Prince of Tennis, InuKai, PG, 1400 words.
Post-Nationals. The meaning of things.
Note: For disutansu, from her prompt, "library". [ also posted to tenipuri_yaoi and inu_kai ]
At lunch time, Inui goes to the library. He takes a table in the back, gets out his notebook and his pens. And then he watches.
Boys and girls. Girls and boys. Glancing, whispering, looking up, looking down. Inui charts the seats they choose, the way they lean across the tables, the notes they slide under each other's fingers. He wishes he could read what they write.
He learns a lot, but he's not sure that it will be of use. Because it's all girls and boys.
Inui writes all his notes in code, in case of loss or theft. One word for another, shortcuts and symbols. Instead of Kaidoh's name, he draws a logarithmic spiral, like the sea shell on his desk, like the arms of a galaxy.
He draws it in the margins of his notebook, on the back of his homework, on the pages of his tennis magazines.
Some days, he writes it on the palm of his hand and looks at it when he should be paying attention in class.
It's a week before Inui is sure. Across the room, at the end of a long table, two boys sitting together. One lets his eyes linger after the other bows his head over his books, reaches across too often to borrow a straightedge, an eraser.
Inui watches them more closely.
Without the tennis club, Inui's time is hollow. He runs, works out, plays a match with Fuji once a week. He studies, but he only has to keep his grades up; if they don't fall, he'll be recommended to continue.
Sometimes he goes out to the courts, but he stands far away, watching Kaidoh yell at the first year students, play a match against Momoshiro.
Inui holds his notebook, but he doesn't write anything down.
The boys are Midorikawa and Kamiya, class 2-7, photography club and soccer club. Midorikawa is smitten. He hitches his chair closer to the table, taps the back of Kamiya's hand, smiles when Kamiya smiles.
Kamiya smiles often.
It's not that different from girls and boys.
Kaidoh comes into the library at lunch time, the first time Inui has seen him there. Kaidoh takes a seat three tables away. He nods his head at Inui and bends over his books.
He doesn't look up for the rest of the hour.
Inui fills his page with spirals.
Midorikawa becomes bolder. He puts his hand on Kamiya's arm, he bumps Kamiya's knees under the table.
Inui looks at Kaidoh two tables over and forgets to look away.
Kaidoh nods to Inui, puts his books on the next table.
Inui points to the seat across from him. Kaidoh stands for a moment, then sits without a word.
"Can I borrow your eraser?" Inui whispers.
Kaidoh passes it to Inui. Their fingers touch and Inui almost forgets to erase anything.
It's hard to watch Midorikawa and Kaidoh at the same time. Inui taps the back of Kaidoh's hand. "If you ever need any help with anything..."
"Thank you, senpai," Kaidoh says. He smiles before he drops his eyes.
Inui smiles too, is still smiling when Midorikawa walks around the table to lean over Kamiya's shoulder.
Inui draws seven spirals on the wall beside his bed and touches each one before he goes to sleep.
There are words that Inui wants to write in a note and slide under Kaidoh's fingers, words he wants to whisper in Kaidoh's ear. He looks across at Kaidoh, at the hair falling over his forehead. He draws a spiral on his history paper. He glances across the room.
Midorikawa is alone. His shoulders are drooping, he rests his chin in his hands, stares at the table top.
Kamiya never comes.
Inui doesn't write the note.
Kamiya doesn't come the next day. Midorikawa sits alone and Inui watches him, wondering what went wrong, how he can find out. Unless Kamiya is ill.
"Is anyone in your class absent today?" Inui says.
"No," Kaidoh says. "Can I borrow your calculator?"
On the third day, Midorikawa comes over to their table and leans over Kaidoh's shoulder to ask him a question.
"Chapter 12," Kaidoh says.
Inui clenches his hand around his ruler.
The next time, it's a dictionary. And a pencil. And a sheet of paper. "I'll buy you lunch tomorrow," Midorikawa says. "To pay you back."
"Please be quiet," Inui says. "We're trying to study."
When Midorikawa leaves, Kaidoh leans across the table. "Can I talk to you, senpai?" He glances at Inui, then down at his books.
Inui gathers up his things. Kaidoh takes him out behind the school. They stand together and Kaidoh hisses softly, stares at the ground.
"Kaidoh, watch out for Midorikawa."
"Senpai?" Kaidoh raises his head, his face is flushed.
"I think he wants something from you. Be careful around him."
"He wants something."
Inui swallows. "He wants...that. He wants to be with you. Watch out for him."
Kaidoh stares up at Inui. "You think because he's..." He bites off the words, turns around, walks away.
"Kaidoh," Inui calls, "what did you want to talk about?"
"Nothing," Kaidoh says. He doesn't look back.
Inui is late for his next class. He stares out the window and doesn't learn a thing.
Kaidoh doesn't come to the library. Nor does Midorikawa.
Inui watches the boys and girls, the girls and boys. He scrawls in his notebook, new symbols that have no meaning. He puts his head in his hands and tries to work out what went wrong.
On Monday, Inui doesn't go to the library at all. He walks through the corridors, looking into classrooms, peering around corners.
He finds them behind the school, Midorikawa and Kaidoh. Kissing.
Inui's feet are rooted to the ground, his mouth is dry, he can't look away.
Eventually they see him.
Midorikawa swears and runs. Inui catches Kaidoh by the wrist.
Kaidoh's eyes are flat and dark. "Are you going to tell?"
"No," Inui says. He can feel Kaidoh's pulse beating under his fingers. "No. I think--"
"I know what you think." Kaidoh wrenches away.
Inui smashes the sea shell against the floor. And then he cries.
Next day, he goes back to the library. Midorikawa and Kaidoh sit down across the room, where Midorikawa used to sit with Kamiya.
Inui watches them, watches Midorikawa reach for Kaidoh's arm, bump Kaidoh's knees under the table. He watches Kaidoh reading his textbook, writing in an exercise book.
Midorikawa looks over and he and Inui stare at each other for a few moments. Midorikawa turns to Kaidoh and whispers something. Kaidoh's face reddens and he pulls his arm away.
Inui turns his pen over in his fingers for thirty-two minutes.
He tries to erase the spirals from his wall, but they only smear. He touches them one by one and wishes his stomach would stop hurting.
When Inui gets to the library, Midorikawa is already there. He's alone, shuffling papers and checking his watch.
Inui draws a spiral on his palm in careful black marker. Kaidoh still doesn't come. Midorikawa leans back in his chair, he won't look at Inui.
Inui is tired of looking at him.
He finds Kaidoh behind the school, hitting a tennis ball against the wall. Sweat is running down his face. He sees Inui but doesn't stop. Inui watches for a minute.
"You should set your feet a little further apart." The words just appear and Inui hates the way they sound.
Kaidoh doesn't change his stance.
"I know what you think," Kaidoh says and hits the ball again.
The ball slams against the wall, then straight back at Inui. He moves just in time and it passes so close to his head, he can feel the breeze it makes. His heart pounds.
Kaidoh drops the racquet and it clatters on the pavement. "You think it's wrong."
And Inui sees, like he's four years old and putting on his glasses for the first time. What Kaidoh thought Inui was saying about Midorikawa, what Kaidoh thought Inui was saying about him.
"No," Inui says. "No." He steps closer. "You don't know what I think."
"What do you think?" Kaidoh looks up at Inui and his eyes make Inui's chest ache.
Inui takes Kaidoh by the wrist. Kaidoh doesn't pull away. Inui takes out his marker and draws a slow black spiral in Kaidoh's palm. He presses their hands together. Kaidoh lets their fingers link and Inui can hardly breathe.
"What do you think?" Kaidoh says again.
"Come with me," Inui says, "and I'll tell you."