"There's a room at the end of the world that I hang on to
There's a room at the end of the world where I wait for you
I'll wait for you"
- i -
Atobe's twentieth birthday is the beginning of the end.
He is holding Ryoma in his arms, both breathing unsteadily and light headed from the rush of their previous activities, and he thinks, this is everything, right before his boyfriend shatters his bubble of bliss and euphoria.
"I'm leaving at the end of the year."
Atobe feels as if an invisible weight is pressing down on his chest. He takes a deep breath, his eyes fixed on his bedroom ceiling.
Ryoma seems to feel his sudden stress. He places a kiss on Atobe's chest before wrapping his arm around his torso and pressing their bodies even closer together. "We'll figure it out, Monkey King. It's going to be fine."
Atobe relaxes a little bit. "Yeah."
"And I promise to always be there for your birthday," Ryoma adds quietly. Atobe can't see his face in their position, but he can imagine the red that colors his cheeks at his words.
- ii -
He spends his twenty-first birthday in a hotel room in Shanghai, his hands tied to the bed's headboard by one of his soft, silk ties, and his legs spread wide apart as Ryoma alternates between sucking his cock into his mouth to licking slowly from the base to the tip.
The room is filled with the sounds of his moans, the smell of their sweat, Ryoma's lewd words whispered into his ear.
Ryoma's name falls out of his mouth like a mantra as he comes.
Afterwards, as they lay side by side, the silence sits heavy in the air.
Ryoma squeezes his hand. "Tomorrow –"
So Ryoma doesn't say anything, and Atobe wonders how it happened that things between them changed so much that every conversation they have ends up in a fight, when they used to talk each other to sleep just a year ago.
"When do you meet her?" He finally breaks the silence, because even knowing this question is going to lead to an argument, he needs to know. His boyfriend getting a beard is something he has to prepare himself for, no matter how much he hates the thought of it.
"Before the match tomorrow. She's going to sit in the box." His voice sounds so indifferent, as if it isn't a big deal, though Atobe's chest has been feeling heavy for weeks now.
The next day Atobe flies back to Japan, and he watches Ryoma's press conference after he wins the first round on the flat screen on his private jet. The questions are mostly about tennis, but towards the end they ask about the girl in the box. Ryoma confirms she is his girlfriend.
Atobe turns off the TV.
"Happy birthday," he whispers to himself.
- iii -
Atobe is in Shanghai on his twenty-second birthday as well, but his room is for one. He is halfway through drinking himself into oblivion when there is a knock on his door and Ryoma is there.
He leaves the bottle of fine scotch he was drinking on the table and falls into bed with his ex-lover, tugging at Ryoma's clothes urgently. They are both naked within a minute, Atobe's hand wrapped around Ryoma's shaft, stroking him quickly, and his other hand in Ryoma's hair, bringing him to his lips for a needy kiss.
He is so lost in the ecstasy that he doesn't realize Ryoma's cries of his name have turned into requests to slow down until Ryoma pushes away from him.
"Slow down, Monkey King. I want this to last."
"Can't," Atobe pants, bucking his hips up in search for friction. "Missed this –you –need –fuck –" He blames the alcohol for his incoherence.
Ryoma captures his lips in another kiss, sucking Atobe's tongue into his mouth. "We have all night, no need to rush this."
All night, Atobe thinks. And then Ryoma will be gone again.
- iv -
On his twenty-third birthday he waits in his hotel room for hours, eyes fixed on the clock that's on the wall and the bottle in his hands emptying steadily, before accepting that Ryoma simply isn't going to show up.
He takes the Cipralex out of his suitcase and stares at the small, white pills for a long time, before taking everything he has left and downing it with the remaining of the whiskey.
It takes a while, but eventually he feels the bliss that's in letting go, in knowing that this is all going to end. He doesn't see the light at the end of the tunnel, but he sees clocks, counting down the hours, minutes, seconds, until he no longer breathes.
Through the haze and the dizziness of his dissipating mind, he is somewhat aware of the door being opened and a body crouching over him.
This is it, he thinks. This is how it's supposed to be. In the arms of the person he loves.
It turns out Cipralex is not lethal in high doses, and Atobe wakes up in a comfortable bed in one of his parents' mansion back in Tokyo, with a private doctor monitoring him carefully.
"Kei-chan," his mother tells him when he wakes up. "Talk to me, please."
He tells her his work puts too much pressure on him and he keeps thinking he will lead the Atobe Corporation to its end; he tells her the media that follows every step he takes is driving him mad.
He says nothing about a lost love and broken promises, and a young tennis prodigy that has recently swept the world by winning five consecutive grand-slams.
Three months later the Atobe family releases an announcement to the media that the heir to the family is to marry Christina Meyer, the daughter of a large high-tech corporation in England.
Atobe goes on public dates with her and agrees to every suggestion she makes for their upcoming wedding, and as the months go by he thinks he might be able to forget all about Ryoma.
Seven months later Ryoma wins the US Open. On his press conference he comes out. Atobe watches from his apartment in England. He thinks, we broke up because you wouldn't come out. He thinks, I couldn't hide anymore. He thinks, it's funny how the wheels turn.
- v -
Atobe doesn't know why he keeps coming back to the same hotel in Shanghai year after year, but he welcomes his twenty-fourth birthday on the balcony, the chilly air feeling nice blowing through his hair.
He doesn't wait for Ryoma to show up this time. Instead, he finds his number on his phone, still saved as 'Brat' after all this time, and dials it before he has a chance to regret.
His heart beats fast in his chest as he listens to the ringing sound, and then—
There is an awkward silence as they both wait for the other one to say something, until Atobe realizes he is the one who initiated the call and Ryoma is waiting for him to explain.
"I'm in Shanghai."
There is no need to tell him the name of his hotel or his room number. It's always the same. "I'll be there in twenty minutes."
"I heard you have a fiancée," Ryoma pants. He has his hands on Atobe's chest, steadying his body as he bounces on Atobe's cock.
Atobe grips Ryoma's hips with so much force he is bound to leave bruises, but he doesn't care. "Getting married in four months," he answers, his forehead covered with sweat and his voice deep with lust.
The pace of Ryoma's movements increases. "She doesn't deserve you."
"Then who does?" he takes Ryoma's cock into his hand, tugging at it forcefully, feeling his own orgasm building up inside him.
Ryoma throws his head back and moans something that might have been "me", but Atobe is too lost in his bliss that he doesn't hear it well enough to be sure. They come together, and then they catch their breaths next to each other, close enough to feel each other's body heat but not quite touching.
It feels weird.
Atobe cancels his engagement to Christina.
Ryoma starts dating Tezuka Kunimitsu.
- vi -
His twenty-fifth birthday is the first one in the last few years he doesn't spend in Shanghai. He watches the tournament from the comfort of his home, now back in Tokyo, following the headlines Ryoma and Tezuka make as they win match after match, heading towards the final.
The world loves them. Teammates from their school days, old friends who turned to lovers, two top tennis players swimming against the flow and keeping up a homosexual relationship.
Atobe thinks about a world in which he didn't quit tennis after high school, in which he didn't give up the sport he loved in order to manage his family's company. He thinks about a world in which could travel the world side by side with Ryoma, winning matches and climbing the ranking.
He thinks about a world in which he is happy.
It isn't until he starts sleeping around with random guys that word of his sexuality gets out. His father is raging, his mother takes it better. The media has a feast. Photos of him kissing nameless men in dark clubs flood the internet, and Atobe feels that he is finally free, if not happy.
Ryoma and Tezuka confirm their breakup in April, after months of rumors and guesses from the media. Atobe can't feel sad about it.
- vii -
"What are you doing here?"
Ryoma sends him an arrogant look under his ever-present white cap – these days with an Adidas logo instead of Fila – and steps around him to walk into the room. "I am playing in the tournament. You, on the other hand, have no reason to be here."
Atobe shrugs and closes the door behind him, following Ryoma back inside. "I stayed in Tokyo last year and it didn't feel right."
"I broke up with Tezuka."
Atobe gives him an unimpressed look. "So I've heard."
Ryoma sits on the couch and stares at the wall. For a couple moments he says nothing, and then – "He broke up with me, actually." He laughs, but it sounds empty to Atobe's ears. "Said something about me not being committed enough."
"So you're here." It's not a question, he simply sets a fact.
Ryoma tears his eyes away from the flowers pattern of the wall and meet his eyes. "It's not like that."
His eyes are large and begging, and Atobe is suddenly filled with rage. "But it is like that!" He says, his voice shaking with anger he is trying to hold back. "It's always like that. I'm here and you just keep coming whenever it fits you."
Ryoma shakes his head. "No."
Atobe gestures towards the door. "You should go."
So Ryoma goes, and Atobe spends his twenty-sixth birthday in bed, sometimes crying, sometimes pondering the past.
Ryoma loses his next match. Commentators say it was his worst performance since joining the ATP tour all those years ago.
It seems like after that day he finally manages to gather himself together. He learns to love his job as a CEO once learns to delegate tasks to the right people; he stops taking strangers home for the night; his therapist slowly begins taking him off his anti-depressions. His life seem to be on the right track for the first time in years.
Ryoma calls him one day, and after a reluctant beginning of a conversation they end up talking for three hours. It's amazing how much they have to tell each other, how many things they missed during all those years apart.
A week later Ryoma calls again, and again the week after that. Atobe agrees to meet him for lunch, and they go to a nice and quiet café.
And in February, Ryoma announces during a press conference in Dubai that he is seeing Atobe Keigo, CEO of Atobe Corporation.
Atobe isn't sure about their relationship, but he thinks that maybe, just maybe, it's his second chance at being happy, with the person he loves.
- viii –
On his twenty-seventh birthday he is wearing a tux.
He hasn't spent so much time in front of a mirror since he was seventeen and still obsessed about his looks.
There is a knock on the door and Ryoma enters the room. "Quit staring at yourself, Monkey King, or we're going to be late."
Atobe gives his reflection another glance and turns to look at his boyfriend, dressed in a tuxedo that is as fine as his own. "You can complain all you want, but my glorious looks are the reason both of us look great in every picture of us. My beauty just distracts everyone's attention from your ordinary face."
Ryoma smiles fondly. "It's good to see some things never change," he says. "Come on, we need to be there soon."
"Explain to me again why your brother had to schedule his wedding on my birthday."
Ryoma rolls his eyes. "The date has been decided long before we started dating again. I promise no one is trying to make you miserable on purpose."
Atobe spends his twenty-seventh birthday dancing with Ryoma until he feels like his feet might fall off his legs. He holds his boyfriend in his arms and he spends the evening with laughter and alcohol and Ryoma.
He pushes all thoughts of a room in a five-star hotel in Shanghai to the back of his mind.