura-kun, Sanada-san."

Yukimura leaned back, and kissed Sanada's chin. "Love you... I'll be right back, just gotta peel these evil things off."

"If you wanted to stay here to do that and let Sanada-san help you..." Fuji offered, teasingly.

"No," Sanada replied quickly, over Yukimura's laughs.

"Just give me a minute," Yukimura smiled, grabbing hold of Sanada's hand as he walked away, letting it fall out of his grip loosely.

Sanada watched him go with rapt attention. Fuji gathered up his cameras, and few rolls of film, and he smiled at Tezuka challengingly. "Don't hide back there forever, Tezuka. Come out and say hello."

Tezuka stepped closer carefully, keeping his arms close to his body. He looked Fuji in the eye, and smiled just a bit. "Fuji. Thank you for inviting me."

Fuji shrugged, and turned around. "You remember Sanada-san, don't you? He's teaching at Rikkaidai now, coaching both the kendo team and the tennis team. Interesting, mm?"

From the tone of voice, and the way that Fuji wasn't looking at him, Tezuka could tell that this was some sort of game, and there would therefore be a correct way to respond, and an incorrect way. He had no way to tell what would be the correct way, so he did his best to ignore Fuji's tone, and turned to Sanada. "That must be quite rewarding."

"Indeed," Sanada replied, still watching the door that Yukimura had gone through. "It is rather time consuming, however. I do enjoy working with students. I imagine, however, that your line of 'work' is more rewarding."

Fuji was smirking. Tezuka could only see just the corner of his lips, as he was still facing the other way, mostly. "That greatly depends. There is a certain satisfaction in being able to do something that you love..." He watched Fuji from the corner of his eye as he spoke; he appeared as if he was considering some papers, but he was listening to Tezuka intently. "But it's not quite how you would think it is. There is a great deal of extraneous annoyances. And..."

Sanada turned to give Tezuka his full attention. Fuji was clinging to his papers rather tightly.

He lowered his gaze. "It's something you will want to do for far longer than you will be able to."

"I believe that," Sanada replied, watching Tezuka sharply. "But certainly, you've had more time than most, mm?"

"True," Tezuka sighed. "But there's never enough time."

"You're speaking as if your career was already over," Sanada pointed out.

"It is," Tezuka shrugged.

Fuji was watching him closely. Tezuka lowered his head a bit more.

"Thank all the gods, great and small, I'm out of those horrid jeans," Yukimura strolled out, looking less like sex symbol, and more like an average guy. He went up to Sanada and put his arms around Sanada's waist. "Are we ready?"

Sanada kissed Yukimura gently on the lips, twice, and he smiled. Sanada's face looked different when he was looking at Yukimura. Tezuka wondered if he looked something like that when he was looking at Fuji; if he did, Fuji couldn't have any doubt about his feelings, but maybe he didn't...

There was a flash of light, and Yukimura laughed while Sanada blushed. "Fuji-kun, stop that."

Fuji raised his hands, smiling. "It's private, I promise. But you can't be that beautiful right in front of me and expect me to ignore it..."

Sanada cleared his throat and took Yukimura's hand. "I think we will take our leave now. It was good to see you again, Tezuka-san. Fuji-san."

Yukimura waved energetically to Fuji as Sanada dragged him off. "Bye! Thanks again, Fuji-kun!"

Fuji waved goodbye to Yukimura until he was out of sight, and then he smiled at Tezuka. "Alone at last."

Tezuka cleared his throat and looked away, affected by the tone of Fuji's voice, so calculating. "I had a chance to view your work. It's quite..."

"Did you like it?" Fuji laughed silently, and stepped behind his desk. "Was there anything in particular that stood out to you?"

Tezuka drifted over to the desk, letting Fuji keep the space between them. "I did. I liked... many of them. You capture... intimacy very well."

"Does that surprise you?" Fuji smirked, watching Tezuka from behind his bangs. "I like to photograph things that are beautiful, and fleeting."

"Is intimacy fleeting?" Tezuka wondered.

"Sometimes," Fuji sighed.

Tezuka looked away. "I suppose. But not always. Moments can add up to something more, too."

"Mm," Fuji replied noncommittally.

"Sanada and Yukimura. Oishi and Kikumaru. Atobe..." Tezuka balled his hands into fists and closed his eyes. "It seems people don't mind being intimate with your camera."

Fuji laughed, loudly. "You have no idea. Let me show you..." He turned around to the shelf behind him, and pulled out a large, black, leather-bound album. Tezuka hesitantly walked around to stand next to him, to look at the album with him.

The pages inside were black archive paper, and the photos were glossy, mostly black and white, and attached with small black photo corners. The book was neatly and lovingly put together in an old fashioned way. Fuji flipped through pictures of Oishi and Kikumaru holding hands, and then Kikumaru kissing Oishi's cheek, through pictures of Atobe in bed, wearing only an oxford cloth shirt, through pictures of friends of Atobe's from school, plastered over each other, over pictures of Saeki with Tachibana's sister in his lap, until he reached a full page picture of Sanada and Yukimura kissing. Neither of them appeared to wearing any clothes, but there wasn't much visible beyond their shoulders. Yukimura had a faint blush staining his cheeks, and Sanada was oblivious to anything other than the man in his arms.

"Do you see?" Fuji ghosted his fingers just above the surface of the picture. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"

"It's..." Tezuka wanted to look away. This was... "private."

"Do you think my art is smutty, Tezuka?" Fuji was clearly amused. He turned his attention back to the picture, his expression softening. "It's not smut, though. Even if I were to photograph them having sex, it wouldn't be smut. Look at them... look at what they feel. This moment, this perfect moment, when they just touch each other like this, when they first meet each other, connect, and the whole world disappears, and they are the universe, them, and this feeling they can't contain in one body, this need, to be close, to join with this person that you love more than anything else in life..." Fuji smiled bitterly. "This is the best feeling in the world. This is the most beautiful feeling any person can feel."

Tezuka wasn't looking at the picture at all anymore. He watched Fuji, and the way this image absorbed all of his attention. "I remember."

Fuji shook his head, not laughing, but looking as if he should be. "That's good, because you took that away from me." He closed the book abruptly.

Tezuka put his hand on Fuji's shoulder. "Syuusuke..."

"Are you sorry?" Fuji looked Tezuka in the eye, and Tezuka nearly flinched. "Is that what you are about to say? How sorry you are, for leaving me. But that doesn't change anything, does it, Tezuka?"

He squeezed Fuji's shoulder lightly, needing to hold on for as long as Syuusuke permitted it. "What would change things, Syuusuke? Because I need... I need to be able to change things, if I can."

Fuji ran his hand through his hair, and looked away. "Pride. I guess it's just mine now."

"Mm?" Tezuka furrowed his brow.

Fuji smiled brightly in the most infuriating way he could. "Oh, nothing, something Inui said... Is your career really over, Tezuka? Couldn't you have a surgery? Fix it?"

Tezuka's hand slid down Fuji's arm, but he was unwilling to break contact entirely. "I could, but what good would it do? I'm playing eighteen-year old boys who can run circles around me. My time is up."

"That seems so final," Fuji sighed.

Tezuka shrugged. "It is." Fuji stared at the cover of his album, and Tezuka brushed his hand over Fuji's arm. Something occurred to him. "Is this my shirt?"

Fuji pulled away defensively, looking truly annoyed. "Of course not! I took it seven years ago. It's mine now."

He couldn't help but smile softly. "It looks good on you. Everything looks good on you."

Fuji turned away in irritation. "I didn't wear it because of you. I always wear it. Even before you left. It's comfortable."

"I like that you wear it, for whatever reason," Tezuka offered softly.

There was quiet. Fuji held himself tightly. "I don't want it to be like this."

Tezuka leaned forward, waiting for Fuji to continue.

"I don't want... us... if we can't be... we should be friends, shouldn't we?" Fuji looked over his shoulder at Tezuka.

He would have liked to ask for more, but he couldn't deny the look in Fuji's eyes. "We are, aren't we?"

Fuji watched him carefully for a long moment. "Can I take your picture, Tezuka?"

Tezuka blinked. "Excuse me?"

Laughing, Fuji turned around, and grabbed his cameras. "Let me just change film, and set up. Why don't you unbutton your shirt?"

Fuji was moving around, busily, humming softly. He winked at Tezuka over his shoulder, and opened a drawer, pulling out film. His hands moved swiftly and efficiently. He bundled all the film from Yukimura's shoot in one plastic bag, and pulled out new film, which he loaded with equal precision. It took him hardly any time at all. Tezuka had always been in awe of Fuji's hands, and their quick, elegant movements. Hands like that were capable of using a racquet and the wind to make the ball do whatever he wanted. It hadn't really occurred to him to think of the other amazing things Fuji could do with his hands. Of course, he knew intimately some of what Fuji's hands were capable of, but he was naïve, and he didn't think of those skills as related to anything else.

He watched Fuji, still rooted to the same spot, as Fuji pulled down the long ropes of silver flowers, and tossed them aside. From a cabinet, he got blue and red plastic sheets to slip in over the lights, coloring the room softly, intimately. He grabbed big, fluffy, faux fur covered pillows from behind the screen, and he tossed them on the ground. He smiled at Tezuka.

"C'mon. These will be private, I promise. Indulge me."

The way that was phrased, Tezuka was more and less inclined to acquiesce. He walked slowly over to where Fuji was waiting for him. "Private?"

Fuji's laugh was beautiful, alluring, and disquieting, just a little. "Don't worry. I don't do pornography. Just let me take your picture."

Tezuka bent his head down. There was never any real question as to whether he would let Fuji have his way; he always let Fuji have his way. He crossed his arms over his chest, and sighed. "What do you want me to do?"

Shaking his head, Fuji sighed. "I don't want you to pose. Just look at me while I take your picture." He raised the camera to his face, and snapped a pic. "Look at me, Tezuka."

Tezuka couldn't meet Fuji's gaze for long, but when he turned his face away, blushing, he heard the shutter fwish faster. "You don't have to call me that."

"What should I call you then?" Fuji had his own way of flirting. It was challenging, and it made Tezuka's blood boil. Fuji always knew how to excite Tezuka.

"You used to call me something else..." Tezuka covered his face with his hand, his fingers splayed out so he could still see Fuji.

Fuji cocked his head to the side. "Used to... lots of things are used to, though, aren't they? We can't go back to used to, Tezuka. We have to go forward, until we reach a new way of being together. Don't you think?"

Tezuka sighed. "As usual, I can't argue with you. But I can't help it if I think of you as Syuusuke..."

There was silence for a moment not captured by film. "Tezuka... take off your shirt?"

He looked up, alarmed, to find Fuji laughing at him silently. "What?"

"Please?" Fuji smiled with sarcastic sweetness. "It's just for me..."

He closed his eyes. It was cold here, more so as he slowly opened his shirt. Fuji was photographing him as he unbuttoned his shirt; that was either really hot, or really embarrassing, and he was too confused to know which was which. He finished undoing all the buttons, and he hooked his thumbs in the belt loops of his jeans.

Fuji chuckled deeply. "That's beautiful... so beautiful... slip your shirt off?"

He slipped the shirt off the right shoulder, but he found that he didn't want to slip it all the way off. He knew, of course, that he most likely would, that he wouldn't be able to refuse Fuji. It was foolish, because Fuji had seen him naked at the hot springs, but somehow, it felt like Fuji was really looking at him now, and he felt a bit ashamed.

The camera was whirling like mad, and then it stopped. "Tezuka. Let me see your scars."

His face flamed brightly, and Fuji captured every second of it. His shirt fell to the floor without a sound. Fuji circled around him, sometimes softly directing him to move his arm forward, or put his hand there. Fuji's fingers brushed over his skin. "You are beautiful, Tezuka."

"Flawed," Tezuka sighed, his throat raw for some reason. He couldn't look at Syuusuke.

"Perfection is boring," Fuji teased.

"You are perfect," Tezuka countered.

Fuji was still for a moment. "Don't call me that. That makes me untouchable. We are all of us, only human. Our flaws define us. There is intrinsic beauty in flesh that is healing itself, don't you think?"

Tezuka kept his eyes tightly shut. "I suppose I am fixated on the weakness they represent."

Fuji traced the fine, very straight white lines marking Tezuka's skin. "But isn't the real measure of a man's strength in how he overcomes his limitations?"

That was certainly true, but it didn't mean very much, depending on the scale one considered. "Some limitations can't be overcome."

"Does it bother you so much? To not be able to play?" Fuji laughed, but it didn't sound like he was amused. "Tennis is a game, Tezuka. You should stop when it's no longer fun."

"It's always fun." Tezuka lifted his face to look Fuji in the eye.

Fuji stood still for a moment, his eyes wide. He reached out and took Tezuka's hand. "Sit down." He kneeled down with Tezuka, pulling the pillows around to help Tezuka get comfortable. "You don't change, do you? That's... it's heartening. Tezuka... When did you plan on talking to me, if we hadn't meet at the hot springs? Did you have a plan?"

He held onto Fuji's hand as long as he could, grateful that Fuji wasn't pulling away from him. "When I got to Tokyo, I was going to look up Oishi. I was going to ask him about meeting with you."

"Why wouldn't you just call me yourself? Why go through Oishi?" Fuji turned his hand over, so their palms were aligned.

Tezuka looked down at their joined hands. He used to take this contact for granted. "I was afraid you were angry with me."

Fuji laughed. "Were you ever angry with me?"

"Yes," Tezuka sighed. There was no reason for him to lie. "But I became so that my loneliness was more powerful than anything else I felt."

Fuji pulled his hand away, and backed off. He lifted his camera to his face again, and started to take more pictures. "Would you open your jeans?"

He was past blushing now, past resisting. He did as he was told, and he leaned back on his hands, aware that Fuji was photographing him, but if he closed his eyes, he could forget that there was this space between them. The air was cold but his skin was hot, and he felt pleasantly trapped. He looked up at Fuji, and he could tell from the way that Fuji looked back at him that his gaze was raw.

"Take your jeans off, Tezuka," Fuji ordered softly.

He didn't move at all, he just watched Fuji closely, narrowing his eyes.

Fuji laughed. "Would you feel more comfortable if I took off my shirt? I don't mind... but take off your jeans first."

His throat was dry, parched. He couldn't think clearly enough to voice an objection. There was something wrong with everything about this, and yet, he knew he wouldn't be able to resist Fuji, not anymore. He wanted, more than he ever wanted anything, to be able to take Fuji into his arms and call him his, but he got to his knees and slipped off his jeans and boxers instead. He sat down on the soft fur of the pillows, and kicked his clothes away.

The camera whirled and shuttered.

Fuji laughed quietly, reaching out to put his hand on Tezuka's thigh. "You are beautiful, Tezuka. Your body... It's so like you."

Tezuka licked his lips. "It's just a tool. It's not me."

"It's like you, though," Fuji sighed, setting down his camera. He pulled Tezuka's old shirt off like it was a t-shirt. "It's beautiful; it begs to be touched."

He would have liked to return Fuji's flirtations, but he was drenched in cold. He reached out, and brushed his fingers over the fading bruises on Fuji's arms. They were sickly yellow, indistinct, and barely still there, but they were flaws under Fuji's perfect skin, and they spoke of pain. "What happened?"

"Oh," Fuji shrugged, unable to maintain an amused appearance, his eyes on Tezuka's fingers on his skin. "Those. I thought they were gone by now."

"Did he do this to you?" Tezuka's jaw locked. He would kill Atobe.

Fuji picked up Tezuka's hand, and ran his fingers over Tezuka's fingers. "It's... Don't worry about it." He dropped Tezuka's hand and picked up his camera. He was at a good angle to take pictures of all of Tezuka. He only snapped a few shots before he reached out and removed Tezuka's glasses, a slow, intimate gesture.

Tezuka closed his eyes and looked away. "Why?"

"It's your fault, of course," Fuji laughed. "Lift your leg... like that. Good." He kept taking pictures.

"Syuusuke..." Tezuka slumped, shutting his eyes tightly.

"Are you sorry, Tezuka? Do you want to apologize? Again?" Fuji chuckled. "It's not really your fault, you know. It's not my fault, either. This sort of thing happens between people. The past is the past."

Tezuka reached out and put his hand on Syuusuke's cheek. "I can't accept that the only place we can be together is in the past. I still love you, Syuusuke. I can't give up."

"Don't," Fuji replied quickly, hoarsely. He held Tezuka's gaze, and then he pulled away. He kept his eyes down. Shaking his head, he started to laugh. "Oh. This is getting complicated again. Or is it the opposite? I just know... you still... affect me."

Tezuka shifted over, and pulled Fuji into his arms. "It's only fair. You affect me."

Fuji smiled, and rested his head on Tezuka's shoulder. "Good. Need to keep you at the top of your game, you know."

"You always do," Tezuka smiled affectionately.

Fuji sighed. "You always give me the best smiles when I can't capture them. You just don't play fair, Tezuka."

He brushed his fingers over Fuji's face. "Can't. I need you too much."

Fuji leaned up quickly, and kissed Tezuka's lips. "Hey, let's go to an amusement park. Remember when we were going to go, in junior high? We never went, did we?"

"We did," Tezuka sighed. "But you asked me about when we should go in the club room, and Kikumaru and Kawamura joined us. We didn't stay long."

Fuji laughed. "Oh, that's right. Actually, we met Oishi and Inui there, too, and you were the only one who left early. We didn't even see you go." He smiled, and took Tezuka's hand. "But this time, it will just be two of us."

Tezuka smiled. There was nothing he would deny Fuji right now, even if Fuji asked him to leave and never come back. "Fine."

Fuji grabbed the shirt that Tezuka wore to the gallery. "I'll wear this. Let me get you something to wear..."

"I could wear..." Tezuka reached for the shirt that Fuji had been wearing.

Fuji snatched it away from his reach, and smiled coquettishly. "Nope, that's mine. I have clothes here. Just give me a minute."

Tezuka smiled, shaking his head. He got his boxers and jeans back. He couldn't believe he had let Fuji... but it was Fuji, so it was all right.

It was always all right when it was Fuji.

The entire secretarial pools of the thirtieth to fortieth floors were scurrying. Atobe slammed the door to his office, and threw the stack of papers he was holding on his desk. These small actions did nothing to mollify him, though they did frighten the sheepish looking man who was waiting for him. He didn't bother to acknowledge Oishi's presence; he needed to bleed off some of this anger first.

He paced his office a few times, tuning out Oishi's pathetic hemming and hawing. He picked up his phone and stabbed the button for his father's secretary. She answered on the first ring, and began by apologizing, which only served to increase his ire. He snapped at her, and peppered his tirade with a few choice words he learned specifically from his father, and then slammed the phone down.

There was never peace in the office when both Atobes were in, even though there were seven floors separating them. Things only seemed to get worse, too. His father had berated him before the board for a mistake he didn't make. He would track down the person who had made the mistake, and deal with it, but he would not allow his father to question his staff or nose into his business. He had to maintain some dignity as a man, or else what would be the point?

He scowled at Oishi. "And what do you want?"

Oishi squirmed, actually squirmed. "Ah, I'm sorry, this wasn't a good time, but I need to pick up the, ah, keys for the, ah, house in Greece, and I'm sorry for my timing, I wish I could..."

"Oh, shut up," Atobe sighed. He pulled open his lower left drawer, and pulled out a large manila envelope. He checked inside just to be sure he had the right one, and he tossed it across his desk. "There. I should get a new job as a travel agent. I suppose you've spoken to him."

Oishi picked up the envelope and peeked inside. He kept his eyes on the contents as he considered Atobe's statement. "You would be correct to suppose that."

Atobe narrowed his eyes. "And like the good little subordinate you are, you will be doing everything you can to get the happy couple back together again, won't you?"

Oishi's glare was impressive enough, which wasn't too surprising, probably, though Atobe had always assumed Oishi's students could get away with murder. "Eiji and I are preparing for our sabbatical. What Fuji and Tezuka do is their own business. Though, I do hope that they can both be happy."

"There's only one way that will happen," Atobe sneered. "I can't blame you for wanting it, I suppose. Nor can I blame him..." He lost all of his fire. Coldness crept up on him. "He didn't come home last night until two in the morning. He looked... pleased with himself. And he had this ridiculous stuffed bear." Atobe shook his head. He had tried to set up a nice, semi-romantic dinner for the two of them, but he had ended up spending the evening worrying about Fuji. He would have given anything to have been able to hold Fuji in his arms, but he was relegated to the guest bedroom again.

Oishi shifted in his seat. "Atobe-san, I'm sorry. Truly. If it were at all possible, I would like for all three of you to find happiness."

"I'm not interested in that sort of arrangement," Atobe sniffed regally. "And truthfully, I should probably let him go. But I can't." He eyed Oishi critically. "You are his friend. You have to admit, I've been good for him. How can I win him?"

"He's not an arcade prize, Atobe-san," Oishi informed wearily. "Love isn't a game. You can't win him. You have to do what you can to make him happy, and hope for the best."

"That's so cute," Atobe drawled, rolling his eyes. "But this is a game; everything in life is a game. Syuusuke understands that."

"Fuji knows all about love," Oishi quietly corrected. "You can't win him. You have to be worthy of his love."

Atobe mused. "Or, more to the point, worthier. Interesting. Thank you."

Oishi bit his lip. "That wasn't advice, Atobe-san. I wasn't offering you a tip. He..."

Atobe stood up. "I'm sorry, Oishi, but I have a very full schedule. Please see yourself out, and enjoy your time in Greece."

Oishi stood up slowly. He bowed to Atobe, and stated for the door, but he stopped halfway there. "You really can't win him, Atobe-san. If you do want advice, mine would be that you need to let him go. Maybe he will leave you, and maybe he won't, but if you try to force him to choose, or to stay with you, you will lose him for certain."

"Just go already," Atobe growled. Leave it to Oishi to hand out platitudes. What would a man who has effectively married his childhood sweetheart know about love?

He would win this game. He had no other choice.

ProloguePart OnePart TwoPart ThreePart Four • Part Five • Part SixPart SevenPart EightEpilogue