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Method Acting

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Maybe he’d been doing the role for too long but as Shirota Yuu walked offstage, he suddenly felt quite sad. Hyoutei Winter would be coming to an end all too soon and how long after that would it be before he moved on?

Tezuka was an important role for him. He felt like he’d grown so much during Tenimyu. This character, so vastly different from his own nature, had probably even helped him grow as a person.

For one brief, sentimental moment, he wished he could be Tezuka forever.

It was a fleeting thought to begin with, but it was blasted from his memory entirely when, in the next moment, he suddenly felt very, very hard. He shifted… and groaned loudly. His eyes opened, staring down into slits of blue—eyes that were narrowed like a content feline’s.

That was the moment that he realized he was buried inside of this person.

Yuu blinked. Then, he scrambled.

There was something very, very wrong with this scenario. Unless he had a mystery case of narcolepsy and had collapsed instantly into sleep and consequently a very messed up dream, he was somehow in an anime reality. To be specific—The Prince of Tennis.

Gazing at him in consternation and confusion was a very naked—very animated—Fuji, Syusuke.

“What? What the…? What!? Why…? WHAT!?”

He stared at Fuji. Then, he looked down at himself. Not only was he also animated but damn was he well hung!

Once more, he looked at Fuji in disbelief, then grabbed at the blanket and pulled it around himself as he looked around for a mirror. Failing that, he rushed over to the window.

It wasn’t ideal, but he could see enough of his reflection against the night outside to know that he wasn’t in Kansai anymore.

Staring back incredulously at him was the animated reflection of his animated Tenipuri character: Tezuka, Kunimitsu.

Yuu screamed.

*

Fuji watched blandly as Tezuka—having abandoned the incredible sex they’d been in the middle of—screamed at his own reflection.

“Tezuka,” he said, his voice dangerously flat. “… Is there a problem?”

Tezuka spun around to face him, moaned, and then fainted.

Sighing, Fuji blinked at the prostrate body, looked down at his only now wavering erection, then set about taking care of himself. He could deal with Tezuka’s sudden split personality disorder later—when he was feeling less inclined to strangle his boyfriend.

Meanwhile…

What Tezuka was first aware of was that he was no longer horizontal. Nor was he naked, or with Fuji. He wasn’t even hard—until he thought about what he had just been doing… which he now was not.

Rather, he was standing in a very dark place. Had he just died and landed in hell?

… By the sound of that awful singing, yes. Slowly, he turned around.

For some inexplicable reason, he was in the wings of a theatre. On stage was a group of boys who ‘looked’ like his team, but most certainly were not.

He didn’t even want to address the way everything looked so… strange; so… real. He was fairly sure his life had seemed real all along but something about the color and the atmosphere here just felt hyper-real.

“What are you doing? You haven’t changed?” someone hissed in his ear. They grabbed him and pulled off the regular’s jersey he hadn’t even realized he was wearing. “It’ll have to do. You’re just walking across the stage. No one will notice.”

He was shoved unceremoniously out of the wings and onto the stage. He froze for a moment, receiving one or two desperate glances from ‘the cast’.

Walking across the stage, huh? This was a very messed up dream but he wasn’t going to admit defeat, not even to his own subconscious.

Steeling himself, he began to walk—feeling extremely nervous for some reason—and almost stumbling as the others all rushed at, no, past him. Once he was almost off the other side, Oishi grabbed his arm. He stared at his vice-captain’s look-a-like, feeling rather terrified, and saw the concern in the boy’s eyes… Why the hell was he wearing make-up?

Though disoriented, he automatically responded to the slight pressure on his arm and turned and walked offstage. There, he began shivering.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” someone asked as they all rushed offstage after finishing the number.

Tezuka took a deep breath. He was sure he was dreaming. This all felt very real but he wasn’t going to let his subconscious freak him out. He’d just play along until he woke up—probably just in time to be slaughtered by Fuji for falling asleep mid-coitus.

“I’m not feeling too well,” he said, wondering why his voice sounded so… off. “Do I… have to go on again?”

“I’m gonna go get Ueshima-sensei,” someone else announced.

Ueshima-sensei? Who the hell was that? Didn’t he mean Ryuzaki?

“There are still three numbers to go, do you really think you can’t make it?” asked the Momo look-a-like.

Not a chance... Tezuka shook his head. “I can’t even remember…”

“Yuu-kun’s not well? Ah, that’s a problem… Perhaps Aiba-kun can fill in the solo in Do Your Best and give him a chance to recuperate?” suggested someone dressed as Echizen’s father; most probably this mysterious Ueshima-sensei. “Go get ready, all of you. I’ll take care of him.”

Tezuka decided that he must be Yuu-kun. He agreed to Ueshima’s suggestion, simply because it gave him time to think. Three numbers; one that he was reprieved from. Maybe he could get out of the rest, too.

“Can the final numbers go on without me?” he asked.

“Ah, I don’t think so… Not unless you want to be waylaid by hundreds of concerned fans… No, it would be best to go on as you are and just hang in there. Then we can get you back to the hotel for some good rest, or take you to the hospital if necessary. Yes, I think we might do that. Well, just rest up for now. You’ll have to go on for the curtain call at any rate.”

Damn.

*

Fuji moaned, arching into his hand. He didn’t feel half as good as he would have done with Tezuka but it was better than nothing. Hell, more than anything, he was doing this out of spite.

What an inconvenient time for Tezuka to basically lose his damn mind. Insensitive prick. Well, he had things well in hand, anyway.

Next thing he knew, the moan that had risen to a chuckle wasn’t either of those things, but rather a sustained note that he cut off in shock. From what he could make out—which wasn’t much—there were hundreds of people in the audience, apparently watching him sing.

At least he wasn’t naked, his mind supplied helpfully as the tensai in him registered that his solo seemed to be over the moment he arrived, because someone else was singing. Then another took over… badly, and Fuji’s eyes finally began to adjust to the brilliant glow assaulting his eyes.

He gathered that he was in some kind of show, wearing his Seigaku uniform, in some kind of wacky, hyper-realistic color. Oh, and the singing was getting better now that that one guy had stopped.

Shit, he’d turned around; maybe Fuji was supposed to as well. He did so, probably late, and realized that everyone was singing so he began to mouth something generic so it at least looked like he was singing. God, he hoped he didn’t have any more solos.

What the hell was going on, anyway?

Wherever he was, he was going to be in trouble if he didn’t switch into full-blown tensai mentality. So he did, his reflexes speeding up impeccably as he copied what those dressed in the Seigaku uniform were doing and just hoped he was meant to be doing the same.

Actually, it was quite fun, picking up on the dance from a split second’s observation—and the music was quite good… rather catchy. “Do your best!” Not hard to pick up on. An English phrase that meant to try one’s hardest. It sounded quite like the unspoken motto of his team.

As the curtain fell, Fuji again wondered what was happening and why on earth he was suddenly here in what appeared to be a whacky musical-themed alternate reality. He scanned over what he’d eaten that day but couldn’t come up with any questionable substances or strange mushrooms.

He was quite sure he wasn’t dreaming.

Maybe whatever had happened to… Tezuka? That person huddled in the wings looked a bit like Tezuka but Fuji was sure it wasn’t him. Then again… Judging by the way he was sitting there with a terribly calm expression that was so very familiar to Fuji, and judging by the way Tezuka had acted a couple of minutes ago… maybe that really was the real Tezuka, after all.

He wandered over to test his theory and got into the wings just as the curtain raised up and people started running out for their bows.

“Poor thing,” he muttered. “You don’t look well at all.”

*

“I’m not sick, Fuji,” Tezuka growled under his breath, recognizing the subtle shift of the look-a-like into the familiar, sneaky tensai. “What’s going on?”

Fuji chuckled. “You noticed. Sorry, I’m afraid I have no idea what’s happening, here. Catchy music, though.”

“It varies,” Tezuka muttered with a slightly sour expression. “When did you get here?”

“After my solo,” Fuji replied cheerily.

“How do we get out of this?” Tezuka sighed. “… And that was my solo,” he added, a touch defensively. “You were filling in for me.”

“Oh,” Fuji practically pouted.

The Inui person approached them carrying a huge, stuffed Christmas pig and santa hat. He handed them to Tezuka. “You okay?”

Curtain calls. Right. Tezuka nodded. At least this he could do.

“Uh, can you remember when I go? I seem to be having a blank moment,” Fuji said.

Inui’s double shook his head and said, “Before Zuki, baka.” He then proceeded to poke Fuji in the belly in an overly friendly way that made Tezuka’s insides clench even as he tried to reconcile with the thought of the real Inui doing any such thing.

Only belatedly did he realize that neither he, nor Fuji, had any idea who Zuki might be but by then the Inui look-a-like had taken off. The whole situation was already well out of hand.

“I’m probably next on this side,” Fuji muttered. “Then you should get ready to go. Forget the pig since we don’t know what you’re supposed to do with it; just wear the hat… Follow my lead after that. The cast won’t question it. They think you’re sick. It’ll be fine.”

Tezuka listened and absorbed the instructions but he just wished he could go home. He didn’t want to go out there in front of all of those people; all of those highly expectant… people… He was going to make a fool of himself.

Suddenly, the thought that he had to go back out on that stage again filled him with a foreign sense of fear; terror, even. Confused and furiously denying the entire situation in his mind, he became overwhelmed…

…and fainted.

Meanwhile…

Aiba’s note went way off course as he came, the note turning into a scream. The sudden orgasmic sensation flooded him and he collapsed down into an awaiting mattress, staring dazedly up at the ceiling.

Wasn’t he… just… on stage…? He was afraid to open his eyes because what if he still was?

There was music, though. In fact, it was utterly quiet.

He finally opened his eyes and immediately closed them again. Everything looked like it was right out of an anime! What kind of crazy, 2D, anti-technicolor shit was going on in his useless melon of a head?

*

When Yuu found himself backstage, it took him a moment or two to recover from the shock. He rubbed his eyes, immediately relieved by the colors and depths of what he could see around him. Then, he realized that his name was being screamed and shrieked by perhaps hundreds of fans…

He looked down at his feet, saw the Christmas pig, and felt the Santa cap on his head… Shit! His curtain call!

Confused as all hell, his performer’s instincts took over anyway and he scooped up the pig and ran out onstage, hoping he wasn’t too far behind. Ueshima-sensei was going to skin him if his blackout caused a riot.

Chapter Text

Fuji glanced sideways as he bowed. That was definitely not Tezuka. He could tell almost instantly because there was no way Tezuka would be acting so confident, thanking the audience and presenting the other cast members like a pro. He wouldn’t even know to do that.

It was for the best. Fuji might make it through but Tezuka wouldn’t have a cl... What was he thinking? Surely, if Tezuka was gone, he would be soon, too, and then they could get back to normal. That was, of course, the ideal scenario.

Well, Fuji had to admit, he was having fun…

The curtain came down.

*

“Oi! How are you feeling?” Ueshima whispered loudly as he rushed onstage after the curtain fell to meet Yuu halfway. “Are you going to be sick?”

Yuu shook his head, covering the mic with his hand. “I feel fine. I can do the encores.”

Ueshima grinned, patting him on the back. “As expected, Yuu-kun,” he said. “You’re a stage hog. Something like this couldn’t hold you back.”

With that, he ran off, and Yuu turned to face Aiba who was tugging on his shirt.

“Give me a hand?” Aiba whispered. “Speed through the songs with me, I want to make sure I remember them.”

“Eh?” Well, maybe they had just enough time… Aiba must be really out of it… Yuu’s condition had probably thrown everyone off. He mumbled through it. “[Ase ni naru—you start—Kitto sonna ase wa crystal, eiko wo atsumete niji ni kagayaku. Uh, then it’s… [nikushimi no youna jyounetsu]...” He pointed to Aiba. “Sore wa itsuka yuujou ni kawaru… Then, tsukami toru made and we finish with Kitto sonna, etc. Got it?”

“Yeah, I think so. Sorry, I’m just a bit tired. You worried us, there.”

“Sorry.” Yuu smiled a little, pleased to hear Aiba was worried about him, and then offered to quickly speed through On My Way before he went on to help make up for the trouble he’d caused even though he was sure Aiba would be just fine now things had settled down..

*

Fuji barely caught the lyrics that were tossed out as whoever Tezuka had been sang through them at top speed. At least the first song was fairly short. He could concentrate on following the movements as long as he filed away those solo lines. The next song seemed a bit longer, but he didn’t have to worry about fudging a solo.

At least, he hoped not. His source had to go on stage before finishing the song. Fuji assumed he was just singing with the group anyway, and could relax a little and just catch the lyrics and movements as they came. He did quickly check up on his entrance with someone in the next wing. Luckily, he was in the right place and just had to wait for the correct line.

His blocking would probably be off. It was much easier to tag along in an upbeat number than a ballad but it would just have to do. At least that guy had given him line cues so he knew when to sing…

Feeling slightly dizzy with everything going on in his head at once, Fuji headed out onto the stage. He was going to be exhausted once it was over but adrenaline was keeping him together for the moment.

*

The encores went well for the most part. Aiba seemed a bit shaky—too much so for concern to account for—but they got through without any major hiccups. Yuu was just relieved not to have blacked out again.

The music began to fade out a final time—and then next thing Yuu knew, he was back in Tezuka’s body mid “ARIGATOU!” He lay sprawled on the floor, staring wide-eyed at the bed.

Incredulous, he went limp again. He was still on a high from the finale of the show and his mind began to race with all of the possible causes for this phenomenon or delusion. His body, though, was in shock from the sudden switch and he lay prone, letting his mind turn over the issue.

What the hell was happening?

When he thought about it, the others hadn’t treated him like he’d been unconscious. Rather, they’d acted as though he’d been unwell. That would explain why he was side-stage ready to go on for the curtain call when he’d come to.

In that case, if he was here in this… reality, then who was in his? Had he just lost his memory and his mind was off in lala land? Had he tripped and fallen off the deep end? Or was the real Tezuka—if such a word could apply to an animated character—in him?

Running with that theory, just for the moment, Yuu reflected on Aiba’s odd behavior. If Tezuka—who wasn’t real, he clarified for the sake of his dubious sanity—was somehow in his body, then he probably had as much recollection as Yuu did. Well, maybe not, since Yuu at least had some idea about Tezuka since he played the character… Theoretically, Tezuka wouldn’t have a clue of how to be him. Or so he surmised. In that case, if he and Tezuka had switched—god this was a crazy idea—then wasn’t it possible for Aiba and Fuji to switch? In which case, Aiba’s odd behavior would make sense because Fuji wouldn’t know the lyrics or choreo… Good thing he was a tensai.

With that last ridiculous thought, Yuu let out a growl of frustration. There was no way that was possible. No way. Obviously, he was just plain nuts. If he accepted that, would he snap out of it, at least for long enough to get himself committed? Or maybe this could be handled with medication. Hopefully there was some option that wouldn’t significantly change his life.

No, that just wouldn’t do. There was no reason for him to lose his mind and he was too busy and too relied upon to take any time out. This all had to be some kind of crazy dream from working too hard. Maybe he shouldn’t have watched so much of the anime all at once.

Well, even if he was dreaming—especially if he was dreaming—there was no point in just lying there and thinking on it. Though, as a small voice in the back of his mind hinted, events usually came to you in dreams; you rarely had to go looking for them.

He got up and walked over to the naked Fuji Syusuke—who might possibly be Aiba. Blushing, he took note of the splash of white on Fuji’s stomach.

He took a risk. “Aiba. Hey. Aiba, is that you?” He could tell that either way, the person laying there was conscious. “Open your eyes. I know you’re awake.”

“I don’t want to,” moaned—Yuu was now fairly sure—Aiba.

“Baka, it’s me,” Yuu sighed, sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Yuu?” Aiba asked, opening his eyes and looking up. He shook his head and made to hide his face in his hands.

“It’s me, I promise,” Yuu told him, grabbing his hands before he could hide. “I know this is really weird but just trust me, okay?”

“This isn’t weird. It’s fucked up,” Aiba snapped, sitting up.

Confusion and fear replaced by anger, he got to his feet and began pacing. “Is it just me, or is everything colored in? How is that even possible!? I don’t know what you’re doing in my dream or why we’re both naked—because that’s really fucked up—or why I’m even dreaming about us as Fuji and Tezuka, but I want to wake up now before I start to have nightmares!”

Yuu couldn’t help it; he laughed. Sometimes, Aiba was just too cute. “Hey, dreaming about me isn’t that bad, is it?” he joked. “Besides, all the girls love Tezuka.”

Aiba stopped, glared at him, and growled, “I’m not a girl, and you’re not Tezuka.”

“Well, all the girls love me, too,” Yuu replied, having been waiting for the retort. “And if this really was your dream then I’d have to assume that you do, too.”

That ought to get through to him.

Fuji—Aiba—stared at him in shock for a moment. “I don’t love you!” he retorted, simply and immaturely, causing Yuu to chuckle.

“Then I guess this isn’t a dream,” he suggested, because like it or not, he was beginning to believe it was real.

Aiba apparently had no reply for that. He just gawked and then collapsed back down onto the bed as though defeated. “It has to be a dream. What else could it be?”

“I don’t know,” Yuu replied seriously, “But I don’t think it is, which means that something very strange is going on.” Aiba glared at him for stating the obvious. “In any case,” he continued, voicing something that had been running through his head during the conversation, “The best thing we can do is just try and play it out. I think our counterparts are actually in our bodies. I went back for a little bit, and you were still there, but I don’t think you knew the lyrics or the blocking, which means that it was probably Fuji-”

“That’s ridiculous,” Aiba complained.

Yuu sighed. “Isn’t it, though? Anyhow, we might be here for a while, so you’ll probably want to take a shower…”

Aiba looked down at himself and then blushed bright red. “Does this mean…?”

“And here I thought that fangirls were just crazy… Apparently they’re right. Fuji and Tezuka ARE ‘so together,’” Yuu joked, though the humor of the words was dampened somewhat by the obvious truth and both he and Aiba quickly looked away from each other.

“I’m going to go find the shower,” Aiba mumbled.

Good thing he didn’t look back and see Yuu staring after his, or, rather, Fuji’s naked ass. The situation was weird enough as it was.

*

Tezuka felt like cold water had been dumped on him. For just a moment he had been back in his own, comfortable body; in his own comfortable world, and then suddenly he returned to that strange place. He was back onstage and a yell died on his lips as music faded out and cheers escalated. Luckily, the curtain came down very soon after and he wasn’t left staring stupidly at the audience for very long.

*

Fuji heard the waver, noticed the suddenly statuesque stance, and deduced that Tezuka was back. Once the curtain finally dropped, he waded his way through hugs and pats, and wrapped his arm around Tezuka’s current body’s waist.

“The sooner we get backstage, the sooner we can discuss this,” he muttered, trying to look relaxed and casual as he guided the stiff Tezuka toward the wings.

Luckily, he didn’t have to do any explaining. Everyone just assumed that ‘Yuu’ had gathered his energy up to finish the show and suddenly crashed, feeling worse than before. It was a good, believable excuse, and it allowed Fuji to get help in gathering their things and finding out where they should be going and what they should be doing. In fact, it got them all the way to Yuu’s room in the hotel they were staying at—as long as Fuji promised to take good care of ‘Yuu’ and make sure he got some rest. He was given strict instructions to go with Yuu to the doctors if it didn’t clear up with sleep.

Thankfully, no one questioned Aiba volunteering to take care of him, so he guessed the cast was pretty close—though how close he couldn’t be sure. No one seemed to have any sense of personal space. There had been myriads of hugs backstage and on the way to the hotel, a few butt slaps, and even one incident of dry humping.

He should probably look into just how close they were supposed to be with each other and the rest of the cast. At least he didn’t think he needed to worry about remembering a girlfriend’s name…

“Fuji.”

Tezuka seemed to have recovered on the way.

He was sitting on the edge of the bed, and before he could get all serious and spoil Fuji’s fun, the tensai sauntered over and knelt above his lap, his arms winging about Tezuka’s neck.

“I was very disappointed, you know,” he teased. “I guess I can forgive you, though, since it wasn’t really you.”

Tezuka frowned, the expression looking unnatural on his current body’s face. “Why? What happened?”

“Well, I assume it was Yuu-kun who popped into your body. I imagine he must have been a bit confused… The poor thing screamed at his reflection and fainted, leaving me all alone to finish myself off…” He said the last straight into Tezuka’s ear, flicking it with his tongue as he spoke.

“Fuji…”

“Mmm?”

“Not in these bodies.”

“Why not?” Fuji whined, pulling back and pouting down at the mostly unfamiliar face. “They’re close enough…”

“They’re not ours,” Tezuka pointed out.

“Well what do you think they’re doing in our bodies?” Fuji countered. “Playing tiddlywinks?”

“They’re probably trying to figure out how to get out of them, like we should be doing. Not everyone is as horny as you are, you know.”

“Oh, really?” Fuji asked, raising his eyebrows and emphasizing the point by grinding down into the obvious erection Tezuka sported.

To his delight, Tezuka moaned. Yuu had a very sexy voice, and his moan washed over Fuji like the music that he couldn’t get out of his head.

Fuji was thoroughly enjoying himself. He found that he really liked what he’d heard—well, sang—of the musical, and was highly intrigued by the fact that there was a musical about them in this world.

He was the type to adapt and absorb new experiences rather than cracking under pressure, so it wasn’t too surprising that he found himself quite attracted to Tezuka’s presence in Yuu’s body. He knew his Hiroki Aiba wasn’t so bad looking, either—well of course not, to be cast as him.

“Fuji, stop that,” Tezuka breathed.

Only then did Fuji realize he’d been constantly grinding into Tezuka’s erection with his own. However, rather than stopping, he bent down and kissed those very kissable lips that he’d been staring at for the duration of his thoughts.

Frankly, he didn’t care what these guys were doing in their bodies. They could do what they liked, and Fuji would, too…

*

Tezuka couldn’t think straight with Fuji grinding into him like that. He couldn’t think straight with Fuji’s tongue in his mouth. He couldn’t… Apparently he couldn’t think straight enough to remember that it ‘wasn’t’ Fuji’s tongue—it was Aiba’s—and even when he did remember, that didn’t stop him from sucking on it enthusiastically.

He really had no complaints about Fuji’s current body. It was just that it was strange to imagine being with someone else, even though he knew Fuji was in there. It made him feel somewhat guilty, because he was actually really enjoying the kiss and his body was responding very well…

Breaking that oh-so-good kiss with a sheer force of will, Tezuka turned his face aside, trying to catch his breath. His heart was racing a million miles a minute and his head was whirling—but he knew it wasn’t right. These weren’t their bodies to do with as they wished.

“Fuji, I need to tell you something,” he said, deciding that a change of topic was the best course of action.

A sigh. “Yes?”

“I was back in my body for a moment after I… uh, fainted. Then I was onstage again just before the curtain came down, just like that,” he rattled, willing his erection far, far away. “There has to be a way to get back permanently. If we can figure out why I snapped back and forth like that…”

“Okay, fine. Down to business,” Fuji muttered, getting off of him and moving to the chair opposite the bed. He settled, leaning on his knees and supporting his chin. “You must have been gone for about ten minutes.”

“I was only conscious for a second or so before switching again. During the time I lost consciousness, I must have switched bodies again,” Tezuka surmised, feeling a little better now that there was a measure of distance between them.

“Does that mean that it’s random and we could switch back and forth at any time? Or did something trigger it?” Fuji closed his eyes in thought for a moment. “Either way, we need to find out what happened to cause this in the first place, and that question—and maybe the one of how to end it, too—will be answered. Meanwhile…” Tezuka felt like backing away from the glint that came into Fuji’s eyes, bright and sharp. “We’ll have to play along, of course. I’m going to have to teach you how to sing.”

“I know how to sing,” Tezuka replied defensively. “I just… don’t like being on stage.”

Fuji laughed. “You have stage fright!”

Blushing, Tezuka looked away. Obviously. Why else would he have fainted at the prospect of going back out onto that stage?

“Don’t worry,” Fuji soothed, sounding inappropriately chipper. “You’ll be just fine; but first, we need to learn the music, lines, and blocking…”

“And how, exactly, are we supposed to do that?” Tezuka asked.

“We study the script like crazy, of course,” Fuji replied, again far too cheerfully.

Chapter Text

It had taken a bit of time for them to work things out. They had to figure out what day it was first, and where Tezuka’s school things were. Luckily, they both had schedules on them and were able to discover which classes they had once they found Fuji’s calendar with the days neatly marked off.

Next, they had to ask for directions to Seishun Gakuen. That was a little embarrassing since their school uniforms were blatantly obvious. Who doesn’t know where their own school is?

At least they managed to remember to check the date and go to school at all, which was quite a feat under the circumstances. In fact, every time they went to do anything, Aiba was struck with questions like: “Should we?” “Why are we even trying?” “Shouldn’t we be figuring out how to get out of here, instead?” As it was, neither he nor Yuu knew what else to do… so they went to school. Aiba wasn’t sure if it was because he was actually a little excited about the adventure or just too lost to think properly but he didn’t really question much once he gave it over as inevitable.

“Oi, Aibatchi! This is just like our Tokyo, only in crappy color!” Yuu cried, throwing his arm over his companion’s shoulders and leaning on him heavily.

“Yuu…” Aiba complained, trying to escape from the weight suddenly thrust upon him. He glanced around, blushing slightly as their state of the previous night came to mind. “It’s not really appropriate.”

“Eh?” Yuu glanced down at him, staring in blatant confusion for a moment before he withdrew, anyway. “You mean, because of-”

“It’s fine to act like that in our own… I dunno… our own bodies, but it just doesn’t seem natural… like this,” Aiba finished, frustrated with his lack of knowledge about the situation. He wished he knew what was going on so he could at least articulate it properly.

Yuu shrugged. “It’s not like it matters unless people know us,” he replied, adding, “But if you ‘really’ wanted to act natural for these guys…”

“How do you know they don’t know us?” Aiba challenged, ignoring the intended innuendo.

The truth, though he didn’t really want to admit it, was that he felt uncomfortable. It was strange knowing that the body he was in had engaged in really intimate stuff with the body Shirotan was in, and while he was nervous about it, he wasn’t entirely sure he saw it as a bad thing.

That was the worst part. The whole situation was so surreal that he didn’t know how unusual was too unusual and where to draw the line, but he felt like he was acting and thinking differently and he wasn’t sure how to regain himself under the circumstances.

“I’m just saying we should be careful,” he continued. A moment later, he sighed and addressed another concern that he’d been bottling up since he’d first begun to accept the circumstances. “I don’t know if I can pull this off. Fuji is… Fuji’s a tensai. They’re going to figure it out right away.”

Yuu actually laughed at him. “Are you kidding? You have it easy! All you have to do is hint that anything unusual is some kind of tensai quirk and that you have some sort of plot brewing and they’ll all be backing away in fear. Just relax and have fun. There must be some reason we’re here, anyway.”

“What if there’s not? What if it’s permanent? Maybe we should just tell the truth-”

“’Cause I would believe me if I said I was really an actor who plays my character in a musical and happened to have been switched somehow… Yeah, that’d go over real well.”

“Yuu… What if we have to play tennis?”

Finally, Yuu showed a shred of seriousness. “Yeah,” he agreed, sounding much more subdued. “I’ve been thinking about that, too. We don’t know how long this is going to last and we can only skip for so long… I mean, it’s not like I ‘can’t’ play tennis but playing tennis like Tezuka, now that’s another story. Things like Tezuka Zone don’t even exist in real life so how could I possibly pull that off?”

“Tsubame Gaishi, Higuma Otoshi… Hakugei!” Aiba moaned. “There’s no way I can do any of that! Besides, we don’t even know ‘when’ we are! Fuji learns some new moves in the filler arc, doesn’t he? Oh my god, are we even in the anime world? Or the manga? It’s completely different!” Once more, Yuu laughed and Aiba slapped his chest hard and turned in a huff to look out the window, feeling bad about the harsh sound of that slap and trying very hard not to care how much it hurt.

He relented when Shirotan placed both hands on his shoulders and made eye contact through their pale reflections in the window. “Sorry,” he said, apologizing even though Aiba should be doing so for hitting him. “It’s just that I don’t think there’s reason to panic this early. Let’s just take things as they come, okay?”

“I guess you’re right,” Aiba sighed, unconsciously leaning into his friend. “What choice do we have?”

*

Yuu stared blankly down at the top of Aiba’s—rather, Fuji’s—head. He was lost in thought.

He couldn’t shake the memory of that moment he had spent inside of Fuji, and the later images of Fuji naked, covered in the evidence of his orgasm, with Aiba inhabiting his mind. It was… confusing to say the least.

He knew he was living every fangirl’s dream. Oh, if only they knew that all of their suspicions were right and there really was something going on between Fuji and Tezuka… and if only they knew that he and Aiba currently ‘were’ Fuji and Tezuka. It’d cause mass fainting to say the least.

It was easy to imagine what a fangirl’s response to the situation would be. It would be the perfect opportunity to set he and Aiba up. It was no secret that girls melted at the thought of them together, after all.

What was really unusual about the situation, though, was that Yuu currently wanted to lean down and kiss Ai-Fuji’s cheek.

Maybe it was just the fact that they were stranded together in a strange but familiar world. In a common bind, and with certain… circumstances, he felt closer to Aibatchi than he knew he really was, and certain urges that he knew would be crossing the line felt perfectly natural.

It wasn’t like he was gay. Though plenty of people were in the musical scene, so he didn’t have a problem with it; and, sure, he and Kazuki played it up for the cameras—it was fun, but… it wasn’t real. Surely even the fans knew that.

The feelings he was suddenly experiencing were real, though. It was strange to say the least.

*

Tezuka. Never. Skipped. Practice.

It was an unwritten law. If he wasn’t going to be there, Ryuzaki-sensei knew why. If he was late, he had good reason.

Never before had he simply not shown up. In fact, compared to the shock of Tezuka’s unexplained absence, the fact that Fuji was also not at practice was almost insignificant.

The whole team seemed slightly nervous and on edge all morning. What if something had happened? What if there was an accident? What if-?

“Fujiko! Tezuka-buchou!” cried Kikumaru all of a sudden.

The whole team turned to look in the direction that Kikumaru was staring in, their eyes widening. Sure enough, it was Tezuka and Fuji, strolling past the tennis court as if they hadn’t been missing all morning. In fact, they seemed surprised to notice that the team was currently occupying the courts and staring at them in abject shock.

*

…Damn.

Morning practice.

How could they forget?

Thinking on his feet, Yuu… came up with absolutely nothing. He was blank. It would be one thing if he was playing Fuji. He could pull that off easily just by being his usual cheerful self with a little restraint but Tezuka… Tezuka was difficult.

Oh, he had the role down, but could he pull it off in front of these people who knew the character so well without falling into parody?

Man, just thinking like that was confusing enough to cause physical pain.

Meanwhile, Aibatchi saved the day.

“Gomen, Eiji,” he replied to the acrobat’s almost tearful scolding. “I asked Tezuka to help me with something this morning. I didn’t think it would cause such a problem.”

“Problem? Problem! We were worried sick! Tezuka NEVER skips practice!” Kikumaru yelled.

Aiba’s quick thinking snapped Yuu out of it, and he called upon every ounce of preparation he had ever done for the role.

He looked toward Ryuzaki-sensei who was observing the exchange with her hands on her hips. She met his eyes with an expression promising a firm reprimanding later when the team wouldn’t be around to witness, and mouthed, ‘Well?’

“I’m terribly sorry, sensei,” Yuu replied with a bow. “I left you a voicemail message last night, but it must not have gone through.”

The old woman glared at him for a moment longer before huffing and nodding, calling everyone back to practice. She then turned back to address the two of them.

“I expect to see you both sharp and early for practice this afternoon—especially you, Fuji. Heaven knows you’re a terrible influence!”

Yuu’s hands were trembling slightly as they walked away… hopefully in the right direction. He took a deep, steadying breath. That was… scary. No wonder that woman wasn’t in any of the musicals. The audience would run away.

But they got through it. They pulled it off without anyone seeming to doubt them, and that was a solid accomplishment.

He just hoped the charade wouldn’t have to last for too long. It was way too stressful.

*

Ryouma frowned as he watched his captain walk away. He knew he wasn’t imagining the slight tremble to Tezuka’s hand, but at the same time, he couldn’t reconcile it with his admired captain. What was so nerve wrecking that Tezuka would be trembling, anyway?

Perhaps Tezuka really had been in an accident and simply didn’t want anyone to worry—but then why had he been so carelessly wandering past the tennis courts with Fuji in the middle of practice? There were other ways to get to the school building.

Setting that odd course aside, Ryouma considered another, more frightening possibility. What if it had to do with Tezuka’s arm? Maybe he’d had an appointment with the doctor and asked Fuji to accompany him. Maybe his hand was trembling from pain.

Or, maybe he’d just been studying too hard. Tezuka seemed to work tirelessly without showing any cracks, it wasn’t entirely impossible to believe he might slip up sometime, was it?

Yes. Yes, it was.

With five minutes of practice to go, Ryouma pulled his cap down further over his eyes and bent low to receive Kaidoh’s serve. Whatever was going on with Tezuka, he’d find out sooner or later.

*

Fuji only slept for three hours, Tezuka even less. They had both spent the night poring over the scores they’d found in their suitcases, thanks to Fuji’s uncanny sight-reading ability.

Honestly, it wasn’t so bad. The music was quite good, actually, and difficult, but not… complicated—for the most part. Besides, once Fuji had taken a good look at his own songs, he was able to help Tezuka.

They practiced melody, harmony, and timing, following the notated music meticulously since they couldn’t practice with any kind of backing. Then, once Tezuka thought he couldn’t possibly take in any more, Fuji woke him from his restless, music filled dreams with breakfast (room service ordered by Fuji, which he suspected their doubles might not thank them for if they got out of this mess) and scripted lines. Thankfully, there weren’t too many of those, and Tezuka was able to learn them quite easily. The songs, however, he still had trouble with.

Around mid-day, when he was finally starting to nail down the music, Fuji hit him with the next terrifying revelation: Dancing.

They were going to have to dance.

Tezuka didn’t know how to dance, let alone the steps they were meant to be doing. It was… impossible.

“Nothing is impossible,” Fuji replied, somehow managing to pull off the effect of his usual expression even whilst in a different body incapable of making quite the same face… Damn him and his cheerful adaptability.

“I’ll be back. You just keep working on that music,” Fuji told him, taking Aiba’s mobile phone and slipping out into the hallway.

Tezuka didn’t care what he was up to. Frankly, he didn’t believe that anything could rescue him from the hole he was in; least of all some crazy scheme of Fuji’s.

*

Fuji had neglected to mention that there wasn’t actually a show on that night. In fact, he’d found out that they had some time to memorize the musical before the next performance in another city on Thursday night. However, he knew Tezuka would learn faster in his panic, and accomplish easily in that time days what would usually kill a normal person in a week.

Tezuka was no tensai, but he was nothing if not a hard worker. Somehow, he always managed to extend his limits and that would pull him through now.

Meanwhile, Fuji had to figure out who he could call to ‘refresh’ the dance steps so he could teach them to Tezuka with plenty of time to spare.

Chapter Text

The more time Yuu spent in class, the more fun he was beginning to have. Over the day, his nerves dwindled to almost nothing and he really started to enjoy himself. He was able to find his way to most of his classes, and once he was there, well… He didn’t have to ‘do’ anything. He found he had fully completed homework to hand in and he was never called upon in class. In fact, teachers seemed to avoid him.

It reminded him of that episode where Karupin got lost in the school and Tezuka was seen correcting a teacher. He figured that the teachers lived in fear of being proven wrong by him, so as long as he kept up a serious face and the occasional scrutinizing glare, he got off scot free without actually doing any work at all.

That was, until Oishi asked for help.

They were at lunch and Oishi was walking beside Yuu, his tray cradled in one arm, an open Math book draped over the other. He somehow managed to juggle both items without dropping or spilling anything.

“Hey, Tezuka, you’ve done this week’s homework, right?” Oishi asked, his eyes still glued to the text book as he skillfully dodged the lunch crowd.

For the whole week? Well, he ‘was’ Tezuka… “Of course.”

“What do you think of this problem?” They reached the table, and Oishi slid the tray onto its surface, pointing to said question as he spoke. “We just covered the material in class but I can’t seem to grasp the theory.”

Yuu glanced sideways at Oishi, experiencing a moment of panic. It almost felt like he was being tested.

“It’s not that hard,” he answered, sliding into a seat as he placed his own tray down. The truth was that Math was never his strong point. In fact, he couldn’t even think of any piece of vague information he could offer up as a decoy.

Oishi glanced up at him. “Not for you, maybe,” he said. “I just need a push in the right direction.”

Channeling Tezuka in a moment of brilliance, Yuu suddenly knew exactly what to say. He adjusted his glasses, turning his attention to his lunch. “I don’t think so. You’re capable of figuring this one out on your own.”

Oishi stared at him a moment longer. “Oh, well, if you think so…”

“Oishi!!!!”

Within moments they were accosted by Kikumaru Eiji, followed by a sedate Fuj-Aiba (Yuu almost chuckled as he turned that slip into a nickname) who seemed to have mastered the tensai smile. He sat next to Yuu, taking out the packed lunch he’d received that morning on his way out the door.

“How was class?” Aiba asked.

“I cracked the theory of evolution,” Yuu replied, deadpan.

Somewhere, somehow, a cricket chirped—no, really. The animated world was weird like that.

Eiji suddenly froze in his unintentional attempt to suffocate Oishi through glompage. “Tezuka… Did you just make a joke?” he cried incredulously.

“The odds are extremely low. However, I do not believe that Tezuka has gained such infinite skill and knowledge as of yet, and am therefore inclined to believe that he has, indeed, just told a blatant lie with the intention of amusing us.” Making his entrance, Inui joined them at the table, whipping out his notebook to scribble down the data. “As usual, Tezuka, you manage to supersede my current data.”

Yuu could practically feel the worry seeping from Aiba. After all, Inui’s data could prove extremely dangerous—especially to Yuu who was in the body that Inui had collected the most data from. He wasn’t too worried, though. Inui had already provided the excuse he needed to get around that data. Still, he would have to be a little more careful with his sense of humor—oh, but the temptation was almost tangible!

*

Aiba almost had a heart attack. He really did. His nerves had been frayed all day.

He had no idea what would happen if he was caught out. Most likely, he’d be diagnosed as crazy, or worse, screw up the balance of the animated world in the most ridiculous and dramatic of ways. Oh yes, he’d seen his fair share of anime. Drastic things could happen when an outsider appeared where they didn’t belong.

Shirotan was right, though. Aiba had it fairly easy. Fuji—though not an easy character—was a simple one. It only took a vague “Saa...” or a solid glare to get anyone off his case. Tezuka, however… He was expected to know things, expected to do things… No matter how well Yuu pulled off the character, there were just some things that weren’t physically or mentally possible, especially for Yuu.

It didn’t help that he had the most cheerful, outgoing personality of anyone Aiba had ever met. Stuck inside the persona of a polar opposite personality type, there was only so much time before Yuu cracked.

And he did.

A joke, that is.

Aiba’s heart stopped, and his body instantly passed from cold to hot, to somewhere in between. His skin prickled. His stomach fluttered.

A cricket chirped.

And then Inui broke the silence, giving Tezuka the benefit of the doubt, and breaking the tension smothering Aiba like a wave. Oh, he was going to kill Yuu later… That is, if they ever made it through afternoon practice.

*

As soon as class ended, Yuu was, truth to tell, a little nervous. Okay, more than a little. That said, when he was grabbed and dragged into a rundown bathroom that seemed mostly unused, he flailed and nearly leaped out of his skin.

"Let go or I'll—Aiba." He breathed a sigh of relief. "Don't do that! Are you nuts!?"

"I'm beginning to think so," Aiba snapped. "That aside, what are we going to do?"

For the first time, Yuu felt completely lacking in confidence. He knew exactly what Aiba meant and he had no answer.

"Maybe..." He took a deep breath. "Maybe we should just tell them. The truth."

Aiba shook his head. "Out of the question. They'd think we're nuts and then we'd be stuck."

"Then I don't know. I really don't-"

There was a knock on the door.

"Sorry, Tezuka," called Oishi. "But if I don't interrupt, you'll be late, and Ryuzaki-sensei will be furious."

Yuu's instincts took over and he cleared his throat. "Thank you, Oishi."

Slightly shaky and glaring at Aiba, he opened the bathroom door to face the vice captain.

Oishi glanced past him to 'Fuji'. "You really shouldn't be so reckless, you know. Tezuka has a reputation to maintain."

"We'll see how long that lasts," Aiba replied bitingly, brushing past.

Oishi raised his eyebrows at Yuu who replied, with a faint blush, "He doesn't like to be interrupted."

He just hoped Oishi was previously aware of his friends’ relationship...

To his surprise, Oishi chuckled. "Neither does Eiji," he said before heading off to the courts.

Yuu followed, only slightly more nervous than he had been to begin with.

*

Ryouma couldn't quite place it but something was off. Tezuka-buchou and Fuji-senpai weren't themselves.

Though Tezuka wasn't playing, he seemed less confident than usual—less demanding. Meanwhile, Fuji hadn't used any techniques all afternoon and his basic tennis was, to say the least, sub-par. He also seemed rather unusually serious.

That was, until Tezuka pulled him aside for a quick word. Once he came back, he was more relaxed, and he even played better, more like the Fuji-senpai Ryouma knew—and yet not.

*

Yuu was very relieved when he convinced Aiba to take step back and relax a little. The poor guy was strung out and a nervous wreck, but he was nothing if not a good actor, and once Yuu reminded him that he was playing a part, he managed to don the character quite well. Hell, his tennis even improved.

He meant to talk to Aiba as soon as practice finished, but Ryuzaki-sensei waylaid him. She dragged him upstairs to the Math room for a little discussion.

"To be blunt, Tezuka, I'm worried about you. You work yourself too hard to keep up with Fuji. Not everyone can be a tensai with infinite limits. If you don't slow down this relationship, you'll burn yourself out."

Yuu was stunned. Even Ryuzaki-sensei knew?

The woman sighed. “Of course I know," she said, as if answering the unvoiced question that was clearly plastered across his face. "Who could miss it? Look, I'm not saying to give Fuji up completely; any fool could see that you're serious about each other, but take it easy, okay? Make sure Fuji knows when to stop."

Yuu bowed, glad to have an excuse to avoid advertising Tezuka and Fuji's relationship. He'd been starting to wonder how far he was going to have to go...

"Yes, Sensei," he said, hoping the relief didn't sound in his voice.

*

By the end of the day, Ryouma had a suspicion. A crazy one but it seemed rather plausible none the less, considering.

"Fuji-senpai," he called after practice. "Do you still need to string your racket?"

He saw the moment of panic clearly in 'Fuji's' eyes.

"I was just thinking maybe you could buy me some dinner, too. I'm hungry," he pressed, leading to the deciding test.

The ensuing conversation stalled long enough to land them alone in the locker room together, Ryouma half undressed. He tipped his cap, smiling slightly at the plot that was unraveling so nicely.

"Fuji-senpai," he whispered, suddenly leaning up on his tiptoes. "Don't be so nervous," he said, before kissing the supposed tensai square on the lips.

*

Aiba froze. Automatically, he recoiled.

"It's okay," Echizen muttered. "Tezuka won't be down for a while. We're safe."

Aiba was lost. Was Fuji cheating on Tezuka? Was he expected to kiss Echizen? If he didn't, would it give something away?

One thing was for certain, Aiba had never had to kiss onstage before...

It was okay. That's exactly what he was doing. Stage kisses were often real for authenticity… It was perfectly normal.

Initiating the Fuji smile, he said, "If you say so..." and leaned down to kiss the younger boy.

After a long, lingering, and disturbingly nice kiss, Echizen pulled away.

"You're not Fuji-senpai," he said. "Fuji wouldn't kiss anyone but Tezuka."

Damn.

Chapter Text

Katou, Kazuki.

Fuji had picked a name at random from the contacts folder labeled ‘Cast’ in Aiba’s phone. About as much deliberation went into the choice as Fuji liking the sound of the name.

That said, it had been a good choice. Well, not at first…

“Aiba, you’re the dancer here. What exactly do you think I could help you with?”

“Oh… Well in that case, I’ll just have to be honest. I’m not Aiba. I’m Fuji.”

“Huh?”

“I’m Fuji, Syusuke, and while I can learn Aiba’s songs from the sheet music, learning dance steps is going to be a problem. I was going to try and get someone to ‘revise’ them with me, but judging by your reaction that’s not much of an option. So. Will you help me?”

There was a brief silence on the other end of the line.

A sigh.

“Aiba, meet me in the lobby.”

Fuji had considered not going, simply trying something else, but he couldn’t shake his instincts that kept telling him this was the right choice. So he went.

He had no idea who he was looking for. There were a couple of familiar-ish faces down in the lobby but before he had to try and respond to them, he was dragged off to a practice room the hotel had apparently reserved for their cast.

“Convenient,” Fuji muttered, glancing around at the many mirrored room. He couldn’t help checking himself out from various angles for a moment. Aiba was cute—and like everything in this world, there was the lure of that somehow ‘real’ appearance. Fuji and Tezuka had briefly discussed it last night, but neither could really put the sensation into words.

Kazuki dragged him over to a pair of rehearsal blocks and forced him to sit, then took the spot opposite him.

“Okay, ‘Fuji’, now what’s up?” he asked. “Do you want help with a song?”

“No, I told you-”

“You know you could’ve just asked Shirotan…”

“Oh. See, if I could have, I would have done so and actually gotten some sleep last night. Unfortunately, he’s in the same situation as Aiba and Tezuka knows this musical about as well as I do,” Fuji replied bluntly, smiling. He cocked his head. “You know, it’s really only the wig that makes you look like Atobe,” he said, finally reconciling the guy across from him with the character he had performed the night before. “That’s a good thing,” he added, not unappreciative of Kazuki’s good looks. It would be a shame to have that impression ruined by Atobe.

Kazuki was staring at him with a bemused smile. Finally, he shook his head with a chuckle.

“Aiba, you’re nuts,” he sighed, making to leave.

Fuji couldn’t let him.

“What if I said I really do need your help with the choreography,” he said seriously. “Could you help me?”

Kazuki stopped, looking back at him with a rather impatient expression that softened until he passed a hand over his face and came up looking inexplicably tired. “With some, I guess, but our parts don’t overlap all that much. I had a hard enough time learning Hyoutei’s choreography.”

“Then whether I am Aiba or not is not an issue. Believe what you want, but unless you or someone else teaches me the steps, I can’t teach Tezuka and the next performance is going to be a disaster. So let’s start with what you do know.”

*

Kazuki couldn’t help wondering if maybe Aiba—or whoever he was—but that was crazy… Well, maybe he was telling the truth. Maybe.

Aiba was a good actor but surely he’d have cracked by now in the face of such an elaborate joke, and what reason would he have for the prank in the first place? He couldn’t be that bored, surely…

Truthfully, Kazuki hadn’t spent much time one on one with Aiba. He couldn’t really be sure exactly how Aiba would or wouldn’t act but he couldn’t deny that something was ‘off’ today.

“What do you need help with?” he asked, setting aside the identity issue for the time being.

“Anything you can help me with.”

It wasn’t like he had much else to do. He was just going to work on some of his own music for the day and maybe take a walk around town with some of the guys in the afternoon. If Aiba wanted to go so far out of his waste to waste Kazuki’s time, he was curious enough about the objective not to object. Maybe what Aiba was really looking for was singing tips. Maybe he just couldn’t admit that… and maybe Shirotan was still sick. That almost made sense. Except for the weird ‘Fuji’ ruse.

Well, he’d probably find out soon enough whether this was just a ploy born out of pure boredom, or if Aiba really was currently occupied by Fuji, Syusuke. Of course, the most likely case in that scenario was that adorable, hyper, weird little Aibatchi had lost his frigging mind.

…Three hours later, Kazuki still had no idea. Aiba really seemed not to know any of the steps but if he truly was starting from scratch then he was picking them up extremely fast. On the other hand, his technique wasn’t as precise as it usually was but even that was improving at a rapid rate.

By the time they agreed to stop and go grab something to eat, Kazuki’s instincts were in thorough discontent with his logic. His mind insisted that it simply wasn’t possible but somehow he was starting to believe that the one he was dealing with was Fuji Syusuke and the thought kept creeping in that they would need to call on someone else soon because he was running out of shared choreography to teach the much-more-accomplished dancer.

*

“Say—just for the moment—that I did believe you… You’re Fuji, Syusuke?”

“Mhmm,” Fuji replied, daintily sipping at his coke, pleased that the improbably reality was finally beginning to sink in.

“How is that possible?” Kazuki begged of him.

“I wish I knew. I have no idea why Tezuka and I are here or how to get back,” Fuji replied honestly.

“You do realize that you’re both characters from a manga, right?” Kazuki told him, looking gravely serious.

Fuji wondered how much mental pain it must have caused for him to address Fuji as Fuji and not Aiba, and how confused the poor fellow must be.

“A manga? How interesting…” Fuji replied; meanwhile, his mind was reeling in shock. He and Tezuka were from a manga? Well that explained the musical, but as far as Fuji was concerned, he was very, very real…

“No. No way. Forget it. It’s ridiculous,” Kazuki sighed, tossing his napkin onto the remains of his salad. “Aiba, you’ve lost it.”

A brilliant idea suddenly occurred to Fuji. “Have you ever seen Hiroki Aiba play tennis?” he asked.

“No. I haven’t seen Ai-you play tennis,” Kazuki replied with a painstaking air of patience.

“How about… the piano?” Fuji suggested.

Kazuki scoffed. “I’ve seen him- ‘you’ try,” he said.

“Perfect,” Fuji said with a grin.

Tennis wasn’t the only outlet of his talent. He was quite skilled in various fields. It just happened that tennis was the one in which he had found Tezuka and resolved tomaster.

*

Despite his confidence, Fuji found that there was one obstacle to his plan that he hadn't anticipated. Fingers unused to stretching intervals and crawling around each other on the keys were clumsy at runs and heavy on chords.

Luckily, it took Kazuki some time to return and Fuji was able to drill several scales and a few of the more difficult sections of music he knew. By the time Kazuki returned, he was comfortably improvising some of the music he and Tezuka had been furiously practicing and he felt fairly confident. He just hoped these fingers could keep up with his mind.

*

Kazuki was so damn confused it wasn’t funny. Everything about Aiba’s attitude was different. Everything about him screamed that he was telling the truth—that he was, indeed, Fuji.

How? How could that be?

Aiba claimed that he could prove it, so after the meal, Kazuki hurried up to his room and returned with a piece of music he knew Aiba hadn’t ever seen before—it was written by one of Kazuki’s friends.

When he entered the practice room, Aiba was sitting at the piano, music just barely floating across the room but too softly to determine whether the playing was any good or not. A moment or two after Kazuki opened the door, it stopped. Aiba looked up and smiled that eerily Fuji-like smile.

“Do you have something for me?” he asked.

Kazuki nodded.

“Is it difficult?” Aiba asked.

His eyes narrowed in suspicion, Kazuki replied in the affirmative.

“Perfect,” Aiba muttered, stretching his fingers as Kazuki placed the hand-written sheet music in front of him. Not only was it difficult to play but it wasn’t exactly easy to read, either.

Kazuki felt a touch of satisfaction knowing that Aiba was about to unravel his whole gag by going this far. He watched his friend scan the music, frowning here and there, and was about to say that Aiba didn’t have to do it when his hands made contact with the keys.

He played the piece through from beginning to end and by that end, there was barely a mistake. The tempo was perfected halfway through. The rhythm was perfected shortly after. Even the atmosphere of the piece was perfected by its completion, and that hadn’t even been notated yet.

Kazuki stared in pure awe. Fuji was sitting before him and playing the piano with Aiba’s own, clumsy fingers.

When the piece ended, there was silence for a short while before he finally made an admission of acceptance.

“Why don’t you just ask Ueshima to teach you?” he asked. “It’s his choreography, anyway. If you play this for him like you did just now, I don’t think he’d have much problem believing you.”

Fuji looked up at him, head cocked to the side like a thoughtful puppy. It was a rather endearing expression on Aiba’s features.

“That’s a good idea,” he said.

*

Tezuka was beginning to lose it. The more he looked at the little dots with sticks, the more his head hurt. He’d been able to read music since he was little but he’d never shown much talent in the arts. Thinking about pitch and rhythm, and especially harmonies and tempo… it was all beginning to give him a massive headache.

On the other hand, he had this insatiable urge to sing that he supposed came along with the body. Therefore, he kept struggling through songs that it felt as though he should know, facing a sense of unequalled frustration... no, that wasn’t really true. It was like the frustration of his arm injury. He wanted to do things he knew he was capable of but couldn’t currently physically achieve.

At least Shirota, Yuu had a good voice. It didn’t bother him so much as hearing himself sing because it wasn’t his voice, it was someone else’s voice entirely—one that sounded very nice in his ears.

Sighing, he drank the glass of water he’d been filling up from the bathroom sink all day. He should probably go over that duet again. He was almost terrified of it. If he screwed up, then both parts would be off. There was nothing for it but for him to be perfect, and that meant practice, practice, practice…

Just as he was reaching the bit where Fuji had replaced his partner in practicing the duet, the door opened and another voice took over. He looked up to see a familiar face from the night before, accompanied by Fuji. He almost had to double take, expecting to see the Fuji he knew rather than the imposter. Truthfully, he and Fuji were the true imposters. How had the tensai wrangled this man into helping them continue the infiltration?

Tezuka’s eyes shifted from Fuji back to his duet partner. He stared into the man’s eyes as he nervously came in with his next line. The other sang. Tezuka came in again, but the moment his partner began to sing in contrast, his voice wavered and died. He was trembling with nerves.

There was no way he could do this. Practicing with Fuji was one thing; performing in front of others was quite another. Knowing he was responsible for the performance of another was a whole new level of stress altogether.

Fuji sighed and moved over to join him on the bed. “It’s okay, Tezuka,” he said. “Try it again. Kazuki’s agreed to help.”

Tezuka looked up at this Kazuki in shock. “You told him?” he asked, his head swiveling back to Fuji.

“You could say that,” Fuji replied in that vague way of his.

Tezuka groaned.

Chapter Text

“Fuji, Echizen, is there a problem?” Yuu asked, keeping up appearances as he entered the locker room after finally having escaped Ryuzaki-sensei.

A deeper look told him that maybe something had happened. Aiba seemed rather nervous. Maybe he’d made a mistake.

“I’ll say there is,” Echizen muttered. “This isn’t Fuji,” he said, turning to face Yuu. “And you’re not Tezuka.”

Yuu glanced sharply at Aiba who blurted out, “He already figured it out and set a trap for me. How was I supposed to know?”

“Fuji-senpai would know,” Echizen grumbled under his breath.

“Well, obviously I’m not 'Fuji-senpai', so get over it!” Aiba snapped.

Yuu blinked in appreciation. Aiba could have a bit of a temper on him when pressed. It looked like his stress levels were reaching the limit.

“Then get the hell out and give him back!” Echizen shot back, a stubborn glint to his eyes.

No, really, they glinted. Yuu found himself subtly searching the room for an appropriately placed light source.

“If I could, I would—gladly—but obviously I’m stuck here. I don’t want to be here any more than you want me to. I can’t play tennis, I’m not a tensai, and I’m not ok with this kissing and touching and, and… damn you!”

Aiba was practically fuming, his eyes just as stubborn as Echizen’s.

Yuu laughed nervously. “Um, guys? Hey… Cut it out. Seriously. Oi. Hey! Aiba! Echizen!”

The latter practically snapped to attention at the sound of his Buchou’s authoritative voice commanding him. Aiba merely glared at him without fully turning to face him.

Yuu suddenly felt like he’d tried to put out a blaze by rolling in it and simply set his clothes on fire. “Thank you,” he said, a touch more confidently than he felt. “Now, if you can both just settle down for two seconds…” He took a deep breath and focused on the green haired short-ass. “Echizen, I’m sorry we tried to deceive you, but we didn’t have a choice. Would you have believed us if we told you? Believe me, we don’t mean any harm and if we could fix the situation, we would, but right now we don’t even know what got us into this mess, let alone how to reverse it. Whether you like it or not, you’re stuck with us, just as we are with you.” Echizen huffed and averted his gaze. “Aiba, I know you’re stressed,” Yuu began, returning his attention to his co-star, “But we’re going to get through this, so please just trust me—and have a little more faith in yourself. I don’t blame you and you shouldn’t blame yourself, either. Someone was bound to figure it out sooner or later and… if you’re bothered by what I think you’re bothered by… I’m sorry. I know it’s awkward, but I just talked to Ryuzaki-sensei and she gave us the perfect excuse to cool it off, okay? So you don’t have to worry about getting any closer to me than you want.” Yuu quickly changed the subject. “Now, before someone comes to check what all the ruckus is about, Echizen, I need to know what you’re going to do. Will you keep our secret?”

“We have a tournament in a week,” Echizen muttered, meeting Yuu’s eyes. Before the actor could even react to that shocking news, or the prospect of being stuck in this crazy world for more than a week, Echizen huffed and shrugged. “I guess you’re going to have to learn to play tennis before everyone figures it out.”

“You’ll teach us?” Yuu asked, surprised by the subtext he thought he heard in that statement.

“Well you can’t exactly ask anyone else, can you? Besides, if it comes down to it, one of you will probably have to play next week and I don’t want Seigaku to lose because of you morons,” Echizen replied, a little more acidly than was cordial.

“I don’t remember him being this much of a little shit,” Aiba grumbled, narrowing his eyes in a more than passable imitation of Fuji’s best glare.

“If I remember correctly,” Yuu began, a smile tugging at his lips, “He means well.”

*

Contrary to the amount of time it took for Fuji to convince him of the truth, Kazuki had very little trouble believing that Shirota, Yuu had stepped out for a little while. Confronted with the duet, Tezuka was fast turning into a basket case. They practiced and practiced, and every time they took a step forward, Tezuka’s confidence took three steps backward.

Fuji had left long ago, no doubt on a mission to convince Ueshima to re-teach him the entire musical… Meanwhile, Tezuka was sitting on the edge of the bed, his face and a crumpled piece of sheet music in his hands.

Kazuki came to the overdue conclusion that it was time for a break.

“Tezuka, let’s stop,” he suggested.

“I can’t. I’ll never get this right,” Tezuka groaned.

“We can come back to it, but you can’t over-work your mind like this. You won’t last,” Kazuki sighed, prying Tezuka’s tense fingers from the sheet music. It was odd, because technically he was dealing with someone he knew well, whose fingers he had no second thoughts about touching, but on the other hand, the person controlling those fingers was a different person entirely who Kazuki didn’t know at all and had no right to touch so casually. It was beginning to get rather confusing.

“There’s no time,” Tezuka practically pleaded. “How can I possibly go on tonight?”

“Tonight?” Kazuki stared at Tezuka in shock, finally realizing why the poor guy had been working himself to an absolute wreck. Suddenly, he groaned, hanging his head. He peeked up at Tezuka as he spoke. “Fuji told you you had to learn everything by tonight, didn’t he?”

“I… don’t?” Tezuka asked, sounding as though he was afraid to hope.

Kazuki looked straight into his eyes. “The next show isn’t for days. Why do you think Fuji’s not in a mad rush to learn the choreography?”

Tezuka gaped at him, then suddenly began to giggle a little disturbingly. “I’m going to kill Fuji,” he chuckled, leaving Kazuki feeling slightly nervous.

“Well, before that,” Kazuki began, trying to change the subject... “You should probably reinforce your strength. You haven’t eaten anything today, have you?”

Tezuka shook his head.

“Then since you’ve been working so hard, I’m going to treat you to an early dinner,” Kazuki offered. He’d already eaten earlier with Ai—with Fuji, but he suspected that Tezuka’s sudden, slightly insane tendencies might be partially induced by hunger and exhaustion. First, Tezuka was going to eat. Then, he was going to sleep.

It was in Kazuki’s best interests, after all. It was a nightmare working with an incompetent co-star in anything, and having gotten quite used to Shirotan’s competency, he wasn’t looking forward to having to walk a nervous wreck of a Tezuka through the show. The sooner he got Tezuka to relax and have a little faith in himself, the better.

*

Yuu dived for the ball, missing just barely, but too exhausted to reach that millimeter further.

Echizen's idea of 'teaching' them to play tennis was to play them one on two without holding back. They'd been playing for hours and Yuu felt simply hopeless. He was frustrated, short tempered, tired as all hell, and he just wanted to have a long shower and go to bed, but Echizen was bent on torturing him.

"Here I go!" Echizen warned, jumping to hit the serve that had foiled Yuu and Aiba time and time again.

Yuu had just enough time for a breath before the ball was spinning toward him. He made to receive it, even whilst knowing that the ball wasn't going to hit the angle he expected and that he couldn't predict the change in direction.

However, even as the ball made its irregular bounce, Tezuka's arm and racket seemed to move of their own volition and made contact with the rubber, sending it on a good return trajectory to Echizen's side of the court.

The boy returned it fairly easily but Yuu couldn't move, stunned by his own return. Aiba, however, made a desperate lunge. He hit the ball but it resulted in a lob, the perfect chance ball. Echizen took the smash and Yuu could only watch as Aiba seemed to panic and duck.

Only, that wasn't what happened. Aiba's racket made contact with the ball, sending it sailing over Echizen's head to land at the back of the court, unreachable.

Aiba had just performed Higuma Otoshi.

"Fuji?" Yuu asked uncertainly, assuming that the tensai must be back in his own body.

Aiba shook his head, looking completely dazed. "What just happened?" he asked.

"What I was waiting for," Echizen replied. "Muscle memory."

Chapter Text

Fuji was shocked at how easy it had been to convince Ueshima of his existence. In fact, the choreographer seemed to be incredibly open-minded. He really was an interesting person.

After a very brief introduction and a further-improved piano recital, Ueshima had declared that they’d best get to work. Two hours later, even Fuji was exhausted.

The day’s rehearsal with Kazuki had been nothing. Ue-chi was a slave driver. He was worse than Sumire-chan.

Still, after three straight hours, Fuji had the choreography and blocking for a quarter of the show down pat. It was already eleven o’clock at night.

“You’d best get some sleep, Fuji-san. You look rather tired. We’ll continue tomorrow,” Ue-chi told him.

“Well I did stay up learning music for most of last night. I’m looking forward to a good night’s rest,” Fuji agreed, not daring to say that he couldn’t possibly do another barrel turn if it cost him his life.

“Fuji-san, once we’re done with the staging, I don’t suppose you could help me with a little character research. I’ll be auditioning for the new cast soon and you might be able to give me a little more insight into the characters…”

“I’d be glad to help,” Fuji said, amused by the restrained eagerness in the choreographer’s eyes.

“Ah… Well, then. Good night, Fuji-san. Sleep well.”

“Thank you. You, too.”

Fuji entered the lift and Ue-chi turned towards the reception desk. The moment the doors closed, Fuji slumped against the wall. He was exhausted.

All he wanted was to crawl into bed with Tezuka, tease him a little, and go to sleep. However, that thought was put on hold the moment he opened the door to their room.

What he saw was Tezuka on the edge of the bed, his arms slung about Kazuki’s neck as he kissed the singer.

Said singer turned at his entrance and hastily disengaged himself. He seemed momentarily flustered before he started with the excuses.

“I… He’s a bit drunk. I just thought it might calm his nerves a bit, but Shirotan’s kind of a light drunk. I didn’t mean-”

Fuji smirked, his eyes twinkling as he noticed the subtle bulge in Kazuki’s pants.

“Technically, since it’s not his real body, I don’t mind sharing him a little,” Fuji admitted. “In fact, you can do what you want with that hulk of a body, I’m only dating the mind borrowing it.”

As he’d thought, Kazuki was momentarily surprised at the revelation of Fuji’s relationship with Tezuka. However, the singer’s greater concern was that his feelings for “Shirotan” had been recognized.

“It’s not like that,” he argued futilely.

“In that case, do you think these two would notice if I took advantage of Tezuka’s inebriation, then? He seems to think these bodies aren’t really our moral property but I don’t see why they should mind,” Fuji muttered, solely for the purpose of discovering what shade Kazuki’s cheeks would flush. It was quite a nice red, actually.

“I… I don’t think they’re… At least, I don’t think Shirotan is…” The blush deepened.

Fuji raised his eyebrows. “Well, if you want, you can have him now. Tezuka seems plenty willing. I’m a bit tired, anyway. I’ll just sleep in the armchair-”

The amazing thing was that Kazuki was obviously tempted for a moment but he overcame it and bowed to Fuji, announcing his departure for the night. Tezuka, however, evidently had other ideas.

He lurched to his feet, throwing his arms over Kazuki’s shoulders and pressing his body close to the singer’s back. “Stay,” he murmured, his hands partially exploring Kazuki’s chest.

Fuji had never seen Tezuka drunk before. Maybe that was because they were only in middle school and didn’t experiment with drink like some kids their age might because their focus was on sports and maintaining healthy minds and bodies. He imagined Tezuka would have a fairly sturdy constitution, though. Of course, there were some things utterly ruled by the chemistry of the body.

With only the vaguest touch of jealousy, he leaned back against the wall and watched Tezuka come on to poor Kazuki. Actually, Yuu and Kazuki made a nice looking couple, although Aiba and Yuu probably looked just as nice together—of course they did. They were cast as Fuji and Tezuka themselves, after all. It was a different dynamic between the two singers, though. Kazuki’s darker style capitalized on Yuu’s intensity, rather than the cute side Fuji’s brief research had shown him that went well with Aiba’s exuberance…

Tezuka seemed almost not to notice Fuji’s presence but even drunk as he was, it was more likely that he was just ignoring Fuji. Maybe this was supposed to be punishment for lying to him. After all, if he’d agreed to put down the sheet music for even five minutes, it probably meant that Kazuki had told him the truth of how long they had. No doubt Tezuka would be mad and a little vindictive…

Or, maybe he’d noticed Kazuki’s attractiveness just like Fuji had. That also seemed rather likely considering the lengths Tezuka was going to. Fuji couldn’t help feeling a modicum of annoyance that he had been pre-empted in that. Kazuki, meanwhile, was squirming. He glanced guiltily at Fuji’s smiling face even as he almost instinctively leaned into the touch. It seemed like he really had a thing for Shirota, Yuu.

Not that Fuji could blame him. Physically, Yuu was almost his type… in-so-much as he looked like Tezuka. Of the two, he personally found Kazuki more attractive. How ironic.

As he contemplated how good the two men looked in tandem with Tezuka expertly working his prey, Fuji was getting more than a little turned on watching. Only occasionally did Tezuka get like this, and while Fuji loved to be the recipient, it was also very sexy to watch.

He was definitely going have to try getting Tezuka inebriated some time. Apparently he was a horny drunk. Or was that Yuu?

*

Tezuka was vaguely aware that what he was doing was not normal—not for him. He wasn’t, however, in the mood to abide by ‘normal’. He was well aware that he was drunk and still conscious of the fact that he was in a very strange situation that had filled him with stress for the last day or so. Now he wanted to relieve that stress... but not with Fuji. No, he was angry at Fuji. Fuji had been playing games with him and allowed him to almost kill himself worrying over how he was going to get through.

On the contrary, he was currently rather enamored of Katou, Kazuki. The singer had a rather sexy voice that complimented his own current body’s voice nicely. Actually, he’d gotten distracted listening to it a couple of times, forgetting just for a short while about the pressure of getting the song right. There was something to be said about the bond of a duet; voices blending, tangling, entwining…

Furthermore, and very importantly to an inebriated mind, Kazuki represented Atobe in this… universe, or whatever it was. Tezuka couldn’t say he ‘liked’ Atobe but he had to admit a certain attraction to the rival captain—and Fuji loathed him. It was the perfect revenge for the sneaky, deceptive little tensai’s torture throughout the night and day.

He lowered his lips to Kazuki’s neck, gently kissing the skin. It was nice not having glasses get in the way of such actions and still be able to see.

Smiling against Kazuki’s skin, he pulled the singer down onto the edge of the bed, just beside him but embraced from behind by his tall torso. He whispered the word ‘stay’ again, flicking his tongue over the spot he had just kissed as Kazuki moaned very softly under his breath.

Briefly, he made eye contact with Fuji who smiled back at him far too serenely, and then succinctly left the room, closing the door behind him. Ignoring the exodus, Tezuka pulled Kazuki down to the mattress, twisting around to kiss him. The man only momentarily resisted before surrendering to Tezuka’s enthusiastic lips.

*

Fuji would have stayed and watched but for two reasons: one, being that he was quickly becoming more jealous than he expected and—short of joining in—he was better off elsewhere; two, he felt for Kazuki’s emotional dilemma and didn’t want the man to be shackled by embarrassment or regret. It seemed like he really liked Shirota, Yuu so if this was going to be his only chance, then Fuji should let him have it without intruding.

Besides, Tezuka was surely trying to punish him, so if he seemed too enthusiastic and actually got in on the action then he’d have to endure some other punishment that he might be a little more opposed to. Best to let Tezuka think he had the upper hand.

Just as he was wondering what he was going to do for the time being and whether he should invest in some real rest, the lift opened down the corridor and out came two very jovial, very drunk men, singing a familiar song as they stumbled down the hallway.

“Do your vest, do your vest…”

Fuji was of the understanding that the lyric was supposed to be “best,” not “vest,” which he understood meant something entirely different in English…

Damn, but that tanned guy had a voice to die for. How was it possible to get such a deep, sexy tone out of something so damned beautiful? He certainly wouldn’t mind undoing that guy’s vest…

Chapter Text

Yuu let out a loud sigh of relief, flopping onto Echizen’s bed. He was exhausted. What was that saying they used in Australia? Buggered? Yeah. He was buggered.

“Oi, you’re sweaty. Get off my bed.”

“I’m buggered,” Yuu replied in English by way of explanation.

“What?”

“Never mind him,” Aiba sighed, sliding down Echizen’s door. “I can’t keep this up,” he complained. “Not only the tennis, but the acting; twenty-four seven…”

“Figures,” Echizen muttered.

Dredging up the energy from somewhere, Yuu propelled himself upright, throwing his arms about Echizen’s neck and briefly wishing it was Yanagi he was hugging. “Aww, don’t be like that,” he said.

“Tezuka-buchou shouldn’t act like that,” Echizen complained.

However, Yuu was already off of him and hanging down to look under the bed. “Hey, where’s your cat?”

“What makes you think I have a cat?” Echizen challenged.

“Karupin. She’s in the anime… Cute cat. I wanna see her for real. Hey, is she really that fluffy? She looks really adorable…” Somehow, somewhere, he seemed to have found the energy to get excited.

It wasn’t every day people got to play with cute, fluffy Himalayan whatever cats after all. The chance to see Karupin up close was really one not to pass up…

*

In moments, Tezuka’s body—with Yuu inside, clearly—was under the bed, crawling around and looking for anything white and fluffy. Ecihzen watched impassively while Aiba simply wondered how in the hell he could still move.

When he came out the other side, looking disappointed, Echizen sighed, nudged Aiba aside, and opened the door. Only then did the other two belatedly notice the scratching sound. A white fur ball streaked into the room and jumped onto the bed, curling up.

It was strange seeing Tezuka’s eyes light up with excitement as Yuu crawled across the bed so as not to startle poor Karupin. He then gently pulled her into his arms and began petting her. Karupin, lover of all things cuddle-able, was purring within moments.

Well, at least if Karupin trusted him then Ryouma didn’t have to be wary. Now, if only he could get either of them playing passably before the tournament… Although he hoped they wouldn’t have to play. If Seigaku won both doubles and singles three then they’d be safe.

Actually, they could even manage up to singles two if he could somehow ensure that either Tezuka or Fuji was left as reserve. In the early matches, that might be an option.

“Mow mow… Mrow mow meow…”

Ryouma had to remind himself that the one making stupid sounds at his cat was not really his respected and admired captain. It was too disturbing to watch. When Yuu started playing with Karupin’s paws, Ryouma decidedly turned his back and addressed Aiba.

They had, after all, gotten off to a bad start, and who knew how long he’d be stuck with these two? He figured it was down to him to give them some tips on Tezuka and Fuji’s daily habits and how not to give themselves away and destroy the reputations his senpais enjoyed…

*

The two drunks noticed him at about the same time as he began to appreciate that sexy voice. They both stopped for a moment as if trying to make him out, and then stumbled forward together.

“Aiba-chan!!!”

“You should have come out drinking with us!”

“It was awesome!”

“Ruito got ID’d, though. Have you ever seen that happen before? It was nuts!”

“Kenken wiped the floor with us at pool.”

“Aibatchi…”

Fuji raised his eyebrows as the one with the deep voice cuddled him rather intimately. The other took his hand, leaning back against the wall.

“Come and hang out,” the deep voice breathed in his ear, and even Fuji couldn’t resist a shiver down his spine at the sexy sound.

He thought about Tezuka coming on to Kazuki, and made an executive decision. “Okay.”

Scanning faces with characters and names in his memory, he easily picked out the smaller one: Kenn, who played Yuuta. The tall one… with the heart-stopping voice… played Oshitari Yuushi, but Fuji hadn’t yet picked up his name.

They led him down the hall to the end room, ‘Oshitari’ herding him without releasing the embrace. He seemed to be quite an endearing drunk, actually. Kenn was just plain cute.

Fuji couldn’t help wondering if maybe Yuuta would have that kind of personality if it wasn’t for him having grown up with a tensai for a brother… No matter. Yuuta was Yuuta. Kenn was Kenn.

And Fuji was Aiba…

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” he asked. “You’re a little drunk…”

“Kenn’s a little drunk,” ‘Oshitari’ argued. “I’m very drunk.”

“All the more reason-”

‘Oshitari’ now had him pressed against the door, although he’d pulled back far enough that Fuji could see into his eyes.

“I’m drunk enough,” he began, “that I’m not too shy to say I want you.”

He seemed to be waiting for something, so Fuji gave him a little prompt. “I…”

“Last time, you thought I was joking.” ‘Oshitari’ smirked suddenly. “It’s kinda cute how you’re so naive, but I mean it, Aiba. I really like you.”

Fuji wondered how cute, pretty Aiba might react to those words, then decided that neither the guy pinning him to the door, nor the one fumbling around them with the key card was sober enough to spot any inconsistencies.

“I like you, too,” Fuji replied as he was backed through the now open door. He tried to make it sound more like a placatingly friendly statement. It would be no fun if he just gave in—or so he imagined.

“Aibatchi…”

Kenn had come up beside him, winding his arms around Fuji’s waist. He was just so adorable!

“Do you like me?” he asked, almost making puppy eyes.

“Of course,” Fuji replied, unable to resist that face, so much like Yuuta’s—and yet so different.

“’Kumi… Can I share?” Kenn practically pleaded.

“That’s not up to me.” ‘'Kumi’ slurred slightly, predatory eyes on Fuji. A moment later, he leaned in and kissed Fuji on the lips, easily pushing them apart with his own and slipping his tongue inside.

Fuji closed his eyes, his tongue responding rather eagerly even as he wound his arm about Kenn at his side. The guy he was kissing was tall enough that Aiba’s height was not obstacle, leaving little Kenn dwarfed…

Almost too soon, the kiss ended, ‘Oshitari’ leaning against Fuji’s forehead, his eyes closed as he licked his lips. He then kissed Fuji twice more, briefly, before finally pulling away and abruptly taking his shirt off.

Fuji hoped he sounded appropriately awed by the forward behavior as he asked, “Who are you?”

“He’s Takumi, I’m Kenn, and you’re Aiba,” Kenn answered, getting cuter by the second as he hugged Fuji tighter. Scratch that: “Can one of you screw me now?” Kenn asked, shifting until he was in front of Fuji, still clinging on. He then reached up to initiate another kiss, which Fuji was happy to enter.

Meanwhile, Takumi moved around and pressed himself up against Fuji’s back, the feel of his generous erection causing Fuji’s own length to harden significantly. Pulling Fuji back against him, he slid his hands around Aiba’s body, one sliding down to his crotch and the other up inside his shirt.

Fuji moaned into Kenn’s mouth as a long, nimble finger brushed his nipple. A moment later, light fingers were caressing his clothed erection and he pressed back against the bulge in Takumi’s pants.

Kenn was still kissing him, long, slow, and deep, and Fuji was starting to feel slightly lightheaded. Apparently he’d forgotten to breathe at some point.

Remembering Kenn’s oh-so-eloquent request, Fuji smiled against his lips and reached around the smaller man’s body. It was easy to forget that the people playing them in this musical were much older for the most part. That aside, he slipped one hand down inside Kenn’s jeans, Aiba’s slim fingers fitting rather easily as he slid one into the man’s crack, gently running it over his entrance.

Kenn moaned into the kiss, the sound vibrating against Fuji’s tongue and sending the message all the way to his erection—which Takumi was still tracing far too lightly. Meanwhile, the gentle brushes of his nipple had accelerated to rubbing and twisting and he cried out suddenly, his split senses having just caught up with the pleasant sensation.

Finally, Kenn’s lips left his own and he was able to breathe, his head flopping back against Takumi’s shoulder even as the man’s hand delved inside his pants; flat palm descending over the stiff, bare flesh of his hard length.

He pulled Kenn closer, lest he begin to feel neglected, and began to test the tightness of Kenn’s asshole by pressing against it and slightly inside. Kenn bucked, proving that he was rather sensitive, even whilst drunk.

“Shall we move to the bed?” Takumi suggested, his deep voice purring in Fuji’s ear.

Fuji shook his head. He didn’t want to move, not while Takumi’s hand was wrapped about his cock. Somehow, he didn’t think Aiba had gotten any for a while, and he himself hadn’t been allowed the satisfaction of finishing up with Tezuka the last time they’d been together.

“Aiba…” Takumi breathed, sending shivers down Fuji’s spine. “I promise I won’t hurt you,” he said, misunderstanding Fuji’s reluctance.

“That’s not it,” he gasped, forcing himself more tightly into the hand stroking him, even as he tried to rub against the hardness poking into his back.

The next thing he knew, Kenn was on his knees, tugging at Fuji’s jeans button. He had the clothing open and down in a moment or two, pulling down the white briefs with a spot of liquid staining them where the tip of his erection was leaking proof of his excitement.

Fuji swallowed, his mouth terribly dry, and wound his hand into Kenn’s short hair. He was very glad Yuuta’s actor had understood him, because he didn’t want to have to explain himself.

“Good,” Takumi whispered, his lips brushing Fuji’s cheek. “Because it’s taken a lot of alcohol to give me the courage for this. I want to make the most of it.” He gently bit the tip of Aiba’s ear, causing Fuji to gasp quietly though his attention was divided mostly between Takumi’s orgasmic voice and what was going on below his waist.

Kenn had begun to lick the permeation from his tip whilst Takumi continued to rub the swollen base. It left Kenn plenty of room but also meant that Fuji wasn’t cheated any of the pleasure of Aiba’s length. Kenn needed no help, though. His tongue was more than adept. He was swiping it over Fuji’s tip in broad, flat strokes, and alternately curling it around the head every so often. Soon, he progressed to wrapping his lips about it and tonguing the slit as he began to suck. Fuji moaned, leaning heavily against Takumi.

As Kenn’s mouth began to progress further down, Takumi’s hand retreated little by little. Damn, but Kenn had a hot little mouth; it was like a vacuum. He was sucking hard even as he took more and more of Fuji between his lips, and soon, down his throat. By the time Kenn was deep throating him, Takumi’s fingers had left his erection and begun to fondle his balls, stroking, squeezing, and even running between and below them, just shy of his entrance.

The dual sensations coupled with Takumi’s tongue on his ear sent Fuji over the edge quickly, and he was barely able to warn Kenn before coming hard in his mouth.

Chapter Text

Before Fuji even began to recover from his orgasm, Takumi lifted his limp body and carried him over to the bed where he was gently deposited. The luscious man then crawled over him and began to kiss him back to his senses, which was a very nice way to return to full sentience…

Lazily, Fuji glanced around for the other… Ah, Kenn was perched on the floor at the edge of the bed, licking his lips. He looked quite content to watch from there with his chin resting on his arms.

Fuji’s gaze returned to Takumi who was waiting for exactly that. He bent down to kiss the juncture between Aiba’s ear and neck—which was apparently an erogenous zone as Fuji gasped and felt his libido stir once more.

“Do you know what I want?” Takumi asked, his voice a purr in Fuji’s ear.

It took the tensai a moment to realize it was a serious question and not Takumi’s idea of talking dirty. Of course he knew, but if it meant he could hear it said in that delectable voice then he wasn’t exactly about to admit that…

Biting his lip like a good little nervous Aiba, Fuji shook his head.

Takumi didn’t elaborate right away. Instead, he pre-empted his point by grinding his rigid erection into the tensai’s rapidly re-awakening length.

Fuji closed his eyes and held back a moan. He wanted to hear it, he wanted to hear-

“Every time I see you dance, or hear your voice, or catch your sweet, beautiful smile… Every moment I’m around you, all I can think about is grinding you into whatever surface I can find until you beg me to fuck you,” Takumi growled into Fuji’s ear whilst continuing to roll his hips.

Those words, spoken by Takumi, combined with the constant pressure to Fuji’s erection had him aching hard again within moments. His breath caught, and even the still foreign sound of Aiba’s voice making such a cute little squeak turned him on.

“Please,” he whimpered, his ‘own’ voice driving him further into frenzy. “Please…” He groaned and arched as Takumi ground ruthlessly into him. “Please fuck me,” he begged at last, giving in with barely any persuasion.

Just for one, brief moment, he thought of Tezuka down the hall, drunk and in bed with the actor who played Atobe.

Then he looked up at the unbelievably gorgeous man on top of him and spread his legs, accepting another intense kiss; brief, but satisfying. He didn’t regret a thing.

*

Tezuka moaned, very much immersed in pleasure as Kazuki moved slowly but deliberately, each gentle thrust scraping his prostate and causing ripples of bliss to spread throughout his borrowed body. He no longer cared that he was using someone else’s body for his own gratification—who would with Katou, Kazuki slowly driving them to ecstasy?

Just as Tezuka began to think he couldn’t stand the lingering pace any longer, Kazuki stopped altogether. A very flushed and breathless Tezuka was hyper-sensitive to the fingers brushing his cheek, and looked up at the actor through lust-hazy eyes.

Kazuki seemed to have something to say, but instead, he leaned down and very tenderly kissed Tezuka’s parted, gasping lips.

For the first time since he’d gotten comfortable with singing with Kazuki, Tezuka felt like he was intruding—as though he was intercepting a message meant for someone else. All he could do was to vaguely hope that Shirota, Yuu got that message when all of this madness was over.

Then the tender moment passed. Kazuki pulled away, staring down into Tezuka’s eyes with pure lust as he began to drive into Yuu’s body. His muscles rippled with every thrust and a sexy growl slipped from his lips every so often that caused Tezuka to shudder even as he groaned, his nails digging into Kazuki’s taut back.

*

Fuji shivered as Takumi teasingly withdrew his fingers, causing a good amount of sensation to the sensitive area. He didn’t leave it be for long, though. Within moments, he was poised above the tensai, his deep brown eyes endearingly asking for permission. Even despite his raging and neglected hard on and decidedly non-passive behavior, he was considerately making sure that this was what Aiba wanted—how sweet.

Too bad Fuji was in no mood for sweet. He wrapped his legs about Takumi’s backside so that there was no misunderstanding, his hands rising to the actor’s chest as he slowly slid them up to the shoulders.

He was more than ready.

Smiling, Takumi shifted, directing his rock solid length to Aiba’s entrance.

“I’ve wanted this for a long time,” he murmured, pressing inside without hesitation.

*

Exhausted, Aiba flopped onto Fuji’s bed. He was too tired to even think about the craziness of the day.

Without even bothering to change, he simply lay there staring at the ceiling and wondering if he’d still be looking up at the same white roof when he woke in the morning. Only belatedly did he notice the ruckus that was migrating upstairs.

“Oi! Aniki!”

The bedroom door flew open and a glaring Fuji, Yuuta stood there, cross-shaped scar and all. Just as Aiba was dragging himself upright and preparing to deal with this latest obstacle, something painful-looking flew straight at his head.

*

Who would have thought Saitou, Takumi was such an incredible lover? Fuji had already experienced one orgasm at the lips of Kenn, but before Takumi even broke a sweat, Fuji was coming a second time, his body seizing up with pleasure as his mind was white-washed-

And then everything went black.

*

Tezuka tried to control his motor functions as Kazuki guided him upright. The singer was still inside of him and every subtle movement caused the pleasure to deepen. Tezuka was barely aware of anything but that sensation—he wasn’t used to being taken, and certainly not in such a sensitive body.

Forcing himself to focus even a little, he draped himself over Kazuki’s shoulders even as he began to roll his hips, riding Kazuki who was also in a sitting position. Their bodies rubbed together, their breath beating on each other’s shoulders and backs.

Tezuka could feel his orgasm approaching, unable to hold it back any longer. He barely managed a warning before he went rigid, gripping Kazuki’s shoulders hard enough to bruise.

His partner followed, holding him tightly and thrusting deep as he came, gasping an absent man’s name.

*

Aiba was aware of feeling really, really good. He was aware of feeling different, more like himself. He was aware of a pleasant yet strange sensation as though he was masturbating from the inside out.

With that odd thought, he opened his eyes to receive the shock of his life.

“Welcome back,” said Saitou, Takumi, the sound of his voice causing Aiba to shudder in pleasure—which was something he didn’t remember having happened before.

His senses returning rapidly a moment later, he finally realized what was happening—and with realization came a rush of sensation. He groaned, scrabbling at Takumi’s sweaty back for purchase; a handhold, or a lifeline.

He’d never felt anything like this before. His whole body seemed to be on fire and it was spreading from below the waist.

Taking a loud, gasping breath, he reached between their bodies, his hand closing flat over his erection. His cheeks must have been flaming red to match the shade of his swollen arousal.

“Is something wrong?” Takumi asked, his deep voice vibrating throughout Aiba’s body.

At the same time, another voice queried, “Aibatchi?”

Almost unwilling to look, Aiba glanced down past Takumi to the end of the bed where Kenn was sprawled. One hand was unable to be seen, supposedly shoved down his pants. He looked very drunk.

Overcome with embarrassment, Aiba could only groan in reply. A moment later, his head exploded with pain…

*

Fuji was not happy. One moment he was being driven insane with pleasure and the next he felt like a semi-trailer had crashed into and gotten stuck in his skull. He blearily opened his eyes.

For a moment, he thought it was Kenn hovering over him but as his vision sharpened, he was able to recognize his brother.

…And then Saitou, Takumi’s face stared down at him in confusion and Fuji released a breath of relief for the headache that was now Aiba’s problem.

“I…” He thought fast. “It’s okay. I didn’t know where I was for a moment but… it’s okay now.”

“You blacked out,” Takumi explained, brushing sweaty hair back from Aiba’s forehead.

“Hmmm,” Fuji agreed, his lips breaking out in a smile as he remembered. “I did…”

Now that the headache was little ebut a memory, he stretched out languidly and reveled in the lethargy spread through his limbs, running one hand over Takumi’s arm muscles.

That was all the incentive Takumi needed. He scooped Aiba’s small frame up into his arms and pulled them both over to the other end of the bed, Fuji now astride of a very hard, hot body.

Glancing just left of Takumi’s head, he was able to see Kenn staring up at him, one hand down his pants, the other now playing with Takumi’s hair; which guided Fuji’s eyes back to his lover.

It was obvious Takumi wasn’t going to last much longer. He’d already surpassed admirable and was bordering on miraclulous.

Sympathetic, and more than satisfied already despite the little detour, Fuji braced himself and began to ride, making sure that Takumi’s hard length struck his sweet spot every time, urging him towards a quick but fulfilling orgasm. He wasn’t sure whether Aiba’s staying-power was born of innocence or simply incredible but as he stroked himself, crying out, he felt the warm rush of Takumi’s release, accompanied by a long, low groan that dragged Fuji’s climax out longer than a third consecutive orgasm should ever last.

Chapter Text

“Aniki?”

Aiba opened his eyes once more, pain having taking place of the pleasure he had just been immersed in. He felt groggy, but worse, he hurt!

“Kenn?” he asked weakly, his vision swimming a little.

“Huh? Aniki, it’s me…”

‘Who’s me?’ Aiba wondered to himself. Actually, he thought he’d said it aloud, but obviously not.

“Aniki …” The voice was now quiet and timid. “It’s me, Yuuta. Can you see me?”

“Yuut-oh. Yuuta.”

Finally Aiba began to catch on. For a moment he’d been in his own body,but now… What the hell had Takumi been doing to him!?

“I’m going to kill him!” Aiba yelled, sitting up a little too abruptly.

His head reeled and he half collapsed back down.

“I’m sorry!” Yuuta wailed. “I didn’t think it would hit you! You were supposed to catch it! You always do! …I mean…” He cleared his throat. “It’s… it’s your fault for just sitting there like a dumb ass and letting yourself get hit.”

“Would you shut the fuck up? My head’s killing me! My fault? You threw a pot at me!” Briefly, Aiba spared a moment from his agony-inspired rage to identify the offending object now lying on the floor with an ominous blood stain. “You threw a fucking cactus at me!”

“Syusuke, mind your language,” a calm voice reprimanded.

Only then did Aiba realize that there was someone else in the room—a pretty blond woman.

“Yuuta, go downstairs and have some dinner, you’re not helping the situation-” “But-” “Syusuke’s obviously taken a rather nasty,” she paused to glare significantly at the younger boy, “blow to the head and he’s a little disoriented. He’s not himself. I’m sure he’ll be feeling better in the morning.”

With a bit of grumbling and another mumbled apology, Yuuta finally slunk out of the room.

“Now, you lie down, dear, just as soon as you’ve swallowed these.” Some form of medication was slipped between his lips. “And taken a swig of this.” A glass of water was pressed to his mouth and he was manipulated into drinking. “There you go… Lie down, now. Your headache should subside soon… That’s better. You know, I really don’t approve of such language. Syusuke would never speak like that--you should keep that in mind if you expect to fool people. Yuuta won’t be fooled for long, you know. He’s pretty sharp despite that dull exterior and he loves his brother enough to notice certain changes. Lucky you have an excuse tonight—though not for missing that cactus in the first place…”

“Could you please stop talking?” Aiba begged, her voice chiming in his head.

Her giggle was like an arsenal of knives in his skull. “Sorry, dear. I’ll let you sleep.”

“…You knew?” Aiba asked belatedly, reluctantly opening his eyes to survey her expression.

“Of course. I know my brothers better than they know themselves. Whatever Syusuke’s up to, I trust he knows what he’s doing. Now hush, go to sleep.”

Aiba was only too happy to oblige.

*

Yuu overslept. Consequently, in his half panic to get to school, he ended up on the wrong bus and didn’t realize it until he’d already counted the amount of stops he was supposed to ride—and found he wasn’t at Seigaku.

Frozen in horror, he just stared as the doors of the bus closed and the vehicle moved on, carrying him further and further away from his destination. In fact, it was several more stops before he was able to calm down and just get off the bus.

A sense of numbness set in and he forced himself to think rationally, first looking around at his surroundings. It shouldn’t be much different from the Tokyo he was used to—but Tokyo was a big city. If he was lost… Of course he was lost.

He certainly wasn’t meant to be in such a fancy looking, upscale area.

The easiest thing to do would be to catch a bus coming back the other way so he began to walk, looking out for a bus stop on the opposite side of the street that he could wait at for another bus to come by. However, the next bus stop be found fronted a school.

*

Atobe was only around the front gates for a short while. He’d had to deal with some urgent paperwork his father had sent his way concerning an attempt to break into his private bank account—as if such a feat was possible.

As annoying as the occurrence was, he was able to appreciate it when he spotted a familiar form wandering toward his school looking lost. For just a moment, he frowned, wondering what Tezuka was doing at Hyoutei rather than trotting along to class like a good little captain.

No matter. If even fate bowed to Atobe’s will, then he could hardly complain.

*

Yuu had planned to find out if he could catch a bus back into the city from the school’s bus bay. However, as he got closer, he realized something fatal. This was no random school that he had stumbled across; it was one he knew of quite well—and one he did not want to be at.

Especially when he recognized the person staring at him from the school’s gates: Atobe, Keigo.

For a moment, Yuu thought very seriously about turning around and walking away but even from such a distance, he could see that Atobe would only follow and catch up to him. Running away was pointless. He would have to face Atobe either way and it would be best to do so with the confidence befitting of Tezuka, Kunimitsu.

By the time he reached Atobe, he still hadn’t thought of a decent cover story. In fact, he was distracted from attempting to do so the closer he got.

It might even be accurate to say that he was ‘awed’ by the Hyoutei captain’s general presence. Seeing Atobe in person was a little bit shocking. He had an aura of confidence that Yuu had never seen in anyone before, but just one look and one could tell that he had every one of the credentials to back that confidence up.

“Is something wrong, Tezuka?”

Was he referring to Yuu’s unorthodox appearance at this school, or the way he was studying Atobe so closely? Either way, Yuu’s bad morning was just getting worse and worse.

“Have you seen Fuji?” Yuu asked, blurting the first thing that came to his mind as he firmly stepped into character.

“Fuji?” Atobe asked dryly, his eyebrows raised. “Shouldn’t he be at school? … At your school?” the narcissist added.

“Where Fuji should be and where he is are not always one and the same,” Yuu replied, feeling a touch of smugness at his improvisation.

Atobe finally moved away from the surface he’d been casually leaning on. He straightened up and walked a couple of steps past Yuu as if surveying the street beyond the school’s boundaries.

“Even so, what makes you think he would be in this place of all places?” Atobe asked skeptically—and with every right to be so.

“I have my reasons,” Yuu replied cryptically. He walked forward to stand beside Atobe, momentarily distracted by the other’s presence at his side. He glanced at the captain from the corner of his eyes before catching himself. “I take it he’s not here.” A momentary pause and then he continued: “I’ll catch a bus back to school, then-”

“Tezuka.” There was a dangerously bland tone to Atobe’s voice. “There won’t be any buses from this stop for an hour or so.”

“Aa… Of course…. Then I should start walki-”

A hand on his shoulder stopped Yuu from taking another step. He couldn’t hold back a wince. What had made him think he could possibly get away with this?

Without even asking—or removing his hand—Atobe made a deft phone call instructing his personal limousine to pick them up at the front gates.

“That’s not necessary,” Yuu insisted.

“Of course it is. Nobody can accuse me of being a bad sportsman,” Atobe replied without a single note of leeway.

“Aren’t you supposed to be-”

“At school?” Atobe finished, the implication of his returned accusation clear in his voice.

Yuu was about to reply but slowly closed his mouth. He would only dig his hole even deeper.

*

Aiba was in panic mode.

For some reason, Yuu hadn’t shown up for practice—again—or, as far as Aiba knew, class. He was either really, really late, or he wasn’t coming. Worse, people had been muttering and glancing at the nasty bruise on Fuji’s forehead all morning and he knew they were all discussing how strange it was for tensai Fuji, Syusuke to be sporting such a blemish.

Echizen had been so damn smug about it. He was really getting all high and mighty, telling Aiba what to do and what to say, and muttering about how Yuu was going to give his captain a bad image, skipping practice again. Aiba was really starting to hate the snarky little brat.

“Fujiko! Kajiyama-kun made a bet with me that you tripped and fell and I told him that couldn’t possibly be true so now you have to come and prove him wrong!” Kikumaru cried at morning break, dragging Aiba by the arm.

“K-” No, Fuji used his first name. “Eiji, I really don’t think-”

“So how did it really happen? Did you valiantly dive in front of a car to rescue a pre-schooler? Was it a stick up at a bank? Did you catch them?”

Aiba laughed nervously. “Actually, Yuuta thr-”

“Save it to tell Kajiyama-kun. I can’t wait to get that thousand yen out of him!”

Sighing, Aiba wondered what he could say to placate Eiji without getting himself into too much trouble.

“So, how’d you do it?” asked a guy with scraggly, dyed blond hair. “Hit your head on your trip down the stairs?”

“Aaa, I guess you could say that…” Aiba agreed, trying to think fast. He caught Eiji’s nervous glance and blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “She was a bit rough. Her… hair got in my eyes while we were… Well, let’s just say I didn’t mind the fall.”

With that, he walked away, mentally wincing at his story whilst everyone else—Eiji included—stared dumbstruck in his wake.

Was that a Fuji thing to say? How many people knew he was with Tezuka? Kikumaru had to know he was lying… He could always just pass it off as a passing whim and make up another story later… Yuu was right. He really did have it easier as Fuji. ‘Tezuka’, however, was going to have some explaining to do.

Chapter Text

Fuji hovered over the face that resembled his younger brother's so well. Upon inspection of the sleeping man's expression, he decided that some water, bread, and heavy painkillers would not be amiss when the guy finally woke.

Good thing Takumi had already gone on a mission to find those—and promised to bring a portion back for Kenn as well.

Just as Takumi returned with the above-mentioned items, Kenn stirred, squinting rather drastically in an attempt to avoid the light.

"Aiba?" he groaned weakly.

"Mhmm. Here, drink this."

He pressed the glass he'd taken from Takumi to Kenn's lips. After a couple of unnecessarily complicated sips, he inserted a couple of capsules between the man's lips and then raised the water to them once more.

"Swallow," he encouraged—thinking of a similar instance the previous night and struggling not to purr the word. "There you go."

Kenn sighed, tension seeping from his body as he once more sagged against the bed.

"Where am I?" he asked a moment later. "And why are you here?"

Fuji glanced briefly at Takumi before taking the initiative and constructing a lie. It was better if he caused as few ripples as his curious nature could avoid.

"You were very drunk last night. I was worried so Takumi and I stayed to look after you. How do you feel?"

"Sick."

Quickly, Fuji motioned for the bread Takumi had begun to nibble on. Reluctantly, the walking sex god handed it over, his fingers briefly brushing Fuji's and causing Aiba's recently over-used manhood to twitch with attention before giving up the ghost.

"Eat this very slowly. It'll soak up some of the alcohol. Though, if you don't remember anything, I doubt you'll keep much of that down for long..."

Kenn obediently began to take small bites of the bread, his forehead constantly creased as though suffering from the pressure of a headache, which would not be surprising. Fuji really couldn't help taking care of Kenn who reminded him so much of Yuuta. He was quite able to separate the boundaries of the intimacy they'd shared from the brotherly concern he currently felt. However, that was not so much the case where Takumi came into the mix.

He had to admit his libido was certainly enamored but Tezuka probably wouldn't quite see things his way if he led Takumi on by displaying that interest. He was going to have to gently let Takumi down once Kenn was properly dealt with. After all, it wasn't like this reality was something less than his that he could play with as he wished. As he was beginning to experience bonds and feelings concerning these people, he couldn't dismiss them as arbitrarily as he had first thought.

If Aiba was less than thrilled with Fuji's actions in his body, he might take that out on Takumi. Fuji didn't want to be responsible for that. He was probably going to have to tell Takumi the truth before he figured out a way to make the exchange back into his real body permanent, but until he was ready for that...

All he had to do was convince Takumi to give Aiba a little time to think. That should keep Tezuka off his back...

For the first time since he'd woken, Fuji wondered how Tezuka and Kazuki had gotten along. He hoped Kazuki had enjoyed his little taste of Shirota, Yuu, because things were getting more complicated than Fuji had intended.

*

Such a spacious limo and yet Atobe chose to sit right beside Yuu. There was nowhere to go but out the door of a moving car. If Atobe moved any closer, he’d be in Yuu’s lap.

Naturally, the proximity didn’t seem to bother Atobe in the least. He had one leg propped up on the opposite seat, further trapping Yuu, his body relaxed into the comfortable leather cushioning.

He had poured himself a glass of sparkling cider from the miniature bar, offering one to Yuu who had refused once he realized it wasn’t the alcohol beverage he could sorely use right now. Atobe continued to sit an sip at his cider, his eyes on Yuu as they had been for the last five minutes.

“Tell me, Tezuka. What were you really doing at my school?” he asked all of a sudden.

Yuu closed his eyes as Atobe’s thigh brushed his. He’d been afraid of that question, and yet had almost convinced himself it wouldn’t come.

“Fuji-”

“I didn’t ask about Fuji,” Atobe muttered. He crossed his outstretched leg over the other, cradling the cider glass in his right hand as his left stretched out to touch Tezuka’s thigh.

“Fuji…”

“Is at Seigaku.”

“How would you know?” Yuu snapped, irritated by Atobe’s assumption. Unfortunately, it wasn’t too characteristic of Tezuka to snap at a rival.

Atobe smoothly raised an immaculately shaped eyebrow. Slowly, he leaned towards Tezuka’s ear and whispered, “I think you had another reason.”

Yuu stared straight ahead, suddenly afraid that Atobe would try to kiss him if he turned his head even slightly. What was more frightening, though, was that he was almost inexplicably tempted to do just that.

“What other reason could I possibly have?” he challenged, lost for a better retort. He regretted it immediately.

The hand that had been almost harmlessly resting atop his thigh slipped between his legs and began to glide up between them.

“I think… you came looking for me,” Atobe muttered, his lips brushing Yuu’s ear.

Acting more upon reflex than anything else—and Tezuka had some damned decent reflexes—Yuu caught Atobe’s hand before it reached his crotch (which was beginning to awaken with embarrassing alacrity).

“That is the last thing I would ever do,” Yuu replied, meeting Atobe’s predatory gaze with one of resolve—which meant that he’d turned his head just as Atobe had counted on, and the rival captain’s lips were on his in a moment.

Briefly, Yuu struggled, confusion and panic causing him to grip Atobe’s hand tightly. In fact, he pulled the narcissist even closer in his very attempt to back away, and as there was nowhere to back away to, it resulted in Atobe’s body flush against his.

Then, Atobe’s tongue forced its way into his mouth and he stopped resisting. The pleasant sensation and the feelings that were suddenly awakening inside of him temporarily re-routed his brain.

The crazy, ridiculous thought that he was being kissed by Atobe flashed like wildfire through his mind, followed inexplicably fast by images of Kazuki and then of Aiba. Everything was so confusing.

Yes, Kazuki played Atobe in the musicals, and Aiba was trapped along with him and had experienced some similar, compromising situations since they’d… arrived, and now Atobe was kissing him, and he was supposed to be Tezuka who was with Fuji, and… and…

Yuu whimpered into the kiss, sliding down in the seat as Atobe rose over him, kissing him more deeply. He slid his arms around Atobe’s body—he needed to hold on to something, or so he told himself.

The next thing he knew, Atobe was down on the floor of the limousine, tugging at his pants, and then Yuu was moaning and grinding his head back into the leather seat as Atobe worked the formidable length between Tezuka’s thighs to full attention.

*

Tezuka awoke, his head pulsing slightly. His mouth was dry and he felt… uncomfortable, but that was nothing to the mental discomfort he felt when he opened his eyes and was reminded that he had slept with Kazuki the previous night.

He'd gotten drunk.

He'd never been drunk before.

Fuji was going to kill him.

But only after he killed Fuji.

He was still mad... but maybe they were about even now. Besides, thanks to Fuji's little deception, he had gotten a huge head start on learning what he needed to know. From now on it would be much easier...

Instantly, the stress that hadn't quite subsided melted away. Tezuka let out a slow breath of relief. He should apologize. Despite the method, Fuji really was only trying to help him... But where was Fuji?

Brushing that thought aside, Tezuka returned his attention first to the legs draped over his own, and then to the body and later face that belonged to them. A memory or two of the previous night probably brought an embarrassing blush to his cheeks.

But Kazuki looked happy. In his sleep, he wore a rather pleasant smile that tugged at Tezuka's sympathy.

Though they'd only known each other a short time, Tezuka felt rather fond of Kazuki. He wanted the other man to be as happy as he looked right at that moment. Not many people would go so far out of their way for a person who had essentially taken away a loved one. He hoped that once things were back to normal, enough would have changed to make that smile a permanent fixture.

Sighing, Tezuka rubbed at his face and started to swing his legs off the bed. However, he winced and slowed his haste significantly. If he'd had any previous doubts about Yuu's virginity towards this kind of sex, they were now utterly destroyed. He certainly hoped Fuji didn't plan to get back at him by starting on the dancing today. In retrospect, another day of frantic music study mightn't be so bad...

*

Atobe was obviously not new at this. Every single motion of his lips, tongue, and teeth, caused Yuu to tremble in pleasure. Even the simple thought of Atobe himself deep-throating Tezuka of all people pushed Yuu close to the edge.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he was resisting what was happening, questioning himself and everything around him. But that part wasn’t urgent enough to matter. What was urgent was the groan ripping through his throat in Tezuka’s deep, authoritative voice, and the bliss spreading from his groin throughout his body. His hand buried in Atobe’s hair, Yuu sharply drew in a breath, his belly contracting and rippling with gratification.

Once he was spent, Atobe crawled up his body and kissed him again, transferring the lingering taste of Tezuka’s orgasm into Yuu’s mouth. More confused than ever, Yuu could hardly do anything but obediently respond to the kiss.

“Was that what you came for?” Atobe asked, his voice husky and deep.

The pun struck a chord in a Yuu whose strings were wound very, very tightly, and a deep chuckle slipped out, momentarily surprising even him. He stomped on the amusement instantly and shook his head.

“No,” he said in reply.

“Then did you want something else?” Atobe asked seductively, ignoring the strange behavior—as if his own weren’t strange enough. Draped as he was over Tezuka’s body, he couldn’t fail to make a point by way of the erection poking Tezuka firmly in the stomach.

“Fuji,” Yuu replied suddenly. “I mean… I’m—with—Fuji.”

“No, you’re not,” Atobe argued, his lips teasingly moving within reach of Yuu’s but not touching them. “Tezuka is,” he said suddenly, and then he did kiss Yuu again—the idol caught so off guard that he responded almost automatically to the deep, passionate kiss after a frozen moment of shock.

“This really is delightful,” Atobe purred against his lips. “I never knew he had a twin… I suppose you would, actually, be Tezuka, too, ne?”

“A-aah. Tezuka… Mitsukuni,” Yuu replied. He could have sworn he felt a drop of sweat form by his left temple… Good thing Atobe couldn’t see it.

Chapter Text

Ueshima simply couldn’t wrap his mind around it. Of course, surely that was forgivable under the circumstances? Yet he believed, god help him. He believed that the one picking up dance steps like a Russian ballerina was truly Fuji Syusuke, an animated character come to life. He also believed that the robot-stiff hunk with two left feet was none other than Tezuka Kunimitsu himself. Of course, Shirotan had never been a dancer per se, but he at least had a sense of rhythm and body line. Tezuka… was going to take some work. Even so, Ueshima had hopes that his performance might improve once the hangover wore off, at least. In the meantime, it wasn’t so hard to nudge aside his anxiety over the coming performances and simply enjoy the show before him.

He was certainly getting a deeper insight into two of the most complicated characters in the script. Fuji was almost ruthless in teasing Tezuka but Ueshima suspected there was a deeper meaning behind that lack of sympathy. It seemed that Fuji was usually quite easy going and could handle losing to others except when he really put his talents on the line and that meant facing Tezuka. Now, with Tezuka scrambling to keep up like a complete amateur—which, admittedly, he was when it came to dancing—Fuji was truly enjoying being the one on top.

Meanwhile, Tezuka seemed overwhelmed by anxiety which was never a trait Ueshima had imagined the character subjected to. However, he was coming to suspect that it was actually part of a deeper insight on Teuka’s behalf. He recognized the tensai’s need to defeat him and while he would never give that ground in tennis, he was less concerned with more artistic endeavors. Yes, Ueshima was sure he allowed anxiety in for the sheer purpose of encouraging Fuji’s sense of accomplishment.

Well, perhaps not entirely, but it was definitely a factor. Yet as enlightening as the observation was, Ueshima was going to need Tezuka at his best. There were no understudies for most roles and certainly none who could perform Tezuka himself as well as… And there it was, the ultimate solution.

“Break time,” Ueshima announced, slapping pause on the CD player. “Let’s go refresh with some soda and you boys can tell me more about you and your friends. Then we can discuss a little something called method acting.”

*

“So how did you really do it?”

Kawamura was the seventh person to pose that question today. So far, Aiba had come up with several gems including one involving stopping a pair of rival yakuza gangs from taking out an innocent bystander in a turf war flare-up.

He was actually starting to have fun with it. “It was quite funny, really. There was this cat, stuck up in a tree, and… What?” Well gosh darn it if Kawamura didn’t actually look hurt.

“Forget I asked. I just thought you would be straight with me,” said the aspiring sushi chef. Looking away, he picked up his tray and began to stand.

“Taka-san...” Aiba reached out, laying a hand on the boy’s wrist. It felt right. “I’m sorry. If you want, I’ll tell you the truth.”

Awww, it was like looking at a despondent puppy who’s just been told it can go for a walk, even in the rain. “It’s just… It looks bad. I can’t help worrying.” Except Kawamura sounded far too pleased to be worried right at that very moment.

Aiba let his lips form into a natural smile that felt utterly foreign on Fuji’s features. “Yuuta threw a cactus at me,” he said.

“And it hit you?” Kawamura gasped, all but dropping his tray onto the table as he fell back into his seat.

“Shhhh,” Aiba hissed. The last thing he needed was to attract any more attention. “I let it,” he added. Let Kawamura think of that what he would.

“I knew it! You selfish, stuck up prig!”

The entire classroom of frolicking, eating, laughing students went dead silent and a tingle knifed down Aiba’s spine. Slowly, he turned, and there behind him was his—Fuji’s—little brother. “Yuuta? What are you doing here?”

“I actually felt bad but I bet that’s what you wanted, wasn’t it? I’ve had enough of this. Play me! Right now!” He stormed out of the classroom, leaving a wake of heads slowly following his progress then just as slowly drifting back to examine the older brother.

“What will he do if I refuse?” Aiba asked, unable to see any other option.

Kawamura looked sympathetic. “You know that’s not really an option. Come on. We may as well get this over with before the soup gets cold.”

*

“This isn’t Seigaku,” Yuu pointed out, glancing out the window of the limousine which had finally, finally stopped. Except, instead of the school Yuu recognized—or any school, for that matter—he now looked up at what passed for a small palace.

“No, I rerouted our destination while you were preoccupied. After all, there’s no point in taking you to a school you don’t attend. Welcome to Atobe Manor.”

Within ten minutes, Yuu was hustled into what Atobe called a solarium, dropped on a sunbed piled with the softest most luxurious cushions he could imagine and gifted with a virgin martini in his left hand and a fistful of hair in his right as Atobe showed him new ways of kissing he never would have imagined.

“So,” hummed the millionaire, “Why don’t you start by explaining why I’ve never heard of you?”

In the car ride over—whilst submitting to admittedly not unpleasant ravishing—Yuu had had time to think things through; a lot of things, actually. One was a backstory for his impromptu twin character but among other things, he had finally begun to come to terms with the fact that not only was he not adverse to Atobe’s advances but frankly, he was loving it. It was kind of like learning you could swim by being thrown in the ocean with no life jacket. He knew Tezuka was not unaccustomed to this kind of romance so he didn’t feel much guilt there… Well aside from the fact that this was the guy’s sworn enemy he was thinking about screwing… Anyway, one thing he did know was that he was tired of keeping up the act of this Spartan of a teenager. It was time for a new role.

He laughed, full-throated and hearty. “Now that is a real story,” he said. Donning all of his best charm, he slipped out from under Atobe, taking to his feet with a sip from the martini. “I bet you’d just love to hold it over my brother.”

Atoba’s expression seemed to have clouded over momentarily as he watched Tezuka’s fit, sexy body stretch like a cat just awakening from a long sleep. “Te… Kunimitsu? No, this has nothing to do with-”

“Of course it does. Why do you think I came for you?” Yuu purred, letting the pun achieve its full potential. “I wanted to see the man who crippled my darling brother. Actually, I wanted to give you a taste of your own rough treatment. How dare you lay your hands on my brother before I could have my chance at him? But you changed my mind.”

“Aa? And how did I do that exactly?” Atobe asked, his momentary unbalance melting away as he stretched out languidly on the sunbed, a cocky grin teasing his lips.

“It’s not so much what you did,” Yuu replied, sauntering back over and throwing one leg over the Hyoutei captain’s. “It’s just that I hadn’t expected you to be so…”

“Handsome?”

“Devilish,” Yuu whispered, dipping to kiss the neck.

He did wonder how long he could keep this up for. Sexy villains were not his forte, but it was a fun change from the usual Tezuka.

“Tell me more,” Atobe crooned, sitting back like the lazy prick that he was and enjoying Yuu’s star treatment of his body. “Start from the beginning.”

*

Aiba sweated and grunted, dived and dashed, and he managed to keep Yuuta at arms’ length. Fuji was fit—even more so than the skinny dancer Aiba was, in truth—and his body knew tennis; it knew how to react and how to hit but the mental aspect was still far beyond him and Yuuta was wearing him down fast. He lunged for a ball, only to feel an almost physical sense of shock as the shot smacked loudly on the opposite side of the court.

“Okay, that’s enough! Yuuta, you can see for yourself that it’s not worth playing this game right now,” Kawamura cried, striding out onto the court.

“Get out of the way!” Yuuta growled.

Aiba crawled to his knees then pushed up to his feet. He’d skinned his elbow badly and it stung like hell. Just as he opened his mouth, another wave of complaints rose from his—Fuji’s—from Fuji’s team.

“Probability that Fuji has a concussion, 87.43%,” announced Inui. “This game simply cannot continue.”

“Well whose fault is that?” the younger Fuji snapped. “Oh, come on! He’s faking it! A few more games and you’ll see!”

“If you insist on taking this any further,” said Kawamura, “then you’ll have to accept me in Fuji’s place. I don’t want to play you but I’LL CRUSH YOU, YOU INSENSITIVE LITTLE TWERP! UUURRRAAAAHHHHHH BURNING!!!!!”

Aiba stared in shock at the empty hand which had been grasping a racket only moments ago. He almost jumped as he looked up at Kawamura, the boys’ eyes ablaze with real miniature flames. Damn, that was creepy. Really, really creepy.

“FUJI, GET OUTTA MY WAY! YOUR PIPSQUEAK BROTHER IS GONNA LEARN SOME MANNERS!”

Aiba all but scrambled off the court, right into Kikumaru’s arms as the little acrobat guided him to a bench already pouring water into his scrape. “You shouldn’t have gone so easy on him. He’ll only be encouraged.”

Aiba didn’t trust himself to reply, so he just held the offered towel to his elbow and watched the intimidating match unfold before him.

*

“Hmmm, interesting.”

“What is?”

“The way you seem to have romanticized us. So innocent. So valiant.”

“Some of us are,” Tezuka cut in with a warning glare but Fuji was accustomed to ignoring those.

“Yes, some of us are valiant, I suppose. Some of us,” he acceded with an amused glance at Tezuka.

“Well, from the sounds of it, you could probably teach my boys a thing or two,” Ueshima returned. “Most of them are quite dense, which gets mistaken for innocence easily enough.” The choreographer hid his next words behind his soda glass. “Then again, unless I miss my guess, you’ve already begun.”

“Ueshima-sensei, I-”

Tezuka’s futile apology was cut off as Ue-chi laughed in his face. “They, at least, are grown men, and if they’re finally working out some of that annoying sexual tension, far be it from me to complain. You boys pull off the show and we’ll be square.”

Tezuka frowned, thoughtfully; Yuu’s forehead wrinkling with the cutest little squiggles. “I think you may have a point,” he said at last. “About method acting, that is. Now that I think about it, the lines and even the lyrics come naturally to me. If I just relax and be myself I think I can handle it and even the stage fright won’t be an issue but dancing-”

“Is it really so different from tennis?” Ueshima asked, cocking his head to the side.

Fuji had been nonchalantly sipping at his cola while Tezuka thought and expressed his conclusion but now he glanced up. True, both were highly physical activities requiring specific muscle training and quick thought…

“How is it you are able to hit such special shots, Tezuka?” Ueshima asked. “How does your body know what to do time and time again?”

“Muscle memory, of course. The body is trained to… Just as this body is trained to… dance.” Fuji felt a touch of pride at the confidence that suddenly infused Tezuka’s tone. “You insinuate that if I practice hard enough and remember the steps to a certain point, then this body will handle the rest.”

“Do I? Oh, well if you think that makes sense, I suppose we could give it a try.” Ue-chi was downright devious. Fuji almost wished he could take the man home when this was all over.

*

“Dear me, what an interesting life you have led.” Atobe’s words were barely short of a moan as Yuu slowly pressed into him. If he was gonna try this gay sex thing, he didn’t care how much of a diva he was doing, he was definitely gonna be on top. “Sent away because your family consider you the ‘evil twin’—and I dare say they are right—and you grew up in Australia? How uncouth! Those people have no refinement. And then you come back here to find yourself forgotten entirely by your very twin and the family who pretend you never existed. My, what a dramatic tale.”

Yuu groaned, burying his face in Atobe’s neck. He’d never been with a girl in this particular way. It just hadn’t seemed appealing really but… wow. It was definitely worth the experimentation. For a brief moment, looking down at Atobe, he could easily imagine Kazuki writhing beneath him and the thought drove his lust to a new level as he began to pound the boy beneath him.

Atobe really was just a boy but so was Tezuka. There were so many layers of wrong to this and yet Yuu felt none of them strike home. Maybe it was an effect of living in this 2D, water color world but his morals, ethics, and scruples in general were definitely slipping.

“And now you seek revenge on your brother. Well, you certainly, haaa, came to the right, mmm, person!” Atobe arched, wrapping his lithe thighs about Yuu’s backside. Next thing he knew, Yuu was on his back, Atobe riding him determinedly like a true equestrian champion. “I’m sure we can work something, aa-out.”

Tezuka may have been used to this, but Yuu was not. He rarely dated anyone and when he did, the sex was usually pretty uneventful. This was incredible, and probably not just because it was his first time with a guy. Atobe was good… Really good. Yuu silently vowed never to tell him that even as he moaned, hips thrusting a pace faster.

Thought went out the window as Atobe’s hips ground faster and faster and the boy leaned low, nipping at a nipple. Braced on one hand, his other traced down Tezuka’s arm, smoothly feeling the skin, drawing teasing patterns… and then they were pressed flush together and Yuu was coming, spasms wracking his body while Atobe clamped down tight, cock crushed between them and twitching with release.

It was truly, wonderfully mind-numbing and when sensation came back, it returned with a little gasp—and then a groan. Yuu blinked, at first unable to comprehend the pain. He turned his head to the side.

“You almost had me, you know,” Atobe panted. “But the body doesn’t lie… Kunimitsu. What was this little game all about, hmmm? Did you want me that badly?”

Yuu groaned again, now for a very different reason. He knew he wasn’t thinking clearly and a part of him insisted that this boy was very dangerous, and way smarter than him, but he didn’t see what else he could do.

“Okay! I’m not Tezuka!” he cried. The ensuing pressure and pain in his arm drew a small shout from him. “I know this is his body but I’m not him, honestly!”

“Now—that—is a tale I can almost believe,” mused Atobe, slowly releasing the pressure on Tezuka’s arm and propping himself up on his elbow instead. “Do elaborate, and this time, drop the act.”

Chapter Text

Trapped beneath Atobe, Yuu gave in to inevitability and told his true story. Clearly, good acting was not enough to fool this boy’s insight and, frankly, the truth didn’t seem so crazy anymore between the ridiculous story he’d just made up and the super-powered tennis that existed in this universe. Besides, if Atobe didn’t believe him, did it really matter in the greater scheme of things?

It seemed he needn’t worry about the answer to that question, in the end. Still pinning him, Atobe laughed. “A truth stranger than fiction! There’s just one thing you ought to know, though…” For a moment, Atobe’s piercing gaze was so intense it was frightening. “Your biggest mistake was in presuming my benevolent self would be swayed by an enemy of Tezuka.”

“I can’t imagine what could possibly have given me that idea,” Yuu replied dryly, running through a lengthy list of perfectly viable reasons in his mind.

Finally, Atobe released his now lax hold on Yuu’s arm and shifted to sit squarely atop his waist, somehow folding one flexible leg forward and the other back in a delicate position that optimized balance and poise. Incredible. “So you play the role of Tezuka in this musical… The Prince of Tennis. Curious title, if you ask me.”

Yuu had to scroll back through that comment, trying to make sense of it while he struggled to unlock his brain from its distracted stupor. “How so?”

“Well, clearly it should be King of Tennis, aan?” Atobe had begun idly drawing patterns on Yuu’s chest and he was trying to figure out if they added up to anything when he caught on.

“Why would… Oh. I’m terribly sorry to inform your worship…” He wasn’t all that sorry. Actually, he was pretty amused and that finally snapped him out of his strange daze. “But you are not that main character. That would be Ryouma.”

The lazy patterns stopped and Atobe’s hands slammed down to either side of Yuu’s head. “Echizen? That cocky, insufferable brat? Why would anyone write a musical about him?”

It was difficult to resist making a mocking little “kiss kiss” at the outraged diva. Yuu relaxed and stretched out languidly under Atobe’s body. “Well, first they wrote a manga which became an anime before it was ever a musical but… if it makes you feel any better,” he very softly stroked the exposed belly hovering above his own, “You probably have the biggest following of anyone outside of Seigaku or maybe even at all… Actually, your following is a little unique for that matter.” He leaned upwards to whisper into Atobe’s ear. “You get birthday parties, and special merch released just to celebrate, and all sorts of other perks…” Flopping back down as his abs began to protest their recent over-use, Yuu laughed. “It’s kind of insulting, really, considering what you did to Tezuka… Anyway, aren’t you interested in how I got here?”

“Not particularly.” Somewhat mollified, Atobe backed off, eyeing Yuu critically before shrugging off the question completely. “You clearly don’t have a clue. What I’m far more intrigued to find out is how 'I' can get 'there.'”

Yuu’s breath caught. “You want to go to the real world?” That seemed awfully dangerous for far too many reasons.

“Your so called ‘real world’ sounds like my kind of place,” Atobe murmured. The way he pinned Yuu with his gaze and slowly leaned down to rest his elbows was so Kazuki-like it was almost jarring. Or was Kazuki’s manner Atobe-like? He really did have the character down. “Besides, it sounds like they could use a little education on who the real hero of this story is.”

“It’s kind of creepy how quickly you resort to referring to your own life as a story…”

“For that matter, it’s rather arrogant of you to put your world above this one, don’t you think?”

That gave Yuu pause for just a moment but he wasn’t about to get into a philosophical debate under these conditions. “It seems kind of obvious which world is real. The colors here are all off… Not to mention everything in this world is all just part of one story written for entertainment in my world…”

“Aan?” The way Atobe tilted his head and unleashed that scrutinizing gaze warmed Yuu in ways that he should be well immune to by now. “And is our meeting a part of that story?” Not unless it was rated R. “Is everything that happens in my world dictated by what was written in yours?”

"You know, it’s entirely possible that someone drew a doujinshi about this… which is a terrifying but also somewhat fascinating concept,” Yuu replied, suddenly finding himself wondering if somewhere out there, some twisted fan had come up with exactly this scenario… Was that what this was? Did he somehow get dragged into some fan’s crazy re-imagining?

Completely ignorant of Yuu’s belated existential crisis, Atobe had taken mild offense to the offhanded comment. “We have our own stories, you know. Our own manga, anime, movies, musicals, books, and all! Perhaps your life is documented in one of them, aan?”

“I’m just… gonna stick to the simple version where my reality is real and The Prince of Tennis is a manga that I somehow happen to have fallen into.”

“And how do you plan to return with that logic? Or were you planning to stay here and masquerade as Tezuka forever? I, for one, am thoroughly opposed if that is the case.”

“Wow. And here I thought we had really hit it off.”

Yuu couldn’t quite explain the little lump of disappointment in his chest at those words. Since when had he become an Atobe fan? Was it so unreasonable of him to feel a little attachment after the hot sex they’d just engaged in? Sure, he’d been lying the whole time and Atobe was on to him the whole time—meaning that he’d screwed a guy he knew was deceiving him with absolutely no compunctions, which didn’t bode well for his sense of emotional attachment… Ok, so he was definitely expecting too much. Lower the bar, Shirotan; lower the bar.

“I have every intention of hitting it off a few more times before I send you packing and come along for the ride—but when all is said and done, you’re going to get burned at the stake when all those simple-minded worshippers of Tezuka’s realize you took him away from them.”

Instead of lowering, the bar was definitely rising. “In that case, I’d better enjoy life while I still can,” Yuu quipped, intending to somehow reverse their positions with an upward surge—but the move was intercepted and turned against him as Atobe shoved him down hard by the shoulders and began to kiss him with a ferocity that put him thoroughly in his place.

*
“You know, when I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you sing before,” Fuji mused as they practiced singing along to a DVD of the summer run that Ueshima-sensei had given to them. His comment came as Zuki sang a short solo—proving just how far he had come in a relatively short time. It gave Tezuka hope.

“I’ve never had much use for singing,” Tezuka admitted. “But… it’s not so bad.”

“Admit it, you’re starting to have fun,” Fuji teased.

He was right. There was something about singing that expelled a measure of stress and that, in turn, registered as fun. Tezuka was beginning to consider music itself in a brand new way. What had once seemed an unnecessary distraction for an athlete appeared to have unexpected merits.

“You’re right. I am,” he agreed, running the next set of lyrics through his head for the part he was about to sing.

“Certainly, if you’re even willing to admit it,” Fuji replied with a measure of surprise.

Ignoring the song entirely, Tezuka turned to study his boyfriend… The face was Aiba’s but it was a fair representation of the Fuji Tezuka knew, yet far easier to read. Controlling one’s features wasn’t something that came naturally, after all. What he saw there tugged at his heart strings.

Fuji was jealous. Fuji. Jealous.

It was his own damn fault Tezuka had slept with Kazuki; he had no right to be angry about it… He wasn’t angry, though, was he? He was jealous. Did he think Tezuka would leave him for Kazuki? Did he even expect them to stay in this world indefinitely? Tezuka realized all of a sudden that he had indeed been on the verge of falling for Kazuki with the idea that he would snap out of it as soon as they were back in their own world and then things would go back to normal between them. That was, until Kazuki had spoken a different name. It wasn’t Tezuka that Kazuki saw but Shirota, Yuu; just as Tezuka certainly saw Kazuki and not Atobe… without a hint of a shadow of a doubt… For sure.

Meanwhile, Fuji had been keen to brag about his exploits with Saitou, Takumi and Kenn… Tezuka wasn’t quite sure what to make of that but since he claimed to see only Kazuki and not Atobe, he could give Fuij the benefit of the doubt on that one... Ok, so maybe there was a little attraction for Atobe mixed in there but personality made a world of difference…

He wasn’t jealous. Not only was it not the first time Fuji had gone and messed around with other guys while they were dating—in fact, that was the tensai’s preferred form of punishment and it had nearly broken up the golden pair for good—but he found he didn’t quite count this experience to be a true part of their timeline.

…If they really were fictional characters, then their story was already set and this detour was just an extra—something outside of the canon. Did that make it less than real? When they returned to their world, would they even remember the whole fiasco?

Then again, for all his assumptions, who knew if they would ever make it back permanently? Maybe Tezuka should stop treating Fuji-as-Aiba like a temporary glitch in his life…

“Fuji… I’ve been unfair to you,” he confessed.

For all his vindictive nature, one of Fuji’s merits was that he was quick to forgive. That was all the cue he needed to pull Tezuka into a deep kiss even as the combined voices of themselves and their peers serenaded them with a beautiful ballad—even if it was like no mainstream ballad Tezuka had ever heard. Then again, he began to see the poetry in the words as he looked down at Aiba pinned beneath him, dotted with beads of moisture that gleamed like crystals. Hunching at the waist, he seated himself fully inside of his lover and lowered his lips to an abdomen rising and falling with little gasps and sighs of breath. Slowly, he licked away a trail of sweat all the way up to a trembling chin before resuming their love-making to the pace of the catchy encore tune that continued to play in the background.

*

Each word was punctuated by a blow of fists to Yuu’s chest. “Where! Were! You!?”

Just to prove how angry he was, Aiba finished the barrage with a shove that would have sent Yuu stumbling a few steps. Tezuka’s body swayed a bit.

The futility of his blows took some of the wind out of Aiba’s sails and he took a step back but the anger was just as keen as ever. “You can’t just skip school! This isn’t a game, or a role you can just step out of whenever you feel like. Right now, this is our reality! If we get hurt? It hurts! It really, really hurts! We could die here!”

“Ok, now you’re just being a drama queen,” Yuu muttered. “Aibatchi, I’m sorry-”

“Don’t call me that!”

“Ok, Aiba-”

“That’s not what I meant! Call me Fuij, you idiot!”

“Fine. Fuji. I’m sorry. I got kidnapped, ok?”

"You... what?”

“Long story short: Atobe knows who we are and he’s dead set on hitching a ride back to our world. I know; weird, right? Anyway, I came back here as soon as I could get away. He’s surprisingly clingy.”

“What?”

“Yeah, for such a narcissi-”

“Atobe knows? That Atobe? The Atobe who tried to destroy Te… your arm?”

Yuu shrugged. “He’s not that bad, really. Actually, he’s a pretty good guy… in some ways. He didn’t even hold it against me that I lied to him while we… Uh, never mind. Anyway, he can probably help us.”

“While you what?” Where his eyes would have narrowed in real life to express his angry suspicion, now they widened drastically. Perhaps his perspective was warped by all the bizarre situations he’d found himself in lately but he could have sworn Yuu was about to say… “Did you have sex? With Atobe?”

“You, uh, might want to lower your voice… and your pitch. Damn, Aiba… Does it really bother you that much?”

Ignoring the sheepish tone, the name used, and the reprimand, Aiba lunged, gripping Yuu’s collar and yanking him close until they were face to face. “Since we got here, I have gone from singing onstage to cumming, instantaneously… naked… with you… I have woken up in my own body being screwed by Takumi while Kenn watched… And that was after that whiny little brother of Fuji’s threw a cactus at my head and I’m the one who got scolded for swearing! Today, while you were getting your rocks off with that asshole Atobe, I had to cover for you and my own pathetic lack of reflexes… and then play against Yuuta! My knee stings like hell and I still have a raging headache—which is getting worse because I’m yelling at you! Does it bother me that you abandoned me to go and sleep with Atobe, of all people? Yes! Yes, Yuuu, it bothers me!”

“Aibatchi… Maybe you really have been through too much lately. That’s the only reason I can see for you being jealous—of Atobe, of all people.”

In retrospect, the slap was a bit vicious. The wounded look that followed it was probably the most influential factor in what came next.

Guilt was the main force that brought Aiba’s hand to Tezuka’s cheek a second time—this time to soothe, not to harm. He wilted at the unguarded expression that was all Yuu under Tezuka’s stern features.

As if time became a collage of events that he could see before him, Aiba knew exactly what was coming. He also knew he wasn’t against it even though he had told himself the opposite right up until this point. He knew he was still furious and that he was going to take that all out on Yuu later on. He even knew that there were others involved in this mess who were going to make this thing really, really complicated in the very near future.

He let Yuu kiss him, anyway.

Chapter Text

If he was being honest, it wasn’t like Aiba was the first guy Yuu had crushed on. Most of the time, he smothered those kinds of feelings for guys because it was just too complicated but there were times when he stopped trying to fool himself for long enough to guiltily wallow in the feeling of a crush.

The knowledge that this body was plenty accustomed to that kind of romance was blurring the lines he’d drawn for himself. What had happened with Atobe had been so sudden, so hot and passionate. It was Yuu’s first time with another guy and it had been only hours ago… But sleeping with Atobe and kissing Aiba were two totally different things.

Aiba was real, for one. Well, as real as Yuu, anyway. It also just felt really fulfilling to kiss someone you’d thought would never like you back.

For someone who wasn’t gay, Yuu was blatantly enjoying this particular kiss. Or was his sexuality a moot point after what had happened earlier? What was the big deal about sexuality anyway? Would it really matter if he was gay? Or bi? Or whatever…

Aiba was certainly kissing him back with a good deal of affection. That was when Yuu began to suspect that the one he was kissing was really Fuji, having switched in again through whatever means kept bumping them in and out of each other’s bodies. Oh well. Might as well enjoy it.

“Yuu…” It really was Aiba who pulled away from him with an unusual soft look in Fuji’s eyes. “When this is all over, I’m going to have to give this some real thought. For now, we have bigger problems.”

Frankly, Yuu had been prepared for an outburst or a scolding… anything but this admittedly reluctant but none-the-less accepting acceptance. Just how much was this experience changing them both?

“Bigger problems. Right. What was that about a cactus?”

*

Aiba couldn't remember a time he had so enjoyed the sensation of kissing. Whether it was due to different sensitivities in the body he now occupied, the touch and feel of Tezuka, or a result of Yuu’s technique, he reveled in the slow slide of tongues and caress of lips. When Yuu’s hands caressed his arms or belly, he felt an unusually vibrant thrill, and yet, he would have been happy to kiss for hours without going any further.

The mellow sensation that had stolen over him so swiftly and decisively began to dissipate the moment their lips parted and sense made its inevitable return. The one thing Aiba knew was that this kiss wasn’t casual, accidental, or flippant. He was far from knowing what to do about it and it was doomed to be shuffled to the bottom of his priority list for the time being but for now he had to treat Yuu with a modicum of consideration.

“Yuu, when this is all over, I’m going to have to give this some real thought,” he said with an internal sigh for the contortions his brain would likely go through. “For now, we have bigger problems.”

Only after he spoke did he remember the reason he had been yelling only moments ago. How could he be sucked in by a kiss when Yuu had been with Atobe only a short time ago… This world was distorting his perception of reality and self beyond comprehension.

Briskly, Aiba broke away and smothered his conflicting instincts with a flat recount of all that had befallen him since they parted the day before. To his credit, Yuu followed his lead, listened to his story, commented appropriately, and made no further mention of the kiss, or Atobe, or the damn cactus.

Then It was Aiba’s turn to play the grown up and listen to the relevant points of Yuu’s “kidnapping” and Atobe’s plans. He bit his tongue more than once to refrain from pitching in with an acidic comment and refused to give in to a growing sense of jealousy. Later, later, later. They had bigger problems right now.

*

Yuu rocked lightly from side to side, perched cross-legged on Fuji’s bed. The rocking matched the swaying of his thoughts and stopped when he drew breath to speak. “There's one thing I can't quite pin down... Originally, Tezuka’s elbow was hurt, right? The shoulder injury happens in the match with Atobe. It's already happened—it's been bugging me ever since we got here... So if the match with Hyoutei has already happened as it has in Hyouteimyu and my shoulder was already hurt... Shouldn't I be in Kyuushuu? Or Germany, if we're talking about the anime...”

Aiba had kept an almost insulting distance since the kiss was broken. Now, he turned away from the window he had been staring out of with a crease in his brow. “Does it hurt badly?”

“No,” Yuu answered, grateful for that truth. “Just when I try to do certain things I'm used to in my own body.”

Aiba scrutinized him as if he could see through the encasing flesh to the injury… That might even be possible for Atobe… Yuu really needed to stop remembering Atobe with Aiba staring right at him with that piercing slit-eyed gaze of Fuji’s. “Do you think you can play tennis?”

“Play, yes. I can't promise I'd be any good at it.” Of course he’d asked a friend to help train him a bit as some basic background work on the character that was Tezuka but playing tennis and winning at tennis were as different as singing karaoke alone in a private room and performing in front of hundreds of people. “I guess I can’t use my arm as an excuse…”

“Absolutely not!” The glinting flash in Fuji’s eyes was a perfect expression of the intense flare that was Aiba’s ire. He calmed a moment later—almost too quickly. Maybe being so immersed in being Fuji was rubbing off on him. “This is just a theory but... the manga isn't finished yet and the anime is between OVAs. What if... What if we're stuck in a time period between what's happened already and whatever Konomi-sensei has planned?”

He gave Yuu a moment to consider it and the wheels began to turn. “So I've already been to Kyuushuu and back? Or Germany? ...Then why does my arm still... Aw, man. Tezuka’s gonna lose again, isn’t he? I hate losing.”

“Sit on the floor,” Aiba ordered. “Let me take a look at it.”

Doing as told, Yuu waited for Aiba to sit behind him on the bed and then stripped off his shirt. There was a telling delay before callused but gentle fingers caressed the surface of his shoulder.

As he felt around the muscle and joint with increasing pressure, Aiba voiced his concern. “You can’t tell anyone about this. If someone found out, Tezuka would be done for.”

Yuu shifted uncomfortably but it wasn’t because of the ache caused by Aiba’s probing fingers. “Atobe already figured it out,” he admitted guiltily.

Aiba froze momentarily but then his fingers resumed the exploration that was beginning to turn into a gentle rub. “Atobe can’t be helped. He has that Insight thing, after all. Besides, Ryouma already beat him. But whoever Tezuka’s next opponent is, if they find out about this weakness… You have to hide it.”

Yuu nodded then let his head hang. The massage felt really good. He hadn’t realized how consistent that tiny thrum of pain was until it was soothed by Aiba’s deft fingers. “You’re really good at that,” he murmured.

“I'm a dancer,” Aiba replied.

The words were short but he sounded pleased and the strength channeled into his thumbs doubled. Dancers did have to take more care with muscles and limbs than most—even more than athletes as dancing involved every part of the body. Yuu had seen first-hand just how fluid and flexible Aiba could be…

Before long, he was putty in Aiba’s hands. The massage spread across to the other arm and down his back while continuously returning to keep that problem spot warm and pliable. It was all Yuu could do not to groan and draw the attention of Fuji’s family.

At some point, Aiba had nudged him forward and slid off the bed as he worked down the outside of the left arm, manipulating tight nerves that almost sighed with relief when released in favor of the next inch of flesh. There was nothing erotic about this massage; nothing sexy at all. Sometimes it was pretty painful for a moment or two. So why the hell was Yuu flushed and getting hard?

Was Tezuka’s body so attuned to Fuji’s touch that it would respond to just about anything? Or was it because inside that mysterious young tensai’s body was none other than Aiba? Or was Yuu just a horny dirtbag? Anything was possible, really.

“I told you, we have more important-”

The words were a useless interlude between make-out sessions. Aiba hadn’t flinched when Yuu kissed him; hadn’t made a single move to pull away. He only voiced his complaint when they parted, gasping, for breath. Yuu only listened for as long as it took him to refill his lungs before closing in on those lips again. Once again, there was no resistance.

Seeing as it wasn’t actually his body, Yuu could unabashedly admit that Tezuka was a sight for sore eyes. He had the kind of lithe, sporty muscles the lanky idols Yuu hung around with could only long for. Maybe putting his hands all over that form had been more than Aiba’s resolve could handle. At least, that was Yuu’s best guess when his wandering hand crept over an impressive bulge to match his own. One drawback of being back in a teenaged body… Then again, Tezuka was probably more experienced than the body Yuu had left behind.

One thing led to another with a strange familiarity that left Yuu staring up hopelessly into Fuji’s sky blue eyes as a kneeling Aiba loomed over him and ground down. Aiba was panting lightly and flushed but his expression was straightforward and unguarded. In that moment, he was seeing only Yuu… only Tezuka.

Was it messed up that that last fragment of a thought was the one to unravel him? “I’m gonna-” He threw one arm around Fuji’s torso, clutching that slight body and muffling his grunts of pleasure in the folds of the stiff white uniform shirt Aibatchi was clad in even as he rocked forward for balance and every muscle in his ripped torso went rigid.

*

Aiba didn’t know what had come over him. He’d told himself over and over that he had to put aside the distracting thoughts and not altogether unpleasant feelings until he was better equipped to deal with them. What he hadn’t counted on was the unrestrained sex drive that came with this body. He could feel what touching Tezuka’s skin and caressing those muscles was doing to him, and observing Yuu’s unabashed gratitude for that touch on stoic, private Tezuka only made it worse.

By the time Yuu kissed him, he would never even have considered pulling away. On the contrary, he felt as if he switched gears into offense. The words he spoke when they parted for a gasped breath were nothing but an empty facade. Reality made itself clear the moment their lips reconnected.

Spread-kneed atop a kneeling Tezuka, he had the advantage of height and that gave him an unexpected thrill. He wasn’t used to looking down at skyscraper Shirotan. Even if the body was different, it must have felt disconcerting to Yuu to be looking up like that.

Every breath echoed loudly in his ears; every collision and grind sent contractions of pleasure and restraint through his abdomen. He wanted to see Yuu get off and he worked single-mindedly toward that goal without pausing to wonder where the impulse came from.

However, it wasn’t Yuu’s pupils that swelled with dark, desperate lust behind those glassy panes, or Yuu’s gruff voice that sounded from an untrained throat. It didn’t matter. When Yuu grasped him tightly and voiced his pleasure into Aiba’s chest, it was as satisfying a capitulation as he could have imagined. Trembling slightly, he shoved the hand that wasn’t trapped against his side down his own shorts and brought himself to a swift, strong climax.

They sat there, defiled and out of breath, for a short while before Yuu raised his face at last. Whatever Aiba had expected him to say, it certainly wasn’t what came to be.

“Your eyes are blue.”

“Huh?” Was that the best he could respond? Drawing breath to scold Yuu for such a banal comment after such a hot moment, he let that same breath out on a sigh as Yuu cut him off.

“They’re blue. Like in the anime. In the manga, Fuji’s eyes are brown.”

“Kimeru wore blue contacts,” Aiba replied stupidly, for lack of a substantial topic to divert to.

“We should talk to Ryouma and find out about the other discrepancies. Did I go to Kyuushuu or Germany? Did Ryouma or Kaidoh play against Aoi from Rokkaku? We’ll need to know these things.”

It was a good thing that Yuu was taking their situation seriously, so why did it annoy him so much? Before he could control himself, he flung Yuu to the ground and buried his face in the crook of neck and hard-muscled shoulder. “Yuu… Shut up for a little while.”

There was so much they needed to talk about yet the fact that they had bigger issues remained. Aiba just needed a moment to feel and process. Then they could move on with the important things, like getting out of this crazy place before he really fell for this idiot.

*

Without a word, Fuji walked right up to Araki, took the key card in his hand, replaced it with his own, picked up his bag, and headed for the elevator. He smiled what he hoped was a pleasant smile and punched the button to hold the door open. “Coming?” he pointedly asked his roommate.

“Sorry. He’s been helping me out with some steps,” Tezuka hedged, backing toward the elevator with his own luggage in tow. “It’s easier if we share a room.”

Araki’s raised eyebrows hadn’t moved an inch since Fuji’s unsolicited exchange and now his attention swiveled from one to the other. “Oh, I’m sure it is,” he said—in a tone so cryptic, Tezuka would have protested if Fuji hadn’t already instructed the elevator doors to close on them.

Tucked patiently in the corner was a smirking Katou, Kazuki. “Not a word out of me,” he responded to Tezuka’s imploring look.

“Who are you sharing with?” Tezuka asked, genuinely curious.

“Takumi, I think,” Kazuki responded with a shrug, even as Fuji shifted slightly—his equivalent of pricked ears. “He’s probably face-down in the sheets already. Traveling wears him out.”

“Well that ought to make things easy,” Fuji quipped with a leer.

Amusement burned out quickly as—Tezuka guessed—Kazuki finally started to get a real read on Fuji. His expression was flatly unassuming as he asked, “Do you… ever… think about anything else?”

“Oh, I think about a lot of things,” Fuij responded, with an equally blank expression.

Tezuka just sighed and toed his small trunk out of the elevator as it pinged open on their floor.

“Anyway, he’ll be out of commission for tonight so after you guys take a shower… or whatever… why don’t we go check out the town a little bit? We’ll be too busy tomorrow,” Kazuki suggested cheerfully.

While it was a temptation, as Tezuka hadn’t been to this part of Fukuoka before, he had to question the wisdom. “Is that such a good idea? Shouldn’t we all be resting for tomorrow? Or practicing, in my case-”

Dropping the bag he’d been hefting, Kazuki walked back toward Tezuka and placed two sturdy hands on his shoulders. “You’ll be just fine. I could see you drilling steps and lyrics in your head throughout the whole trip down here. What you need now is to relax. A good, hearty bowl or two at Ramen Stadium, some fresh night air down by the fountain, and then we’ll get you tucked away in bed so you can face your anxiety dreams sooner rather than later, ok?”

“I don’t… I won’t… Fine. We’ll see you soon.” Tezuka practically ground his teeth as he watched Kazuki slip his key-card into a door across the hall and one room down. “Just so you know,” he said, before Kazuki disappeared through it, “I’m not anxious. I feel confident.”

“Good!”

The last word belonged to Fuji, who hauled him into their room and promptly began to settle things to his liking.

Chapter Text

Kazuki really hadn’t been sure about going into the Jump Store in Canal City. Aside from the potential of running into Tenipuri fans, there was the uncertainty of whether or not Tezuka and Fuji should be exposed to the serialization of their lives that was the Prince of Tennis manga and anime. None-the-less, Fuji was drawn to the store from afar and Kazuki’s protests only made him more curious. It didn’t take him long to figure out what Kazuki was afraid of.

“We won’t learn anything we’re not supposed to,” he said, even as he flipped through a random volume of the manga. “The internet is just as handy in this world as in ours. I’ve already figured out that everything released up to this point has been covered in our lives and then some. Things have been a bit quiet lately,” he mused. “Sometimes time seems to flow much more slowly than at others. If our world is truly the result of fictional writing, then perhaps it’s waiting for the author’s next move.” All of this, he said at a perfectly normal volume with no regard for who might overhear. “I’d be very interested to meet him…”

Kazuki wasn’t quite eager to do the mental gymnastics so he just let the explanation slide—and the thought of Konomi-sensei come face to face with the real, live Fuji—and wandered off to browse the Death Note merchandise. By the time they left, Fuji had gathered himself up a bag full of phone straps, badges, stationary, magnets, and all sorts—mostly of Tezuka goods with the occasional item of his own.

“And they call Atobe a narcissist,” he commented smugly, favoring Tezuka with a smirk in response to a rather undignified snort.

“It’s one thing to become famous,” said Fuij. “It’s another thing entirely to suddenly discover that people are selling your face on all sorts of useless items.”

“That’s… actually a fair point,” Kazuki conceded.

He was surprised when Fuji turned a smile on him that didn’t reek of suppressed malice. It was almost as if Aibatchi was in there for a moment.

The release of nerves he felt then alerted him to how tense he had been around Fuji. He resolved not to let that tension come back.

“What’s that?” Fuji asked, pointing past Kazuki. “It seems like the kind of place Echizen would like.”

His line of sight led directly to McDonalds, where several cast members were doing impressions and laughing loudly. Groaning, Kazuki hoped Fuji and Tezuka were as opposed to junk food as they seemed like they might be.

“That… is McDonalds,” Kazuki said shortly. “Come on. Let’s get some real food.”

Tezuka raised his eyebrows. “Ramen?”

“…It’s really good ramen,” Kazuki defended. “And compared to that junk, it’s a regular buffet of nutrients.”

Later, as they slid down in their seats embracing over-full bellies and fighting off sleepy satiation, Kazuki lazily watched his two companions from under half-lowered eyelids. They interacted so naturally together. Even though his eyes showed him Shirotan and Aibatchi, it was easy to see through those facades to the two brilliant boys within.

The more he thought about it, the more they both surprised him. He wouldn’t have expected Tezuka to be the kind to have fallen into bed with him, or anyone—drunk or not. He seemed very dedicated to Fuji, as one would expect from such a dependable character, and yet… there was something more fragile about him than Kazuki had ever considered. Perhaps there was a much deeper emotional well in there than anyone had guessed. It made Kazuki wonder what depths he had yet to discover in the character of Atobe.

As for Fuji… Fuji was a mystery. Just when Kazuki thought he was hated, he felt like maybe Fuji liked him a little bit, after all. Just when he felt they might just be able to get along really well, he felt like he was being challenged. As a result, he really had no idea where he stood with the tensai.

A fresh wave of insecurity assaulted him as he watched Fuji open up a package containing a random can badge and pull out the likeness of Atobe. Without any alteration in his expression, he tossed it into the dregs in his ramen bowl like so much trash, then moved on to the next random item. That one—Ryouma—fared better. A soft smile came over Fuji’s lips and he added it to the stash of Tezukas and Fujis.

“Do you hate Atobe that much?” Kazuki asked quietly, before he could stop himself.

“Probably about as much as you hate that McDonalds place,” Fuji responded lightly.

Kazuki might not be a tensai but he wasn’t a total idiot. He spotted the trap but he figured it wasn’t worth dodging.

“I don’t hate it. I just don’t like being reminded of the other world I live in,” he said softly.

“Other world?” asked Tezuka, sounding genuinely intrigued.

“I work there. At McDonalds,” Kazuki explained. “It’s my part-time job.”

“You have a part-time job?” The betrayal of surprise from Fuji was unusual but Kazuki figured he knew where it originated.

“Atobe might be rich but I’m certainly not,” he informed them. “I moved to Tokyo to become a singer but it takes time. This is the first gig I’ve had that feels like a genuine success. Pay-checks haven’t been all that frequent since I made the move out from Nagoya and I have to pay rent somehow.”

Tezuka nodded approvingly. “That’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Kazuki shrugged. “It’s not exactly what I imagined—or what people expect from me. Singers, actors, idols… we’re supposed to be the pinnacle of ideals. If my fans knew I was working at McDonalds to get by, they wouldn’t be able to see me in the same way.”

“I admire people who can work hard to reach their achievements.”

The frank statement came from Fuji and made Kazuki feel a thousand times better than he could have imagined. Fuji wasn’t done, though.

“Leaving behind everyone you knew and cared about to pursue an unstable career in a city of strangers among friends… I think you must have been terribly lonely.”

A lump rose in Kazuki’s throat as he met the soft brown eyes that made Aibatchi look so innocent and friendly. Now, they sparkled with emotion that was all the more touching for coming from unreadable Fuji.

“I was.” He took a moment to choke down the tears that threatened, and let out a stabilizing breath. “But this cast has become like a family to me.” He continued to meet Fuji’s eyes, hoping that his next words would not be taken the wrong way. “I hope Shirota and Aiba can come back to us, safe and sound.”

*

Apparently it wasn’t so easy to stuff a genie back into its bottle. Aiba was having a difficult time ignoring his hormones and Yuu wasn’t even trying. Even now that they were in Echizen’s bedroom.

The runt had been summoned to remove “the cat” from his mother’s “masterpiece,” which Aiba later learned meant that Karupin had been posing imminent danger to the layer cake the ladies of the house were decorating for a friend’s baby shower. Echizen was barely gone for a moment before Yuu’s fingers brushed Aiba’s forearm. Whether it had been an innocent, accidental brush or an intentional advance didn’t make a difference. The moment their skin connected, Aiba’s spine prickled with a rush of anticipation.

It seemed he had better luck quelling it than Yuu, who instantly went in for the kiss. He was well-involved in it himself by the time he stopped considering how he had ever gotten through this awkward, hormone-driven phase of his own youth unscathed and wondering why he hadn’t realized sooner that he’d been falling for Yuu all along.

A gagging sound and a mutter of, “Gross,” were followed by the clap of a door hauled shut less gently than it should have been.

A dose of clarity assaulted Aiba the moment his lips were free to pursue a gasp of air and he leapt away from the object of his confounding. In his own body, he would surely be blushing like mad but as Fuji, the spike in his heart rate slowed almost instantly. With the receding of testosterone and the onset of a shock-induced burst of adrenaline, he felt sharper and calmer rather than panicking at the interruption.

“What?” Yuu demanded with an air of petulance. “Fuji and Tezuka are a couple. Why would this bother you?”

Echizen stomped over to the bed and dropped poor Karupin on it as though it were her fault for making him leave the room in the first place. “Tezuka-buchou and Fuji-senpai don't go around making out like horny teenagers.”

Aiba thought that was a little unfair. “They are horny teenagers,” he pointed out.

“And you're adults,” Echizen snapped, twisting the knife a little. “It's just gross. Stop it.”

Despite the dig at his maturity, Aiba couldn’t help wondering who had died and made Echizen the Czar. “Oh, and I suppose you're just a pillar of virtue,” he retorted with acidic sarcasm, thinking of some of the doujinshi he had perused—purely for reference, of course. “I’ll bet you’re…” He broke off suddenly with a gasp as a light bulb of thought went off with blinding luminosity. He advanced on the tiny boy and punctuated half of his words with a poke in the chest. “You're jealous! I bet you have a big fat crush on Tezuka…” He leered. “Or is it Fuji?”

Echizen’s reaction spoke plenty, but it didn’t shed much light on the specifics. “If I did, then you've already ruined him for me,” he announced with a composure Aiba envied. “Thanks.”

“So it’s Tezuka,” Aiba bluffed—going with what seemed the most obvious answer. “Hey, Yuu, what do you…”

Trailing off, Aiba turned around slowly as certain noises finally registered in his ears. On Echizen’s bed, a very hunky moron was rolling about making baby noises at a thoroughly chuffed ball of fur.

Echizen summed it up nicely. “Stop that. It's creepy.”

“Karupin loves it,” Yuu muttered, completely unconcerned of his vessel’s dignity. “Don't you, Karupin? Don't you?”

That all-too-human meow gave Aiba the chills. “I’m with Echizen. Seriously. That’s just… disturbing.”

“So you were saying… About your relationship with what’s-her-face,” Yuu prompted, dodging a paw aimed at his nose.

Aiba rolled his eyes. Trust Yuu to try and dig for gossip. As if they hadn’t already dug up a lifetime’s worth of revelations.

“He means the Ryuzaki girl,” Aiba clarified, sighing and sinking to the floor. Fuji had great posture but it felt good to slouch back against the bed. He let his eyes rise to the poor boy whose room had been taken over in addition to his friends and beloved senpais.

“Sakuno? What about her…?” he asked, predictably—and maybe a little adorably—clueless.

“Never mind,” Aiba told him tiredly. “More importantly… Let’s see… Did you play against a school called Josei Shonan?”

“Yeah. Those guys were freaks,” replied Echizen with a shudder. After a lengthy hesitation, he finally took a page out of Aiba’s book and sunk to the floor with his back against the door.

“Batezuka entoo Koo shoo,” Yuu mumbled.

Aiba really couldn’t be bothered to turn around to find out what he was doing to the cat that affected his diction.

“Yeah…” Echizen reiterated despite the unintelligible words, having already grown tired of a lengthy discussion about Kyuushuu earlier.

“So how about the Goodwill Games? Against the American team. Did that happen?” Aiba pressed.

“If you mean that prat, Kevin, and the circus act he called a team… Sure. That happened,” Echizen said, rather grumpily. He was looking up at the bed with a grudging kind of resignation.

“But Tezuka went to Kyuushuu?” Yuu repeated, his voice now coming out clearly but sounding awfully puzzled.

“Yes. Why?” snapped Echizen with pointed exasperation in each clipped word.

Aiba thought he knew what had Yuu stumped. “He’s actually thinking pretty seriously about this,” he assured Echizen in a quiet voice. It was as if he felt the mantle of this role settle on his shoulders and he slipped into a warm tone that he knew would calm the boy down. “In our world, there are two works under the Prince of Tennis title: a manga and an anime series. The general plot is the same but there are some major differences. Some are things like eye or hair colors of the characters—like Fuji having brown eyes in the manga and blue in the anime, as mine are blue now. Others have to do with altered scenarios. For example, you said earlier that Kaidoh played against Aoi from Rokkaku, which is what happened in the manga—which our musical mostly follows, by the way—but in the anime, you’re the one who played Aoi. It was a drawn out match that you had to finish the next day and you both arrived early and played for hours before the official recommencement.”

Echizen looked thoughtful. “That happened, kind of. It wasn’t an official match but we did play one like that… So what’s the big deal about Buchou going to Kyuushuu?”

“In the manga, Tezuka goes to a rehabilitation clinic in Kyuushuu. In the anime, he goes to Germany. I think what has Yuu confused—correct me if I’m wrong—” Aiba threw over his shoulder, “Is that Josei Shonan appears only in the anime. The Goodwill Games and the selection camp before that are also limited to filler arcs of the anime—but in that, Tezuka temporarily comes back from Germany to act as a substitute coach... not from Kyuushuu.” Yuu didn’t correct him, so Aiba went on to voice a thought that had begun to form. “It’s like your world is a selection of material from two different canons. There’s no formula to working out which events apply and which don’t.”

A sense of despair came over him as he realized how hopeless it would be to even try and understand all of this. They were cut off from home, cut off from reality, and cut off from sanity altogether. All they had was each other—and this boy that half hated them both. Oh, and a ridiculous narcissist who couldn’t keep his greedy paws to himself.

How were they ever going to find their way out of this situation?

*

It didn’t occur to Ryouma that he’d been unfair to Aiba and Shirota until he saw a particular look come across Fuji-senpai’s face that he had never seen there before; one of defeat. Seeing that, it finally hit him that these guys might be older than he and his team were but they were still young, and in some ways maybe even less prepared for this ordeal.

Karupin had taken to Shirota with an instant liking that assured Ryouma he had to be a pretty good person despite it all. He messed around a lot, which was really weird as he was wearing Tezuka’s skin, but the more Ryouma watched him, the more he realized the guy was thinking really hard and trying to find a solution while making the best of the situation. Who was Ryouma to judge if that meant whatever was going on between him and Aiba? He didn’t think they’d been together before now so this was obviously something new to them and a consequence of the circumstances.

As for Aiba… Ryouma had been hardest on him without really understanding why. Perhaps it was because Shirota’s happy-go-lucky personality was just so far removed from Tezuka that it wasn’t even worth consideration. Aiba, though… There was something about him that reminded Ryouma of Fuji-senpai, and that made it so much harder to accept when he fell short of the calculated perfection that was Seigaku’s tensai. It was irrational to expect someone to live up to that standard and yet, because of that something in him that resonated with Ryouma’s perception of Fuji, he expected just that.

That defeat on his face wasn’t just a reaction to the impossibilities that they faced… it was partially Ryouma’s fault. Anyone would feel lost and hopeless if they were being measured against a template they had no hope of becoming.

Whether he liked it or not, if he wanted to get Tezuka and Fuji back, then Ryouma was in this together with them. It was time to cut Aiba some slack.

*

A light snore drew both of their attention. Surprised out of his spiraling dark thoughts, Aiba leaned up and twisted halfway around, resting his chin on the edge of the mattress. Shirotan was dead asleep, curled up around Karupin. The unguarded expression “Tezuka” wore, his glasses lying haphazardly beside his face, was surprisingly pure and sweet; a rare treasure.

Someday, when they were back in their own bodies, would Aiba wake to a similar expression on Yuu’s face in the morning? Would he think back to this moment and smile, remembering how it had snapped him out of a toxic melancholy he had neither time nor use for?

Karupin twitched, then purred as she tried to burrow deeper into the arms draped loosely around her. “She’s going to miss him,” Aiba murmured.

“She has good taste,” Echizen responded, so kindly that Aiba felt a pang of guilt for being somehow responsible for having taken away his senpais.

He turned back around and looked at the boy whose eyes were still glued to Tezuka with that soft expression. “I meant Yuu,” he clarified, knowing Echizen had misunderstood him.

The boy met his eyes, and there was something smitten in the transformation of that soft gaze into a genuine smile. “So did I,” he said.

A thousand words passed through that eye contact and then it was broken awkwardly as Echizen clambered to his feet.

“It is Fuji, isn’t it?” Aiba asked quietly. He knew he was toying with a can of worms he should just leave closed but he needed to know. For some reason, it meant a lot to him to know the answer to that question. “That’s why you hate me so much. You’re in love with Fuji.”

“I don’t ha-” Echizen, who was halfway to the bed, snapped his mouth closed mid-sentence and paused. He shot a glare at Aiba, then stomped the final few steps and extricated his cat from Yuu’s doting arms.

“It’s ok,” Aiba sighed, focusing his gaze on the door so that Echizen wouldn’t see that it wasn’t actually ok at all. “I know I’m probably a big disappointment next to Fuji.”

Surprisingly, Echizen didn’t take the opportunity to point out all of his flaws and failures but said instead, “Nobody could live up to Fuji-senpai… but you’re doing a pretty good job.”

Nobody was more surprised than Aiba when big, fat tears began to crawl down his cheeks as those words rang in his head.

*

Tezuka had clearly begun to acknowledge the pressure of what was coming on the morrow. By the time they walked into the hotel lobby, he was walking stiffly with a tension Kazuki was able to identify as suppressed nerves.

He accompanied Tezuka and Fuji to their room, intending to just give Tezuka a little encouragement for the next day and then head to his own room for a relaxing bath and a good night’s sleep. However, no sooner had he spoken some generic, clichéd words of support than Fuji asked him if he took sugar in his tea, so he was committed to staying a little longer.

While Fuji busied himself boiling water and setting up three tea cups, Tezuka seemed to steel himself. As though posing a challenge to himself, he met Kazuki’s eyes directly, sitting on the edge of the bed across from the chair Kazuki occupied.

“If I forget the lyrics…”

“You choke up, with emotion,” Kazuki replied immediately. It wasn’t exactly a conventional technique but fans just loved it when a singer got teary. “If you mess up the lines, just think about what you, yourself would advise your team, or respond to your opponent, and improvise. It certainly wouldn’t be out of character,” he added, anticipating the next topic in the line of questioning. He then took it upon himself to offer up a secret weapon. “You know the lines. You know the lyrics. The best defense against a faulty memory is to begin singing or speaking one phrase and then let auto-pilot take over while you consciously consider what is supposed to come next. That way, you won’t be surprised by a sudden blank.”

“A lot like adapting your strategy during a match even while playing out the rally you’re in the midst of,” contributed Fuji, quite helpfully. That analogy seemed to give Tezuka a spark of hope and he gratefully accepted the tea Fuji handed to him, as did Kazuki.

The quiet conversation full of last-minute tips and reassurances continued, but Kazuki became uncomfortably aware of Fuji’s focused observation of his captain. When he gently removed the teacup from Tezuka’s hands with a third of the beverage still remaining, Kazuki was confused at first, but then Shirotan’s features drooped in fatigue and he understood what had been done. Tezuka was asleep before he could form a coherent protest.

“He’s not going to thank you for this,” Kazuki sighed, helping to strip off boots and socks while Fuji took care of other clothing items and then dragging the lightly snoring man up the bed and under the covers.

His eyes glinting with amusement, Fuji lay on his side in parallel with Shirotan’s prone form and gazed past that obstacle to Kazuki. “If I was concerned about people thanking me, I wouldn’t have half as much fun.”

“You knocked him out for fun?” Kazuki asked drolly, though he couldn’t deny a smattering of amusement over this flirtatious side of the tensai.

“I knocked him out because he would drive me crazy all night otherwise,” Fuji replied, sitting up again and crawling over Tezuka without any care for squished limbs. “And because he really needs to get some rest before tomorrow,” he added, raising his legs one by one and placing them down on the ground so he was sitting on the edge of the bed in front of Kazuki. “And so I can have some fun,” he concluded, unabashedly pulling Kazuki down into his lap, at which point he waited with an ironic sort of patience.

Kazuki sucked in a nervous breath. He knew what Fuji wanted. He hadn’t suspected it, but now that he was in this position, he also knew he wasn’t exactly opposed.

If it had been Aiba… He didn’t know how he would feel about that. They were friends but there wasn’t that same tug that he felt with Shirotan.

Fuij, though… At once dominating and yet passive; brilliant yet reserved; modest but also willing to use his skills to make a point… All that approval Kazuki had found himself yearning for and finally earned… Now he knew why he had wanted it so badly.

What he had shared with Tezuka hadn’t been about Tezuka at all. He was aware of that, and of the moral dilemma he had shunned to the depths of his conscience. Tezuka made it ok, though, because he understood it, too, and for whatever reason, he didn’t seem to mind. Despite what could have been potentially awkward, they had become fast friends instead; Kazuki sympathetic to Tezuka’s dilemma and Tezuka grateful for his aid. The mutual attraction was physical for them both, so it was easy to separate what had happened from what was.

This attraction, though… This was an emotional attraction that had snuck up on Kazuki and now stole his breath. How could he fall for a fictional character? It was not only insane but also stupid and even more potentially heart-breaking than his unrequited feelings for Shirotan.

*

Fuji stared into warm brown eyes and took a moment to appreciate the depth of empathy there. It was something he himself lacked and thus admired. It was something he strived to correct by going out of his way to display empathy, fighting for others over himself. Perhaps it was a result of that empathy rubbing off on him now that he made a minor concession to reward a flustered Kazuki with a partial truth.

“I don’t hate Atobe,” he murmured. He watched as Kazuki fought to catch up with the sudden turn. “I hate that Tezuka doesn’t. I’m not jealous that he slept with you,” he continued in the same matter-of-fact voice. “I’m jealous that he’s attracted to you… and what that means. At least, I was.”

“What changed?” Kazuki asked, watching Fuji’s eyes with an obvious and desperate longing for acceptance.

“I realized that all you have in common with that prig are some minor narcissistic tendencies.”

Unguarded apprehension transformed into sharp amusement and Kazuki broke out in a grin.

“Outwardly,” he confirmed.

“Yes,” Fuji agreed.

Now, Kazuki spoke with ironic confidence and settled comfortably into the skinny lap that belonged to Aiba, Hiroki. “Because inwardly, I’ve been drowning in self-doubt ever since you showed up—not the least of which being doubt of my sanity.”

“‘Sanity’ is just another word for ‘limitations,’” Fuji murmured, shifting back on the bed until he ran into the central obstacle of Shirota’s dead-weight of a body. He was going to have to do something about that hurdle. “I prefer ‘rationality,’” he continued, running a finger in seductive loops down Kazuki’s firm chest muscles. “And if you ask me, you’ve been entirely rational about all this.” With an intentional hint of innuendo to his smile, Fuji concentrated on telepathically communicating the concept that the rational thing to do here would be to take him to bed. His fingers snuck under the hem of the mostly plain black shirt and he sacrificed a moment to allow for resistance before proceeding to pull the redundant clothing up and over the man’s head.

The kisses and caresses that followed were devoid of the shy restraint he had thought to encounter and he considered himself impressed. The response of his body was instant and overwhelming and despite the pride he had in his own stamina and capacity, he quite enjoyed the sensation of turning to putty in Kazuki’s firm yet pliant hands.

Chapter Text

“Fuji, Fuji… Aah! Stop that!”

Such a smooth, expressive voice; deep and resonant but with a unique ring to it; a charm that was all Katou, Kazuki.

“You’re loving it,” came the reply, following a throaty chuckle.

That was a tone Yuu had never heard in Aiba’s voice—as lustful as it was playful.

There was a wave beneath him and inertia assaulted him even as skin brushed against his own from the right. He wanted to return the caress but he couldn’t move.

“If you think I’m going to just let you have your way, you’ve got another thing coming,” Kazuki warned; just enough growl to his voice to inspire the sensation of an unrequited shiver to ripple through Yuu’s body.

Aiba gasped—no, not Aiba. The voice was his but the soul was all Fuji.

That gasp was so erotic Yuu almost wished he could see what had caused it. Instead, he felt uncomfortably warm and could do nothing about it.

“What… makes you think… this isn’t… exactly… how I get my way?” Fuji moaned as the bed shifted under them.

Paralyzed though he was, Yuu recognized the tingling at his groin and knew his body was engaged and invested in the sounds that were assaulting him, with little correspondence from his brain. He was trapped and cut off from whatever functions amounted to control.

He had felt so at home cuddled around Karupin, like all of the stress and responsibility he had been struggling with as Tezuka was nothing more than a temporary trial. Soft, fluffy kitty cuddles were the best cure for stress.

Now, the only thing soft and fluffy was his brain. It was also fuzzy and cloudy… and broken.

He couldn’t move. He was awake, he knew, but he couldn’t move. He initiated the thought that should provoke the action of a struggle and when nothing happened, panic welled up in him until he tried to shout—all to no avail.

When he calmed himself to dampen the suffocating panic, the sounds that filled his ears also filled him with heat that grew almost painful knowing he couldn’t escape it. He was somehow lying prone and deprived of sight yet playing aural witness to an extremely sexy show.

It took a while, perhaps because of the fuzzy, sleepy state he was locked into, but when he finally realized that what was going on was that Kazuki was passionately having his way with Fuji in none other than Aiba’s body, Yuu slowly began to burn hot with as much jealousy as lust. Aibatchi was his now, and he hadn’t even had the chance to run his hands all over that slim, lithely designed body and learn its planes and curves. Instead, Fuji had just handed it over to Kazuki. Kazuki!

Belatedly, Yuu realized that he was just as angry at that fact. He could have sworn that there was a bond between him and Kazuki that hinted at a special kind of friendship… Not like the crush on Aiba he’d hidden away but rather, something he acknowledged in a less dangerous form, hidden in plain sight through outright flirting and joking about. Now that he had accepted his own preferences—or rather, a lack of—he was willing to admit he’d thought Kazuki had acknowledged the inclination they harbored toward each other, perhaps much more keenly than Yuu had, and yet, here he was screwing Aiba… Fuji.

Not to mention, he was doing it right next to Yuu. No… as far as they knew, he was Tezuka… And as far as Yuu could figure, he was out cold or something. He’d experienced this kind of thing before when his mind awoke before his body and he tried to move but his limbs just wouldn’t respond. It was just like that. He was almost completely caged into his mind. Just what the hell had Tezuka done to his body?

God, why were those two so damn talkative during sex!?

“I wanted this,” Fuji murmured, his voice strained as the pace of the rocking bed eased. “Since I first met you that morning—I really wanted this,” he finished on a moan that rose rapidly in pitch and breathlessness.

What the fuck was Kazuki doing to him, anyway?

“I had no idea I wanted this but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Sounds of licks and sucks punctuated the conversation, peppered with panting breaths, and moans and squeaks.

They’d known each other—what, for a few days? Who the hell said such sweet things while making such raw, erotic sounds and doing whatever it was they were doing? It was absolutely indecent. To say the least.

The worst part was, Yuu really wanted in.

“I—hmmm—should—aah—have joined you—hu—and Tezukaaaa… from the beginning.” A pause. Heavy breathing. Fuji was obviously struggling to form words until Kazuki gave him a break. “I wish I could have seen the two of you together.” WHAT!? “But there’ll be time for that—I hope.”

The bed creaked and the weight shifted drastically, and then Kazuki spoke one last time before he set to driving Fuji to a very vocal bout of ecstasy. “It was sweet...” he crooned, “and hot…” he hissed, “But nothing like what I’m about to do to you.”

*

“Yuu… Yuu. Oi, Yuu.”

Violent shaking was not Fuji’s usual method of waking him but it was apparently quite effective, Tezuka noted as consciousness returned with rapid and jarring clarity. He opened his eyes and had to blink a few times before he re-acclimatized to the less detailed colors and depths. He was back in his own body.

“Aiba-san,” he guessed, blinking blearily up at the Fuji-shaped lump hanging over him. He felt around for his glasses only to have them slotted onto his nose for him.

With restored vision, he gazed at the hand extended to him and clasped it, stiffening his elbow and allowing himself to be pulled upright. He looked around at a room he didn’t recognize and finally settled his gaze on the younger boy.

“Echizen.” That explained the unfamiliar room.

“Buchou!” The rookie didn’t miss much.

Aiba staggered out of the way as Echizen came flying toward Tezuka and hit him full force with a very unexpected, very affectionate hug. It was so unusual that Tezuka briefly toyed with the idea that somehow his little rookie, too, had switched places with his actor counterpart, Yanagi.

It was a passing thought that brought a slight smile to Tezuka’s lips, but it was only a whimsical idea. Emotional or not, the small figure clinging to him was clearly Echizen.

He wasn’t as small as Tezuka remembered, though… Or, rather, Tezuka wasn’t as large as he had gotten accustomed to in that tall adult body. It wasn’t a huge difference frankly, but it was interesting how noticeable it was to him.

Also noticeable almost instantaneously was a dull ache in the shoulder joint that he had barely been aware of before spending so much time free of it. He would have to deal with that.

“T-Tezuka?” asked Fuji’s voice, with an uncustomary cautious waver.

“Yes,” he confirmed, placing a reassuring hand on Echizen’s hair. A moment later, the boy disengaged and pretended as though he had not just given away how much Tezuka had been missed.

“How?” Aiba asked, breathlessly.

Just taking a moment to think about it ignited a spark of fury in Tezuka, which he covered by adjusting his glasses and hiding his gaze from Aiba and Echizen. “Fuji drugged me,” he said darkly.

“Drugged you!?” Aiba shrieked.

“Some kind of sleep-inducing drug,” Tezuka explained.

“Why would Fuji-senpai do that?” Echizen asked slowly.

“Did you figure something out about this body-switching?” Aiba questioned, instinctively distracting the rookie from that question. That kind of consideration was wholly out of character for Fuji… and kind of adorable.

“I can only presume that he thought it was best for me to get a full night’s sleep before the show tomorrow,” Tezuka lied. Sure, that would be one reason. He was also quite sure Fuji’s little ploy would have a second victim of sorts in Kazuki. Whether or not Kazuki thought himself victim or victor was less certain. “I suspect I will return to the other reality when the drug wears off and my body wakes over there. This… condition… seems to be undone by unconsciousness on the part of one or both involved parties.”

“You mean… You… and Fuji… are going onstage?” Aiba squeaked. “Can you even do that?”

Realizing that this ordeal was affecting Aiba’s and Shirota’s lives with equal impact if not more, Tezuka felt a stirring of compassion for him. “I assure you, Fuji will not put you to shame,” he said truthfully. “If I awake in the morning and I have returned to that reality, then I, too, will give my all to succeed in a performance that will do no damage to Shirota-san, either.”

“You can’t possibly have memorized all of the solos and dance numbers—the script—all of it, in just a couple of days!” Aiba fretted, resisting the reassurances as logic dictated otherwise.

Blushing under Echizen’s scrutiny, Tezuka opened his mouth and began to sing, "Omae ha Seigaku no hashira ni nareru Otoko." He was surprised to find that he had a solid voice—though his vocal chords didn’t respond as willingly as Shirota’s and were hoarse with lack of use. Perhaps, when this was all over, he would try singing every so often… in the shower… when he was alone in the house…

“Buchou…” The awe that colored Echizen’s voice didn’t escape him. Clearly, he should give himself a little more credit. When the runt cleared his throat and muttered, “Not bad,” as if unaffected, Tezuka even allowed himself a small dose of smugness.

Aiba looked calmer but not completely mollified so Tezuka explained further. “Kazuki has been very helpful and Ueshima-sensei helped me to realize that the lines and lyrics come naturally to me, which made memorization a matter of logic. My… Shirota’s body has the muscle memory to fill in the gaps. We can do it—and we will.”

Sitting down with a sigh, Tezuka registered a particular sense of discomfort all of a sudden that had been less noticeable because it was an ache his other body had shared. He couldn’t resist a calculating glance at Aiba but he highly doubted the sweet little thing had been anywhere near his ass… Really, he made Fuji look like a Disney princess—all wide-eyed and gullible.

A flush warmed Tezuka’s skin as he considered that perhaps Echizen… No, not with how thrilled the boy was to have him back. No, there was someone else in the mix here.

Could it be someone who was in the mix there, too? Did Shirota have a thing for a certain Tall, Pale, and Handsome after all? Aiba might know the answer to one of those questions but Tezuka certainly couldn’t ask it in front of Echizen.

“I’m sure you have a lot of questions, Aiba,” he suggested. “We should get going so Echizen can get some rest.”

“It’s fine if you-”

“That’s a good idea. I have about a million things to ask you,” Aiba enthused, and just like that they were on the street, talking companionably on the way to Tezuka’s house, as if they had known each other for years. These circumstances really did make for fast friends.

*

Tezuka was nothing like Shirotan. Nothing at all. Actually, he was kind of amazing. He was brilliant, thoughtful, witty, and charming. Ok, so maybe Shirotan was some of those things, too, but in different ways. It wasn’t really fair to compare them—for one thing, Shirotan was real and Tezuka was a product of imagination and ideals.

Aiba was acutely aware that he didn’t appreciate being compared to a true genius like Fuji so he should probably stop selling Yuu short in comparison to this teen titan but… he just got along with Tezuka so easily. If anyone had told him he would connect with this boy in such a manner he’d have been skeptical, but there it was.

He was also pleasantly surprised by Tezuka’s subtle but pointed sense of humor.

“So then he says to me, ‘Try acting a little more like Tezuka and maybe we could have a grown up conversation for once.’ Kazuki choked on his drink and nearly spat all over the place.”

“For several reasons, I’m sure,” Aiba responded with a grin. He noticed Tezuka shift uncomfortably and the grin slipped. “Hey, uh, do you want me to massage your shoulder? Yuu said it helped a little…”

Tezuka’s face drained of emotion for a moment. “Have you told anyone?” he asked, woodenly.

“Of course not!” Aiba hurried to respond but he bit his lip guiltily and averted his gaze to say, “But someone figured it out.” Tezuka just waited with the kind of admirable patience that came with the mental strength to excel at tennis. “Yuu said Atobe couldn’t be fooled.”

The play of emotions was subtle but it was there. As he’d suspected, Tezuka was not thrilled that Atobe had found out—he even seemed a little scared—but he stifled it and reminded himself that the Hyoutei captain would probably have worked it out sooner or later anyway.

“Did something happen between Shirota-san and Atobe?” he asked at length.

Aiba instantly fumed. “I still can’t believe he slept with that narcissistic jerk! There’s no excuse for… How did you…?” The realization dawned halfway through his thought. “Seriously. How did you know that? Did—you know that?”

“I had my suspicions,” Tezuka told him. “My shoulder isn’t the only thing that aches.”

He sounded unexpectedly resigned rather than angry and Aiba had to wonder. “Are you… ok with this? I mean, you and Fuji…”

“Fuji is probably eating Kazuki alive right now so if he has a problem with Atobe having his way with my body while I wasn’t even in it, he can just go right ahead and shove it up his ass, because I sure as hell won’t... Sorry. It's a bit of a sore point, to be honest.”

The vehement curse took Aiba aback for long enough that he almost missed the important part of that statement. “Not again,” he moaned. Just how many people had Fuji screwed in his body by now?

If Tezuka was in possession of an expression that could be described as “sheepish,” that had to be the one. “Aiba, I’m sorry for Fuji’s behavior… and for mine, truly. There’s no excuse for the way we have used your bodies. When I go back-”

“Forget about it.” Did he really just say that? Yes. Yes, he did. “It’s not like we’ve been any more responsible with your bodies,” he reasoned. “Besides… If it wasn’t for all I’ve experienced recently, I never would have let myself give in to my feelings for Yuu. Honestly, I don’t know if it’s a good thing that I did, or not. He’s probably going to break my heart.”

“That’s how I feel about Fuji on most days,” Tezuka admitted with a wry smile. “For what it’s worth, I think the two of you would make a handsome couple.”

“More handsome than Yuu and Kazuki?” Aiba teased, with a distinct enough element of truth to make it more awkward than intended.

The response from Tezuka should have made him feel even more self-conscious but it was too vindictive and consequently amusing. “I would say I am equally as partial to that general image in all of its forms.”

“Wow, you are really angry at Fuji,” Aiba breathed in awe.

“Not as angry as you probably will be when this is all over and you have to mop up the trail of lovers’ tears he’s bound to leave behind.”

*

If Yuu was overly randy from the moment he reappeared in the Tenipuriverse, Aiba was in surprisingly good a mood and more willing to play along than might otherwise have been expected.

And if Tezuka exuded a slight air of secretive smugness followed by a touch of concern when he looked at a mostly unconscious Kazuki lying face-down between him and Fuji, it was preferable to the tongue-lashing the tensai had been prepared for. Also welcome was the confidence he practically seethed.

“Let’s make them proud,” Tezuka said to his lover.

Chapter Text

Ryouma was beyond confused. When Aiba had broken down, he had forgotten just for a little while that it was Fuji-senpai’s face leaking tears. Aiba and Shirota were nothing like his beloved senpais… but that didn’t mean they weren’t worth getting to know. He was realizing that too late, and sorely regretting his treatment of the two performers.

Thus, when they arrived at his house bright and early for some training up at the temple court before heading to school together for practice, he took it easy on them for once. What he didn’t expect was for Shirota to scold him for it.

“Nothing good is gonna come of you holding back. Come on. Hit me with your best shots!”

“You can’t possibly return them.”

“Right you are. But I’ll never be able to if you don’t let me try.”

It was sound logic, so Ryouma decided to kill two birds with one stone and hit Tezuka’s best moves at him, letting him observe them over and over again while developing his reflexes towards these high-caliber techniques. His movement was becoming more and more natural, like he was finally starting to fit into Buchou’s skin. As he concentrated silently on the game, it was almost like Tezuka was still in there.

Almost. He still totally sucked at tennis in comparison.

That was why Ryouma was so shaken he forgot to move to return the ball when he realized Shirota had activated Tezuka Zone several hits ago.

“Was that…?”

Aiba’s awed words were hushed as Ryouma subtly shook his head, willing the dancer to keep it under wraps. Thus, he awaited Shirota’s next serve.

Keeping the rally light, Ryouma watched closely and felt tendrils of excitement creep into his limbs as he confirmed that Shirota had indeed succeeded in setting up the Tezuka Zone. Even if he currently had no idea he had done so.

“Oh crap!” Aiba’s exclamation startled Ryouma on the return but the ball flew unerringly to Shirota regardless. “Guys, we’ve gotta go or we’ll be late to practice!”

The ball went flying past Ryouma’s head as he hurtled from the court, grabbing his bag and running for the street with Shirota and Aiba following behind.

*

Fuji was stretched out over one leg and seeing the world at a cocked angle when a familiar lower body descended in front of his face. Lanky legs stretched out in front of him and if he tilted his face up, he was treated to a sleepy smile from Saitou Takumi who began to warm up in mirror of him.

“Good morning.”

“Good afternoon,” Fuji responded, amused.

Takumi had clearly just rolled out of bed, thrown on his sweats, and headed over to the venue to warm up without much of anything else in between. His three consecutive lazy yawns were rather adorable.

“Don’t judge. Some of us actually need sleep,” Takumi drawled with a pout. “I’m assuming you didn’t get much.”

“And yet, here I am, bright-eyed and bushy tailed,” Fuji teased, grinning back as he wriggled forward and wiggled his pert little butt in an acrobatic feat Takumi was clearly jealous of.

“Can’t say the same for Kazuki,” Takumi pointed out, glancing around for the sleep-deprived man in question. “You’ve been hanging out with him a lot lately.”

No mistaking the jealousy there but Fuji was more than happy to make up for it later if he got the chance. “Correction: I’ve been hanging out with Yuu a lot lately, who has been hanging out with Kazuki a lot lately.”

“…I see.”

“Not really, but don’t sweat it. I’m sure things will get back to normal soon.” Fuji began to retract his limbs and rise to start stretching out his torso but Takumi preempted him, placing a hand on his knee and speaking quickly.

“Is Yuu ok?” he asked. “He’s been weirdly quiet. I keep waiting for him to come charging in with some random gag whenever there’s a dull moment.”

The question was rumbled softly in that erotically deep voice, to be kept on the down-low, but it wasn’t as though Fuji could answer truthfully. At least, not here and now. Maybe Takumi should be on the need-to-know list, after all. He was clearly hoping for more from Fuji than Aiba might be willing to follow through on.

“He’s just had a shock. He’ll pull through,” Fuji told him, engaging the tensai smile that always worked in his own flesh.

Takumi wasn’t sold. “Whatever’s going on with him… or you… we’re all here for each other. Just keep it in mind.”

“How could I forget it?” Fuji asked, winking to cover up the genuine seed of emotion that welled up in him.

The bonds of a cast like this were just as tight as those of his team—more so even, to think that members who belonged to other teams in his real life were all just part of a larger whole, here. There was competition, sure, but it was more like the evolutionary rivalries of a doubles team pushing each other higher to mutual benefit. Every member of the cast contributed to the overall outcome of the show and that made them a closer unit than Fuji had ever been a part of before.

“Aiba, you look ready! Let’s get your mic check out of the way!”

“Coming!” he called, jogging over to the stage manager and taking the pack that was handed to him. Taking his cue from what he’d seen Toyonaga do a few minutes ago, he spouted off a couple of lines, sang a phrase of “Yume wo Tsunage,” and got the all-clear before returning to his torso stretches.

It didn’t take long until he was ready and raring but there were still a few hours to go, so he headed to his dressing room to hum a few tunes and do some vocal warm-ups until it was his turn for make-up. By then, Tezuka was seated serenely, eyes closed in some form of visualization as he hummed under his breath.

Excitement finally began to tingle in Aiba’s bones as he realized he was about to perform in his very first musical from top to tail, and he was among the starring cast! The performing arts had never been in his interests but he might just have to change that frame of mind from now on. Who knew that the thought of hundreds of people watching him sing, dance, and play a part (even if that part was actually himself) could be so thrilling?

He squeezed Tezuka’s shoulder as he walked past—shaded, contoured, and powdered—on the way to his costume. If his boyfriend could just hold it together, he would be proud, indeed.

So far, so good. At least, until Tezuka took an eyeliner pencil to the eye because he kept fidgeting trying to follow instructions.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry! Are you ok?”

“Yes, yes, I’m fine. It was my mistake.”

“Woah, Yuu.”

“Get it together, man.”

“You need some eye drops, Shirotan?”

“No, I’m fine. Really.”

“Let me see.” Shirtless, Fuji pressed his way through the milling crowd, lifting Tezuka’s chin and surveying the slightly bloodshot eye-ball. “I don’t suppose anyone has coconut oil?” he asked, glancing around the room.

“Kenn, obviously,” someone moaned. “He brought loads of it with him.”

“Perfect, can you grab some for me?” Aiba asked.

Kenn was extremely enthusiastic to help. Already dressed and made up, he carried a jar of coconut oil with him in a towel, to keep the pervasive stuff off his costume.

“Whatcha need it for?” he asked.

“Eye drops!” Fuji replied cheerfully. “Thanks so much.”

“Oh great, now we can add eye drops to the list of coconut oil’s endless miracles,” a deep, muffled voice spoke from across the room and inside a Seigaku shirt.

“That’s awesome! I had no idea!” Kenn crowed, watching with a huge grin as Fuji worked some of the oil into Tezuka’s afflicted eye.

He wiped away the excess tears before they could spill a trail through the powder already expertly applied and then gave up his spot to the make-up artist. “Crisis averted! Try to sit still now, Shirotan. Those ants in your pants are gonna get you in trouble.”

Laughter diffused the situation and Tezuka managed not to take any more pencils, tools, or substances to the eyes; nor did he sneeze, swallow, or snag himself on any other items, and when the glasses were placed on his nose as a finishing touch he looked more and more like himself. There was no mistaking those handsome, exotic curves to his lips and jaw, though. With the make-up tinting his lips and emphasizing his cheekbones, he only grew more handsome.

“Getting a good eyeful?” asked Araki, winding an arm about Fuji’s waist and leering right alongside him.

“Quite! I was just checking on his eye,” Fuji assured him.

“Ahuh.” The knowing wink was directed not at Fuji but at Tezuka in the mirror. “Data never lies,” he intoned, tweaking his glasses far more erotically than Inui had ever done. He was definitely one of the stranger casting choices, but Fuji rather thought he captured a potential for playful suggestiveness present but buried in the real Inui. He had noticed it on camera and found himself intrigued.

All of a sudden, Fuji found himself imagining how the data specialist might react to being transported to this alternate… reality? Dimension? Universe? Whatever it was, it would blow Inui’s mind!

Looking around at Araki, Kenn, and the others, for the first time, Fuji felt a real pang of nostalgia for his friends and family. He began to look forward to the performance for reasons other than excitement. For a little while, he would be surrounded not by actors, but by his team and their rivals. Sure, they’d be using tennis rackets as props and smashing beams of light instead of actual balls but… it would be a taste of home, and suddenly, he needed that.

When Tezuka rose to retrieve his own costume and paused to clap him on the shoulder, Fuji almost rolled his eyes in anticipation of the inevitable “Yudan Sezu ni Ikou.” Instead, Tezuka smiled at him and said, “Let’s have fun.”

It seemed like he had nothing to worry about.

*

“There’s nothing to worry about! There’s no way Tezuka will lose to Atobe again, right Tezuka?”

Why did Oishi have to look at him with such explicit trust shining in his eyes? Little globules of light were actually swimming around in those massive green irises in typical anime symbolism for unabashed adoration. It really made Yuu feel uncomfortable.

“No way! Buchou, if anyone’s facing that monkey king, it’s me!” insisted Echizen.

If Yuu had ever felt any ill will towards him it was blasted away in that moment.

“Don’t be selfish!” Kikumaru chimed in, thwacking Echizen on the back. “This exhibition match is the perfect opportunity for Buchou to take his revenge in the name of Seigaku!”

“The order is in your hands, Tezuka, but I must admit I’m curious to see how Fuji might fare in that match-up,” mused Ryuzaki-sensei, making Yuu feel almost ill at the thought of it.

Apparently Aiba felt just as sick at the idea, for he turned deathly pale.

“Good idea!” agreed the Vice Captain. “And why not pit Echizen against Akutagawa-kun and give him a chance to show up that magic volley?”

Aiba choked. “I can’t—I don’t want to… Atobe…”

“I’ll do it!” Yuu volunteered. No sooner were the words out of his mouth than he copped a pointed glare from Echizen and felt a strong desire to plant his face in one of the metal poles lining the meshed court. Why the hell did he say that? He couldn’t possibly be a match for Atobe! But there was no way he could put Aiba in that situation, either… “I’ll play Atobe,” he finished, rather more weakly than he would have liked.

Flashes of Ikki Uchi zoomed through his mind, culminating in the final gruesome tableau as he clutched at his shoulder in silhouette before a red-washed screen. Atobe was going to murder him.

…Unless they could reach some kind of agreement. Would Atobe be willing to throw the game to protect Yuu’s identity seeing as they shared this vital secret now? After that passionate afternoon, perhaps there was enough good-will between them… and Atobe still wanted to be taken along so he might just be willing to barter that much…

Yeah, Atobe was totally going to murder him. At least, since it wouldn’t be the first time, it would be less humiliating to lose to Atobe than for either himself or Aiba to get crushed by any of the other Hyoutei players.

Three hours later, Yuu trickled sweat in little waterfalls and his muscles ached while his lungs felt fit to burst. He stumbled to his knees and passed a hand over his glasses, forgetting they shielded his eyes and smearing the lenses. The discomfort of sweat dripping into his eyes was almost as bad as the discomfort of a blurry Echizen advancing on him.

“Thanks to your big mouth, you’re going to have to play Atobe on Saturday. Between now and then, you need to get good!” he insisted, extending a hand to help pull Yuu to his feet.

Tomorrow afternoon, Yuu was going to pay Atobe a little visit and negotiate that very necessity but since he couldn’t very well say that in front of Aiba, there was nothing for it right now than to wobble to his feet and settle into the receiving position. He was still shocked that he had actually managed to pull off the Tezuka Zone, and now he was doing so with conscious effort and not just out of instinct, but he never would have guessed how exhausting it was, especially when played in constant succession. Tezuka might have the physical stamina but the mental strain was a hurdle all of its own. At least his arm was holding up without issue.

Oh, good excuse. Yuu could tell Ryuzaki in private that he wanted to get his arm checked after school, just to be safe, before facing off against Atobe again. It would sound totally legit, and give him a good reason not to attend practice while, in actual fact, he would be cutting his afternoon classes.

He’d already arranged it with Atobe. The spoiled heir would pick him up in that absurdly fancy limousine of his a few blocks from Seigaku and they would spend the afternoon lounging around in luxury. Apparently attendance at school was optional if you were rich enough, or so Atobe seemed to believe, anyway.

“One more rally, and then I need a hot bath and bed, or you won’t be able to even get me out of bed on Saturday,” Yuu complained.

Chapter Text

“Don’t think I don’t know why you’re here,” Atobe murmured as he floated past on his lavish sun bed, sunglasses shielding his eyes from the fierce light and a fruit juice in hand which Yuu suspected of being more vodka than juice.
 
“What can I say? I’ve been awed by your prowess,” Yuu responded dryly, swimming out to the little island bar in the middle of the rooftop pool that was empty of all but the two of them and a couple of curious pigeons. He wondered if he would find a pool like this atop a health club in Omote Sando if he searched for it in his own world—just how much of this reality was imagined detail and how much a true reflection of the world he knew? Could an establishment owned by the fictional Atobe family exist under a different name or brand? Or was that where the line was drawn?
 
Either way, Atobe had ensured that they had the rooftop facilities to themselves with staff on call via intercom. It really was a luxurious life. Shirota was pretty sure he’d never be famous enough to enjoy such grandeur again so he may as well enjoy it.
 
As he hauled himself out of the water onto a stone stool island, he felt strangely prideful with Atobe’s eyes roaming over the body he inhabited. He couldn’t take the credit for this body but it still felt good to be looked at with that outward mixture of envy and lust.
 
When the sun bed floated by him, he reached out and grabbed the drink from Atobe’s hand. Taking a large mouthful, he frowned. It was pure juice—delicious, but definitely non-alcoholic.
 
“I would have sworn there was liquor in this,” he grumbled.
 
“Aahn? As if I would poison my body with such substances,” Atobe rebuffed with haughty disdain.

He slid off the sunbed and waded back toward Yuu, remaining in the water where he crossed his arms over Yuu’s legs and let his own float, tipping his sunglasses up to hold back his hair. Yuu had to admit he had incredible eyes of a color and clearness difficult to define. You just didn’t get eyes like that in real life.
 
“Well? Are you going to ask?” Atobe prompted, magnanimous as ever.
 
“How about we just skip to what it’s going to cost me?” Yuu shot back. He just hoped the answer to that wouldn’t turn out to be “Aiba.”
 
Atobe shrugged, his body bobbing in the water with the motion. “You know what I want,” he reminded.
 
A guest pass to the reality show. Yuu knew what he wanted; it just wasn’t something he could vouch.
 
“Has it occurred to you that if you somehow managed to cross over to our world, someone else would need to be here in your place?”
 
“If you mean to imply that any living being would be put out to inherit my life and my body, you’re reaching,” Atobe scoffed.
 
“I mean to imply that a very different human would be here, representing you; living your life—using your body.” Smirking, Yuu took another sip of the tasty juice. “I can assure you,” he warned, “Kazuki drinks like a fish.”
 
“I’ll take that under consideration.” Standing up, Atobe tossed the sunglasses onto the bar, shaking out his hair like a prize-winning Labrador on show.
 
Yuu got a good idea of what he must have looked like earlier when Atobe ascended from the water, using the stool to boost himself up onto the bar. Rivulets streamed down his figure, highlighting all the intricacies of his glorious body in passing.
 
Before he knew it, Yuu was looking up at him with an expression embarrassingly akin to awe. Damn him.
 
“Maybe there’s something else I can do for you,” he said thickly.
 
A huff of amusement preceded the tips of Atobe’s two middle fingers exerting a light pressure on Yuu’s chin that effortlessly encouraged him to further tilt back his head.
 
“As if I would ever make a deal for something I can have whenever I choose,” asserted the diva before his lips descended definitively.
 
*
 
Tezuka would never have expected how emotional it could be to immerse oneself in a role. That he was reliving one of the most crushing experiences of his own young life in front of the scrutinizing eyes of hundreds of heartbroken fans was somehow more powerful than it was strange.
 
He panted heavily, trying to contain the heaving motion of his chest and keep his silhouette still. Meanwhile, tears stung his eyes and his chest was tight with feeling. He reined it in, waiting for the cue to mime the destruction of his shoulder—a shoulder whole and strong in this body.
 
So far, he had made it through all of his solo numbers and the critical duet. He had felt encouraged by the shining eyes of the crowd and the applause lavished upon him, finding that it wasn’t so different from performing in tennis. There would be no more stage fright for him from now on. If he could just fight the uncanny urge to cry out the anguish that had gripped him for just a little while longer, his first full performance would be a success.
 
It was hard, though. So hard.
 
Fuji knew it. Crouched before him as he spoke his line, the tensai’s eyes shone with emotion. Kazuki knew it, too. Tezuka felt it as they returned to their marks to play out the rest of the match—but the others didn’t, and that made it all the more powerful an impact when Suzuki-san’s words, spoken on behalf of Oishi, sent a thrill of gratitude through him.
 
He was only acting—they were all only acting—but it felt so real when these young men put all of their conviction into playing their parts. Tezuka was caught up in it as defenselessly as the audience—many of whom were sniffling out loud.
 
When the call came, Tezuka felt the pain of defeat all over again. He walked to the net and reached over it, suddenly wanting this to be over with—but when Kazuki lifted his hand and raised it in the very salute of mutual victory that Atobe had done, Tezuka felt himself suffused with energy.
 
There was a message there in Kazuki’s eyes. He wasn’t just going through the motions: he was proud—proud of Tezuka for fighting so hard. He was proud to be able to re-enact this moment together on the stage. He no longer saw only the outer shell, but instead was beholden to the soul within as well. Tezuka had never felt more gratitude than he did in that moment.
 
He was so distracted by it, he almost forgot his line but after a moment’s panic, it came to mind without hazard, because it was not the line of a character—it was his own will. With renewed confidence, he cued the beginning of “Aitsu Koso ga Tennis no Ousjisama.” The ball was in Yanagi’s court now.
 
It was very nearly a perfect performance, except when Fuji—seated next to him on the bench during the course of that epic number—subtly reached out one of his crossed arms to stroke Tezuka’s side. Whether he meant it to be comforting, or whether he was actually trying to cause trouble, was immaterial—it evoked an odd a squeak of surprise that traveled right through the mic, though nobody seemed to be sure whose.
 
Regardless, Tezuka considered his debut to be a success, and an experience that he would never forget.
 
*
 
Fuji should have known better. He should have known Tezuka’s nerves were strung out as tight as a guitar’s strings. He just… needed the reality of intimacy.
 
The performance was powerful in more ways than he had ever expected. It had started out fun and light-hearted, “Do Your Best” seeming like a great way to pump up before a match, but by the time the matches against Hyoutei began and time offstage and out of character dwindled, it grew a little too realistic. Watching Tezuka re-enact his own injury—reliving the observation of that moment again himself… It was intense. Tezuka was so strong to go through that without being overcome by emotion. Fuji wasn’t doing so well.
 
His voice wavered when he sang but Tezuka’s was strong and proud. When they returned to the bench, Fuji needed the unscripted contact just to reassure himself that he was real, and not some character in a story; that Tezuka was real inside the skin of the actor who played him.
 
Needless to say, such an explanation wouldn’t go down well. Tezuka would be convinced he was messing around, trying to throw him off.
 
All the same, Fuji got the reassurance he needed. Tezuka was definitely in there, and he was definitely putting on a brave face and playing a role in a show. Later, when it was over, all of these young men would go back to their jovial or serious selves, completely different from the characters they played. Kenken would be as noisy as ever. Mamoru would outshine the bit role he played and have them all laughing until their sides hurt. They would be as different from the players Fuji remembered as could be.
 
Kansai trickster Oshitari Yuushi would transform into the delectable Saitou Takumi. Fuji’s adored brother would lose all of that cute grumpiness in favor of the bright and equally loveable Kenn. Even Atobe would disappear and give way to the far more desirable Katou Kazuki.
 
Part of Fuji would miss those he knew—even Atobe, on principal—but part of him would also be glad, because he knew this wasn’t real and it felt wrong to pretend it was. To look at Yanagi and invest in him the hopes he reserved for Echizen was like accepting the fact that he would never see the real Echizen again. It felt like giving up.
 
So Fuji looked forward to the curtain falling, and stepping out of his own true self and into the role of Aiba Hiroki once more.
 
*
 
“Are you ok?”
 
Tezuka shivered in response to the deep, faceted timbre of that concerned voice at his ear. The short, awkward speech he’d given had very nearly reduced him to tears for the kernels of truth in it—words about being far from home but being supported by the Tenimyu family (ostensibly the fans, but to him, the cast). He’d retreated into a dark corner of the wings as everyone exited the stage and fumbled with the pack to be sure his mic was off just in case the emotion still welling in him broke free.
 
Without hesitation, Kazuki wrapped his arms about Tezuka’s waist from behind, heedless of watching eyes. It was nothing unusual for the cast to make such gestures of affection—that was one big difference in the attitudes of sportsmen and performing artists. Aside from Oishi and Kikumaru, he didn’t know many players who would openly hug each other lest their masculinity be compromised.
 
Even so, it felt like there must be a little more truth to the action that the usual skinship. The way Kazuki’s breath lingered at his ear and the tight curl of that arm across his abs…
 
“I’m more worried about Fuji,” he insisted, stubbornly trying to pretend he didn’t need the comfort on offer.
 
Kazuki sighed, releasing him but keeping light fingers on the round of his waist. “You should be. He’s already engaging in self-destructive flirting with Takumi. I can try and stop him but-”
 
“Forget it,” Tezuka cut in, more harshly than he intended.
 
Kazuki paused a moment before hesitantly defending the tensai. “You know he didn’t mean…”
 
“I know,” Tezuka breathed. “He got lost in it all.”
 
“And you didn’t?”
 
“Not so thoroughly.” At the time, he’d been humiliated and furious but he knew Fuji as well as anyone could and he could see the emotional struggle enveloping the tensai in a way he himself couldn’t quite imagine. For Fuji, it had become temporarily impossible to discern reality from performance and the very definitions of each for that matter. “Fuji has a way of getting caught up in things,” he explained, turning to face Kazuki. “He needs to find his own way out.”
 
“You’re a good boyfriend.”
 
“If I was a better boyfriend, I’d be the only answer he needed.”
 
*
 
Aiba wiped at his eyes again and again, even as the steady stream from the shower head rendered his tears invisible. He kept trying to calm himself down with deep breaths and reasonable logic but the jealousy cramping his insides just wouldn’t abate.
 
This wasn’t him. It was hormones—damned teenage hormones—and exhaustion, and stress.
 
Eventually, the torrent passed and he slunk tiredly from the shower, wrapping himself tightly in a towel and drying his wooden face, worn from crying. When he emerged, Fuji’s sister was standing there with the cordless phone in her hand. “It’s Tezuka,” she said.
 
“I don’t want to-”
 
“He’s been waiting for about ten minutes.”
 
Aiba snatched the phone then froze, mid-storm-off. “Sorry,” he said, stiffly.
 
“Don’t sweat it,” she replied. “Whatever’s going on between you and… well, I guess it isn’t Tezuka, now is it? Anyway, you know you can talk to me and rely on me, right? But he’s still the only one who can truly understand what you’re going through—and I’m sure he’s struggling with it, too. Try and keep an open mind.”
 
“Thank you. I will.”
 
Only when he had closed the door to Fuji’s room, toweled himself off, wrapped his hair, and then flopped onto the bed on his back did Aiba raise the phone to his ear. “Yuu?”
 
“…Aibatchi.”
 
“Well? How’s your arm?”
 
It was a vindictively false question.
 
“I had to talk to him.”
 
“Talk.”
 
“Aibaitchi-”
 
“Don’t,” Aiba sighed, too drained for more heart-ache. “I hate that I feel like this,” he confessed all of a sudden. “It’s really pathetic and I’m tired of it. Whatever. Just tell me: Was it worth it? Did you get what you were after?”
 
“Atobe will throw the game,” Yuu said quietly. “In exchange…”
 
“What, he wasn’t satisfied? What does he want? A ring? Damn it, Yuu-”
 
“He wants to meet you. Privately.”
 
“Just… just the two of us?” Why did that idea terrify Aiba so much?
 
“Just… the three of us.”

Chapter Text

Having finished his Math homework, Ryouma was kicking back with the latest feature in Pro Tennis. Karupin had just jumped up beside him and butted her head under his arm when a commotion downstairs caught his attention. He listened carefully and, shortly, there was a hesitant knock at his door.

"Come in," he called reluctantly.

"It's me," said the familiar voice of Fuji as the door inched open. It wasn't Fuji, though, and that was abundantly clear in the nervous behavior. "Your mother said to come on up but if you're tired, or-"

"What is it?" Ryouma frowned, put off by the exceptionally self-conscious attitude of the boy... (man...?) wearing Fuji's face.

"...I'm out of my depth here."

"This isn't about tennis," Ryouma guessed, wishing he'd pretended to be asleep. He sighed, put down his magazine, and swung his legs over the edge of the bed, patting the space beside him. However, Aiba remained on his feet, beginning to pace as he worked himself up to say whatever it was he had come to say.

"I can't... I can't blame it on this situation. The truth is... I really like Yuu. More than that. I... But just when I think we're on the same page, he keeps doing things that would suggest otherwise. It's like he thinks it doesn't count just because we're in these borrowed bodies."

Ryouma knew he was heading into dangerous territory but it had to be said. "Don't you think you guys have bigger things to worry about than relationship issues?"

The glare Aiba threw at him was chilling—all the more so for the sharp glint of Fuji's blue eyes. "You think it's ok, then, for him to cheat on me with Atobe just because doing so might solve one problem?"

Cocking his head, Ryouma studied the boy standing before him, turning those words over in his mind. Piece by piece, it came together until he gasped and shot up from the bed. "Are you saying he made a deal with that monkey's ass!?"

"That is exactly what I'm saying," Aiba growled.

"Buchou would never-"

"And it doesn't end there." Aiba stalked right up to him, glaring down as if Ryouma were the one at fault.

"What do you mean?" Ryouma asked, afraid even to imagine.

"He didn't just barter his own slutty services, oh no, he bartered mine, as well!"

"Wait... what?"

Ryouma simply couldn't imagine it. That Tezuka had always been swayed by something about Atobe—be it his looks, talent, or so-called charm—Ryouma was well aware, but the stoic captain was just too sensible to follow through with that foolish attraction. Thus, while trying to fathom the idea of Tezuka-buchou in bed with Atobe was bad enough... Fuji...

Fuji-senpai was amiable to a fault on the surface—so much so, in fact, that Ryouma often imagined a volcano silently bubbling below the surface, readying to blow at the slightest quake. Fuji hated Atobe. That much was clear. That even the despicable King of Monkey Mountain would stoop so low as to take advantage of a stranger in Fuji's body left Ryouma somewhat stunned.

Aiba was almost crying. "Atobe wants me and Yuu to go over to his stupid mansion on the weekend after the exhibition matches."

Fuji would never cry. Not over a thing like this. Perhaps that was why it tugged at Ryouma's heart strings to see thick tears well up in those clear baby blues and roll down pale cheeks. Ryouma needed to get ahold of himself.

"So-?"

"So you know what he wants as well as I do!"

Arms wrapped around his mid-section, Aiba was biting his lips and staring at Ryouma like the last life raft on a sinking ship. The temptation to pull him into a hug was strong—but Ryouma couldn't afford this kind of confusion. Someone had to keep his head on straight around here.

"Are you telling me you're not interested?" he asked, disgusted with how cold he sounded to himself.

"Interested...? No! I... I only just realized how I feel about Yuu. How could I be interested in anyone else?" Of course. Aiba was already dealing with the confusion of brand new emotions for someone else. It was stupid to hope he might have room for some kid he barely knew. "Let alone... Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Like what?" Belatedly, Ryouma realized that Aiba was frowning at him.

"Like I let you down. Look, I know. I'm sorry I can't be as perfect as your precious Fuji-senpai. I'll just take my problems elsewhere. Forget about-"

"Aiba-senpai." Ryouma took a step forward so that he was standing right under Aiba's nose, gazing up at Fuji's sweet, round face. "You're right," he murmured. "I'm disappointed."

"Yeah, I got that. Thanks," Aiba responded, surprisingly staying exactly where he was without retreating from the excessive proximity.

"I guess I just thought you might make an exception..." He was already rising on the balls of his feet before he finished speaking.

"Echizennmmmmhnh."

Fuji-senpai had lovely, soft lips... but it was Aiba who made such interesting noises.

*

Fuji gasped, didn't get enough air, and then tried again. Steam thickened the atmosphere and water trickled through his fringe and down his face. Takumi was all that was holding him up as his feet struggled to find purchase on the slippery tiles. His finger-tips dug into the grout that lined the wall in a grid but lost their hold continuously as Takumi's relentless thrusts rocked his whole, delicate body and bliss began to well with overpowering urgency. Again and again, he breathed his lover's name, but rarely did his voice fill the word. Soon, it was all he could do to emit a long groan as he lost control of his body and leaned heavily into the arms holding him and sheltering him.

Water continued to rain down on them both from the shower head, washing away the evidence of his orgasm. He was mostly limp in Takumi's arms—but Takumi was anything but.

Fuji turned, hooking his arms around Takumi's neck and shaking the water from his eyes. "Would you let me take you?" he asked.

"Yes," Takumi murmured. It was so beautiful how he always wore that focused, sensual expression when he meant to convey a message. "But not now. You're all worn out."

"Don't be ridiculous. I-"

"I'm not, and you are," Takumi scolded him, reaching around to shut off the shower. "Come on, you can barely stand. Let's get you dried up."

Fuji was disturbed to learn it was true. In his own body, he had the kind of sexual stamina people claimed was a myth. Aiba, however... Well, he was obviously new to all this. His dancer's energy was one thing but it wasn't quite the same as athletic stamina. To be honest, the fault wasn't all in Aiba's physical form, either. Even for a tensai, learning and performing an entire musical was a grand feat. The emotional impact of the night was finally wearing him thin. Takumi was right. His legs were shaking.

"I don't get it," Takumi spoke as he calmly toweled down Aiba's body as if dealing with a child. "Before... You didn't even notice when I hit on you. It was frustrating. Now... And I know you're sleeping with Shirotan. I'm not an idiot. Not to mention whatever the hell is going on with Kazuki disappearing with the two of you every damn night... So what is this? Why aren't you with them now? Why me?"

"You're the one who extended the invitation..."

"I thought you'd turn it down! Then I could confirm... Aiba, what's going on?"

Taking a deep breath to center himself and hold his tired body together a little longer, Fuji took the towel that now hung limply in Takumi's hands. He then stepped up and reached around the tall actor's neck to dry behind his neck and ears. From there, he slowly began to work his way down.

"I wasn't sure if I should tell you... but you have a right to know. I think Aiba would prefer it... That first night—it was wonderful—but it happened for the wrong reasons. I was angry at my boyfriend and I used you. I'm sorry. It's not that simple, though. I like you. You're bold, and brave... and sexy as hell. If Aiba's not into you, he's an idiot, I promise." Before Takumi could object to the use of the third person, Fuji dropped to his knees and began drying between long, thin thighs. "Aiba, Hiroki and Shirota, Yuu are stuck in my world, just as I am stuck in yours, together with Tezuka. We've been here since Christmas. Remember when Shirota fell ill? He wasn't. That was Tezuka freaking out—weird, I know. I'd never seen anything like it before, either. Kazuki has been helping us—and, yes... we've both become very fond of him..." He rose, holding the towel between them as if it would defend his feelings when Takumi refuted every word he said. "But I've become rather fond of you, too. It's not just sexual... Without realizing it... You're the one I look to when I need comfort of my own. In some ways, this has been fun... but it's been hard, too—and you're right. I'm tired. I'm so... so..."

"I can't believe it took you this long to tell me."

There was something about Takumi's arms—about the shape and feel of them, or the way he curled Aiba's body into them, or perhaps something about the warm, smooth chest within which a steady beat thumped a comforting rhythm... There was something about Takumi that just made Fuji feel safe and protected. Even if he didn't understand this world or how he had come to be in it, when Takumi held him, he felt calm. Maybe it was the voice. Maybe that low tone gave him a sense of stability that was sheer sensory manipulation. Whatever it was, he was grateful for it.

Holding on tightly, he took a deep breath in, savoring the freshly washed yet still musky scent that was all Saitou, Takumi. He'd been on the verge of tears but now he was perfectly settled.

"Did you know?" he asked.

"How could I know?" Takumi responded dryly. "Of course I didn't know."

"How can you just accept this so fast?" Fuji whispered, rubbing his cheek against the baby-soft skin of a thin shoulder.

"It makes sense," Takumi told him. "I mean... It doesn't, but... I get it now. Why you've been different. Why you all have... It answers questions."

"And creates a million more."

"Yes. But maybe it's not our job to answer them." Takumi pushed him back to arm’s length, staring solidly into his eyes. "I don't know what I am to you, or how that compares to Shiro—Tezuka, or... or anyone else... but I appreciate the time we've spent together. I'm grateful that you trust me and that you told me the truth."

Nodding, Fuji smiled. He lowered his eyes for a moment, thinking of how to respond, and they caught on something intriguing. Belatedly, he remembered the bulge that had been pressed against his naked body moments before. He cocked his head at Takumi. "Are you still...? Well, I suppose if I were you and I got to listen to myself talk all day, I'd be hard all the time, too."

"Nah, I'm used to that," Takumi joked. "But have I ever mentioned I secretly have a thing for you? I mean, you. Fuji... That's what started my crush on Aiba in the first place."

Raising his eyebrows, Fuji let a slow smile develop. He took Takumi's hand and backed out of the bathroom, intending to lead his new favorite admirer to the closest bed.

That plan was somewhat foiled by the fact that there was already someone on it.

"Fascinating story. Explains a lot, really. I've been terribly curious."

Takumi's eyes widened and his cheeks bloomed with red that showed through prettily on his dark skin. "Araki!? How did you-"

"Oh, please. Kazuki won't even notice his key's missing until tomorrow morning when he needs a change of clothes. I'm sure he and—Tezuka, was it?—are as comfy as ever in that little love shack you call a room. Pleasure to meet you, Fuji. Officially, anyway."

"Ara..." Fuji voiced, at a loss for words.

"Arayan will do," Araki informed him with a smirk.

*

Aiba jumped back, covering his mouth and staring at Echizen in shock and a tiny bit of horror. "I can't!" he gasped.

"Shirota?" Echizen asked darkly.

"No! I mean, yes, but... no. It's just... You're so... You're what? 13? 12!?"

"So what? You're only two years older than me."

"No, I'm not! You said it yourself, I'm... Oh my god, this is all so messed up."

Curling down around his knees, Aiba tried to rapidly think through the dilemma. Age, dimensions, reality versus fantasy... There was so much about this world that just didn't add up to the one he knew and knew how to operate in.

What he did know was that Echizen was hurt. He could feel it radiating toward him.

Just moments ago he had been saying that he couldn't even think about being with any guy other than Shirotan... and then Echizen had kissed him and he so easily went back on that statement. All of the feelings—emotional and physical—that rushed to the surface in him...

"I like you!" he confessed, looking up at the boy from his defensive crouch. "I shouldn't but I do. This isn't right."

Instead of getting angry or upset, Echizen observed him very closely and began to frown. "Since when?" he asked. "I mean, not when did you realize it... How long have you felt that way?"

"I..." Would Echizen be hurt if he admit that he hadn't felt that way right up until the moment they kissed? What kind of answer was he looking for?

"I'm guessing it was pretty sudden," Echizen surmised. "You know, you say this whole world I live in is governed by the pen of one author who decides everything about my fate—which school I joined, who wins and who loses... Why not who falls in love with whom?"

Aiba shook his head. "Yeah, but... I'm not from your world."

"You're here now," Echizen pointed out. "You're having urges you normally wouldn't, suddenly changing your mind, going along with day-to-day activities that have nothing to do with you or with getting yourself home..."

"You have got to be kidding me," Aiba whispered.

"I'm not," Echizen assured him. "And I'll prove it."

"How?"

"Your instincts are telling you that you shouldn't sleep with me—because I'm too young, I'm not your boyfriend, I'm not real... Whatever. But you're going to. Because that's what the author has decided."

"That's ridiculous," Aiba whispered.

But he wanted to believe it because if it was true, then Shirotan wasn't really cheating on him, he was just playing by the script. That was the comforting thought that preceded the troubling follow-up question that sent Aiba's fragile sanity spiraling into chaos... It was an inevitable question under the circumstances, and one that he loathed to even consider.

Were his feelings for Yuu even real at all?

*

It should have bothered Ryouma but it didn't. If his whole life was all just part of a fictional world of which he was the protagonist, then this was just another day at the office. He'd always liked Fuji-senpai, and Tezuka, too. It wasn't at all strange that he might start to fall for this person inside of Fuji who was both like and un-like his beloved senpai. He had no objection to what he was sure was about to happen. In fact, he looked forward to it.

He hoped it would be what Aiba needed, too. All the stress of winding up in a strange world, falling for another man, watching that man stray, and facing the prospect of trading himself for a thrown match... Maybe it would be easier to accept once he believed that at least some of these choices were not their own.

And yet, they were. Ryouma knew that in a way he couldn't explain. He knew that there were boundaries to what he would do and what he absolutely would not. It was a matter of character. Whatever Aiba believed, all of the choices he had made—or been directed to make—were within the possibilities of who he was. Thus, Ryouma was glad to know he was an option for Aiba when the dancer took the hand offered him and followed Ryouma to the bed.

This was on him to lead, because there was no way Aiba would take it upon himself, he was too pure of heart. Thus, Ryouma knelt over him, kissing his neck, touching his chest and whispering things to prove he was more than willing.

"Aiba-senpai, I really like you. You're different from everyone I know. You're careful and thoughtful, but also really brave, and I'm proud of you for everything you've come through so far. We're going to see this through together, I promise—all of us."

Naked, ready, and balanced above his senpai, Ryouma stared down into sparkling blue eyes and sensed the last bastion of hesitation lying in wait there. If he moved now, Aiba was going to regret it, he could tell. He thought about it in tennis terms, trying to imagine a way to put it so that Aiba would understand... but then he realized that tennis wasn't the answer, not for Aiba.

"He missed something," Ryouma whispered, leaning over so that his face hovered above Aiba's, his hair falling down his cheeks.

"Who?" Aiba asked, his eyes searching.

"This author of yours."

"Konomi-sensei."

"Konomi-sensei. He missed something."

"What?" Aiba breathed, needing an answer that brought sense to his mind.

Ryouma smirked. "Motivation. Isn't that what actors are always saying? 'What's my motivation?'"

Aiba shook his head. "Good directors don't give you your motivation... You have to find that yourself," he said, growing calmer with each word.

"Well then? What is it?" Ryouma asked.

"Do you want this?"

Despite what he thought he knew, Ryouma took a moment to consider—to think about the person he had come to know and the act that his body anticipated eagerly. He thought about Fuji—and he thought about Tezuka and Shirota... And then he thought about Aiba again and how he wanted to be someone who could help Aiba through this crazy ordeal.

"Yes," he said seriously. "I want this—and that's all my own instinct," he added for good measure.

Aiba nodded slowly, thinking. He licked his lips. He reached up and ran his hands through Ryouma's hair, studying how it hung down around his face.

"Then that's my motivation," he said, pulling Ryouma down for a kiss.

*

Aiba arched and strained, his fingers curling in the blanket beneath him. Echizen's expression was so open and so trusting, he couldn't tear his eyes from him but he wanted to close them and savor the sensation.

For all the sex he'd experienced in starts and stops in his own body and in Fuji's, all the kisses and fondling and grindings with Shirotan... This was entirely new to him. The slowly build-up of pleasure in his loins, the incredible heat sheathing him and caressing him with every movement Echizen made... The emotional connection of being so tightly bound to another human being... Echizen might be the younger, but in this he was also the more experienced. That, more than anything, drained whatever guilt Aiba had continued to harbor until there was only he and Echizen and the rising pleasure.

The boy rode him carefully, trying to keep any creaking of the bed to a minimum, and they both stifled their harsh breathing, whimpers, and moans, while holding back any cries that tried to escape. There was an intimacy and intensity to the forced quiet that brought them closer and closer until their lips brushed with each breath in accidental kisses that finally developed to become one long, deep, breathless kiss into which they both moaned and shuddered as their bodies reached the threshold of tension and they came long and hard together.

Afterward, Aiba treasured the way Ryouma curled against him and almost immediately fell asleep. He also treasured the relief that sang in his body—not only from sexual tension but from stress, as well. He slowly stroked the boy's hair and marveled at all he had been through and the changes that overcame him daily. This was just one more step on his journey, but it was one that meant a lot to him. Ryouma would always be precious to him.

Ryouma... He could no longer think of the little hero by the impersonal surname. He was no longer swayed by memories of Yanagi, either. Whatever the setting... Ryouma was real to him, now, as real as he himself had ever been.

Chapter Text

Pushing himself up from his impersonation of lazy Roman nobility, Araki swung his legs over the edge of the bed but remained sitting, staring up at both Fuji and Takumi with an open, frank expression that forestalled any immediate sense of danger. Fuji didn't like being blind-sided but if nothing else, it earned his attention. 
 
"What do you want?" he asked bluntly. "Why ambush us like this?"
 
There was genuine frustration in Araki's eyes when he answered, "I don't like being left out."
 
A sharp huff of derision escaped. "So you want to have sex with me, too?" Fuji drawled.
 
Araki cocked his head, looking far too intrigued by the swift conclusion. "Did I say that?"
 
"So you don't want to have sex with me."
 
The man who was entirely too crafty and sexy for a role like Inui laughed with genuine mirth and shrugged as if to say 'so sue me.' "Of course I do, but that's not what I'm asking—although I hope it stays on the table."
 
"What exactly are you asking?" growled Takumi, belatedly realizing that trying to hide his nakedness behind an equally naked Fuji was pointless and shifting sideways as if to prove he didn't care.
 
The low, protective rumble sent a thrill through Fuji, tired as he was. There was no need for such hostility but he appreciated the sentiment behind it. Subtly, he reached back to touch Takumi's wrist, encouraging him to settle.
 
"Keep me in the loop," said Araki, answering Takumi's demand but keeping his eyes focused firmly on Fuji. "Let me into the conspiracy club... Let me help you."
 
Guiding Takumi by the fingertips, Fuji glided around to the empty bed, sitting lightly and forcing Araki to turn around, repositioning himself on top of the mattress. "Help? How?" Fuji pulled Takumi down beside him and entwined their fingers for reassurance, even as he draped himself over a skinny lap.
 
There was a measure of hunger in Araki's expression as he surveyed the very intentional tableau, but he suppressed it admirably. "For starters, with the show. The more people who have your backs on stage, the better, right? Especially as a member of the Seigaku cast. Kazuki won't always be there to help you, and obviously the same goes for Takumi... But more importantly, I happen to be pretty well acquainted with someone you should definitely meet."
 
Takumi gasped, causing Fuji to glance up in surprise. He watched that elegant face struggle to resist outward judgment... and win. "So it's true, then. You are sleeping with Konomi-sensei."
 
Fuji's eyes deliberately traveled back to Araki as he took in that statement and instantly noted the acceptance akin to agreement. Konomi-sensei... 
 
"That's a crude way to categorize a very special relationship, but fundamentally correct, I suppose."
 
Araki... was involved… with-
 
"Konomi Takeshi..." Fuji breathed, barely aware that he had spoken the name aloud. "My..."
 
"Ew. Don't you dare say father," Araki complained.
 
"Maker?" suggested Takumi, ever helpful, no matter the circumstances.
 
"...My muse," Fuji murmured, his lips curling into a cunning smile. The man who had inspired his tennis, his counters... his love for Tezuka? Was Konomi responsible for every single aspect of his life? Somehow, Fuji didn't think so. There were too many minute details to his day-by-day that no author would ever think of let alone bother to pen... so how far did his influence extend? Perhaps this was Fuji's chance to find out.
 
Araki was watching him with a wary stillness. "... Yeah, not what I expected."
 
"Me, either," agreed Takumi, also gazing down at Fuij.
 
Smiling up at him and then over at Araki, the tensai then re-located himself from Takumi's lap onto the expanse of bed behind him. He stretched out and let his fingers drift lazily down the base of Takumi's spine. "I think we can work something out," he hummed toward Araki. "Seeing as you have so much energy to spare, Takumin... why don't you give Araki a proper welcome to the conspiracy club?"
 
Completely devoid of a shred of passivity, Araki instantly went on the offense, surging forward and pushing Takumi down over Fuji's idle body. The bass tones of the groans that ensued as Araki evidently gave Takumi the blow-job of his life lulled Fuji into a very satisfactory sleep, from which he woke refreshed and eager the next morning, warmly ensconced between two clingy, naked bodies.
 
*
 
“I give up!” announced Aiba, bright as a button.
 
“I’m sorry?” asked Yuu, taken aback by the sudden announcement—no greeting, no clarification, no warning.
 
“Don’t be,” the dancer responded, waving vaguely.
 
That wasn’t what Yuu had meant. “You give up on what?” he asked, counseling himself to patience as he glanced around surreptitiously hoping that none of his team—or anyone else he was supposed to know, for that matter—was in earshot.
 
Something was off about Aibatchi. He hadn't been this cheerful since... Well, since before the switch.
 
“I realized there's no point fighting it,” Aiba told him. “Any of it,” he pre-empted, hefting his racket case and scanning the mob of assorted middle-schoolers milling around for Seigaku colors.  "You, this weird sci-fi scenario, sleeping with Ryouma... Atobe... Any of it.” 
 
“Ryou… Who slept with Echizen? Cause I didn’t do that, if that’s wha-”
 
“Oh, no. That was me.” 
 
“...You did what?”
 
Aiba shrugged. “I figured you wouldn't really care.”
 
“Well you figured wrong!”
 
“You slept with Atobe. Twice. And you practically pimped me off to him, so let me rephrase... I figured you didn't get a say.”
 
“Dude, he's like…” 
 
“Two years younger than we are.” 
 
“You know that's not true.”
 
“Again, let me rephrase... He's two years younger than Atobe. Go on, justify that.” Aiba waited. Yuu blinked. He would have been thinking furiously if he thought it was possible to find a good answer. He blinked again. Twice. “Yeah, you can't, can you? That's my point. It's useless arguing over any of this, because we're being controlled.”
 
"...Don't make me ask," Yuu sighed. "Don't make me drag it out of you, whatever this is."
 
The expression Aiba turned on him told him a lot about what his rather new boyfriend had thought of him until that moment. He was carefree and eager to roll with the punches. He was enjoying this crazy re-ordering of the world. He was having the time of his life seducing Aiba and getting seduced by Atobe, and learning tennis, and fooling the team... He was fine.
 
But he wasn't, and he'd finally let that slip with a little too much honesty in that plea. His chest felt tight and Aiba suddenly stood out like a beacon in the middle of a vast, dark ocean. All he wanted was to touch it, hold onto it, and squeeze until the ache in his chest eased. He couldn't, so he tried to express what he was feeling in words. "If I was here with anyone else..." He heard himself speaking and wondered how he planned to end that sentence, but he didn't know, so he let his mouth keep moving and waiting to hear what sounds would fall out of it. "I would have crumbled. I'd be in pieces. I'm not... because all of this madness brought us together and for the first time since we met, it feels like I'm in the right place at the right time... Even this place and this time. I know I haven't been-"
 
"Shut up," Aiba hissed.
 
The abrupt order sent a spear of ice through Yuu and he clamped his mouth shut and tried to swallow his shock.
 
"You idiot. Only you would just blurt out something like that in the middle of a crowd and make me want to kiss you and cry and of course Oishi is heading right for us at this very instant!"
 
The last few words were spoken with a pleasant smile and a welcome wave that momentarily awed Yuu. Aiba could really act when he put his mind to it.
 
Only as Oishi reached them and he was effectively barred from responding did Yuu realize that Aiba hadn't been angry... He'd been overwhelmed. It wasn't often that Yuu let his true feelings surface but when they did, they took him over completely. He hadn't quite understood how grateful and glad he was to have Aiba beside him through this until he spoke it aloud. He also hadn't quite realized how familiar weariness had begun to feel.
 
As Oishi led them over to where Kikumaru, Inui, Kaidou, and the first-year trio waited, Yuu belatedly remembered what Aiba had said about being controlled and curiosity began to bubble ferociously in his guts. He had a feeling he wasn't going to get the chance to find out what Aiba had meant any time soon. The stragglers and late-comers showed up one by one, and then they made their way to the court-side where Hyoutei lay in wait, arranged around Atobe in classic harem style. It almost looked like the opening pose of a number.
 
...Was the air around them sparkling? Not with glitter but...
 
"You see that, right?" Aiba mumbled through a fixed smile. "Those little ice crystals in the air?"
 
"Ahuh."
 
"It's what... 23-24 degrees Celcius?"
 
"Mmm."
 
"It is exactly 25 degrees Celcius but factoring in the wind, it does feel at least one degree cooler," allowed Inui, adjusting his glasses as if the weather report were printed on the lenses. 
 
"Right, but... How do you explain that ice?" asked Aiba, biting the bullet.
 
Yuu was instantly aware of the strange looks several team members turned on Aiba. It was Momoshiro who finally shrugged and said, "It's Hyoutei," as if that  answer was so obvious he felt stupid explaining it.
 
Kawamura laughed it off, exclaiming about Fuji's tensai eccentricities, but the incident gave Yuu pause. Aside from the team's name and some hints in Atobe's techniques, Hyoutei's affinity for ice wasn't that pronounced in either the manga or the anime. It was in the musical that their motif began to revolve around the element... What kind of messed up world had they stumbled into?
 
*
 
Performing across from Araki was highly unsettling when the would-be Inui clearly had more data than he should. All throughout their "match" and whenever their eyes met during a scene, Tezuka got the urge to shiver, as if Araki were seeing straight through the facade that was Shirota, Yuu to the teenaged tennis captain beneath—and that wasn't all. Throughout the benc hwork, Saitou, Takumi was studying him relentlessly. He failed to respond to his team's attempts at stage business and just kept staring, instead. It was highly unnerving; especially during the singles one numbers.
 
That Fuji had told them both everything, Tezuka had no doubt. What he didn't understand was why Araki had been read in and what the hell Fuji was thinking in doing so. 
 
A few times, Kazuki prompted Takumi back into his role, proving as reliable as ever and making Tezuka feel endlessly grateful that he had such an ally. Not that this was Tezuka and Kazuki vs. Fuji, Takumi, and Araki. They were all one cast, and the success of the show was something they all worked towards. For all of their staring and pondering, the two recently enlightened men seemed to be lending Tezuka their support and encouragement in passing here and there. It was just that he couldn't help but feel like Fuji was plotting and planning as usual, and he never knew when that was going to send him reeling. Knowing that Kazuki was in his corner gave him confidence that he could deal with whatever Fuji threw at him.
 
His lover simply meant to keep things interesting, both in life itself and between them. He knew that somewhere deep down, Fuji was afraid Tezuka would bore of him and seek out someone more interesting... someone stronger. It was a stupid thing to be afraid of, but one couldn't choose their fears, only their method of overcoming them. So Fuji planted obstacles, both to protect himself, and to keep Tezuka intrigued. 
 
There was one counter Tezuka could employ that would settle the tensai somewhat and makes things a little easier for a while... That was to throw Fuji off first. 
 
Approaching his boyfriend through the darkness of the wing, Tezuka was careful to stay out of sight of the audience by hugging the massive black drapes—without touching them and setting them aflutter. He reached out and carefully threaded his arm about Fuji's waist with a delicate touch that surprised the tensai but didn't shock him into shouting or jumping. 
 
Once Fuji recognized him, he pulled his boyfriend back against his chest and kissed his jaw, just below the mic taped to his skin. I love you he mouthed, letting his arms slip free as he walked toward the stage for his entrance.
 
Let Fuji chew on that move for a while and stop plotting for a whole five minutes while he tried to wrap his adorably thick little head about it...
 
Tezuka wasn't mad about being startled on stage anymore. He wasn't mad about Takumi... or Araki... or Takumi and Araki. He wasn't mad that they knew.
 
He was just glad that the one person he couldn't live without had joined him in this mad world of bright lights, technicolor, and impossible dimensions. It was as much home as anywhere else as long as Fuji was there.

Chapter Text

 
It was impressive. Not that Aiba could see it for himself. If Ryouma hadn't been muttering a commentary in his ear the whole time, he might have thought he was watching the real Tezuka at work.
 
What Ryouma was explaining to him was not how Yuu had managed to pull off this technique or that, but rather, how Atobe was drawing them out of him by controlling the ball with exquisite precision. As a result, he looked as worn as if he were truly playing an opponent as strong as Tezuka.
 
It gave the farce an air of realism. Even Ryouma was grudgingly complimentary.
 
It also gave Aiba food for thought. He found himself considering Kazuki and the softness he brought out in Atobe.
 
Aiba and Yuu each played their own version of the characters they had inherited, contributing what they saw in those characters to the final impression. He hadn't really considered that an actor like Kazuki must be doing the same; that his soft-at-heart Atobe might actually have some precedent. Of course, he hadn't bothered to consider more than his own concept of Atobe much at all until he saw the character step out onto the court, put on his little show, and then square off against Yuu.
 
Now, he wondered if there wasn't some genuine kindness in the so-called narcisist after all. To put so much effort into making his loss look real and giving Yuu's Tezuka the credit, he must have been thinking of more than his own ends. Otherwise, he would have let himself off the hook with a faked injury at the earliest convenience. Instead, he engineered his own defeat.
 
"Echizen, what are you muttering about over there?" Momoshiro snapped rather suddenly, making Aiba jump.
 
The actor quickly converted the uncharacteristic re-action into a laugh. "Echizen has been treating me to a private commentary parodying Atobe's inner voice," he said, infusing an air of mystery and pasting on an expression that pre-warned of his disinclination to explain further.
 
"Nice, senpai," Ryouma breathed in his ear. 
 
Turning to face him, Aiba studied the innocence of his features that clashed with the bratty, somewhat devious personality he had come to know. He was touched that Ryouma had begun to call him that but to avoid suspicion, he smiled vaguely in response and turned back to the match. 
 
It had to be almost over. He was exhausted just watching it. Yuu must be dying.
 
When a look of shock crossed Atobe's face at the zero shiki drop that rolled demurely away from his feet a moment later, Aiba couldn't deny a small measure of gratitude—but not for the timely end to the match. Thanks to Atobe's performance, Aiba's and Yuu's identities would remain a secret for now and that meant a lot.
 
*
 
It was all Atobe could do not to stumble to the net. His techniques were developed to exploit his opponent's weaknesses, not to draw out their strengths. Had he known what it would take out of him, he might have demanded a much higher reward of the jolly man wearing Tezuka's stoic—and handsome—face.
 
Then again, he found himself doing lots of silly little things he normally wouldn't bother with these days. He always walked Shirotan all the way down the drive rather than letting the staff show him to the front door, or insisted on driving him to his destination in the limo. He instructed that tea be brought in his favorite set, hoping Shirotan might appreciate the aesthetic. He even let the actor play with his adored dog and instead of feeling jealousy at the animal's obvious joy, he was warmed by how easily they bonded. Such ridiculous sentiments were not common to him and he knew he was setting himself up to get hurt if he let things continue as they were but he just couldn't help himself.
 
From the moment he discerned that the boy who looked like Tezuka wasn't Tezuka at all, he had been intrigued. The twin story was interesting and almost plausible but he'd simply known it for the lie it was. When he learned the truth, that the boy wasn't a boy at all but a grown man wearing Tezuka's facade, he'd accepted it with alacrity. The thing was, Atobe had a thing for older men. What he didn't enjoy was how they always expected him to be in their power. It wasn't like that with Shirotan.
 
There was such a bright, playful nature in this man that being around him was effortless fun. He could be warm and passionate, and he was considerate, but he never treated Atobe like glass the way some did. Perhaps that sense of balance in their interaction was because of the strange situation, putting them on a level so to speak, but for Atobe, it was an incredibly comfortable relationship.
 
Not that it even amounted to that much—a handful of phone-calls, even less meetings, a deal or two, and some top-rate sex. All the while, Shirotan was reveling in a new relationship with the man who pretended to be Fuji.
 
It would be in Atobe's best interest to keep this dalliance either casual or business-like. There was no place for crushes—or for gestures like draining himself to the bone to help Shirotan pass himself off convincingly as Tezuka. Yet, here he was, drained and at a loss.
 
As it was, "Tezuka" was frowning in customary fashion when they clasped hands. The difference was that there was genuine concern in those hazel eyes Atobe usually found to appear as cold and judgemental.
 
"You didn't have to go that far," said Shirotan quietly. "...You didn't have to lose at all."
 
"I have a lot to look forward to tomorrow," Atobe told him with that little smirk on his lips that he knew outdid any swagger.
 
The truth was, his terms were more strategic than he allowed Shirotan to believe. When he won Aiba over, he would be that much closer to hitching a ride to that fascinating world his strange lover spoke of—instead of being left here with a Tezuka who denied him tied down to a Fuji who despised him.
 
Still, there was one thing his conscience annoyingly goaded him to confess... "That last point, that was all you. I might have returned it if I hadn't been so surprised."
 
Shirotan merely tilted his head just slightly, in an approximation of how Tezuka might shrug if he were prone to such gestures. "You're tired," he allowed. "I don't think I could have pulled it off, otherwise. Anyway, best we break this up before the Seigakuans get over-protective."
 
Atobe snorted at the term even as he peered around Tezuka's imposing frame to make eye contact with "Fuji." He had just enough juice left to summon a smug wink before turning his back and walking away. 
 
Getting soft at heart didn't mean he was softening elsewhere. He was rather looking forward to the spoils of this little bribe.
 
*
 
"Well. This is unusual."
 
Takumi lay atop his bed, lanky legs stretched right out, elbows at sharp angles as he held a manga perched on his chest. He let the volume fall flat when Kazuki entered, the better to pin him with a skeptical brow-raise.
 
Kazuki raised his legs one after the other to remove his boots as he spoke. "I wanted to give Tezuka and Fuji some time alone, and I figured you and I might have some things to talk about."
 
Takumi's nose was soon back in his manga. "Not really. You have your gig, I've got mine What's there to discuss?"
 
Sighing, Kazuki ran a hand through his hair and perched on the edge of the bed he hadn't used at all. "Really, Takumi? You do you, I'll do me? Don't you give a damn about where all this is going?"
 
Setting down the manga, Takumi rolled onto his side with that careless natural grace Kazuki was jealous of. His comfort in his own skin was a marvel. Kazuki could never stretch out his own long limbs without fear of smacking someone or something.
 
Pillowing his head in his hand, Takumi seemed to be settling in for a discussion after all. "I'm more interested in where you think this is going. You know it's not gonna last, right? Once they're gone, everything will have to go back to the way it was before."
 
"Wow. Doesn't take you long to go for the jugular," Kazuki noted, a little taken aback.
 
Of course, he hadn't imagined things could go on forever this way but he had been avoiding thinking about it too much. Why live for disappointment instead of enjoying what one had in the present? 
 
"Look, I didn't mean it that way." Takumi sighed, swinging his legs off the bed and planting his feet. He leaned forward. "It's a complicated situation—probably more-so for you than for me." His gaze alternated between Kazuki and the floor until he challenged real compassion for a moment, holding Kazuki's gaze. "I know how you felt about Yuu before-"
 
"As if you weren't into Aiba."
 
"That's different. It's more a physical thing. I've already got what I wanted."
 
"I wouldn't say I haven't..."
 
"I know. You're too damn pure, man. You had a thing for Yuu... but you're falling in love with Tezuka."
 
It wasn't a statement Kazuki could refute, no matter how much he wanted to. At first it had been Fuji who tapped into his heart but with every passing day, things grew more and more personal with Tezuka. He knew it was more than just one-sided sentiment, too...
 
"Even if Aiba and Shirotan are open to keeping things going when they get back... Even if Yuu did decide he wants to be with you after all... he's not Tezuka. Everything would be different."
 
"I know that."
 
"Do you?"
 
"Damn it, Takumi. I know. I'm an idiot for falling for Tezuka, but what can I do? Pretend it never happened? When the time comes, whatever happens, I'll just have to adjust."
 
"Whatever happens..." For a moment, Takumi seemed like he wanted to say something else but then the tension went out of him and he shrugged. "I'm here, yeah? You won't have to go through it alone."
 
"Thanks. And hey, I appreciate your tough love strategy, too. I don't want to waste what time remains dreading the future but... I'll try and be ready when it comes."
 
"Good. Well... good chat."
 
"Yeah. Good chat."
 
"We should probably get some sleep. We'll be on the road early tomorrow," said Takumi, reaching across to his bedside table for a chap-stick to run over his lips. He gave them a big smack and then rolled onto his back, fumbling around for his reading material.
 
"Don't remind me. Just between you and me? That's why I'm in here tonight. Those two might not need any sleep, ever, but I could happily marry a pillow right about now," Kazuki grumbled. There were downsides to being well laid, particularly when one relied on sleep to keep the vocal cords in good condition.
 
"Hah! Mind if I finish this chapter before we hit the lights?"
 
"Knock yourself out. I'm gonna take a shower... Are you reading what I think you are?"
 
One corner of Takumi's lips lifted in amusement. "Dude, this is pretty hot. You're welcome to borrow it down the track..."
 
Letting out a gentle whuff to express a very non-committal rejection, Kazuki pulled off his shirt and stretched, procrastinating as he looked at the cover of the manga. Or, doujinshi rather.
 
The word was that Arayan was dealing in them to anyone who was intrigued... Some very smutty stories about various PoT characters drawn in a style so close to the original it was easy to believe the rumor they were the work of Konomi-sensei himself. Mamo-chan had been the first seen to be blatantly reading a Golden Pair story during dress rehearsals. The rivals had a lot of free time backstage, after all.
 
As for the authorship... Frankly, Kazuki could believe that if any mangaka had the balls to draw doujinshi of his own story it would be Konomi Takeshi. He clearly had ideas about what was really going on in the subtext in a lot of scenes and his preference toward certain pairings tended to come across pretty blatantly.
 
What Takumi was reading was very obviously Tezu/Fuji, going by the artwork on the cover. It almost made Kazuki blush, yet Mr. tall, dark, and too-sexy-for-his-own-good was casually scanning each page and flicking through as if he were reading a script. In fact, he had definitely shown more emotion while studying their current script. This desensitization to the blatantly sexual content regarding people they both now knew was rather impressive. 
 
As he headed into the bathroom, ran the water, stripped right down, and stepped under the spray, a new thought occurred to him. Had Fuji seen any of those doujinshi? ...Had Tezuka? What would he think of it?
 
As curious as he was, Kazuki didn't think he could read something like that. Not anymore. It would be like objectifying Tezuka and Fuji, and even if Fuji might get a kick out of that, Kazuki certainly didn't... but would he feel differently when they were gone?
 
*
 
"I just wish you would talk to me first, before telling anyone else," Tezuka said with a sigh of long-suffering. "Or afterward, at the very least! Do you know how disturbing it was having Araki sing 'Data ha Uso wo Tsukanai yo' with all that knowledge behind his eyes? It was all I could do not to back away."
 
"I'm sure it gave the song even more poignancy," Fuji responded, sucking juice from a popper.
 
They lay in bed together, lazily entwined with the TV on. There was some weird variety show on so neither of them was really watching anything at all, it was just white noise to break the silence of the night.
 
Tezuka was awfully tired. Between cramming songs, dances, and lines into his head and various dalliances with Fuji and Kazuki, he hadn't gotten a lot of sleep at all. Performing was exhausting enough, yet after a show, his blood sang with the applause of the crowd and the songs whizzed about in his brain, denying him sleep. Otherwise he would have passed out ages ago.
 
"It doesn't make any sense if I react to that line with fear or concern when he's supposed to be talking about tennis—and besides, Inui's never seen through me to that extent. Why would I ever give him ground?"
 
"But what's my motivation?" Fuji crowed. "Honestly, listen to you. A proper actor and all."
 
"The point is-"
 
"I know. I'm sorry. Takumi just caught me by surprise and Araki overheard the whole thing. I didn't mean to tell either of them. It just happened—and before you say it, I was running late before the matinee, ok? I didn't have time to fill you in, but listen-" "Fuji-" "Shhh. Just listen. Araki might know someone who could help, or, at least... I don't know. Maybe he can't do anything at all but we should meet him. I really want to meet him, Tezuka."
 
"...Who?"
 
"Konomi Takeshi. The author of Prince of Tennis."
 
Tezuka's mind went blank in reaction to that statement. He supposed he was a little overwhelmed at the idea of literally meeting his maker. What on Earth could he possibly say? Did he want to know what kind of person had devised his whole world, made him who he was?
 
The truth was, he didn't want to think about having been devised at all. That he was a fictional character, manipulated for the sake of a story... It wasn't an idea he liked to dwell on. 
 
The hardship he had gone through at the destruction of his arm... How could he face someone who had made that happen, judging it a worthy plot device? Then again, it would stand to reason that this person had given him Fuji, had brought them together, so perhaps he could be forgiven. Then again, if one were to imagine a life without all the games and plots and power struggles... Tezuka was surprised to find he imagined it would be rather boring. Maybe he should be grateful after all. Even so...
 
"I don't know if I'm ready for that," he said.
 
"I am," Fuji insisted, with such conviction in his voice that Tezuka felt jolted by the impact of the words. "I need to meet him. With, or without you. Maybe that's the meaning to all this."
 
Silent for a little while, Tezuka turned the concept over in his head a few times. "You don't think there's enough meaning in it already? Our learning who we really are, experiencing the stage, and... making new friends?"
 
"If you're talking about Kazuki, I think we can both agree that he's more than that but do I think we were sent here so you could expand your emotional horizons and figure out I'm not the only love of your life?"
 
"That's not-"
 
"Hush. I'm not jealous. Ok, maybe I'm a little jealous but I know I don't have a right to be. Besides, I like Kazuki, too. I just think you're thinking too small. There's more to life than love and sex—and that goes for tennis, as well!"
 
"Konomi Takeshi..." Tezuka recalled the image Fuji had searched of a man who looked roughly ten years older than their current selves and who was definitely old enough to be his father at his real age. He had an aura of trying hard to be stylish but hiding a shy personality. He did seem like a very interesting person. "I'm assuming he's in Tokyo," Tezuka said, encouraged by the subsequent affirmative. "Good. Then I don't have to worry about it yet. Maybe we'll be back in our world before then, anyway."
 
"I doubt it," Fuji muttered. "But you're right. There's still time before we face him. I hope you'll come with me."
 
"What makes you so sure Araki can make this happen, anyway?"
 
"Oh, well that's a fun piece of gossip! It turns out they hit it off at the after party for Yamabuki and have been having a love affair ever since!"
 
Fuji might find that fun. Tezuka found it disturbing. No wonder Araki was so keen to insert himself into their business. He might have judged Inui's actor for being in a relationship with an older, probably married man... but he was losing credit on the moral front lately. Still, the thought made him uncomfortable. To these people, Konomi Takeshi was just a man; no more or less. In Tezuka's eyes, he was a lot more. What, exactly, he couldn't say—God? Father? Whatever he was, he was more than just any man and until Tezuka figured that out, he didn't know how to interact with a man who was involved with that mysterious authority figure.

Chapter Text

"Dance for me."

"...What?"

"You challenged me to say out loud what it is I want from you. I want you to dance for me."

Aiba glanced at Yuu, looking for some sign that the request was a trap, or a game, or... something nefarious in some way.

"It's not that simple. I'd have to stretch first."

"I know. I've danced, myself."

"You have?" Yuu butt in, comically shocked.

"I'd claim it was cross-training, but the blunt truth is that my mother wanted a little ballerina."

Aiba's eyes roamed down Atobe's figure and back up again. Ballet training when he was young would explain the posture and regality where sportsmanship branched away from elegance.

"She wasn't far off," he taunted, locking with gray eyes. "But Fuji doesn't have such luck. This body isn't trained to dance."

Atobe relaxed deeper into the ridiculous velvet beanbag that had already half swallowed him. "I think it can handle a little hip-hop. Isn't that your forte? Go on. Stretch. Warm up. Do what you need to."

They were in a room Aiba could only describe as a rumpus room. There were a few instruments around, including a guitar Yuu was plucking on softly. There was also an odd assortment of furniture; a piano stool, several bean bags of different colors, a pair of large excersize balls, and a big chest that doubled as a table.

It was an odd room, but spacious, and easily cleared. There was room to dance.

Wary though he was, Aiba stood tall and began stretching his torso. The shorts he wore wouldn't allow much kicking or spreading of the legs so his routine would have to focus on the upper body. Fuji didn't really have the right muscles for jumps, either. His arms were supple, though, and it seemed he was cut out for isolations, contractions, and body rolls; all Aiba's favorite moves. A little experimentation, and some ideas began to come toether in Aiba's mind, pulled into cohesion by the swift arpeggios Yuu was plucking. They belonged to a song, and a catchy one, but Aiba didn't know the title.

"What is that?" he asked, shaking out his limbs to relieve the unaccustomed stretching sensation in rarely used parts of the body.

"House of the Rising Sun," answered Atobe before Yuu opened his mouth.

Aiba studied him a moment, lounging languidly like a comfortable cat, his fingers lightly brushing Yuu's hip. It was a possessive gesture that riled Aiba's jealousy.

"I dance for you and we call it even," he asserted.

"Dance for yourself," Atobe murmured.

Damn his insightfulness! Aiba did want to dance. He hadn't realized it until he began working his hips but he missed dancing. It was his escape, his relief, and he found he genuinely needed it.

"Keep playing," he told Yuu.

As he began a swaying rhythm to the sad but beautiful arpeggios, Atobe began to sing and Yuu joined him softly on harmony...just. Any louder and it seemed he would careen off-key. Tezuka didn't have a tenor's range.

Fuji was far better equipped for dance, Aiba found, though his muscles were unaccustomed to the stress Aiba had been carrying in them and thus far stiffer than he would like.

The song took his choreography and mellowed it. Rather than the hip-hop Atobe had cited, it leaned toward contempory. Aiba quickly lost himself in the music and the movement.

He finished on a layout, much warmer than he had started, and by the time he gently brought himself upright, Atobe was standing right in front of him. He wasn't given a moment to think before being pulled into strong arms and kissed with surprising intensity.

It wasn't bad.

That was a stupid understatement. Atobe definitely knew how to take a kiss and make it meaningful. It was as if his tongue and lips performed their own interpretation of Aiba's dance and he was leading his partner in the new steps with easy grace. Yuu played on, providing the music to their hidden tango.

Released, Aiba stumbled back a step or two. His fingers came to his lips in such a cliche fashion, he wondered if even his motions were under the control of another. He touched them gingerly anyway and a sensitive tremble travelled down his spine.

"That was beautiful."

Aiba almost nodded before he realized Atobe was referring to the dance.

"The guitar could use some work, though," Atobe criticized with a smirk, not taking his eyes off of Aiba.

The music stopped and Aiba glanced at Yuu.

"Yeah, well, guess who doesn't have nimble fingers," Yuu grumbled. "This guy." He gestured down the line of the body that belonged to Tezuka.

"He's better in real life," Aiba mumbled, smiling warmly at a fond memory of Yuu serenading the cast with his own, original song. How could he have known then that the fluttering that had stirred in him was the beginnings of something more than admiration?

He looked back at Atobe and realized he felt a little of that now. The comment on Yuu's playing had been intended for a purpose, breaking the spell of dance, music, and kiss; and giving Aiba the chance to consider under his own power what he wished to happen.

He wasn't under his own power though, and as he gazed at the strong physique and elegant posture of a boy he had disdained until very recently, he was afraid to wonder once again just how much of his will was his own. It felt so real though. The gravity and warmth of all that had passed in the last few moments, they were as good as real. If a placebo had the same effect as real medicine, did that mean it was worth trying? Not if it would do more harm than good. So where did that put Aiba in regards to Atobe?

"You can leave now, if you want," said Atobe, spreading his arms. "I'll take that dance as my reward."

Once again, Aiba glanced at Yuu. His expression was mostly neutral but the fondness in his eyes gave him away.

He was proud of Atobe for offering the out. He really liked the damn buffoon.

Strangling his jealousy, Aiba was forced to admit he might, too. If he didn't want to lose Yuu by letting Atobe score the brunt of his boyfriend's affection, he had to accept it. It was no surprise that Yuu had a big heart in which he could fit a lot of people.

It couldn't be about that, though. If he was going to do this, it had to be about him and how he personally felt about Atobe. His choice or not, he had to at least identify his own reasons.

"Let's stick to the original deal," he suggested, hyper conscious of a nervous lump in his throat. "I'll trade you dance for dance."

"Done," Atobe agreed easily, already shimmying out of the black vest he wore over a lavender dress shirt. "Shirotan, be a darling and play me one of those songs you keep going on about."

*

Concern was further from his mind than it should have been as Tezuka gazed on the finely-shaped brows, pretty lips, and sleek cheekbones of a mostly unconscious Kazuki. He had been missed last night.

While Tezuka appreciated time alone with Fuji to remember what they had always had and remind themselves that nothing had changed, he found it difficult to be together as comfortably as they used to be while wearing completely different faces. Kazuki was, at present, an essential ingredient to their relationship. Everything just felt more natural with him around. Thus, he had been missed.

Now, Tezuka looked on him and felt warmed, though he should have been worried to see how tired the man still seemed to be. All the late nights spent far too awake in bed together, all the extra rehearsals on top of the travelling and performances... Tezuka should have realized sooner the toll their presence must be taking on him.

"He'll be fine," rumbled a deep voice at Tezuka's other side. "He's the type that needs his sleep, but by the time we get to Osaka, he'll have more energy than even Mamoru."

A short chuckle escaped Tezuka as the very bundle of energy in question let out a loud chortle up the front of the bus, was whacked in the head for causing a commotion while people were trying to sleep, and made even more noise proclaiming his apology. That was a bar set rather high.

From the corner of his eye, he took in Takumi's lanky form, legs stretched down the aisle. Of the five men crammed into the back seat, four were long-legged creatures, and of them, only Takumi was seated comfortably. Tezuka's own knees were bent up against the seat in front, Kazuki's knees twisted so his shins crossed under Tezuka's. Fuji had his body curled up so his knees rested on Araki's lap, his head on the shorter man's shoulder as they read manga together.

With Kazuki out like a light, that left Takumi for interaction, unless he took the opportunity to nap himself. Napping began to look tempting because Tezuka had no idea what he and Takumi might have to talk about.

Takumi didn't seem to have any such problem.

"Does it bother you that I'm sitting between you?"

It took Tezuka a moment to realize Takumi was referring to Fuji.

"No," he responded, though that wasn't entirely true.

"I was hoping we could clear the air," ventured Takumi.

A shaved head bobbed up and down in the seat in front as Toyonaga shifted to a more comfortable position. Tezuka shot Takumi a sharp look.

"There's nothing to clear."

"Maybe not for you."

Takumi smirked and tapped his own ear, chucking his chin at the oblivious shorty. Tezuka peered over the back of the seat and saw what gave Takumi the courage to speak so openly. Toyonaga was wearing headphones, his expression peceful.

"What, then?" Tezuka asked, mindful to keep his voice low.

"Fuji's great. He's fun and sexy, and he's a genius in bed..."

If that was what Takumi had to say-

"But he's not Aiba. I can stop this any time if either of you say the word. If it makes you uncomfortable, that will be the end of it."

"Thank you... but that won't be necessary."

Tezuka did appreciate the intention, and he immediately began to view Takumi in a new light. However, he knew better than to get between Fuji and something the tensai wanted. That would only strengthen the desire to become a need or obsession. Before this adventure, Tezuka would not have had the strength to accept such a compromise, but he found he had grown and changed a great deal in a short time.

"Frankly I can't tell if you two are in love or if you hate eacher so much you come full circle."

What an absurd thing to say. "We don't hate each other. If you have nothing further of import to discuss-"

"You don't really like me. That's fine. Hell, it's fair, considering I'm banging your boyfriend, but that makes it easier to play the bad guy and spell something out for you... You're not real. This isn't your story, your life... It's ours. Only one person is going to be left behind with real feelings when this is over... With real heartbreak... And you won't even be here to see it. Don't expect Shirota to pick up the pieces. I sure don't expect Aiba to give me the time of day... Now I'm done. The question is... Are you?"

The word "Asshole" sprang to mind but Tezuka choked it down. He turned the other cheek—quite literally—and studied Kazuki, still sleeping like a dark angel, ruggedly beautiful.

Takumi was wrong. Kazuki wasn't so weak at heart. Who knew if that day would even come? Besides, how could the real Shirota, Yuu look at this man and not be moved? It wasn't possible. He had to believe it would all work out for the best for the man who had taken his world by storm.

So why were Tezuka's cheeks damp?

*

Watching Atobe dance to the swing beat of Ore-sama no Bigi ni Boogie Woogie after hearing just a few bars was... surreal. For one thing, he danced far better than Kazuki ever would. For another... he took a song that was basically a parody of his entire personality and danced it to reality.

It wasn't even funny! It was... humbling.

Aiba found his reason... and more. He found a whole new way to connect with Fuji. If he were to put Fuji into dance, how would it feel? He was dying to find out!

Yet, first he had a bargain to keep.

"That's enough," he asserted. "Come here."

Yuu's fingers strummed to a halt. Atobe settled into his hip and placed his hand in true diva fashion. He raised an eyebrow.

"I said, come here," Aiba reminded him.

After a glance at Yuu, Atobe did just that, sacheting over with an overdose of attitude. He stopped in front of Aiba and spread his arms low, as if to say, "I'm here. Now what?"

Aiba smirked. He felt oddly confident.

If Atobe thought he was going to play the cornered rabbit, he had another thing coming. If Yuu expected him to be a passive participant, he was dead wrong.

Aiba had been rolling with the punches long enough. If he was going to do this, it would be on his terms.

"Take off the shirt," he ordered.

Gaze sharp, Atobe complied in grudging silence. He started on his pants but Aiba immediately commanded him to stop.

"Yuu, why don't you help him out?" he suggested, taking a step back and crossing his arms over his chest.

Things were starting to get fun. As Yuu warmed up to the idea very fast and started putting on a show, things started getting steamy, too.

Aiba took a seat on the big chest and crossed his legs, daintily placing his hands on his knee and settling in to watch. Frankly, he'd never understood why so many Tenipuri fans were into the concept of Atobe and Tezuka as a pairing. After what Atobe had done to Seigaku's captain, it was hard to imagine there could be enough forgiveness in the world for Tezuka to actually be attracted to the rival captain. Now, putting Yuu out of the picture for a moment, Aiba could see it at last.

He watched Tezuka move up to Atobe, their bodies in contact, and slide his hands around shapely hips. His hands detoured up a ladder of chiselled abs for a moment, then travelled back down to rest atop a black leather belt. There they stayed while he sensually leaned in to kiss a bare throat. Atobe craned his neck gracefully, giving full access, and leaned comfortably into the bodily embrace. Slowly, Tezuka's hands began to work the belt; undoing the catch, sliding it loose, and then pulling it from the little white belt loops one by one.

It was perhaps the most picturesque coupling Aiba had ever seen. The tension that simmered, even with Yuu in control of Tezuka's body, was born of the history between them, but it had been tamed and put to good use, spicing up every breath and motion.

By the time the stretchy, tight, white pants went anywhere, Aiba was feeling rather flustered. Yuu caught his eyes, hands gently peeling the low-riding white fabric down Atobe's pelvis as his teeth scraped the top of a shoulder. He was in there, for sure, but all Aiba saw was Tezuka worrying Atobe's skin beween his teeth with a flirty intensity that forced Aiba to uncross his knees and fold his forearms over his lap.

Atobe's eyes had fluttered closed but when they opened, his gaze was a million miles away, as if he was reliving some memory that changed how he defined this moment. When Aiba cleared his throat, those stormy gray eyes snapped to him, and Atobe developed a slow, cocky smirk.

A moment later, Yuu dropped to his knees, kissing his way down Atobe's lower back and over his right hip as he tugged those white pants all the way down with a new show of impatience. He looked like he was ready to devour the delicous rounds under his tongue and lips.

Aiba had to decide quickly what he wanted to happen here, before Yuu got carried away.

"Well?" drawled Atobe.

Aiba stood. He contemplated his options and made a split second decision to take the power back—to make this about him.

He'd never done a serious striptease, but it was something he had joked around with a few times. The challenge was in taking it seriously and not letting embarassment or a sense of the ridiculous break his focus. Thus, he tuned Yuu out, and gave all of his attention to the Adonis of an anime character before him, whose responses were so natural that he truly started to feel genuinely sexy and ultimately desirable.

By the time he was unclothed, Yuu was watching wide-eyed from the beanbag and Atobe lay prone beneath Aiba, breathing heavily with lust. Aiba felt powerful and he loved it. He let that power surge through him as his torso rolled elegantly downward until he lay flush atop Atobe, and then he kissed the diva, demanding control and retreating any time the balance began to shift.

This choice, this experience; this was his to own.

*

There were many undocumented lists of hopes and aspirations, expectations and requirements, that one built upon over the years. Witnessing Aiba bossing Atobe about like a bona-fide dom wasn't even close to being on any of them, but then, life was full of pleasant surprises, too.

Take, for example, that striptease. Just being privy to the sight of Fuji stripping down item by item, inch by teasing inch, sway by sway, step by voluptuous step... until he was straddling Atobe... Yuu was a lucky boy. However, it was knowing that under the exterior it was Aiba who chose each motion and reveal that really boiled Yuu's blood.

He'd always known Aiba had the potential to be really sexy if he chose to, but he'd never imagined he would be lucky enough to see that choice happen first hand... Not until recently, anyway. This little show was a real eye-opener.

Still, he saw the signs of failing confidence as Aiba realized he didn't have the tools to control the next part of the proceedings. It was time to involve himself.

He remembered the forgotten tea tray that had been delivered earlier and if he had learned anything about Atobe...

The little box was inconspicuous in its decadance. Who would use such an expensive bejewelled snuff box for such a vulgar purpose?

Yuu might suggest Atobe needed more hobbies but the diva already had plenty of those as it was. He plucked up the little box and checked the contents before joining the boys on the floor.

"Earth to Aibatchi," he teased, to gain some attention.

As predicted, he recieved a glare. He ignored it and dived in for a quick peck on the lips. However, he lingered near after, his fingers touching a soft, elegant cheek.

"Is it ok if I help?" he asked.

Aiba looked confused.

"What do you think you're-"

Yuu shushed Atobe with a hand over his mouth.

"I know we haven't... you know... been fully intimate together. Well, not by choice. Not since we, uh, got together. So... I just wanna make sure it's ok if I, uh, touch you, and whatnot." He lifted the lid of the snuff box.

The expressions both Aiba and Atobe turned on him were incredulous. Aiba sat upright and tucked his hair behind his ears, staring as if at an alien.

"Isn't that why...? What did you think was...? Are you serious?"

The laugh started as a low rumble, but soon Atobe was guffawing so hard Aiba nearly lost his balance. "You two are unbelievable!" he crowed when he found the breath to spare. "I can't stand this awkwardness a second longer. Here, give me that." Snatching the box from Yuu's hands, Atobe dipped his fingers right in and gestured Aiba closer. "Come on, I won't bite. That's his thing."

Yuu felt a blush sweep his cheeks as he realized he had indeed picked up that habit since things began with Atobe. He probably wouldn't try and bite Aiba, though. That just seemed dangerous.

He shrugged in response to the eybrows raised at him and watched awkwardly as Aiba scooted forward. Atobe got straight to the point, running his fingers up and down the crevice of Fuji's ass without hesitation.

Aiba took it well. Far better than Yuu had expected. Not only was Fuji's body accustomed to invasion, but Aiba had also been subject to penetration more than once in recent days, despite his otherwise virginity. At first, he was quiet and thoughtful as Atobe caressed him from the inside. It was testament to Atobe's self-lauded skill that he was soon flushed and breathless, his arousal filling out fast.

Yuu would be lying if he said there was no jealousy in him but if one looked at it with logic, it was better this way. Let the bewilderingly experienced Atobe be the one to guide Aibatchi through his philosiphical first time being taken. It would be easier in the long run, even if they waited until they were back in their own bodies.

In fact, that was exactly what Yuu wanted to do, he suddenly realized. He wanted their first time really making love together to be as real as it could be, between he and Aibatchi, with no confusion in their bodies or souls.

All at once, homesickness hit him hard. He missed his body. He missed his voice. He missed Aibatchi's sweet features and incredibly elastic body. He missed Kazuki and all the rest, too. He missed performing onstage, rather than this daily act of being somebody else. He missed his family. He missed his fans, as well.

There had to be a way. He had to start looking instead of just screwing around and messing up Tezuka's life.

*

Aiba had no idea where Shirotan had gone in that flighty head of his but he hoped it wasn't to a place of regret, because Aiba certainly wasn't regretting much just then. Magic fingers. That was what wriggled beyond Atobe's knuckles.

He would be purring if he wasn't too busy whimpering and moaning. If he'd known it could be like this, he wouldn't have waited so long!

"To think I would ever be treated to such wanton sounds from Tensai Fuji, Syusuke himself. A man could get used to this."

Aiba snorted.

"What?" Atobe asked, mildly indignant.

"You're not a man," scoffed the dancer.

"No?"

"No," Aiba teased. He was blatantly playing with fire when he said, "Kazuki? Your actor? Now, he's a man!"

"Fascinating, this obsession you both seem to share for my coumterpart," Atobe mused. "But could Kazuki do this?"

The next thing Aiba knew, he was fully impaled, stars exploding in his vision, and Atobe was sitting upright, propped on one arm, the other about Aiba's neck. His lips were close enough that the heat of his breath beat against Aiba's and the spark of fire in his eyes set Aiba aflame.

Who knew what the hell Kazuki could and couldn't do, but Aiba was willing to concede this point. Atobe might not be a man in the traditional sense, but he was no boy, either. That much was clear as he began rolling his hips up off the floor, using muscles seemingly made just for this particular purpose.

Aiba groaned and buried his face in Atobe's shoulder. Then, he wrapped his arms about the firm body pressed against him and began to ride.

The sensations rippling through him were like nothing he had ever felt before; not in the moments of orgasmic shock he had experienced when switching bodies, nor during his sweet stint with Ryouma. This was a swift and intense build from deep within him; a little painful at moments but only in a way that escalated the ensuing pleasure. It was passionate and fierce, and he was nearly overwhelmed.

A small compartment in his mind that locked away a kernel of logic for safekeeping housed the thought that he was glad he hadn't experienced this for the first time with Yuu. The physical sensation was too much for him to contend with emotion as well. He would probably just wind up crying.

He almost did, when Atobe stilled and lay back down to the ground, holding Aiba's rocking hips still. He was glittering with a sheen of sweat... Actually glittering, sparkles and all. Anime could be so weird.

"What?" Aiba moaned. "Don't stop!"

Atobe just folded his hands under his head and lay still. Frustrated, Aiba started lifting and dropping his own hips. Atobe made no move to stop him, so he picked up the pace. Then, Atobe began speaking to Yuu in bits of broken English and what sounded like the occasional Spanish insert. Aiba had no idea what they could possibly be saying, so he ignored them and focused on nurturing his own steadily cresting pleasure.

*

Why Atobe chose the middle of a hot bout of sex with Aiba to question Yuu on the details of their occasional temporary switches was a mystery, but Aiba didn't seem to give a damn since they were conversing mostly in English—and, surprisingly, Spanish, when Yuu struggled with vocabulary. Atobe spoke well, even for a returnee; far better than he himself did. He seemed satisfied with the answers, none-the-less, and when he had gotten what he wanted, he instructed Yuu to lube up.

Who was Yuu to refuse such a request from the one and only Ore-sama? He did as instructed, wondering what exactly Atobe had planned.

He didn't have to wonder long. With a squeak and a cry, Aibatchi was overthrown. On his back, he desperately wrapped his legs about Atobe's waist and scabbled for purchase with his hands as he was banged hard for a good 30 seconds. Then, Atobe paused and wiggled his backside. That was Yuu's cue.

Having been watching the two of them flirt, dance, strip, and then go at it, the friction and heat that caressed him upon entering Atobe almost undid Yuu. He could still hear Aiba whimpering and moaning away under their combined efforts but he couldn't see his boyfriend's face. After a while, the sounds stopped reaching his ears and he lost himself in Atobe's gloriously tight body, driving hard until he couldn't take it anymore and he collapsed over a sweaty back that was already as limp and satiated as his own body soon became.

It was at least a minute before he realized that Aiba was eerily silent. A short while later, he pried his eyes open and took in the stillness of the lowermost body in their little pile... and the bright red handprints decorating a thin neck.

"Aiba!?" No answer. "You fucking psychopath! What the fuck did you do!?"

"Relax. He's just out cold. He should be perfectly fine over in your world. He can tell you himself, soon enough."

Relax? Out cold? Rage didn't cover what Yuu felt at the sight of a sprawled Fuji, strangled to unconsciousness. "I'm gonna fucking kill you, you creep!"

Chapter Text

Aiba wasn't in his right mind. He didn't know why else he would nod his agreement to the insane plot Atobe gasped softly into his ear between thrusts. Yet he did. It was logically sound, at least—or so he thought. Truthfully, he wasn't sure he could reliably identify logic in his air-deprived state of perpetual bliss, but it sounded convincing, so he nodded.

Little did he know.

What the fuck was wrong with Fuji? Whatever he had agreed to or Atobe had thought up, Fuji was definitely the most messed up of them all.

The moment Atobe's hands closed over his throat, beginning to constrict airflow through his windpipe with careful placement and application of strength, Aiba's sensation of pleasure exploded. It was the beginning of a long and powerful orgasm he wasn't sure he quite caught the end of.

He shuddered as he opened his eyes to brilliant color, powerful scents, and an explosion of sound. Who knew busses could be so...sensational?

His immediate concern was the flush that blossomed throughout his body at the thought of all that had just happened. His next worry was that it would be noticed by...

Araki? He was practically draped over Araki's lap! And what the hell was he reading!? Or... had they been reading it together? Araki and Fuji...

He barely had time to contemplate those questions before he was grabbed from behind and a squeak of surprise fell from his lips. Who was that!?

"Having fun?" rumbled a deep, sexy voice. Coupled with the absurdly long and thin arms that embraced him, the owner of that voice was as clear as day.

"Takumi?" he asked, sitting very still in one man's arms and half in another's lap.

"Stop that. You'll draw..." Shirotan's voice, seeming to come from just beyond Takumi, trailed off. "Aiba-san. You've returned."

There was a slight commotion. Takumi awkwardly withdrew his embrace while Araki just grinned up at him and chimed, "Welcome back!"

"Does everyone know!?" Aiba hissed, extricating himself from the seat of Araki's lap with some difficulty in the cramped quarters.

"Just us," Takumi assured him quickly. "Aiba, I-"

"Time and place," Tezuka cautioned, astutely. "But I must ask: were you hurt, Aiba-san? What happened?"

Aiba felt the blush sweep across his cheeks like flame. "I'm ok. I think. I mean... Fuji is. You know what I mean."

"I do...and it looks as though we have arrived," Tezuka noted as the bus turned into the drive of a hotel.

"Are we in Osaka?" Aiba asked, assaulted by an odd pang of jealousy. Even if Fuji was doing him proud, he was missing out on performing all the away shows and now they were in Osaka and closing night was looming.

"Correct! Come on, let's get off the bus and find somewhere to catch up!" enthused Araki.

"I don't think I'll have long. This was just an experiment..."

In a much louder voice than Aiba had been speaking in, Tezuka piped up, throwing an arm around Takumi's shoulders.

"What's wrong, Takumin?" he asked, sounding so much like regular old Shirotan, Aiba feared Atobe might have doubled down on the experiment. "Motion sickness, eh? Come on. Let's get you to a bathroom. Give us a hand, Aiba."

"Uh, sure."

The others let them down the aisle first and offered to watch their bags. Araki followed soon after with a groggy Kazuki in tow.

Rather than congregate in the small bathroom the hotel staff had led them to, they headed on through to the courtyard garden where they would have some more space and a measure of privacy. Aiba gratefully stretched out his stiff legs, noting as the others did the same.

"Echizen has a theory," he said without preamble, not knowing when he might snap back into 2D.

"Go on," Tezuka encouraged.

"He thinks Yuu and I are being...manipulated, as if someone is writing us into your story, making us hit certain...plot points."

"That makes sense. If you exist in a world of fiction then you must be part of that fiction," Araki posed, sounding thoughtful.

"But that's the thing! We aren't living out any one work of fiction!" Aiba cried, exasperated. "Everything's so inconsistent! Eye color, hair color, significant events... Everything's mixed up between different versions of the canon! It doesn't make any sense at all!"

"Calm down," Kazuki soothed. "We're going to work this out."

"Oh, as if you want to!" Aiba snapped.

Araki's touch to his shoulder was oddly calming and he immediately regretted the words, but Kazuki didn't give him a chance to apologize.

"You think I don't want you back? You think I don't want Yuu back? It's not that easy to give up on someone you love."

Silence reigned.

"What?" Kazuki growled. "You all knew. Don't pretend you didn't! What's happened hasn't changed how I feel about him! It doesn't make me care any less about you, either, Aiba."

"Doesn't it?" Aiba asked quietly, staring at the ground.

Kazuki was right. The singer's interest in Yuu had always been an unspoken understanding; a discreet acknowledgement. When Aiba's relationship with Yuu had begun to develop, he had tried not to think too deeply about who it might hurt, but there was no avoiding it now.

"Don't be an idiot," Kazuki sighed. He still sounded hurt but there was also such affection in his tone that it drew Aiba's guilty gaze. "You're my friends. I'm...happy for you, and I want you both to come home safe and sound."

The soft warmth Kazuki spoke with told volumes and made Aiba feel ashamed for doubting. When had he gotten so caught up in matters of love and sex that he forgot the value of friendship?

"He's not the only one," murmured Takumi, sidling closer and touching Aiba's arm.

"Won't you miss Fuji?" Aiba blurted, rather insensitively, in retrospect, with Tezuka and Kazuki so near.

"Not as much as I miss you," Takumi told him.

Aiba's heart skipped a beat as the emotional cadence of that bass tone sunk in. He'd been assuming that whatever happened between Takumi and Fuji had nothing to do with him. Maybe it wasn't that simple.

Maybe none of it was.

Slowly, he turned his eyes from Takumi back to the other Hyoutei actor. "Kazuki, forgive me. What I said was stupid. For what it's worth... We miss you, too. All of-"

"-you. Ow! Jeez! What-? Ugh!" Aiba swallowed but the contractions of his throat only amplified the pain. He glared at Atobe, who seemed to be nursing a black eye while Yuu rubbed his fist. The latter was at Aiba's side, the former on the other side of the room. Both looked sullen.

"Can we just skip the drama for once?" Aiba rasped, trying to spare his aching neck muscles. "All I want right now is painkillers and a nap."

"I'll make arrangements," Atobe announced.

"We're not staying here," Yuu asserted. "Aiba, let's-"

"Yes," Aiba argued, though it pained him. "We are. I consented. The punch was earned but let's leave it at that. Atobe...think I could add a bath to that list?"

"Of course, but do tell me one thing. Did it work?"

Once more, Aiba glared. "If I said it did, would you do it again?"

"Not without your consent, as you well know," Atobe responded graciously.

"Fine. Yes. It worked."

*

Atobe had supplied pain killers as promised, and Aiba's expression had already shown some relief as he stepped into the bathroom to shower off. Yuu was about to follow but Atobe grabbed his arm.

"To solve this, communication across worlds may be necessary. I simply did what neither of you were brave enough to try-"

"Sick enough to think of, you mean!" Yuu hissed, slapping Atobe's hand away.

"Creative, shall we say? Don't be a fool. He's fine. The bruising won't last long." atobe crossed his arms. It was a bossy gesture but Yuu read it at defensive. "Better to have sore throat muscles than a concussion from a blow to the head, aahn?"

How dare he take that sassy tone, as if he'd been wronged? Yuu held firmly to his anger. "Better not to harm him at all! How can you even...? You could have used me! All this time, you've had me under your spell, you could have-"

"I didn't pre-meditate this," Atobe instisted, drawing on all of his height and self-righteous sanctimony. "It came to me when I gained some insight into the body your precious little darling now inhabits. Don't you see? It had to be Fuji."

"No, I don't see-"

"Asphyxiation can be a strong sexual stimulant to some. As it happens, Fuji seems to be particularly receptive." Atobe gestured to the bathroom. "Go on. Ask Aiba. He might answer truthfully...if he trusts you enough."

With that, Atobe departed, making a swift and clean exit before Yuu could form another protest. He took a minute to calm himself following that problematic exchange, resolved to treat his boyfriend with nothing but loving reverence for now. The yelling could wait until later.

When he entered the bathroom, Aiba was done rinsing off in the shower. He was standing wet and naked in front of the mirror, surveying his neck.

"Let me see," said Yuu.

He guided Aiba to turn and gently ran his fingers over the outer muscles that helped to form Fuji's voice. As a singer, the throat was sacred. Willingly doing harm to it like this...

Once again, he stifled his anger. "It's not showing much," he commented. "I suppose the damage is more internal."

"It's not as bad as you're imagining," Aiba said quietly, standing still under Yuu's touch. "He was careful... Precise." There was color in his cheeks.

 

Yuu ignored any implications of the blush, determined not to give Atobe ground. "It... must have been awful. I'm so sorry I didn't realize; didn't stop him."

"Yuu..." Aiba avoided meeting his eyes. His arms wrapped self-consiously about his torso and he surveyed the steaming bath drawn by Atobe's household staff. "It... It wasn't that bad. Actually..."

Aiba trailed off into silence. He was going to make Yuu face this one way or another. The last thing Yuu wanted was to punish his boyfriend for the way Atobe had gotten under his skin. He owed it to Aiba to make this a little easier.

"Atobe said... He thinks that maybe... it felt good. For Fuji."

Aiba nodded, still looking away. "I wouldn't say I liked it... but he's not wrong. That was... I've never felt anything..." He swallowed...and winced. The pain killers clearlx hadn't taken full effect yet. "I don't think I'm ready. To talk about it."

Yuu pushed Atobe's words about trust down. Aiba had been honest with him. He just didn't want to dredge things up just now. That was fair.

"Come on, let's get you into the bath."

At last, Aib a looked at him. There was such innocence in his wide-eyed expression, he almost looked like himself, blue irises and all.

"There is something I need to tell you," he said, urgency in his tone.

Whatever it was, it could wait. He deserved a little TLC.

"Bath first."

Steering Aiba to the hot bath, glistening with oil and rose petals, Yuu then pulled off his shirt and tossed it aside. He helped Aiba in and then knelt down. He pressed lightly on his boyfriend's shoulder, encouraging him to sink as deep as he could go—which was basically neck-deep in the huge tub—and then started lightly rubbing Aiba's neck and throat, the water easing the motions.

"How's that?" he asked.

"Lovely," Aiba exhaled on a sigh.

After a while, he stirred and reached up to take Yuu's hand, holding it gently. He waited until their eyes were locked for several seconds before speaking up.

"Have you ever thought how different things might be if it was, say, Kazuki here with you?"

"Huh?"

"Think about it. Before we came here... did you feel any differently about him than you did me? Don't answer. Just... think about it."

"What are you getting at?"

"Are we together because it fits the plot of this crazy story?" Aiba cringed, reaching up to his throat. He'd spoken too loudly. He relaxed back down into the water and spoke again before Yuu could gather his thoughts. "Damn. This wasn't what I meant to-"

"You tell me," Yuu cut in, his jaw stiff. "While you were gone, back in our world... Did you think of me? Did you miss me? Did you still... Did you still love me, Hiroki?"

Why was he blinking back tears? It was just a question. He hadn't even heard the answer yet.

Aiba's eyes roamed his face until eventually he gave a small nod. "I was jealous."

"Of what?"

"You know how close Kazuki and Tezuka have gotten... At first, it was that, but then-"

Yuu frowned. He knew no such thing. "What are you talking about?"

"When Kazuki... Yuu, I always thought it was just a crush but he... He really loves you."

Aiba was even more teary-eyed than he. The words sent chills up and down his spine, chased closely by a wave of heat. What on earth had been said to make Aiba so...intense?

He knew he needed to hear it. "What exactly happened?" Yuu asked, rubbing his thumb over Aiba's fingers.

By the time Aiba was finished relating Kazuki's outburst, Yuu felt strange. In the place of emotion was a lightheaded, euphoric sensation. His fingers slipped from Aiba's and he turned to rest his back against the tub, relaxing to the floor. Aiba was silent. He ran his hands down his face.

Think about it, Aiba had said. At last, he did.

The camraderie and closeness he had felt with Kazuki... The appreciation for a fine form and for all that raw talent... When he considered it from an outside perspective, it had seemed to be only a matter of time before something shifted between them. Perhaps it had already begun that last day...that last duet...before Yuu had been uprooted from reality.

And Aiba? Their relationship had been of a lighter nature—less sexual tension, more affection.

It was there, though. That seed. That spark of joy in his presence. What was that if not the origin of love? He'd thought of it as a crush...but he now knew it had always been more.

"I love you," he breathed, still leaning against the bath, his eyes locked on the expensive tiles lining the far wall. "I'm grateful to whatever pushes this world has given us because I'm glad to be with you. As long as you feel the same."

"I do, but what about...?"

What about Kazuki? Yuu could think of only one way to truly confirm how he felt. Atobe was going to be insufferably smug about it all.

*

Tezuka had known from the start how Kazuki felt about Shirota. What they, themselves, had come to feel for each other since was something new and different. Of course it didn't replace that pre-existing relationship, and yet... Tezuka hadn't realized how close to the surface those original feelings had remained. He saw it now, what Takumi had been talking about...but it was too late to soften the blow. When Tezuka was gone, Kazuki would carry those feelings, too, and he would be left alone without consolation.

When Fuji re-emerged and his disorientation distracted from the high emotion that had just caught them all up in a quiet storm, Tezuka moved to Kazuki's side and subtly took his hand. Kazuki wouldn't look at him.

"From the moment I first woke up beside you, hungover and exhausted...things stopped being black and white," Tezuka murmured. "It doesn't matter. Whether you love Shirota, or me, or both of us... It doen't matter. I'm here for you if you need to talk it out."

"I don't know what I want anymore," Kazuki whispered. His face swung toward Tezuka but his eyes remained lowered. His manner spoke of shame. "Aiba was right to question me. If you stay, I may never see Yuu again...but if I lose you..." His eyes rose, and Tezuka saw the dread in them.

"I wish I could talk to him," Tezuka lamented in all honesty, reaching up to caress Kazuki's face and not caring who was watching. "I wish I could tell him how lucky he is to have not one, but two wonderful men so taken with him. I wish I could make him understand that the world isn't black and white and that love comes in all kinds of shades that can exist side by side."

He might have kissed Kazuki then and there if not for an interruption.

"What's the hold-up? Alright, Takumi?"

"I'm fine, sensei. I just needed some fresh air."

Tezuka and Kazuki took a step apart but Tezuka didn't let go of the other man's hand. Ueshima didn't miss much, anyway.

"Ue-chi! No need to lie, Takumin, Ue-chi knows everything," Fuji informed him, brightly.

"Except, apparently, that you two got yourselves wrapped up in this," commented the choreographer, his eyes skipping from Takumi to Araki. "I take it you're just fine, then," he directed at Takumi.

"Aiba was here," explained Tezuka. "We didn't know how long it would last so I devised the ruse. I apologize for any alarm my actions caused."

"No matter. As long as you're all in fighting form." Ueshima's eyes dipped to Tezuka and Kazuki's entwined hands. Kazuki tried to pulk away, but t'ezuka held on. Ueshima shifted to smile at Fuji. "Shame I missed Aibatchi though. How's he holding up?"

"Feisty as ever," reported Araki, rather diplomatically.

"Good to hear," Ueshima said with a nod. "Knowing what a tennis ball can do in that dimension, I do worry about those two."

"They're in good hands," Tezuka assured him, thinking of Echizen.

"Carry on, then!" Ueshima said in endorsement. He executed an elegant turn and marched away, legs straightened in soldier-like parody. "I sorted your rooms, by the way. Araki and Takumi, I lumped you in together. Hope you don't mind. You three got upgraded to a Queen. You're welcome."

Tezuka glanced at Kazuki, who shrugged.

"We should get our things," he suggested. "I heard there's an onsen nearby. I could use a long soak."

Takumi yawned. "You guys enjoy. I'll be taking a nap."