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Atobe had always known that Tezuka was made for the grand stage. That was why, no matter how much Atobe might want to keep Tezuka for himself, he had never once dared try to contain Tezuka’s brilliance from the world.

Right now, that brilliance shone through, dazzling the entire audience. Even Atobe, who had watched Tezuka day-in and day-out for nearly a decade, couldn’t help but be awed at Tezuka’s radiance.

On the court, the poor sacrificial lamb who’d made it to the finals was sweating, composure slowly breaking down at the cosmic, unyielding force that was Tezuka Kunimitsu. Atobe couldn’t feel much pity for the man, since he’d eliminated Atobe in the quarter-finals, but the fact that Atobe felt anything at all spoke to the pitiless power of Tezuka on the court.

Tezuka’s opponent tried a smash; Tezuka returned with a sharp drive. A desperate attempt at a drop-shot was met with a lightning-quick cross. Long rallies designed to wear Tezuka down just ended up wearing his opponent instead. And all along that cool, acerbic tongue cut through his opponent’s psyche with razor precision: “Close,” “nice serve,” “good backhand,” so that even the few points his opponent did eke out felt like the lucky flailings of a talented child training against a master.

Tezuka was at his most beautiful, Atobe sometimes thought, when he was at his most cruel.

The points racked up, higher and higher, as the hushed crowd watched, mesmerized at Tezuka’s stunning perfection. Tezuka’s tennis was poetry when he got like this, glowing from within with his own inner light, precision and delight all at once.

Atobe smiled to himself when Tezuka’s icy facade broke for one elated fist-clench when he reached match-point. Tezuka made it all look so easy, and Atobe was one of the rare few in the audience who knew just how amazingly difficult it was.

Tezuka’s opponent was sweating when he lined up for his final serve. Poor Rodrigo – Atobe was going to have to take him out for consolatory drinks after this match. Liquor was, after all, the only known cure for being swept away by Tezuka at his absolute best.

Atobe’s eyes never left Tezuka’s form, as spellbound as the rest of the spectators at Tezuka’s grace, while Tezuka countered each return neatly, sharply, precisely, as if this wasn’t the end of a very long match.

Atobe could practically feel the point unravelling, and the breath caught in his throat just a split-second before those seated around him, recognizing the victory.

“Game, set, and match, Tezuka,” the referee announced to an awed hush.

Tezuka, at the center of the court, closed his eyes and let out a slow, relaxing breath, spectacularly beautiful and composed as ever. Across the court, his opponent fell to his knees, gasping.

It was an elegantly artful composition that even Atobe would’ve had difficulty choreographing, and Tezuka did it perfectly, naturally, unscripted.

The silence stretched for one second, and then Tezuka’s eyes opened once more, and the audience burst out with applause. Cameras flashed, but Tezuka just neatly adjusted his glasses on the bridge of his nose, as if that was all the match had taken out of him, as if that was all it took to win Wimbledon.

He nodded politely all round, clasped his opponent’s hand warmly, cordial yet distant and untouchable, a true champion the way Atobe had always known he would be, one day.

Atobe felt the strangest pang of loss, along with his elation, because this Tezuka wasn’t his alone anymore. In this moment, Tezuka belonged to everyone, the newest shining star being broadcast throughout the world. Atobe had known it would come one day, but still he wasn’t ready.

The press and officiants and spectators spun around Tezuka, trapped within his event horizon, forming a sort of ordered chaos around Tezuka’s center-point. Atobe watched the wind-up festivities and then watched Tezuka go, as far as Atobe could see, before Atobe broke from the stands to make his way behind-the-scenes.

A few reporters, probably new blood that hadn’t earned the big scoop yet, caught Atobe as he was leaving the stands, but he brushed them aside for once. He didn’t object to Tezuka being the story of the day, but he refused to be anyone’s page-two byline. In deference to Tezuka’s great moment, he refrained from saying anything quotable as he pushed the way through the throngs.

The people thinned as Atobe reached the locker rooms, although the press was still (mal)lingering and immediately swarmed him as soon as they recognized him. He buzzed these off too, got past security with one disdainfully raised eyebrow when one of the doorkeepers was foolish enough to ask him for identification, and made his way through the motley assortment of official behind-the-scenes attendants.

Coach Werner nodded to Atobe, seemingly trying to organize Tezuka’s paraphernalia. Atobe vaguely recalled that Tezuka hadn’t even had the opportunity to grab his bag before he was swept away. Atobe hoped that someone had had the sense to give Tezuka his water bottle somewhere along the way.

Just in case, Atobe stole the spare from his own bag and made his way back into the holy of holies. Stephan looked up for one second, about to shout at Atobe for entering without permission, and then checked himself when he saw who it was.

“Keigo.” Stephan paused in his habitual, precautionary post-match massage of Tezuka’s shoulder, giving Tezuka the chance to pull the towel off his head and look up.

Atobe smiled softly at the exhaustion buried deep in Tezuka’s eyes. The unaffected, immortal player of before had cast aside the aura and was now Tezuka once more, with his semi-sketchy shoulder, yoyo-ing stamina, and hopeless weakness for Atobe. Tezuka, it seemed, had fallen back to earth.

“Atobe,” Tezuka groaned with relief and motioned for Stephan to continue, “where were you?”

Atobe straddled the bench beside the massage table and took a sip of his water bottle. “Watching the performance of a lifetime, the same as everyone else,” Atobe said lightly, and then more darkly: “You were exquisite out there today. Congratulations.”

Tezuka’s cheeks flushed in a way that they hadn’t earlier, even when photo-ops and sponsorship deals and trophies had been heaped upon him. “It should have been you across the net today. I may have been somewhat unforgiving that it wasn’t.”

Atobe laughed and offered Tezuka his water bottle, and Tezuka blinked at him like it honestly had not occurred to him that he was thirsty until this very moment. Stephan relented in his torments long enough for Tezuka to take a deep quenching drink, and instead he moved on to feeling out Tezuka’s right ankle, which had been giving him erratic spasms throughout the tournament.

“For once,” Atobe said, “this isn’t about me, even in the slightest.”

Tezuka grunted and took another drink. “It’d be better if it were. Sports Illustrated wants to do a spread on me. I have no idea what to say beyond, ‘It’s none of your business.’”

Atobe smirked. “I’m certainly a better candidate to spread for the camera,” he agreed.

Tezuka gave him a look, halfway between annoyed and fond, at the innuendo. “You’d better not,” he retorted and held out one hand. “Come here.”

Atobe took a deep breath and let himself be tugged into Tezuka’s vortex once more. His arm naturally slid around Tezuka’s shoulders, while Tezuka’s moved to encircle his waist. Stephan, wise man that he was, made a halfhearted excuse to step outside for a moment.

“Hi,” Tezuka said into Atobe’s collarbone.

“Hi,” Atobe agreed warmly, running his fingers through Tezuka’s still-sweaty hair.

“I shouldn’t be touching you,” Tezuka grimaced. “I’m disgusting.”

“You should always be touching me,” Atobe corrected. “You’re gorgeous.” He pressed a kiss to the crown of Tezuka’s head and then sighed, “Although a shower wouldn’t be amiss…”

Tezuka chuckled. “I can always count on you to be honest in the most diplomatic way possible.”

“More like: you can always count on me to try to get you naked,” Atobe retorted.

“That too,” Tezuka conceded. “Help me get naked?”

Tezuka’s ankle, under all those bindings, turned out to be swollen. He didn’t seem happy to lift his shoulder much, either. Atobe eased Tezuka out of his clothes gently, almost clinically, removed his own clothing, and then led Tezuka back to shower room.

Atobe fidgeted with the water temperature more than Tezuka probably would’ve, while Tezuka set his glasses and water bottle on the shelf outside the shower stall. Tezuka finally joined Atobe under the spray with a gasp of relief; the water was colder than Atobe would ever have chosen, but Tezuka had always adored cold showers after grueling matches.

Atobe leaned Tezuka back against the tile wall, because Tezuka’s adrenaline looked to be fading fast. Tezuka let out a little grunt of approval when Atobe lathered up Tezuka’s hair with shampoo and began scrubbing it clean.

Atobe found a happy balance between cleaning Tezuka efficiently so as not to tire him unnecessarily, but also lingering pleasurably upon the exquisite body before him. Tezuka continued to hum contentedly when Atobe danced gingerly around all the tender, swollen places on his body and caressed others lovingly.

“You might be better at physio than Stephan,” Tezuka finally said blearily.

“Only you could be deluded enough to believe that,” Atobe retorted skeptically and dropped to his knees to handle Tezuka’s ankle with proper care.

Tezuka grunted. “And if that doesn’t prove that I’m physically dead after that match, nothing else will.”

Atobe smirked and gave Tezuka’s flaccid penis a gentle pat. “Soon enough,” Atobe promised.

Tezuka groaned. “I don’t think I’ll ever have the energy again,” he confessed dispiritedly. “Please don’t divorce me?”

“You say that after every tournament,” Atobe said and stood up to turn the water back off. “You’ll have me bent over the nearest sturdy horizontal surface within 24 hours, I predict.”

“I wouldn’t want to disappoint your predictions,” Tezuka said thoughtfully, his right hand following the trail of a water droplet down Atobe’s chest, as if mesmerized.

“Come on,” Atobe said, grabbing the fluffiest white towel he could find and rubbing it vigorously through Tezuka’s hair. “Let’s get you dried, iced-up, and out past the press gauntlet before you peter out.”

“Hmm,” Tezuka agreed with an aborted yawn. He was fading fast now, and a sleepy Tezuka was one jewel Atobe refused to share with anyone.

Stephan had returned by the time they got out of the shower, and Atobe held the ends of various bandages and tapes while Stephan got Tezuka rewrapped and ready to go home. After receiving a stern warning to feed Tezuka double the protein, keep his ankle iced, and call if anything started to hurt beyond simple post-tournament aches, Atobe sidled up close to Tezuka, so it looked like they were enraptured newlyweds instead of one very tired champion and one exceedingly handsome crutch.

The cameras went mad when they stepped out of the locker rooms, and Atobe brushed aside several demands for interviews, with the obligatory, “Talk to our publicist.” Tezuka made all the right grunts and nods and managed not to even look winded, which was quite a feat given how heavily he was leaning on Atobe for support.

One reporter – a cheeky little thing from the continent somewhere, Croatia maybe – shoved a microphone right in Tezuka’s face and asked, “What does it feel like to finally win Wimbledon?”

Tezuka blinked twice and then said, with more honesty that Atobe had ever heard him use in an interview, “Unreal.”

Atobe bludgeoned his way through the sea of reporters, their coaches and staff on their heels, and got Tezuka to the limo.

“Unreal,” Tezuka repeated in a whisper, while Atobe buckled him in. Then his head sagged against Atobe’s shoulder, and he was out like a light.

Chapter Text

Tezuka awoke to the certain knowledge that something was fundamentally wrong with the universe.

His face still half buried in his pillow, he reached out blindly with his right arm to Atobe’s side of the bed. Rather than encountering pampered skin over toned muscle, Tezuka’s hand was met with cold sheets. An instinctive shiver pulsed through Tezuka’s body, and he edged closer to Atobe’s side of the bed, seeking the comforting warmth that really should be blanketing him right now.

By the time he reached the edge of the bed and still hadn’t encountered his husband’s body, his grogginess was beginning to dissipate, and he blinked blearily, vision blurred without his glasses, at the empty bed beside him. The pillows were straightened and the sheets made, as if there had never been another occupant in the bed.

Tezuka felt one blind moment of panic, like he was trapped in one of those nightmares where Atobe was lost or missing or everyone else insisted that no one named ‘Atobe’ had ever existed. Tezuka shot up in bed and scrambled for his glasses. It was two in the morning, he saw when the clock came into focus.

The spot beside Tezuka was, indeed, empty and cold, and there was no light on in the bathroom. However, Tezuka was now awake enough to know that, yes, Atobe existed and was not a figment of Tezuka’s imagination. The pile of Neoplatonic texts in the original Greek and three separate varieties of personal lubricant on the shelf beside Atobe’s bed spoke to that well enough.

But, if Atobe wasn’t in bed with his husband where he belonged, where on earth was he?

Tezuka didn’t remember going to bed that night. Their flight back to Munich had been late, and he’d been drowsy – worn-down on adrenaline – the whole flight. He could vaguely remember Atobe waking him and shuffling him into the car, but he didn’t remember reaching home. He’d either forgotten their arrival, or else Atobe and either Coach Werner or Stephan had carried Tezuka up to their penthouse while he was unconscious and put him to bed. In fact, the more Tezuka thought about it, the more he became convinced that some variation of the latter must have occurred. He must’ve been really out of it.

While Tezuka’s brain very slowly pieced this together in the process of waking up, a bang sounded through the wall to Tezuka’s study, followed by muffled cursing. Tezuka would recognize the sexy rumble of that voice anywhere (even though the words being delivered were not particularly sexy at all, at the moment), and some part of him relaxed as his mind happily checked the box: ‘Yes, Atobe arrived home safely last night, too.’

Curious as to what was going on, Tezuka got out of bed, padded down the hallway next to the bathroom, past Atobe’s walk-in closet, and back out into his study. Tezuka had thought the sounds were coming from here, but there was nothing, just the moon shining in through the south-facing wall of windows. Tezuka opened the door to his right, into the entertainment room, and covered his eyes in shock at the blinding overhead light.

“Tezuka!” Atobe said in surprise. “Don’t do that! You startled me half to death. Also: What on earth are you doing wandering around? You don’t wake for hours yet.”

Holding his hand up to half-block his eyes from the light, Tezuka could make out Atobe, sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of their trophy case, absently rubbing the top of his head. The small pull-out drawer directly above him was open, and Tezuka quickly figured out the cause of the bang, Atobe’s vituperation, and the subsequent head injury.

“Are you all right?” Tezuka asked first, because that seemed to be the most important question.

“Oh, fine,” Atobe waved him off. “Just a lump. I didn’t wake you, did I?”

“Not really,” Tezuka said and knelt beside Atobe to examine the spot on the back of his head. Atobe tried to brush him off, but Tezuka refused to be deterred until he’d searched around through Atobe’s soft hair to find the tender bump. “Ouch,” Tezuka said in sympathy before leaning back on his heels. “You’re not bleeding, though.”

“Of course I’m not bleeding,” Atobe said, sounding mildly annoyed. He gave his head once last rub, shut the drawer above him, and leaned back on his hands to survey the chaos around him.

Tezuka studied the mess Atobe had made, as well. Most of the time, Tezuka felt that he understood Atobe reasonably well, but even he was having a hard time reasoning out why Atobe was out of bed in the middle of the night, seemingly dismantling their entire trophy case.

“What are you doing?” Tezuka asked curiously.

Atobe sighed. “Trying to reorganize everything,” he said wearily, looking ironically defeated amidst the mountain of trophies, medals, and plaques that surrounded him. “Wimbledon,” Atobe gestured to Tezuka’s latest trophy with a glare usually reserved for arch-nemeses, “didn’t fit on any of the shelves, so I had to clear out all the shelves, and then readjust them, but that made the second shelf too short to fit some of the Masters, and so I had to… Well, you get the picture.”

Tezuka studied the scattered trophies, the shelves lying out on the rug, and Atobe’s frustrated expression. “Have you slept at all tonight?”

Atobe let out a weary laugh. “I tried around midnight, but I was too wound up to sleep. You, my lovely,” he teased, “were out like a light.”

Tezuka nodded and pushed his glasses up the brim of his nose. “I figured.” And then: “Let’s sort everything by height first, and then figure out where we’ll place the shelves from there.”

Atobe gave him a careful look, as though he were debating sending Tezuka back to bed, but then he shrugged. “They’re a pain to put back up with only one person, anyway.”

Wimbledon was quickly joined by five more monstrosities that wouldn’t fit anywhere but the top shelf. The second and third shelves had been organized more by the prominence of the tournament than size, but that obviously wasn’t going to work anymore, so they reordered all of those, too. After some argument over what was being demoted from the display shelves into the drawers underneath (including, alas, Tezuka’s gold medal from the Japanese Middle-School National Team Championship, despite its great sentimental value), they almost had room to fit everything, with a lot of squishing.

“We’re going to need a second trophy case, now that we’re winning Grand Slams on top of all the others,” Atobe pondered.

Tezuka shuddered at the thought of having to go furniture shopping with Atobe. Such quests inevitably took hours and always ultimately resulted in Atobe having something entirely custom made, which in turn meant hours of negotiating with the carpenter about every last flourish and finial. Tezuka had nearly gone into a coma the last time Atobe had needed new closet shelves.

“I also think,” Atobe considered, “that we should make the tallest shelf the middle one, so that the most important trophies are at eye-level. The bottom shelf should be the next most important, and the top can be the smallest and most trivial, where they’re harder to see, anyway.”

Tezuka opened his mouth to object that that scheme just wasn’t orderly and linear, then reconsidered, and shut his mouth. The closest he and Atobe had ever come to divorce was the time they’d redecorated the living room; Tezuka still had to force himself not to become outraged at Atobe’s bizarre instructions about the arrangement of the end tables. Seriously, what did “put it diagonally parallel, lengthwise” even mean in earth-logic?

“Whatever you say, dear,” Tezuka said instead, half-teasing and half-tired.

Atobe gave Tezuka an alarmed look, like he remembered the living-room fiasco just as clearly. “It’s your trophy, though,” he conceded hastily, gesturing to Wimbledon. “You should get to decide.”

“I really don’t care,” Tezuka insisted.

“Well, I don’t care, either,” Atobe said infuriatingly.

Tezuka was just about to get them into another entrenched battle over the exact same subject as before, only this time with the two of them being stubborn over who was most conciliatory, rather than who was most right.

Then Atobe, who must have been in the same mental place, started to snicker.

This, of course, sent Tezuka off snickering too, because they really were absurd, and Atobe scooched over to kiss the laughter off Tezuka’s lips.

“We’ll do it your way,” Tezuka insisted when they broke apart. “Even though it’s completely wrong, it at least makes some sense.”

“Thanks so much for that,” Atobe said wryly. “Now, help me put the shelves back up.”

Tezuka could just imagine the next press conference: “What did you do after you won Wimbledon?” “We put up some shelves.”

“What’s so funny?” Atobe asked, with one raised eyebrow.

“The press will be so disappointed…” Tezuka said, fighting back an undignified giggle.

Atobe gave him a look like he was absolutely insane, and then seemed to get it. In between laughs, they got the shelves up in the pre-planned order, the largest shelf (wrongly) in the middle. With effort, they managed to squish all the remaining trophies into the cabinet, although some of them had to be angled askew to fit.

Tezuka, reluctantly, was forced to admit that they would, indeed, need another case before they could add anything else.

“Try not to win the US Open, if you’re at all able to help it,” Atobe said wryly.

Tezuka winced at the size of that trophy. “Fine. We’ll get another case this weekend.”

“Do you think we should match the current one and put them side-by-side, or get a separate one, specifically for Grand Slams, and put it over there next to the piano?” Atobe wondered.

Tezuka shuddered. “I really don’t care.” It was too early for this many emotional minefields. “I’m going back to bed. And you’re coming with me, because I’m sure the bed is cold by now.” He grabbed Atobe’s wrist and dragged him along, just in case.

Tezuka led the way back to their bedroom, shutting off the entertainment-room light as he went. They both knew their home well enough by feel that neither of them so much as stumbled in the sudden dark.

They flopped back onto the mattress together, wriggled their ways under the covers, and then Tezuka wrapped Atobe all around him until he was properly warmed up. The little niggling warning light in the back of Tezuka’s head finally flicked off, now that his mate was properly back in their nest.

“Mmm,” Tezuka nuzzled Atobe’s throat and cuddled in close.

“I’m so proud of you, you know,” Atobe whispered into Tezuka’s hair.

“Mmm…” Tezuka agreed.

“Of course, next time the trophy will be mine. Now that you’ve won our first Grand Slam, I can’t let you supersede me.”

“Mmm?” Tezuka managed in not-quite-challenge.

“But, until then, I am entirely yours to command. Pick any reward you want from me, and it is yours.”

Tezuka cracked open one eye at where Atobe was getting on quite a roll with his pontification. “Anything?”

“Anything,” Atobe purred.

“Okay,” Tezuka agreed. “Go to sleep.”

Atobe huffed, “I do that every night,” but he quieted after that, leaving Tezuka to drift off in the perfect comfort of Atobe’s embrace.

Chapter Text

At times, Tezuka Kunimitsu could be the most infuriating man alive.

Atobe had had plenty of advanced warning, of course, before he’d married Tezuka, but sometimes Tezuka’s pigheadedness amazed even him.

“Do you want to go out and do something?” Atobe asked.

“Not really,” said Tezuka, not even bothering to look up from his book, further proving how absolutely infuriating he could be.

Atobe rolled over onto his back on the sofa. “I’m bored,” he complained. “I want to do something. We should go out.”

“You can go out if you want,” Tezuka offered. “I need to finish this novel for my thesis.”

Atobe groaned and threw one hand over his eyes. “That’s boring,” he complained. “I need to have fun, after nothing but practice all week.” He peeked out from under one arm and scowled when he realized that Tezuka hadn’t even noticed his dramatic gesture.

“I am boring,” Tezuka informed him, eyes still riveted to the page. “You knew that when you started dating me.”

Atobe’s scowl deepened at this. “You’re not boring at all. You’re brilliant and fascinating and funny. I will not tolerate these lies, even from you.”

That finally got Tezuka to look up at him skeptically. “You are a very unusual man,” Tezuka said in a way that was sort of a compliment and sort of an insult at the same time.

Atobe’s heart fluttered. As he’d just said: brilliant and fascinating and funny. “Well, this very unusual man, who is entirely enamored with you even though you mistakenly think you’re boring, is going to go out with a few friends for dinner and drinks tonight. We’re going down to that pub you like, the one with the good spicy sausages. You should come with me.”

Tezuka sighed. “How many friends is ‘a few’?” he considered for a second.

“Not many. No more than a dozen,” Atobe waved off the concern with one hand.

Tezuka’s eyes narrowed. “Which is it? ‘Not many’ or ‘a dozen’?”

“Fourteen?” Atobe winced at the admission. “But that includes you and me.”

Tezuka immediately reburied himself in his book. “I’ll pass. You should go alone.”

Atobe sighed. This wasn’t unexpected, of course. Tezuka preferred quite a lot more private time than Atobe did, so it wasn’t unusual for Atobe to attend social events alone, especially ones where the total guest count exceeded four or five. “Rodrigo will be there,” he tried one last attempt. “I invited him to drop by our club for a few days on his way back from Hamburg.”

“Oh,” Tezuka said disinterestedly, “say ‘hi’ to him for me.”

Atobe just shook his head before he leapt up from the sofa. Honestly, Tezuka had no idea how to properly cultivate a healthy rivalry. The only time Atobe had seen Tezuka do a halfway decent (okay, spectacular) job had been the rivalry he’d built with Atobe. And even that had been only because Tezuka had been infatuated with Atobe beyond the tennis.

“I may be back late,” Atobe said, pushing Tezuka’s book aside for one second to plant a quick peck on Tezuka’s lips. “Don’t wait up.”

“Call for the car if you get tipsy. You know what a lightweight you are.”

“I’ll just walk,” Atobe insisted.

“You’re so much of a lightweight, I doubt you’ll be able to walk,” Tezuka teased.

Atobe just glared at him.

“Have a good time,” Tezuka conceded and caught Atobe by the nape to steal a slower, more sensual kiss.

“If you decide to change your mind later, you’re always welcome,” Atobe said, nibbling on Tezuka’s lower lip before he pulled fully away. “All work and no play…”

Tezuka sighed, eyes looking a bit glazed as he stared into Atobe’s. “I’ll think about it…”

Oh yeah, Atobe smirked to himself, I’ve still got it. “Later,” was all he said to Tezuka, before breezing out the door with a seductive swish of his hips.

“Later,” Tezuka agreed, voice sounding dry.

***

“Hello, Keigo,” Stephan said with a lop-sided smile as he landed in the booth beside Atobe, having just migrated over from the other table, which looked to be breaking up for the evening. Next to him, he pulled down his fiancée, Claudia, who seemed a good deal soberer than he was. “Where’s Kunimitsu?”

“Kunimitsu is busy Kunimitsu-ing,” Atobe explained, which caused Stephan, Sara, and Lina – who all belonged to their club – to nod sagely. Everyone else just looked mildly confused. “He was waylaid by a book,” Atobe explained, which got a knowing look from Claudia, who undoubtedly heard all about Tezuka’s thing for books from Stephan. Only Rodrigo still looked puzzled at this point. “Kunimitsu…” Atobe tried to explain it and found himself at a loss for words; it was simply impossible to explain Tezuka’s obsession with books to anyone who hadn’t seen it firsthand. “You know the third set you two played at Wimbledon?”

Rodrigo nodded with a wince.

“He’s like that with books all the time,” Atobe explained.

Rodrigo laughed. “I’d heard the rumors he was a bookworm, but I honestly find them hard to believe, having played him. You’re sure he’s not just shirking on buying me a drink?”

I am buying you a drink in his stead,” Atobe assured him, “even though you eliminated me, so it really should be the other way around.” As he did so, he signaled to the waitress for another round on his tab.

“See,” Rodrigo said hazily, “this is why I don’t believe all these rumors I hear about Kunimitsu. If he’s actually as antisocial as everyone claims, then how did he get himself a husband like you?” Inebriation had already bred familiarity, it seemed, and now Rodrigo – like the rest of the population – had decided that he and Atobe were BFFs.

Atobe was used to this, of course, and took it completely in stride. “It’s a complete mystery to me,” he huffed. “I keep trying to do something nice for Kunimitsu after Wimbledon, and he won’t even tell me what he wants. Yesterday, he suggested that I help him clean the bathroom. The man has absolutely no sense of the proper order of these things.”

Stephan laughed at that and helped hand out the beers that the waitress had just delivered. “I can just see him saying that,” he agreed and offered up his glass to Atobe in a toast.

Atobe clinked their glasses together. “To Kunimitsu Tezuka, the cause of far too many hangovers.”

All the men’s singles players drank to that, and the others went along with wry amusement.

“You must have nerves of steel, my dear friend,” Rodrigo said, “to marry a man like that. How many times has he beaten you now? Are you in the Guinness Book of World Records?”

Atobe tried to remember, but had invariably lost count. Their tournament records were clear, but there had been so many unofficial or practice matches over the years. “Probably in the triple-digits by now,” Atobe eventually concluded. “I’ve actually lost track. Of course, he’s lost to me equally many times.”

“Not when he’s like he was at Wimbledon, though,” Rodrigo insisted. “That was unbeatable.”

“Oh no, he’s very beatable, even like that,” Atobe insisted. “If you know how to do it right.”

This caught Rodrigo’s attention, and Walter and Julian from the next table over halted in their departure, trying to overhear.

How?” Rodrigo demanded skeptically.

Stephan put his hand on Atobe’s arm, like he wasn’t sure whether Atobe was tipsy enough to actually give critical intelligence away.

Stephan, of course, needn’t have worried. “I claim spousal privilege,” Atobe hedged with his most charming smile.

Rodrigo shrugged and laughed it off. “You’ve a conniving bastard anyway,” he decided. “It probably wouldn’t have worked for me.”

Atobe conceded on that. A good portion of his strategy against Tezuka was built on the same foundation that he’d used to seduce Tezuka in the first place; as far as Atobe could tell, it didn’t work with anyone else.

The conversation derailed at that point, because the two sampler platters they’d ordered arrived, and the free-for-all began. Eventually, they made enough of a dent in the meats, sausages, sides, and appetizers that it became photo-sharing time.

At which point, Atobe – with sudden alarm – realized that he did not have his phone on him. He blinked in downright horror at this occurrence, until Stephan started snickering at him. “Oh, shut up,” Atobe finally grumbled and let the bizarre twang of panic fade; he might have let himself get a bit dependent on the device, just a little. “It’s not my fault. Kunimitsu was being stubborn, and it was absolutely imperative that I make a dramatic exit. I’m reasonably certain I left it on the kitchen counter.”

“Here,” Sara teased, “you can touch mine like a lifeline for the six blocks it takes you to get home.” She dangled her phone tantalizingly in front of his face.

Atobe flicked some cabbage at her. “Wicked temptress,” he countered. “I suppose I can survive for a few hours.”

“Who wants to take bets on this?” Stephan offered.

Several joke amounts were thrown around, and Atobe chose to take it all in good humor, especially since both Claudia and Rodrigo seemed to be relaxing into their little circle. Besides, if he really needed a phone, he had plenty he could borrow here, and Tezuka knew Stephan, Sara, and Lina were all here, in case he needed to get a hold of Atobe in an emergency. Atobe wouldn’t die in the next hour or so without one. Really.

“And can you believe,” Stephan added with some bemusement, “that Kunimitsu doesn’t even bother to carry his phone with him most days? I end up having to call Keigo to talk to him. He must be completely unreachable right now.”

Atobe snorted. “He’s approximately ten feet from my phone right now. You can reach him the usual way.”

“Seriously?” Rodrigo said, another obvious adherent to the belief that one’s phone acted as a life-support system. “How does he function?”

“The only thing he ever uses his phone for is to text me if he’s running late, anyway,” Atobe said, taking another swig of his beer. “Apparently, one doesn’t need a phone to start hiking off in the direction with the fewest people.”

“What if he gets lost?” Claudia asked.

“Oh, please. Kunimitsu doesn’t get lost. He navigates by the sun and the stars and the lichens on the trees, and god knows what else,” Atobe answered with a mix of frustration and fondness. “In the event of the survivalist apocalypse, I totally win by virtue of having Kunimitsu on my side.”

“Hey,” Sara complained, “I thought our whole tennis club was on the same side. We all win in the event of apocalypse.”

Atobe shrugged. “Sure,” he agreed, “but I get to take him to bed at the end of the day. Therefore, I win.” He gave her a wink.

Sara and Lina laughed as did, pleasantly surprisingly, Claudia. Stephan and Rodrigo just looked baffled. A pity straight men couldn’t appreciate the sheer gorgeousness of Tezuka Kunimitsu: it really was their loss.

“Speak of the devil…” Rodrigo chuckled.

Atobe turned instinctively, to find Tezuka standing behind him, looking fondly exasperated at Atobe. “Tezuka-darling, you made it!” he said in honest but delighted surprise.

Tezuka held up Atobe’s phone. “You forgot this.”

Atobe snatched it up greedily and then lunged half out of his seat to give Tezuka a loud smack on the lips. “Have I mentioned lately that you’re perfect and I love you?”

Tezuka gave him a conciliatory tilt of the head, and the barest of twitches curved the right side of his lips. “Not recently enough.” And then added: “Your mother called. She wanted to know generally which hemisphere we’d be in for your father’s birthday.”

Atobe frowned at this. “What did you tell her?”

“That we’d be in America. And that you’re happy to schmooze with all your father’s rich toadies.”

Atobe gave him a skeptical look. “You did not.”

Tezuka shrugged. “I told her that I wasn’t your social secretary. You’ll have to call her back.”

Atobe grinned, because that sounded exactly like the Tezuka he knew and loved. “Don’t worry. I’ll get you out of anything too horrible.”

Tezuka grunted.

“Have you met Claudia yet?” Atobe asked, gesturing to the pair sitting beside him.

“I have not,” Tezuka blinked like it honestly had not occurred to him, even after the endless stories Stephan liked to tell, that Claudia was actually a human being that he might meet some day. Atobe smirked as Tezuka covered it over smoothly while introducing himself politely. Claudia already looked smitten, which was only natural because Tezuka was even sexier in person than he was on TV.

“And you remember Rodrigo, of course,” Atobe added.

Tezuka nodded and offered Rodrigo his hand, too.

Rodrigo looked a little bit awed, the way most players did when meeting Tezuka socially for the first time.

“You should join us,” Atobe said when Tezuka pulled back. “I’ll give you my share of the bockwurst.”

Tezuka looked like he’d been about to make his excuses, but reconsidered at that. “I haven’t eaten yet,” he conceded. Did Atobe know how to bribe the man, or what? “Although I’m not sure there’s room…”

“We’ll make room,” Atobe insisted.

Tezuka, taking this for the invitation it was, nudged Atobe’s side with his hip and then, before Atobe could do much of anything about it, slid into Atobe’s lap. Atobe just had time to spread his thighs on the bench, before Tezuka squirmed back between them, pressed in tight. Fortunately the booths were deep and luxurious.

Atobe wrapped one arm around Tezuka’s waist to hold him in place, honestly a little surprised. Tezuka had very peculiar notions about roles and honor, due to his upbringing. Although he was shameless in the privacy of their bedroom, he generally balked at demonstrating even the slightest hint of submissiveness to Atobe in public. Now, however, even in front of Tezuka’s most recently defeated opponent, Tezuka was curling up docilely and trustingly into Atobe’s arms.

Tezuka, as mysterious as ever, didn’t even acknowledge the behavior as atypical and instead simply stole Atobe’s fork and began devouring all the bockwurst in sight, as well as the kielbasa. Atobe had only ordered it to take back home to Tezuka anyway, so that all worked out nicely.

“So, I dread to ask,” Tezuka said, “what vicious lies has Keigo been spreading about me this time?”

Atobe snorted and nuzzled the back of Tezuka’s neck. “I told them you made me clean the toilet after you won Wimbledon.”

Tezuka glared at him becomingly back over his shoulder. “That is a gross distortion of events, and you know it.”

“How is it a distortion?” Atobe demanded. “I asked how you wanted to celebrate. You said, ‘I’m cleaning the bathroom. Here’s the toilet-bowl cleaner.’ It seemed relatively straightforward.”

Stephan and Sara were laughing hard at that, because they knew Tezuka the best, of course. Everyone else seemed mildly amused, like they honestly believed that Atobe was exaggerating and that wasn’t a literal recounting of events as they occurred.

Tezuka looked sheepish in response. “I didn’t mean it quite like that…” he insisted.

“If I ever win Wimbledon,” Lina chimed in, “I’m treating myself to a Caribbean cruise.”

When I win Wimbledon,” Sara corrected her, “I’ll make you buy one for me.”

Several other suggestions were bandied about, but Tezuka kept silent on the matter, beyond to point out that most of the ventures proposed would leave the recent victor unprepared for the US Open. Remember how Atobe had said that Tezuka Kunimitsu could be the most infuriating man alive? This was a classic example. He could have at least had the decency to hint to Atobe what he really wanted, beyond occasional sips of Atobe’s beer, that is.

The food shrank as the conversation progressed, and finally Stephan and Claudia said they had to leave. They were both Rodrigo’s and Sara’s ride, so that effectively broke up the evening.

They stepped outside to discover that it had decided to pour. Lina, who hadn’t brought an umbrella, swore and bummed a ride off Stephan and Claudia, too.

Stephan looked a little bit guilty about this, but Atobe seriously doubted his tiny car would contain even the five he currently had. “Keigo, Kunimitsu, are you guys okay?”

“I brought an umbrella,” Tezuka answered, which Atobe considered dubiously ‘okay’, but it wasn’t like it would hurt them to get a little wet, and it was only six blocks.

“Hopefully, the courts will have dried by morning,” Sara commented.

Tezuka hummed noncommittally. “It’s not supposed to let up until midday tomorrow.”

Everyone looked far too depressed at that.

At that point, thunder boomed, and everyone else took that as a sign to run for the car. Tezuka merely unfolded his umbrella and offered Atobe his arm.

Atobe slipped his fingers around Tezuka’s bicep and cuddled in close because the wind really was driving the rain every which way.

“Does it bother you?” Tezuka asked as they ducked between awnings, trying to take the most sheltered route back to their condo.

“I just keep repeating to myself, ‘there’s a hot bath back home,’” Atobe teased.

Tezuka smiled softly. “I meant, the other thing…” he said vaguely.

Atobe looked at him in surprise; it was often hard to tell whether Tezuka had picked up on Atobe’s moods or not. “It’s silly. Forget about it,” Atobe insisted. “If you don’t want a reward for winning Wimbledon, then not getting a reward will be your reward.”

Tezuka gave him an exasperated look. “Were you born this illogical, or do you actively work at it?”

“I married you, didn’t I? I’d say that’s proof enough that I work at it very hard.”

Tezuka elbowed him in response, which set Atobe off laughing, even though they were both hopelessly drenched now and their building was still two blocks away. They mutually decided to break into a run at that point, which of course turned into a race because it was them.

Atobe crowed in victory when he burst through the lobby door, Tezuka right on his heels.

The night guard’s eyes widened as he took in the two of them and the growing puddle at their feet, and then he snorted. “You two look like drowned rats.”

Atobe made a face at him, while Tezuka typed in their security code for the elevator.

When the elevator doors closed behind them, Tezuka finally spoke again. “It’s not that there aren’t things I want. It’s just…”

“Hmm?” Atobe looked at him curiously.

“It still feels…unreal. Unearned.” Tezuka sighed. “That makes no sense. I’ve spent most of my life working to get here, but…I just can’t believe it’s actually come true.”

“You’ve really wanted for that long to get drenched in an elevator with me?” Atobe deliberately misunderstood.

Tezuka tried to give him an annoyed look but couldn’t help laughing. “Do you…get it?”

Atobe considered. “Maybe I do. It seems that nothing has really changed, hmm?”

Exactly,” Tezuka said with relief. “I ask myself… Is that it? Have I already peaked? What’s there to reach for now?”

“Don’t get cocky on me. Just because you’ve won one Grand Slam, doesn’t mean you’ll win another.”

Tezuka groaned. “That would be even worse, if it was all a fluke.”

Atobe just shook his head, as the elevator doors opened on their floor. “Tezuka, my beloved, I can honestly tell you that it wasn’t a fluke. You’re the best in the world…”

“Thank—” Tezuka began.

“…Aside from me, of course.”

Tezuka swatted at him.

Atobe danced out of his reach with a laugh and went over to put Tezuka’s leftovers in the fridge. He could feel Tezuka’s thoughtful eyes on his back the whole time.

“There is…something…” Tezuka began. “…From my bucket list…”

Atobe froze. The contents of Tezuka’s mysterious bucket list were a secret Tezuka kept even from him. “Oh?” he asked as casually as he could manage.

“It will take some time to arrange,” Tezuka hedged, removing his glasses to wipe them ineffectually on the fabric of his shirt. “The timing and location will be tricky, and of course it has to fit into our tournament schedule…”

“You’re honestly not going to tell me, are you?” Atobe gave him a frustrated look.

“I will when the time comes,” Tezuka promised.

Seriously: most infuriating man alive!

Atobe, however, was used to this and brushed it aside. “Whatever. In case you’ve forgotten: we have an enormous bathtub, big enough for two. And I am freezing soaking wet.”

Tezuka sighed. For unfathomable reasons, Tezuka objected to steaming hot water, even when Atobe’s beautiful body was added in as enticement.

“And afterward,” Atobe bargained, one hand outstretched, “I’ll do that new thing you like so much.”

Tezuka blushed, took Atobe’s hand, and let himself be guided in the direction of blissfully hot water. “Okay,” he agreed.

That was why Atobe couldn’t really object when Tezuka was hopelessly infuriating: it just made it all the sweeter when Atobe finally got his way.

Chapter Text

The morning after Atobe’s father's birthday party, Tezuka came down to breakfast at Atobe’s parents’ upstate New York mansion, walked right past the lavish breakfast displayed on silver platters, and dragged over one of the 19th-century Florentine chairs to sit directly beside Atobe.

Atobe’s father raised an eyebrow at Tezuka’s usual casual disregard for the rarity and expense of the items in their homes, but he gave Atobe a fond smile and kept quiet. Tezuka’s relationship with the man was…complicated, to say the least, but he could never fault Atobe’s parents for their clear love for their son.

Tezuka gave Atobe’s father a polite nod, before turning this full attention to Atobe. “We have to leave now,” he informed Atobe with no preamble.

“Leave?” Atobe blinked at him. “We don’t need to be in Cincinnati for a week. We have plenty of time to—”

“You know that thing you promised you would do for me after Wimbledon?” Tezuka tried to say covertly, even though Atobe’s father had sharp ears and killer intuition, so there probably was no point. “We need to leave right now for it.”

Atobe paused in thought and carefully took a sip of his tea. On most days, Tezuka would have waited until Atobe finished it before broaching the subject, but the weather tonight looked to be perfect, and they had a long flight and then drive ahead of them first.

“When you said we’d had to wait for certain, specific conditions, I didn’t expect them to be so abrupt,” Atobe finally said, trying to sound aloof and coming out as hopelessly curious instead.

Tezuka just gave him a patient, unblinking look. After all, Atobe had promised. “If we don’t do it now, we’ll have to wait until next year most likely,” Tezuka explained patiently.

“Your husband’s trying to drag you out for some sort of mysteriously complicated booty-call,” Atobe’s father cut in. “It seems wise to get going.”

Atobe gave him an outraged look and a “Yes, thank you for pointing out the exceedingly obvious,” which just made his father chuckle more. Atobe did tend to get testy when his parents treated him like a child. Then, Atobe said more apologetically, “It’s your birthday, though?”

“I got to see you for nearly 24 hours. I think that’s the most we’ve managed since you were 16. Go,” his father offered graciously, until: “Besides, your mother’s still asleep upstairs. Once I get her to wake up, I suspect you won’t be seeing us for the next several hours anyway.”

Atobe’s entire face went red. “Father!” he exclaimed in horror. “I don’t need to know that!”

Next to him, Tezuka snickered and then even more so when Atobe glared at him, too.

“Are you really all right with us leaving so early?” Atobe asked his father hesitantly.

“I do apologize for the inconvenience,” Tezuka told Atobe’s father politely.

“You boys have fun,” Atobe’s father agreed. He paused to give Tezuka an assessing look that Tezuka had always interpreted as, ‘I can tell, just by looking at you, all the filthy ways you want to defile my only son’s body.’

Tezuka had always done his best to stand up to that look, even though Atobe’s father still had the ability to make Tezuka’s palms sweat.

Finally, thankfully, Atobe’s father turn back to Atobe, and said, “I’ll give your regards to your mother.”

Atobe paused, looking torn, but then Tezuka grabbed his wrist and said, “Let’s go.”

“Okay,” Atobe gave Tezuka a coy smile and downed the rest of his tea in one gulp.

***

“You’re still not going to tell me where we’re going?” Atobe asked, fingers tapping impatiently on the dashboard, as Tezuka turned their entirely sensible airport-rental car onto yet another empty road.

Tezuka had felt Atobe’s impatience rising over the last hour. It was a combination of their non-exciting vehicle (sports cars just weren’t practical out in the middle of the desert, Tezuka had tried to explain), combined with Tezuka not letting Atobe drive (Tezuka didn’t need the heart-attack that inevitably caused, not to mention the speeding tickets), and the habitat (Atobe craved more stimulation than endless horizons, although their particular activity tonight required the sparse population), plus Tezuka keeping Atobe in the dark (Tezuka wanted this to be a surprise, although he did feel somewhat guilty about this part).

“We’re almost there,” Tezuka promised apologetically.

Atobe yawned but didn’t complain.

That made Tezuka feel a bit less guilty. He knew that he was hopelessly impossible to provide gifts for. Ironically, it would probably make Atobe happier that he’d sacrificed something for Tezuka’s pleasure. It was one of the cardinal mistakes Tezuka had made in the early days of their relationship – not making it clear enough to Atobe how he was needed – and Tezuka had tried to give Atobe as many opportunities as possible to donate generously to Tezuka’s happiness ever after.

“Wake me when we get there?” Atobe finally said lazily, his forehead coming to rest on the passenger-side window and his eyes drifting closed.

“Of course,” Tezuka promised, risking a glance over to admire his husband’s beauty, while perfectly relaxed and unguarded like this.

Tezuka drove for some time, with only the sound of Atobe’s soft breathing next to him, until he spotted the turn off for their camp site. He nudged Atobe awake, and then while Atobe was still waking groggily, got their permit and directions from the park attendant.

“All that just to go camping?” Atobe asked skeptically.

“You’ll see,” Tezuka said and pulled into their site.

The landscape was rocky and barren, interspersed regularly with hardened scrub-brush. Atobe yawned and stretched as he got out of the car. Tezuka watched his back, appreciating the bunching of muscles sometimes outlined under Atobe’s light shirt. Then, with a contented sigh, Tezuka followed Atobe outdoors.

They’d passed a half dozen other campers on the way in – it was the height of the summer season, after all – but their spot was secluded enough that there wasn’t a soul in sight. The desert seemed to stretch out infinitely here, far beyond the horizon, so that Tezuka could almost believe that he and Atobe were the only two people on earth. Tezuka smiled softly to himself at the thought and popped open the trunk.

“Help me set up the tent,” he requested.

Atobe made a face but did so without complaint. Camping had never exactly been Atobe’s thing. Most of Tezuka’s great wilderness expeditions were forced, by the necessity of marital compromise, to use a hotel as their base of operations. This was hardly the first time Tezuka had enticed Atobe into the (relative) wilds, though, and Atobe was surprisingly efficient at setting up a tent.

Tezuka went to collect firewood from the park building up front, once Atobe burrowed himself into their tent and began tending to their bed for the evening. Atobe did have the most amazing gift for making a comfortable bed in even the hardest, bleakest spots; Tezuka felt warm just thinking about it.

By the time Tezuka got back, Atobe was sitting on one of the large stones surrounding the unlit fire, staring off into the distance. The sun hung, huge and pendulous off to the west, where the sky was already reddening with the sunset.

“There’s no wifi here,” Atobe commented.

Tezuka nodded. “I’ll start a fire for supper.”

“The skies are very clear in the desert, aren’t they?”

“And no moon tonight,” Tezuka agreed contentedly. “I think we’ve timed it right.”

Atobe gave him a very peculiar look, which was entirely understandable.

“You’ll see,” was all Tezuka said.

***

“Gah!” Atobe yelled and smacked Tezuka squarely in forehead.

“Ouch!” Tezuka complained and hastened to turn off the alarm in his watch.

“Tezuka?” Atobe mumbled, confused, eyes blinking awake. “Sorry. What are you doing on that side?” Exactly where Atobe’s alarm clock usually was, Tezuka realized belatedly. And then, still not fully sentient, “Where are we?”

“You’re about to fulfill an item on my bucket list,” Tezuka said, “remember?” He unzipped the tent and stepped out into the desert night.

Atobe grumbled, scrambled out of the blankets, and emerged, frantically trying to straighten his bed-hair in the dark with only his bare hands. “The things I do for you, my love...” he began and then paused. “Oh,” he breathed in sudden wonder.

Tezuka smiled softly to himself and slid an arm around Atobe’s waist. The moonless night was the blackest Tezuka had ever seen, but for the soft pale glow of the ribbon of stars that stretched across the sky. “This is a dark site,” Tezuka explained unnecessarily. “It was the best one I could find that fit with our tournament schedule. Unfortunately, we’re only in the Southern Hemisphere in the winter, when the Milky Way’s behind the sun, and…” Tezuka trailed off because Atobe clearly wasn’t listening to a word he said.

Instead, Atobe was gazing upward, a soft smile on his lips. “You brought me here to see this,” he finally said, giving Tezuka’s hip an affectionate nudge in the dark.

“Ah, not exactly,” Tezuka confessed and bent down to pick up the backpack he’d left prepared by the entrance flap to their tent. “Follow me,” he requested and took Atobe’s hand.

Tezuka honestly hadn’t known how well they’d be able to see, but the light from the stars overhead was bright enough for them to make their way along the path to the south of their campsite to a small rocky ledge Tezuka had found before nightfall. Tezuka found it again easily and then set to disassembling the contents of his bag.

He handed the collapsible chair to Atobe and pointed to where it needed to be set up. By the time Atobe got that done, Tezuka had unrolled the spare sleeping bag and set it at just the right angle.

Atobe eyed the makeshift bed and the empty space for miles around them. “Now what?” he asked in a sultry voice.

“Strip,” Tezuka requested. “The chair’s to store our clothes, so they don’t get dirty.”

“Or infested with scorpions,” Atobe added.

That too, Tezuka didn’t say.

Nevertheless, Atobe stretched and preened, putting on a great show as he removed each and every article of clothing from his body. Tezuka found himself enraptured more than once by the supple grace of Atobe’s limbs, lean but powerfully athletic.

“So,” Atobe said coyly after they were both naked, stepping in close to Tezuka’s body so that they were skin to skin, “are you going to tell me what’s on your bucket list now, or are you going to show me instead?”

Tezuka caught Atobe by the nape of his neck and kissed him hard.

Atobe let out a muffled sound which then settled into a delighted moan, and his hands scrambled across Tezuka’s back before finally coming to clutch at his shoulders. Atobe fell readily down to the bedroll at Tezuka’s guidance, and Tezuka covered Atobe’s body with his own, kissing him ardently the whole while.

There was just enough light overhead that Tezuka could make out the defined edges of Atobe’s muscles, the sharp lean lines of his face. The light from the Milky Way galaxy overhead was softer, dimmer than moonlight, but that same haunting white-blue color, and it limned Atobe’s body in chiaroscuro relief. Atobe’s eyes were dark – too dark to make out clearly – but Tezuka knew well enough how those midnight pools looked, pupils dilated wide with desire.

“The item on my bucket list,” Tezuka said, drinking in the sight before him, “was to view your naked body by starlight. And I must say that it suits you as well as I’d imagined.”

Atobe let out a ragged little gasp, the way he often did when Tezuka had succeeded in doing something romantic beyond even his wildest expectations.

“However,” Tezuka conceded, “now that I have you here, I can think of other ways we could put this occasion to good use.”

Tezuka!” Atobe agreed fervently.

“Atobe…” Tezuka breathed against his lips and reached for the spare lube in his knapsack.

Atobe parted eagerly for Tezuka’s fingers, hot and uninhibited, and then even more so when Tezuka’s slicked-up cock found his entrance. Words had long ceased to be necessary for them in these moments, but Tezuka held off and took the time to catch Atobe’s eye, so that they were staring deep into each other when Tezuka finally penetrated him.

No matter how many times they made love, Tezuka was always shocked by the sheer overwhelming heat of Atobe’s body as it surrounded him, threatened to swallow him whole. Their lips met in a dazed kiss, as their bodies began rocking slowly together, coming to an unspoken agreement that this would be a long, drawn-out match, so that they could savor as much of this night together as possible.

Atobe’s hands wandered, caressing Tezuka’s body lovingly, while Tezuka took him slowly and methodically. “You’re beautiful by starlight too, my beloved,” Atobe finally said raggedly. “You were made for it.”

Tezuka shuddered and finally – because the look of utter adoration on Atobe’s face wouldn’t let him do anything else – accepted it as his due. Only… “We were made for it,” Tezuka corrected.

Atobe hummed his agreement.

“It’s so lonely at the top,” Tezuka confessed into the desert night.

Atobe held him close.

“Join me,” Tezuka pleaded.

Atobe smirked, pressed his hands against Tezuka’s chest, and carefully guided him until they’d rolled over, Tezuka now splayed on his back and Atobe riding him. Atobe sat up, astride Tezuka’s cock again now, and Tezuka could see the galaxy rising into the night sky behind Atobe’s back, the light of thousands of distant suns caressing Atobe’s skin in an ethereal halo.

“How,” Atobe retorted with that perfect confidence of his, “could you ever have doubted that I will?”

Tezuka laughed and pulled his lover/rival/husband/partner down for another kiss. “I can’t imagine what I was thinking,” he conceded, and finally accepted that this – new heights, greater victories, power and domination beyond anything they’d known before – was their new reality, as the cosmos stretched endlessly above them.

After all, together, they were meant for the stars.