BY : CrunchySalad
Category: Prince of Tennis/Tennis no Ohjisama > Yaoi - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 815
Disclaimer: I do not own Prince of Tennis. I am not making any money from this fanfiction.


A whisper, a greeting, a hand reaching out to save him when he didn't even know he had been drowning. In as much metaphor as in literal action, he was coming home, and the sense of familiarity promised and threatened to overwhelm.

"Hey," he breathed out, scarcely able to hear his voice as it filled the air around them. For a moment it was too surreal. There, in that busy airport terminal, they were the only two people in the world. So crisply that white kimono stood out, business suits slow moving blurs behind it, so strongly and clearly that gentle voice sounded in his ears, everything else ambient static. It was some sort of strange, but then it was over, and life resumed a half-pace behind normalcy. "I wasn't expecting you."

A smile, confident and teasing, and Yukimura looked the same as he always had. His hair was longer now, tied at the nape of his neck in a meticulous ponytail, and he might have been even paler than before. Half a shade darker than his kimono and he looked as though he would be cold to the touch... almost like a corpse, save for the playful lines of his expression, and it chilled Niou to remember what a real corpse looked like.

"Yanagi's meeting ran late. Are you disappointed?"

"To see you? Never." It was so easy to fall into old patterns, to jest and flirt and tease, and the words left his lips before his conscious mind had even processed the question.

An awkward movement, a hug hello, and the folds of Yukimura's kimono were stiff against his fingers. As his fingertips caught on the fabric his heart seemed to catch in his throat, and then they were moving, heading out of that busy airport and towards a waiting taxi. Conversation came easily even after so many years, and Niou spoke of America and New York and living in a too small apartment in a bad part of town. Yukimura was sedate as ever, listening and watching and thinking in a way that Niou was very much used to. When they ran out of things to talk about they sat in companionable silence, broken only by a single, soft statement by Yukimura: we're worried about you. Then silence again.

Niou supposed they had the right to be worry. He hadn't seen them since high school... hadn't seen them since His wake. He remembered it, remembered the body on display, but remembering that made him remember when they had found Him. Fished from the river, wet and semi-bloated, the smell of his cologne faint underneath aquatic scents. His eyes were glazed over, haunted, and for a moment there was a slip of fabric grasped in between His fingers... but maybe Niou had been the only one to see it, because then it was floating away, white and perfectly starched in the ebb and flow of the water.

Niou could see it so clearly, even now. After all, this was the man who had known him better than any one else, his best friend, only best friend was too weak of a term. Dead, just like that. The police said that He had fallen into the river. After all, they had all been drunk that night; it wasn't outside the realm of possibility. But then, another memory, and this involved Him and Yukimura, in some kind of argument, scant hours before He had gone missing. Some sort of yelling as he watched from outside the house, through the window, and when he had gotten there they were both already gone.

Niou shook his head. It didn't matter any way.

"A penny for your thoughts."

Niou looked over and grinned. "I was just thinking I've missed you all so much."

Yukimura chuckled softly for a moment, before responding with a statement heavily laced with sarcasm. "Which explains the multitude of phone calls we receive from you all the time."

"Of course."

They went to Yukimura's house, an estate that was neither small nor large. It was built and furnished in a very Eastern, very traditional style that Niou associated more closely with Sanada. And although it was located in a relatively densely populated suburb, it was surrounded by trees as to appear much more isolated then it actually was. Stepping out onto the driveway, it was like they were miles away from civilization.

"I thought I was going to stay with Yanagi."

Yukimura's expressions always had a way of being contradictions of themselves, and the smile he bestowed upon Niou seemed equal parts plotting and innocence. "I insisted he let me have you for the night."

"Why, Yukimura, are you perchance trying to seduce me?"

"One can only hope," Yukimura teased back, leading him into the house. He led him to the guest bedroom, grey and austere, before the ringing of his cell phone took him away. Niou didn't mind being left alone. It gave him time to soak everything in. As he sunk into the soft down comforter of Yukimura's bed, he let everything wash over him. Japan, sakura blossoms, Yukimura... the musk of Yukimura's cologne. It brought back so many memories. He fell asleep nestled in cotton and goose feathers, and when he woke up it was to the ringing of a phone.

"Hello?" Half asleep he answered it, too late realizing that he was in some one else's house.

"... ... ... umm... is Yukimura-buchou there?"

Niou inwardly laughed to himself. After all these years, there was only one person who would still call Yukimura 'buchou', who would probably always call Yukimura 'buchou'. "Bakaya, is that you?"

Niou thought maybe Akaya would get a kick out of the old nickname, but there was only static for awhile, and then Akaya's voice came out rushed and seemingly irritated. "Is Yukimura there?"

"Oh, come on, I know it's been awhile, but aren't you going to at least pretend to be happy to hear from me?" Silence. A little annoyed, Niou realized that maybe Akaya didn't know who he was talking to. "Hey, it's me, Niou."

"Yeah.... umm... this is kinda weird, so I'm just going to hang up."

And then there was only dial tone. Niou gazed at the phone quizzically before placing it back in its holder, wondering what the hell was wrong with Akaya. It seemed from the silence of the house though that Yukimura still wasn't home, so Niou sat up and stretched, before deciding to take a walk around the gardens.

They were, of course, beautiful, given Yukimura's penchant for both gardening and perfection. It was a chilly day for Spring, and Niou wrapped himself in his sweater as he walked through the paths of the large backyard. He weaved himself between bushes and trees and green, green grass, pink petals falling so often around him that he felt as though he were in the pages of a shoujo manga. He must have spent an hour before heading back into the house, and when he got there Yukimura was making coffee.

"No milk, two cubes of sugar?" Yukimura asked, only it was more of a statement, because they both knew Yukimura didn't forget.

"That's perfect," Niou said as he accepted the mug, hot and comforting between his palms. Their fingers met, briefly, the tension that had always been between them strumming through that point of contact. It made Niou feel guilty. He stared at Yukimura's long fingers on the countertop, kept staring even as Yukimura asked him the question.

"How long have you been in love with me?"

Since always. Since forever. But he had never done anything about it, had never acted on it, because of Him. "Since the day we met."

They spoke in cold, detached tones, as though they were discussing an instruction manual. But then Niou found himself reaching out, pressing against lips so soft and strong, against a hot tongue tinged with green tea. It was everything, everything he had ever dreamed of, and Yukimura's eyes were wet as he whispered against Niou's lips: you really do look like him. But Niou was in too much of a daze to hear, and then they were tumbling into cotton sheets, moon waxing through the window pane as they fell together.

His sleep, afterwards, was an interrupted one. He drifted in and out of it, glimpses of the moon and shadowed sakura trees outside interspersed with abstract and ridiculous dreams. Maybe it was guilt that woke him, settled itself into a heavy lulling pain in his bloodstream.

He woke, once, to see Yukimura sitting on the floor, the door to the gardens thrown open. His white kimono loose around his frame, hair untied and limp against his shoulders. He was looking into the distance outside, maybe at the stars, and when he spoke he didn't turn from his reverie.

"Who were you more jealous of?"

"What..." It was hard to speak, some how, and he was so cold. "What do you mean?"

"Were you more jealous of me, for taking him away from you, or were you more jealous of him, for being with me?"

Niou didn't really understand, but he knew who Yukimura was talking about.

"Did you kill him because you found out we were lovers?"

Niou didn't know what was going on. But he was so cold.... he was so numb. He couldn't feel his body... and then, he couldn't feel anything at all.

Yukimura didn't look away from the sky until after he heard the breathing slow and stop. When he did look over, he looked into eyes that should have been blue but were brown, though everything else was uncanny. He really did look like Niou, act like him... but then, years of switching had given him practice.

Yukimura remembered the night that Niou had died. A heated argument, mean words and then alcohol, and late at night he had gone to find him, to apologize. He could hear the river when he saw them, Yagyuu and Niou, having a fight of their own, and then in seeming slow motion... Yagyuu pushing Niou, Niou falling over the bridge and into the river, fingers grasping out and tearing off a piece of Yagyuu's white shirt. Yukimura had started running then, had screamed at Yagyuu to do something, but even though he searched he couldn't find Niou. And Yagyuu, Yagyuu just stood there, stood there for hours... in shock, maybe, but it had scared Yukimura a little bit.

The next day they found Niou's body, that white fabric in his hand, too prim and proper to belong to any one else. Yukimura didn't say anything about Yagyuu, and Yagyuu stayed silent, through the next few days and through the funeral. He disappeared the day after the wake, and they found him years later with Niou's name and Niou's identity.

Certifiably crazy, Yanagi had said, post traumatic stress, and he wanted to examine him, but Yukimura convinced him to give him one night first. He owed Niou some kind of vengeance for his murder... but as much as he had loved Niou, he loved Yagyuu too, and he knew he couldn't live with the weight of Yagyuu's death on his shoulders. He pressed a familiar mug to his lips, wondered why Yagyuu hadn't tasted the arsenic... it was so bitter, so thick, and as he drank he felt it numb his throat.

Everything grew duller, grew colder, faded away. And then he was perfectly still, the very image of a porcelain doll, eyes dull and pale skin enfolded in ornate white.


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