playing for keeps
by cimorene

When Kawamura-senpai gets Ryoma the first time he spins the bottle, he stammers and wrinkles his nose and scratches the back of his head. "Sorry, Echizen," he says, leaning around Inui-senpai and aiming for Ryoma's cheek. Ryoma catches a glimpse of blue from across the circle, and then because he can feel Fuji-senpai's eyes on him, turns his head.

"Mada mada dane," he says coolly, after holding the kiss a couple of beats. It serves Fuji right for setting this up, and Ryoma knows he was behind it even if Kikumaru-senpai was the one who suggested the game. He knows this because Tezuka is also across the circle from him, looking serious and almost completely impassive except for how his mouth is a little pinched, and not even Inui-senpai could have made that happen without Fuji's help.

Kawamura-senpai laughs nervously and sits down. When it's Ryoma's first turn the bottle points between his knee and Momo-senpai's, so he just turns patiently and waits for Momo to lean down far enough to reach without getting up on his knees. "Hey, Echizen, let's show these jokers how real men kiss," he says boastfully.

Ryoma pauses and looks at him blankly. "How?"

Momo makes a disgusted noise and lifts his chin, pointedly cutting his eyes at Kaidoh-senpai. "Not like they're afraid someone's going to bite them."

"Why don't you just talk at them the whole time instead," mutters Kaidoh-senpai.

"Oy, mamushi, what--" Momo starts to yell indignantly, and at this point Ryoma gets sick of the whole thing and grabs a handful of Momo's hair. "Ow! Mmf--ow," says Momo, when Ryoma lets him go again. Ryoma doesn't know how real men kiss and he's not sure it's okay to hit your teeth together like that, but it didn't really hurt, and at least it was the least-lame kiss in the circle yet. Fuji-senpai looks pleased and Inui-senpai is scribbling something in a notebook. Everyone except them and Tezuka, however, looks a little bit embarrassed, even Momo-senpai, which makes Ryoma decide this game might not be an utter loss.

The only other interesting thing that happens is when Fuji-senpai's spin lands on Oishi-senpai. Kikumaru-senpai bites his lip and starts to turn pink and Oishi-senpai looks like he's steeling himself to have his fingers broken. Fuji opens his eyes and smiles, crawling into the circle to reach him, and the whole room turns eerily silent while he crouches there... until suddenly he laughs and kisses Kikumaru-senpai instead. When everyone points out that he's kissed the wrong person, Fuji sounds surprised. "Oh? I'm sorry. Well, no harm done--you can give the kiss to him if you want, Eiji."

And then it's Ryoma's turn. And the bottle stops at Tezuka-buchou.

Ryoma freezes. He can feel prickling up the back of his neck and over his skull, like watching a tennis match right before a rout turns around, when he knows the losing player is about to break out. He looks up at Tezuka-buchou and meets his eyes. Is this really okay? he thinks, and he hopes Tezuka-buchou will call a stop to the whole thing.

He doesn't move, though, just returns the stare calmly. You can do it, that look is saying. Permission and encouragement. But there's something else in his eyes--no, around them, it's in the set of his eyelids, the muscles at their corners. It's an apology.

Ryoma wonders what Fuji-senpai did to get Tezuka-buchou here.

He has to move. He's on the other side of the circle and he can't reach, and Tezuka-buchou isn't going to do anything to help him so he has to do it. His scalp has stopped prickling, but the skin all down his spine has slowly become infused with warmth, like every nerve is straining awake. He gets up and crawls slowly across the carpet, picking his way carefully over the empty beer bottle somehow although he can't see it. He hasn't looked away from Tezuka-buchou and his calm gaze, because he can't. Ryoma realises his heart is pounding.

How many times has he thought about kissing Tezuka? Too many to count. He's even thought about kissing him in front of everyone--just letting go and doing what he wants to for once instead of shaking hands across the net, or else taking him by surprise, in front of an audience so he can't immediately get away. But he's never thought about something like this. He doesn't like this, and it's only partially because he knows Tezuka would never choose to have an audience for anything so intimate as a kiss. He will hardly speak two sentences in front of other people.

And what if Tezuka doesn't want to--doesn't want him? He's never allowed himself to think that before, while this moment seemed so far in the future. His stomach clenches sickeningly. Spin-the-bottle is just a game, but that's wrong; nothing with Tezuka can be just a game. Tezuka never holds back. With Tezuka, Ryoma is always playing for keeps.

He can't see Tezuka's face when he looks up, so he has to take off his cap, and then their eyes meet again, only much, much closer. Their knees are brushing, and with Tezuka's long legs folded under him their heights are closer and Ryoma can actually see the faint sheen of dampness on Tezuka's lip. That is a detail he'd never have thought of, in his daydreams. Something happens to him again then, sweet twisting in his stomach, heat along his spine and in his cheeks.

Then he sees it, a tiny faint twitch of Tezuka-buchou's mouth, his lips tightening almost imperceptibly. Ryoma knows Tezuka-buchou, knows all his faces. That twitch wasn't voluntary, wasn't intended for him; it was an expression of distress. Ryoma's eyes widen, and Tezuka immediately straightens his face, except for an angry twitch of one eyebrow.

Does Tezuka-buchou really not want to kiss him that much? Ryoma stares, willing him to let some hint show in his eyes. What are you thinking? He pleads. Last chance. Do something, buchou. He almost says the last word aloud. Tezuka's eyes soften a little, but he doesn't move a muscle. It's like there's no one else in the room. Ryoma wishes there were no one else in the room--he thinks he can feel the heat of Tezuka's knee on the back of his hand--

"Saa, Echizen-kun," Fuji murmurs, "Did you forget whose turn it is?"

And then he stops thinking, before Fuji and the others can remind him again of their presence, and kneels up to bring their faces closer together. Once he's started moving it's inevitable, as inevitable as the arc of the serve once the racquet touches the ball.

Tezuka bends his head down a little, and Ryoma says, so close Tezuka's irises are a wide startled blur behind his glasses, "Hmph--mada mada, ka?" His voice comes out almost a whisper, huskier than he'd intended. He pushes himself up that last little bit and touches Tezuka's mouth with his, so gently he can almost feel the puffs of the words vibrating between them.

His lips are soft. This is the first thing Ryoma thinks. Soft, and he marvels that even though his eyes are open, all he can see is the unfocused blur of Tezuka's gaze, but it's like he can still see the contact between their mouths because he feels it, feels it with his whole body--the shape of Tezuka's mouth. Then Tezuka moves almost hesitantly, the contact still gentle but firming, his chin tilting so their mouths slide just slightly together, and Ryoma goes blank with shock.

Tezuka-buchou is kissing him back.

Slowly, carefully, lightly, a shift in pressure, a tiny vibration almost like he's trying to tell Ryoma something, trying to drink his mouth. Ryoma feels like he's slowly melting, starting at the mouth, the back of his neck, his joints--his knees are water, his elbows and wrists will be the next to go.

He'd thought he couldn't focus properly this close to Tezuka's eyes, but he was wrong; he can see the instant they change, that little flicker lighting them from the centre, softening even further, and he feels like his heart will stop at that look, a soft tense squeezing-crumbling sensation filling his chest. All he can do is lean into Tezuka for a long moment, struggling not to respond as eagerly as he wants to. Tezuka stays still, supporting him, and when Ryoma can move again and he lays his palm over the curve of Tezuka's knee, he feels Tezuka's hand curl around it, his longer fingers covering it completely.

It's a steadying and comforting gesture, and it's Tezuka all over. When Ryoma abruptly remembers himself and pulls back he has to make an effort to breathe almost normally. It felt like an eternity, but it only lasted perhaps ten seconds.

Ryoma stares at Tezuka, hoping to divine his motivation--what is he thinking? Why?--searching for any sign in his face. His hand coming free from Tezuka's feels cold. He knows his eyes are wide and he must appear shocked.

The look in Tezuka's eyes makes his chest seize up again. How Tezuka-buchou can say so much with just the tiniest changes in his face Ryoma will never understand. His mouth is soft and relaxed (and damp, and a little pink), his eyes open, his gaze heavy and open and gentle. It is the most deliberate expression Ryoma has seen him put on in front of so many people since the year they first met. And there is no doubt in Ryoma's mind that it is deliberate.

And his fingers brush against Ryoma's wrist as he deliberately stands up. He's practically smiling as Ryoma stares up at him, confused.

"Echizen." His voice sounds normal, though.

"Huh?" He hears the musical flutter of Fuji-senpai's chuckle off to his side, but doesn't look.

"Get your bag. I'm taking you home."

It takes him a moment to respond, but then Ryoma's on his feet, tugging his cap back down over his eyes, and hurrying after Tezuka out of the room. "Hai!" He says, and smirks slowly to himself, even though Tezuka is already out in the hall and hasn't looked back.

the sequel, spirit house

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