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Enviable Talents

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Tezuka turns the page and adjusts his glasses. Echizen sleeps next to him, head resting on his good shoulder. Flying to the Australian together has its benefits. The younger player is good with English -- better than Tezuka at any rate -- and can take care of all the necessary checking in processes. They land in Melbourne close to four AM, mainly due to missing their first flight as Echizen argued with the flight agent about whether or not Karupin could be considered a carry-on. Eventually, Tezuka had leveled Echizen with a firm glare. He had received an apology, but Tezuka brushed it off, knowing how much the feline meant to his owner.

As the plane comes to a stop, Tezuka nudges Echizen awake and closes his book, tucking it back into a bag and zipping it closed. The other player yawns, stretching his arms and legs out as far as they would go in the tight space.

"Coach meeting us?" he asks, another yawn stretching out the question.

"Aa. I will warn you in advance that he isn't happy with your tantrum."

Echizen's eyes narrow, the remark doing a good job of waking him up completely. "It wasn't a tantrum. I don't like my cat being in the hold below. I don't care if the pressure helps. It's bullshit. He would have slept the entire time anyway."

"I'll have you know those were his words not mine and you can run twenty laps when we get to the training facility for getting upset with me."

"Sorry buchou."

The other passengers start standing so they follow suit, eventually exiting the plane, getting their luggage (including Karupin,) and meeting up with their coach who spends the trip from the airport to the hotel near the tournament telling Echizen to keep his cockiness and temper in check and not argue with people over small things. Which leads to the tennis pro arguing with the coach about the importance of his personal property and how if Tezuka had been the one arguing, it wouldn't have been as big of a deal.

"That's because," their coach starts, "unlike you, Tezuka knows how to argue without raising his voice."

Echizen looks at him. "Che. Buchou can teach me. He's good at that."

Tezuka ignores the conversation as much as he can, keeping his distance as they check in and take the elevator up to their floor.

"Good night, Echizen," he says, sliding in his key card.

"See you in a few hours," comes the reply halfway muffled by a yawn.

--

Tezuka wakes up to Karupin curled around his left shoulder, fluffy tail batting him in the face. Reaching up, he pushes it aside causing the feline to purr rather loudly in his ear.

"Echizen," he ventures as the noise subsides.

"Morning, buchou." Echizen sits on the bed and rubs between Karupin's ears, making him purr louder. "I let myself in. Sorry about Karupin."

"It's fine."

"Coach went to get breakfast, so I used your shower. We have a press conference in two hours or something. I got you covered translation wise."

Tezuka sits up, dislodging the cat from his joint. Instead of jumping off the bed, he climbs into Tezuka's lap and goes back to sleep. Echizen smirks and pulls out his cell phone, snapping a quick picture.

"I'm not sending it to anyone who could possibly blackmail you."

"I didn't think you were," Tezuka replies as their coach walks in, balancing three trays precariously in his hands.

"Glad you're awake. Shorty said you needed your rest since you didn't sleep on the plane."

"Aa."

"You can stop calling me 'Shorty,'" Echizen says with a scowl. "I'm taller than I was in junior high."

"Not by much."

"I'm only seven centimeters shorter than buchou. It could be worse. It was twice that when we first met."

Tezuka watches the exchange, silently wishing for it to end before his food gets cold. He soon gets his tray, lukewarm but still palatable. He nudges Karupin off his lap causing the cat to mewl loudly and rise up onto Tezuka's thigh with his front paws for attention. Echizen guides him away with a feather on a stick to the foot of the bed.

"Sorry buchou. You don't have catnip on you somewhere, right?"

"Why--? No, Echizen. I don't."

"He's never really acted this way with anyone other than me--"

"You should stop bringing your cat on tournaments."

Echizen levels a glare at their coach. "Whatever, oyaji. I'll stop bringing Karupin when you stop looking at soft porn."

Nanjirou scoffs then waves a magazine at them both. "I'm not the pair that got caught kissing after a practice match."

Tezuka raises an eyebrow, looking first at Echizen then his father. "That isn't us."

"What?!"

"That's what you get for reading tabloids," Echizen says, picking off a piece of fish and placing it in front of Karupin. "Buchou and I aren't idiotic enough to do that stuff in public."

"AH HA! You admit it."

"Admit what?" Tezuka asks. He sips at a cup of green tea, a firm gaze on Nanjirou.

"That you're dating my son."

Echizen and Tezuka exchange a look.

"It took you that long to realize it? Idiot. Mom knew last year and I didn't have to say anything."

Tezuka deigns to stay out of it, eating breakfast among the familial bickering. He finishes and puts the tray on the bedside table so Karupin doesn't try to lick the dishes clean.

"I don't know why it matters," Echizen says, his voice cutting through the thin barrier Tezuka had set up. "It isn't affecting our tennis. Just go eat breakfast in your room. Buchou and I will be there for the media thing."

"We'll be early," Tezuka says.

Nanjirou rolls his eyes and leaves the room. Echizen waits until the door clicks shut to smirk widely.

"You have to teach me how to tune him out like that," he says. "He just kind of lost wind when you didn't reply."

"It will be harder for you," Tezuka replies. "He knows exactly what buttons to push and when."

Echizen shrugs. "Still though." He shoves a rice-fish mixture into his mouth and pushes the tray away. He leans up and kisses Tezuka on the lips. "I'd appreciate it."

"Win today and I'll think it over."

"Che, stop playing hard to get buchou."

"I would never," Tezuka says evenly, despite the slight quirk of his lips. He reaches around Echizen, grabbing his tray and setting it on top of his before kissing him again.

"We have a little over an hour," Echizen says with a sly grin.

"Then don't leave any marks."

Echizen nods, straddling Tezuka's thighs. He leans forward and brushes their lips together. "Yes, buchou."