Years after they last saw each other, Atobe and Momo run into each other. Stand-alone. Past Atobe/Momo.
Disclaimer: Not mine and not making any money.
The first bar Momo had wandered into on that warm summer night had seemed oddly familiar. It wasn't until the bartender walked over and said, conversationally, "You're that boy that used to come in here with that Atobe Keigo, aren't you?" that Momo figured out why. He nodded once, paid for his beer, and left as quickly as possible to avoid hearing the whispers that spread around the room.
He was mildly annoyed at being called a boy, but was more annoyed at that unwanted reference to his past. Momo was 23 now, a college dropout and a full-time employee at one of Tokyo's many sports stores. He didn't bother keeping up with tennis any more, having found out long ago that anything he needed to know would come to him through the grapevine sooner or later. He'd heard all about the scandal involving Atobe Keigo, in great detail, from Eiji, who'd read about it in some tabloid or other.
His lack of surprise had probably confused Eiji, he thought as he wandered around looking for a decent place to get a drink. Really, though, he hadn't had any reason to be surprised. He'd known that Atobe wasn't the idol of perfection that so many thought him to be. He'd spent too much time in Atobe's company to think that. Explaining that to Eiji would result in too many questions, though, he'd decided at the time, and had just remained silent.
Momo tried to recall the exact details of the scandal, but found that they'd faded with time. Something to do with a girl and getting her pregnant, his family disowning him, a fall from grace in the tennis world - a bit harsh, Momo felt, but still not all that surprising. It was the rest of the world that was shocked, the people who'd never woken up in a luxurious bed to the warmth of Atobe lying beside them and the smell of cigarette smoke in the air.
Taking a deep breath of the sticky city air, Momo tried to banish the memories from his mind. It hadn't ended well. He'd known that it wouldn't, of course. There had never been a chance of "happily ever after", not for them. Still, sometimes, he'd wished things were different.
Deciding he needed a drink, then and there, he headed into the next bar he saw. It was small, and smoky, and the pounding bass beat from the music flowed out onto the street around it, but it was dark and had beer. Momo slid onto a barstool quietly and placed his order before turning to look out at the dance floor.
As with most dance floors in most small, smoky clubs, it was packed with shifting bodies and obscured faces. Every once and a while, one face would appear, sharply defined by the spotlights, for a brief second before fading back into the crowd.
It wasn't until Momo was halfway through his third beer that he saw Atobe.
At first, he'd thought it was just the beer and his memories combining to annoy him, but when Atobe appeared a second and third time, Momo knew he wasn't seeing things. For a split second, he wanted to turn and run, to ignore this piece of his past that wouldn't leave him be, but in the end, his curiosity won out and he stayed.
Now that he'd found him, it seemed impossible to take his eyes off of him. Atobe danced with all the grace he'd once had while playing tennis. People moved around him, near him, but never really with him, something that Momo found mildly fascinating. Every so often, someone would try to catch his eye, but he'd ignore them and focus on the music. Some things, Momo mused, hadn't changed at all.
It took Atobe a good half-hour to notice Momo sitting by the bar. When he did, his reaction was all that Momo had expected: a raised eyebrow, a smirk, a smooth walk over to him.
The only thing he hadn't expected was the slight desperation that seemed to have a hold on Atobe. For the first time that night, Momo wondered just what the whole thing had done to the man in front of him.
"Momoshiro," Atobe said, expressionless, but with a slight warmth in his eyes that Momo hadn't seen for years. He nodded once as he sat on the barstool next to Momo.
Momo nodded back, unsure what to say. Anything that came to mind seemed trivial, he thought.
"It's been a while," he finally said, feeling awkward and stupid. He wanted to look away, to stare into his beer or back out at the dance floor, but Atobe's eyes had him trapped. They always had.
"It has," Atobe agreed quietly, sipping his own beer, "a long while."
They lapsed into silence, but Momo felt it was the silence of people who had no need to say anything, rather than the silence of people who didn't know what to say. He was oddly comfortable. He wondered just how much the beer had to do with that.
Atobe finished his beer just as the song changed. His eyes lit up slightly as the music filled the room, and he stepped off his stool and held out a hand to Momo.
"Dance with me," he said, and Momo wasn't sure whether it was a request or a command. Atobe paused, then looked away. "Please."
Momo was surprised. He couldn't remember having ever heard Atobe use the word "please" when asking something of him. For the second time, he wondered just how different this Atobe was from the one he'd known years before. For the first time, he wondered if he'd have a chance to find out.
Dancing was not his strong point, but Atobe knew that, and was still asking. Momo made the mistake of looking in Atobe's eyes while trying to decide whether or not to accept the invitation. Moments later, he was on the dance floor, silently cursing the look in Atobe's blue eyes, and his own inability to fight against it.
They danced quietly, but comfortably, much like they'd sat at the bar. Momo discovered that, surprisingly, he wasn't nearly as bad of a dancer as he'd thought. When he expressed his surprise, however, Atobe had just smirked and replied, "Of course, you're with me."
It felt like hours had passed when Momo finally left the dance floor, Atobe trailing after him. He was tired, and wanted a shower and a good long sleep, but he felt oddly content. He turned to Atobe and found the other man studying him with an unreadable expression. Moments passed while he couldn't do anything but look at Atobe.
"I...I have to go," he said, dragging himself out of the trance he'd fallen into as easily as ever. "It's been a long day."
He turned to leave, then stopped when he felt a hand grasp his wrist lightly. Atobe was standing there, the same slightly desperate air Momo had sensed earlier all the more apparent now.
"Let me walk you home," Atobe said, and Momo wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Here he was, half-drunk and confused to all hell, and here was Atobe, his ex-whatever, fallen from grace and asking to walk him home.
Instead, he just nodded and waited for Atobe to grab his coat before heading out onto the startlingly cool street. Once again, silence surrounded them, but this silence was the silence of people who had questions, but weren't sure how to ask them. Momo wanted to know what Atobe had been doing, what he'd be thinking, how he was surviving, and, perhaps most of all and definitely most unsettling, if Atobe ever thought about him.
It was Atobe, though, who broke the silence.
"I missed you," he said, quietly.
Momo stopped mid-step and turned to look at him. Atobe was looking up at the sky through the buildings around them, but there was a soft, rather sad smile on his face that Momo had only seen once before.
Momo wanted to say something. He also wanted to wrap his arms around Atobe and not let go this time around. He did neither, but waited for Atobe to continue.
Atobe, however, remained silent, and Momo once again didn't know what to say.
"I'm sorry," he said, finally.
Atobe looked down from the stars and smiled at him, a real smile this time, and Momo felt his chest constrict around his heart.
"I should be the one saying that," Atobe replied. They resumed walking towards Momo's apartment, although Momo was sure to take the longest way possible. If Atobe noticed, he didn't mention it.
"My parents," Atobe said, with a surprising amount of venom in his voice, "want me to get married. They're willing to accept me again, if, of course, I marry the girl of their choice."
Momo raised an eyebrow. He knew Atobe's parents, having met them on a few occasions, and this course of action wasn't exactly surprising. The apparent disgust it raised in Atobe, on the other hand, was new.
"You're opposed to this, I take it," Momo commented dryly, watching Atobe's expressions out of the corner of his eye.
Atobe made a noise of annoyance.
"Of course I am. They won't even talk to me for a year, and then, all of the sudden, when they need to make a connection with this girl's father, they welcome me back with open arms," he said.
This was new, Momo thought. Atobe had never been one to follow the rules, exactly, but he'd never been outwardly rebellious when it wouldn't serve to raise him up. However Atobe was living now, living with his parents' support and reputation had to be easier.
"I said no. Means I'm out of the family fortune and will forever be branded a black sheep, but it's better than being miserable and having to pretend otherwise like they always do," he continued.
Momo turned to look at him as they walked. Even in the dim streetlight, he could tell that Atobe was, oddly enough, smiling slightly.
"You've changed," Momo said, not intending to speak out loud.
"So have you," Atobe replied, looking back at him.
"For the better, I hope," Momo said with a grin. He was suddenly sick of this seriousness. They'd never been serious before.
"I wouldn't know yet," he said. "Give me another few hours of wandering the streets with you and I'll give you a full analysis. It will, of course, be perfect."
Momo laughed, scaring a stray cat into flight across an alley. Atobe smirked at him, familiar and comfortable once again.
"I'm afraid you won't get those few hours on the streets," Momo said, inclining his head towards the apartments next to them. "We're here."
He stopped and looked at Atobe for a long moment before saying impulsively, "Come in. Stay for, well, however long you'd like."
The moment the words were out of his mouth, he wondered at them. It wasn't that they were unexpected, exactly. It was just that there was more to them than he wanted to think about.
Atobe accepted his invitation easily, and they talked for a while about minor, unimportant things before Momo yawned and went for his shower. When he emerged a while later, a towel lazily draped around his hips, Atobe had fallen asleep on his couch.
Momo rolled his eyes and pulled a blanket over him after throwing on a pair of pyjamas. Atobe moved slightly in his sleep, his forehead crinkling, and Momo resisted the urge to kiss him good night. He'd never done that before. He'd never wanted to, either. Their goodnights had always been muttered, on the verge of sleep, exhausted and slurred. They'd never been tender.
Momo waited until Atobe had snuggled into the blanket, murmuring in his sleep, before heading off to his own bed and passing out. It had been a long day, and he slept soundly.
He woke up the next morning to the confusing sound of breakfast being made in his kitchen. For a moment, he thought he was still asleep, until it sank in that Atobe was probably up and-
The concept of Atobe making breakfast made its way into Momo's sleep-hazed brain, and he sat straight up in bed. Atobe couldn't cook, he thought sleepily. Atobe wouldn't cook. It wasn't dignified enough.
When he got up to check, however, Atobe seemed to be doing decently with a couple of fried eggs and some toast. Momo collapsed at the table, deciding it was much too early to deal with this new and improved Atobe, and found a cup of coffee sitting in front of him when he looked up.
"It's hot, be careful," Atobe said, not looking up from the stove. Momo grunted something that he hoped would be taken as thanks and stared at Atobe, wondering vaguely if this was the weirdest hangover he'd ever had.
The coffee was real enough, as he found when he burned his tongue on it, and that meant that Atobe was real too, cooking skills and all. Atobe rolled his eyes as Momo yelped.
"I warned you," he said, piling eggs onto a plate and dropping a piece of toast next to them. "If you don't like scrambled eggs, too bad. They're the only thing I can make decently."
Momo yawned and shrugged, running a hand through his hair. "They're fine," he answered. "Anything that doesn't mean work for me is fine."
Atobe chuckled and they ate breakfast in silence. Momo decided that he'd think about what this whole thing meant later, when he didn't have to worry about getting to work on time.
When he left his apartment, Atobe was doing dishes, and doing a better job of it than Momo had ever managed. Work was busy, as it always was this time of year, and if he put off thinking about the situation more than was necessary, he didn't realize it.
The apartment was empty when Momo returned home early that evening, and he was surprised to find himself slightly dismayed by this. It wasn't like he had any reason to believe that Atobe would still be there when he got back. It wasn't as if he wanted him to be there, he thought to himself. He ignored the part of him that didn't quite believe that last thought and walked into the kitchen.
If he'd had any doubts that the night before had been real, they were quickly dispelled when he entered the kitchen. The dishes from that morning were sitting on the dish rack, much cleaner than most of the dishes in Momo's kitchen. Domestic duties weren't his strong point. The table was clean, too, and "eggs" had been added to his rather pathetic shopping list, in Atobe's precise writing.
Momo pulled out a chair and fell into it, looking around his kitchen in minor disbelief. The whole thing felt entirely too surreal and he shook his head to clear the feeling away. He could hear the clock ticking faintly in the background, but the rest of the world seemed to be silent, for once. He almost wished his neighbours would start playing music again - even their overly loud enka was preferable to this.
The sun had set by the time Momo got up and headed into his living room, which doubled as his bedroom. There, on his bed, was a neatly folded blanket that Momo recognized as the one he'd covered Atobe with the night before. He picked up the note that had been propped up against it.
Momoshiro, the note read, Thank you for letting me stay over. I put your spare key in your mailbox.
It ended there, with no signature and no hint of what to think about the whole thing. Momo sighed and put the note back down, tilting backwards onto his own messy pile of blankets and pillows.
He wasn't surprised to find himself at the club later that night, looking intently at the crowd of moving people in hopes of seeing Atobe. He wasn't surprised not to find him that night, or the night after, or the night after that. He wasn't even sure why he was looking.
When he wasn't working and wasn't looking, he spent a lot of time reading the newspapers' reports on the scandal. It seemed that Atobe had gotten drunk one night and slept with some overly forward fan who'd lied about being on birth control. Not surprisingly, she'd gotten pregnant - and gone to the papers with it. This had come right when his father's company was about to make a huge business deal, thus explaining his disturbing willingness to disown his son, and why he was willing to welcome him back.
Momo snorted at the computer. The things rich people did to get richer, he thought to himself as he continued reading the article. Atobe had been ostracized in the tennis community and had slipped out of the spotlight with surprising grace, disappearing into the world at large.
The papers had found new and more shocking things to cover within a week, of course, and Atobe was rarely mentioned outside of tennis circles nowadays. Momo had absolutely no idea what he was doing, other than learning to cook eggs and going out dancing. He wasn't sure he wanted to know.
Days passed, then weeks, then months. Momo still found himself wandering over to the club when he wanted a drink, but he scanned the crowds more out of habit than out of real curiosity. He was starting to think the whole thing had been a dream, clean dishes and all, and he was starting to think that was a good thing.
It was a complete shock to him, then, to run into Atobe on the street one afternoon in late fall. Momo had taken the day off work to go to the opening of Taka-san's new restaurant and had taken the long way home to enjoy the crisp weather.
Atobe was walking down the street, looking like he owned the place, and Momo had to blink a few times to make sure that Fuji hadn't spiked his sushi with something hallucinogenic. He stopped walking when Atobe looked up and raised an eyebrow.
"Momoshiro," Atobe said, nodding slightly and looking rather amused.
"Atobe," Momo replied, also nodding slightly.
"I take it your key wasn't stolen?" Atobe asked, and Momo had to think for a minute before realizing what he was referring to.
"No, no, it was fine - I don't use it anyway," he said, smiling sheepishly. "What have you been up to?"
Atobe shrugged elegantly and looked away. "This and that. My girlfriend wants to get married," he answered.
It was Momo's turn to raise an eyebrow. He hadn't known that Atobe had a girlfriend. Then again, he thought, there was really no reason for him to know that.
"She thinks I'm cheating on her," he continued, smirking, "with you, actually. She refused to believe that I'd just fallen asleep on the couch of an old friend." He paused. "Not that I blame her, really. I don't have any old friends."
Momo nodded silently, wondering just how true that last statement was.
"She's a bit possessive, though, so I'd better make up my mind before she puts some sort of reverse restraining order on me."
Momo blinked. "That's a bit possessive?" he asked without really thinking about it. "Sounds closer to really possessive to me."
Atobe smiled wryly and shrugged. "She's looked after me this past year. I feel that I owe it to her."
Momo regarded him seriously, once again wondering just how much Atobe had changed. For a fleeting second, he wanted to invite Atobe to move in with him and start over, again. It would be too forward, he knew, and he bit back the words with more force that was really necessary.
Atobe glanced quickly at his watch and winced.
"I'd better go before she decides I'm having another torrid love affair," he said smoothly, then nodded again. "It was good to see you."
"You too," Momo replied with a slightly forced smile. He didn't like the feelings this whole thing was creating.
Atobe turned and walked down the street. Momo looked after him for a second, then turned and walked his own way.
He paused on the second step and turned around.
"Atobe," he called, biting back those words again. When the other man looked back at him, he continued, "If you can escape her for a while, come visit again. I'll buy some eggs if you give me a warning!"
He could see Atobe laugh quietly to himself and smiled before continuing on his way home.