Title: El Alma del Tango

Author: Kiarene
Pairings: Sanada / Atobe

Rating: G
Summary: No other dance connects two people more closely than the tango.

Published: 9th August 2005
Disclaimer: I would love to own Atobe-sama and gang but I dont.

A/N: el alma del tango the soul of the tango. From Sandas point of view.

El Alma del Tango

1st Dance

I didnt think much about him at first. In fact, I daresay I didnt think much of him.

Of course Id heard of Atobe, one of the rising stars on the school tennis circuit. But he was in Hyotei and I was in Rikkaidai, and I was preoccupied with rising within Rikkadais highly competitive tennis club. After I had established myself firmly as a regular, I started noticing the top players from rival schools: Tezuka Kunimitsu, Sengoku Kiyosumi, Oshitari Yuushi, Fuji Sysuuke; the list was long.

And of course, Atobe Keigo. But he was just a name then.

The first time our paths crossed, we were in our second year and it was during the Junior Senbatsu camp.

---

I stood in the middle of the empty room that was to be mine for the next two weeks. Well, mine and my roommate. Who wasnt here yet. Hn, I might as well settle in first and bag the better bed.

I examined the two beds carefully and noted that the one on the right appears to have a slightly firmer mattress. Also, a glance at the window told me that the morning sun would end up on the left bed. Smirking slightly, I hoisted my bag and was just about to turn to the right bed when the door opened.

Atobe stepped in, one hand on his hip as he surveyed the room critically. His other hand clutched an expensive gray leather bag, trimmed in silver with his name stitched on the corner.

I almost smirked, knowing that the small, plain room wasnt anywhere near the luxury the rich brat was used to. Oh, I knew that much about my roommate at least. I heard that he was filthy rich. As he sniffed at the room disdainfully, I knew he was dreadfully spoilt as well. Great, just what I needed.

I knew that the boy in front of me was the vice-captain of Hyotei. I also heard that he was the best tennis player in Hyotei, better even than the captain, and that the only reason he was not a captain was because he was still a second year. That was surprising I would have been ready to write him off as one who had *some* talent in tennis but definitely no prodigy, but I also knew about Hyoteis tennis club. It was huge, some two hundred members, and the competition within was extremely keen. Wealth or connections had no advantage within such a meritocratic club.

Two hundred members. We didnt even have half that number in Rikkadais tennis club. I wondered how Atobe would fare when he became captain.

Physically, Atobe wasnt too impressive. He was of average height and slender, almost skinny. A pretty boy, delicate in appearance. I sternly reminded myself of Yukimura, whose fragile appearance belied his sheer genius in tennis.

Well, I would finally get to see if Atobe Keigo was fully deserving of his reputation.

Ohayo, Sanada, Atobe drawled. His voice was husky and sure.

Atobe, I nodded.

Most people would have been fazed by my curtness, but Atobe merely raised a brow and turned and sat down daintily on the bed *I* had been eyeing, dropping his bag onto the floor.

I was going to take that bed, I said, annoyed that it sounded childish.

But you hadnt. And besides, I always prefer to sleep on the right. Atobe smirked, knowing that I knew it did. Is this all right?

When I had somewhat reined in my initial response to scream, I sat down on the left bed. My jaw remained gritted because otherwise I might just say something too nasty to retract later. The mattress felt saggy and I stared at the boy on the other bed in irritation. It was going to be a long, long camp, I could tell. Why couldnt I have been placed with Yukimura or even Kirihara instead?

I was cheered up by the thought that there was no way the rich brat was going to survive such a camp though.

---

I was wrong though. Atobe surprised me then. Annoyed me, no, he positively infuriated me. But I also wondered how someone so conceited and arrogant could be so talented I thought it wasnt fair, until I saw him train. He strutted and boasted, but his boasts werent empty. On the courts, he blew his opponents away. I was always impressed, until he opened his mouth again, sprouting something about being awed by his brilliance and prowess.

---

At the first meal, Atobe complained about the poor quality of food. What a brat, I thought, poking at my own mush. But then, instead of continually whining about it, he got up and went to speak to the coaches. Subsequent meals were much better and he became quite popular with the campers. I hate rich people with influence like that.

He complained about the poor quality soaps provided by the camp, about how drying they were, telling me that he has was glad he brought his own much higher quality toiletries, and just when I was about to turn to him and tell him to shut up, he turns to me and offers to share.

I dont understand him at all.

Hes fussy and complains a lot, yet he doesnt whine. If hes not happy, he *does* something about it. Hes utterly spoilt but hes also generous. Ive seen the way he treats his teammates, not just with material goods but with his attention as well. The Hyotei players adored him, haughty airs and all.

The camp ended and we were both selected for the team. We trained together, with the rest of the team, but oddly enough, we had never played a match against each other. After the Invitational Match was over, he just gave me his usual smug smile and drawled, Ja ne, Sanada.

Staring at his back as he sauntered away, tennis bag slung over his shoulder and surrounded by the Hyotei players, I thought it was a pity we never got the chance to play against each other.

You will get a chance to play against him in the future, Yukimuras gentle voice startled me out of my thoughts.

How did

You have that challenging look in your eyes, Yukimura teased. I know you.

Aa. Hoisting my own bag onto my shoulder, I turned to leave with my own schoolmates.

---

But we never did get to play against each other. Oddly enough, despite the facts that we were never matched up on the courts, we ran into each other once in a while outside. I might see him across the street one day or we might exchange nods while browsing a bookstore. It turned out we have similar tastes in many things.

The exchange was almost always the same:

Konnichiwa, Sanada.

Atobe.

Then he would give me that bemused look and I would turn away. Slowly though, we started to talk more. At least he did.

Never took you for a sweets person, he would say, pink tongue flicking out to shape his own cone of chocolate-pecan. But then, Im not surprised to see you chose vanilla.

This brand of grip tape is good. I personally prefer Feux though; if you like, I can send you one the next time I order, he would tell me calmly, as if we are all rich enough to order custom equipment the way he does. What color do you like? I think black or navy, am I right? Youre such a practical person, Sanada.

Irritatingly enough, he was right about my color choices. But, so what if I was boring? A person who wears light purple shirts with little ruffles shouldnt judge me on my fashion sense!

Latin music? He would give me one of his accessing stares, then turn to riffle through the rack of CDs. Yes, Im not surprised. You are taciturn but you exhibit a lot of passion on the courts. Here, have you heard this group? No? Well, I think you would like this. And again, he was right.

Not that I ever told him, of course.

Not that he ever needed to be told, of course. Atobe Keigo redefined confidence.

I had heard about his famed Insight, and apparently that talent appeared to extend off the courts as well. I dont say much, and with him, I dont need to. He could read me with one glance. Slowly, I grew less irritated with his company if I could put up with Kirihara, I could put up with Atobe. They grow on you, and then one day, you realize that the traits that irritate you at first only amuse you now, and really theyre not so bad; at least theyre not boring.

A year came and went; it was the second Junior Senbatsu Camp. He was rooming with me again because our schools again sent an odd number of participants. This time, I met him in the corridor outside our room. Fishing out my key, I opened the door.

Atobe walked in first, even though it was *me* who opened the door. I want

the bed on the right, I know, I broke in. Id learned that there exist forces of nature one cannot, cannot fight against. One was Yukimura, the other Atobe. Kirihara, on the other hand, was actually controllable. Youve just got to feed him enough chocolate.

I dropped my bag on the other bed.

Atobe looked amused. I was going to say I wanted a shower before going down for orientation activities But its good you know ore-samas preferences.

It was going to be a long camp.

---

Somehow, the conversation turned to the party for Tezuka. Personally, I couldnt see what the fuss was about. So he got injured; he got sent to *Germany* to recover. Players get injured all the time. How many of us can get sent to a clinic overseas? Then he came back and all right, I can understand if Seigaku was happy. But

The guys were even talking about singing a song for Tezuka, even Atobe.

Sanada. You wont do it, I suppose? Atobe turned, looking at me with that slight smile of his. I hadnt been participating in the conversation; I was surprised Atobe asked me. No, not asked. He assumed I wont do it

Thats right. Sanada-san doesnt like things like karaoke at all, Kirihara piped up.

Ill do it, I blurted out. For a split moment, I found myself as flabbergasted as Kirihara beside me. I dont even like Tezuka! Then I realized that for once, I wanted to prove Atobes assumptions wrong.

I can at least sing a song, I said stiffly. It had nothing to do with Tezuka, I thought fiercely. Atobe looked at me, his smile widening.

That night, there were more dishes at dinner, and the dining hall was decorated with cheap paper chains and banners. I looked around in disgust. What was so special about Tezuka? Hes the same age as us, just another middle school student. He was a good player, but Atobe beat him.

Yes, I watched the match. Some say Atobe would not have won if Tezuka wasnt injured, but to me, it showed that Tezuka wasnt able to play at Atobes level without overstraining himself. And from what I heard, it wasnt his shoulder that was the old injury, it was his elbow.

Everyone was fawning over the new coach, even those initially skeptical, just because he showed his tennis skills were better. But simply beating everyone doesnt make one a coach; I felt the sudden urge to swing my racket and challenge Tezuka.

Even Atobe was pulled in by Tezuka. That irked me the most. Since Tezuka arrived, Atobes attention was focused on the other boy.

Tezuka, sorry for making you wait. Be awed by my beautiful voice, Atobes voice pulled me out of my thoughts. Blinking, I focused on Atobe. Naturally he led the group, standing apart like a lead singer, and when he started, we took our cue from him.

I dont know why Atobe said hes not good at performing; he has a nice, husky voice, and more than that, he has a charismatic stage presence. I kept my eyes on him as we sang. Beside me, Oshitari shifted uncomfortably and kept his eyes down. Kirihara merely looked bemused. At least they werent part of those worshipping at the altar of Tezuka.

The rest of the evening after that was a chore the Seigaku regulars were especially slavish in their admiration of Tezuka, eyes all starry. As soon as Tezukas speech was over, I got up and left, not caring if I seemed rude. I needed to work off some tension.

Atobe found me in the gym later that night pressing weights. Somehow, I was not surprised. Hey, Sanada, he drawled. I was thinking that this camp has been somewhat slow.

Im in the middle of training. I wont be your complaining partner, I told him rudely. Please keep quiet.

Oh? As usual, Atobe was never offended by me. Listen.

However, that changed today. He looked contemplative.

Realizing there was no use ignoring Atobe, I sighed mentally. Hmm? Because of Tezuka?

Yes, because he is the only one I call my true rival.

That statement irked me, and I sat up off the bench. He might not think that way of you, I told him curtly.

Atobe chuckled. You say that, but He trailed off, looking amused. The truth is, you feel the same way I do, dont you?

I stared at him. No I dont, I thought. But of course Atobe drew his own conclusion.

Lets settle this once and for all, shall we? He smiled back at me. Play a match against me.

Is that what it would take your eyes off Tezuka, I wondered. I knew Atobe was hard-pressed to find players that truly challenged him; perhaps that was why he was fascinated with Tezuka.

And, I realized with anticipation, I had never played against Atobe before.

Very well.

---

I was the one who was destroyed Tezukas shoulder, Atobe said suddenly. We were on our way to the courts.

I know, I was watching.

Atobe went on, talking about how he initially only wanted to defeat Tezuka but in the end, ended up impressed by his dedication for his team. I was getting more and more irritated; he was playing against *me* now. Why was he still talking about Tezuka?

Im sorry. I dont know about your dreams of defeating Tezuka and all, but the strongest person stands at the top. Thats all it is. I announced brusquely.

As usual, Atobe was nonplussed and just smiled.

I had wondered often what it would be like to play against Atobe. I found out that day. He was, to put it mildly, very good. A player to be feared.

We started easy but the pace rapidly climbed. Rarely have I found myself so hard-pressed. Out of the corner of my eyes, I could see that the other boys have gathered. I could hear their murmurs, like the mindless humming of bees in the hot sun. But my attention was wholly on Atobe.

And his attention was wholly on me.

It was exhilarating. Atobe was a graceful player. He was not particularly famed for his strength like Kabaji, or speed like Kamio; nor was he called a tennis prodigy like Fuji or Oshitari, but somehow he put it all together into a devastating package. No wonder he was Hyoteis top player.

He took the lead at first but I caught up. I could hear the mutterings around me about how Atobe couldnt win now that I had sealed his finishing technique. Not so, I knew. Even without his Rondo Towards Destruction, he was still a formidable player. Though he looked slender, his shots packed a hefty punch; his smashes could easily knock a racket from an opponents hand. Moreover, he managed to keep up with my speed; not everyone could do that.

And just when I thought I was leading, Atobe revealed another trick up his sleeve. One that blew everyone away. A serve that was not only powerful and fast I could dish out some high-speed serves myself but one that just didnt seem to bounce.

Amazing.

I looked at the ball, which had rolled to a stop beside the fence. Then I turned back to Atobe, this time with renewed respect. The others were chattering excitedly. Atobe preened.

Before I could stir myself out of my stupor, Coach Sakaki stood up and stopped the game. And told us we made the cut for the Junior Senbatsu Team. We were shocked, pleasantly so because we didnt planned this, but it was good all the same. I was disappointed that we didnt finish the match, and yet, the anticipation of a future match was also pleasurable.

Well leave the conclusion of the match for a later time, I promised him. I found myself looking forward to it.

His eyes glinted. Heh. It seems the number of people I must defeat before I defeat Tezuka has just increased by one.

It is good to have many rivals, but dont forget there is only one winner. Who cared about Tezuka? I looked intently at him, and he stared back at me. Then he smiled.

Somehow, I was very pleased that his attention was now on me. You will notice *only* me, I thought. You can look at others, but you will only focus on me.

We shook hands, and I noticed how smooth and pale his hand looked, entwined with mine.

---

We next ran into each other at a tango concert a week later. I wasnt too surprised; I knew he liked Latin music. We passed each other in the lobby, still dressed in school uniforms as we came down directly after school. We didnt say anything, but our eyes met. Caught, held for a second as the crowd and noise faded around us. My skin tingled and he gave me that slight smile again.

Then we walked past each other and the moment was lost.

His seat was just diagonally behind mine, and throughout the performance, I was extremely aware of that. We didnt say anything and I didnt turn back to look at him. Not once. Yet the fine hairs on the back of my neck tingled and I could *just* pick out the faint spicy cologne he liked to wear. Most boys our age were not so vain, but this was Atobe. He even wore that cologne to a training camp and I could detect a faint trace in my bag and clothes after the camp.

The music played on and I thought about our unfinished match, the steady beat provided by our rackets as we rallied back and forth, the sharp look in his eyes and the way his lips curved up in genuine pleasure, and when the melody rose up in a crescendo, the way his torso arched as he leapt high and reached for a smash.

When the concert ended and I stood up, my head turned, eyes automatically seeking his. His eyes caught mine. But we didnt say anything and we walked away.

---

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