i. strings tighten
Ryoma is all sharp angles, mocking smiles, coltish limbs that, as a whole, are struggling to conform into a pleasing yet honest picture. Tezuka pauses, gazing at him, nonplussed. He waits for everything to spill over, for the shield to crack, splinter, and break, for it all to fall down and for them to be revealed as they truly are: young, raw, wanting.
"Echizen," he says.
"A game, Buchou," is all Ryoma says and walks on, his warmth lingering against the back of Tezuka's hand as he brushes by.
Tezuka breathes in, slowly; the shield trembles.
ii. ball hits strings
Tezuka wins the match and Ryoma's grin is wide, unguarded; his eyes gleam and his enthusiasm is infectious. Tezuka cannot help but return the smile for a brief moment – after all, they are playing tennis, and Tezuka has followed Ryoma upwards, and now Ryoma must do the same, and it will never end, not as long as they have breath in their bodies.
"Mada mada dane," Ryoma says, his palm sweat-slicked as they shake hands afterwards. He is close enough to kiss, looks happy enough to kiss, and Tezuka does not allow himself to wonder where that thought came from.
iii. strings weaken
In Seigaku Junior High, there was a wall where Ryoma would go to hit a ball. By the time he graduated, the spot on the wall could not be cleaned from the repeated impact of countless balls. The second-year fangirls whispered about turning it into a shrine.
There is a similar spot in high school and Tezuka goes there sometimes. It is not as well-worn, this only being Ryoma's freshman year, and sometimes Tezuka hits a ball against it himself.
He wonders if it will be enshrined when Ryoma graduates. He wonders if Ryoma will remember him when he's gone.
iv. strings tremor
They play another game, and this time Ryoma wins. They play again, and he also wins, but only by the match point. The next time, Tezuka wins. Ryoma's reaction is always the same – a wide grin bordering on a smirk, gleaming eyes, and he always comes far too close for Tezuka's comfort. He feels like they are on the brink of something wonderful.
One time, after Tezuka wins, he says, "Yudan sezu ni ikou," and Ryoma laughs. He steps up, his hand brushing against Tezuka's, and pulls on the brim of his cap.
"Don't worry," he says, smiling, "I won't."
v. strings break
Tezuka has never realised how warm Ryoma is, or how soft. Despite the sharp angles and brittle smiles, his skin is smooth and his fingers trail over it in lazy lines, his fingertips digging in, and Ryoma squirms.
His mouth is wet and hot, and they are panting when they break apart. Tezuka stares at him, blinking, and then presses him close, pressing his lips against his neck.
Ryoma laughs and pulls back, kissing Tezuka lightly on the mouth. "Mada, mada, dane," he teases, still smiling.
Yes, Tezuka thinks, kissing him again. This is only the beginning of it all.