Many thanks to mousapelli for beta and encouragement and to kestrelsan for beta and support both this year and last and for helping me get to the point where I could pick this up again. You both rule.
300 by Halrloprillalar
Prince of Tennis, InuKai, 8100 words, rated for sexual content
Inui wonders why.
Of course it's Kaidoh. Nobody else knocks on Inui's door at this time of night. Inui lets him in and they stand in the front room.
"Do you want something to drink?" Inui asks him.
"No, thank you." Kaidoh looks down at Inui's feet.
Inui's mobile rings. It's his mother. "I'm sorry I didn't call yesterday," she says.
"Everything is fine," Inui says. His parents moved to the other side of the city three months ago. He convinced them to let him stay here in the apartment. "I'll take the train out on Sunday."
"We're going out of town. Do you want to come along?"
"I have too much to do."
"Your father says to tell you to work hard."
When Inui rings off, Kaidoh has already gone into the bedroom. Inui follows him. Kaidoh is sitting on the bed, his hands on his knees. Inui shuts off the light and finds him in the dark.
He puts his hand on the side of Kaidoh's neck. The pulse is beating under his fingers, faster than Kaidoh's resting heartbeat. The skin is warm, Kaidoh is warm. Inui puts his arms around him and breathes in deeply as Kaidoh rests his head on Inui's shoulder.
Inui remembers the first time he held Kaidoh, standing behind him, pulling him close. Kaidoh went rigid, his heart beating so hard that Inui could feel it against his chest. "Senpai," Kaidoh said and Inui just held on until Kaidoh's shoulders fell and his muscles relaxed.
Kaidoh's mouth is cold with mint and fluoride and Inui kisses him until the taste is gone. He remembers that first time too, his fingers under Kaidoh's chin, their lips just barely touching. "Senpai, no," Kaidoh said. "Yes," said Inui and kissed him again, because it was Kaidoh and Inui had to have more.
Inui pulls Kaidoh's shirt out of his waistband and Kaidoh lifts his arms so Inui can take it off. Inui kisses Kaidoh again, hand on his chest. Then he moves back and takes off his glasses, unbuttons his shirt, unbuckles his belt. He can hear Kaidoh undressing beside him.
Then Kaidoh pulls Inui down, presses him onto the bed. He kisses Inui's throat and chest, drags his hands down Inui's body, shoulders to knees. He makes a noise in the back of his throat that hits Inui's brain in just the right place to make him shiver. He wraps his fingers around Inui's dick, moves his thumb, and that sensation bypasses Inui's brain altogether.
Kaidoh is only like this when he's naked, in the dark. He'll do anything with Inui then. And there's a lot that Inui wants to do, to try. Right now, he wants to fuck.
"Turn over," he says to Kaidoh and reaches out to open the drawer. This is only the fourth time they have done this. Inui hopes it will be easier now. He thought he was ready the first time, but no amount of reading could have prepared him for the actual awkwardness of it: the difficult positions, the sounds, the mess. He wouldn't bother, only it feels so good.
"Okay?" Inui says as he gets them both ready. He can feel the tension in Kaidoh's body, the change in his breathing.
"Yes," Kaidoh says and his voice seems very loud. "Do it."
So Inui does it. Kaidoh sucks in his breath when Inui pushes in, but he doesn't say anything, so Inui keeps going. He hopes he has the angle right this time, that it feels good for Kaidoh too, but he's just not sure and Kaidoh will never say. Inui wants to take his time, but he can't, he won't last that long.
And he doesn't. The pressure builds and his muscles tighten and he bites his lip. He experiences time loss. And then he's done.
Clean-up goes better this time. Then Inui pulls Kaidoh back against his chest and jacks him, leaning down over Kaidoh's shoulder so he can press their cheeks together. He likes to wrap himself around Kaidoh like this, he likes the weight of Kaidoh's cock in his hand.
Kaidoh clenches his jaw when he comes. He stops breathing, his body goes slack. Inui finds the towel again.
Then Inui pulls Kaidoh down and they lie spooned together, breathing slowly, listening to the noise of the traffic outside. Kaidoh will stay as long as it takes Inui to count to 300 or 301 or 302. Inui hates to count it, but he can't help himself.
Today it's 304 when Kaidoh slips out of Inui's grasp. The bed creaks when he stands. Inui hears him pad across the room. The door opens and there's a moment when Kaidoh is silhouetted in the doorway, clothes in one hand, and then he's gone, into the bathroom to shower.
Inui waits for him in the front room. Kaidoh's hair is wet and he's holding his bandana in his hand. "I have to go running," he says. He looks up for just a moment and when their eyes meet, Inui feels a small, sharp pain, like a needle going through him.
"Goodbye, senpai," Kaidoh says.
At morning practice, Inui plays a match against Oishi. Oishi will play at 80% of his capacity, Inui calculates, and so Inui should play at 75%. Oishi places shots as precisely as Inui does and even when Inui knows where they will land, it can be difficult to get to them in time.
Kaidoh and Momoshiro are playing two courts over. Their game is as fierce as Inui's is controlled, they are both going all out. Kaidoh serves wildly, his feet placed incorrectly, his grip too tight. Momoshiro's return lands just outside the line and he and Kaidoh yell at each other about whether it was in.
They start to fight and Kawamura goes over to try and break it up, without much success. It occurs to Inui that Kaidoh has said more to Momoshiro in five minutes than he says to Inui in an afternoon, in an evening.
Inui loses the match. Next time he will factor his distraction into the calculations. Next time he will keep himself from looking over. "Don't take it easy on me, Inui," Oishi says.
"Sorry." Inui gets out his notebook, but can't recall enough about the match to make it worthwhile writing down. He makes a note about Kaidoh's serve instead.
"Angle your feet this way," Inui says. "Hold your racquet more loosely." Inui pushes Kaidoh's fingers apart until they are right. The handle of Kaidoh's racquet is slippery, the overgrip needs to be replaced. Sweat beads on the back of Kaidoh's neck and Inui wants to swipe it away. "Okay," he says. "Serve."
Kaidoh's first try is all wrong. Inui gets him back into position. "Again." The fourth serve is better. The tenth is almost right. "Keep going," Inui says and makes a note to do this again on Monday. While he's writing, Fuji comes up to him.
"He's improving," Fuji says to Inui. Kaidoh hisses and serves again. Fuji smiles. "Inui, we're going to karaoke tonight. Come along."
"Too much to do."
"You say that every time."
Kaidoh is nailing the serve now, nine times out of ten, nineteen times out of twenty. "Good work," Inui says to him and Kaidoh ducks his head.
Inui is working on a juice recipe when Kaidoh knocks on his door, his tapping syncopated with Inui's knife on the cutting board. Inui blinks and checks his watch. It's later than he thought.
"I'm sorry to disturb you," Kaidoh says.
"It's fine," Inui says. "I'll just be a minute." He drops kale and radishes into the blender, pulses it, adds the apple and melon.
By the time Inui is done, Kaidoh is in the bedroom, sitting in the shadows, already half-undressed. His shirt is folded neatly on Inui's chair. Inui closes the door. They kiss and touch and sigh.
Kaidoh sucks Inui off and that's a technique that Kaidoh has improved without any instruction. He's got one hand on the base of Inui's cock, the other cupped around Inui's balls. It's so good Inui can almost feel his brain cells dying.
He returns the favour and he can only hope his skills measure up. It seems to work, at least, and Kaidoh shakes like he's chilled, like he's ill. Kaidoh's eyes are closed, Inui thinks, his teeth are bared. But he doesn't know for sure.
When they are done, Inui lies behind Kaidoh, arm around his chest, face against his hair, and counts to 299, 300, 301. "You don't have to go," Inui whispers, but Kaidoh is already standing and Inui doesn't know if he even heard.
When Kaidoh comes out of the shower, Inui is waiting for him. "We didn't get a chance to talk," he says. "How was your day?"
"Fine," Kaidoh says.
"I know you're doing fine in school, but if you ever need any help..."
"Did you see Arai's hair today? That bleach-job must have cost him 13,000 yen."
"He looks like an idiot. He should--" Kaidoh stops and Inui doesn't learn what Arai should do. "I should go."
Inui bends down and kisses Kaidoh on the mouth. Kaidoh's hand closes around Inui's arm, holding on for just a moment. "Goodbye," Inui says.
The door shuts. Inui picks a free weight off the floor and does curls, first one arm, then the other. He still has homework to finish. He still has data to process. He has already done his training for the day.
When his arms are too sore to continue, he does crunches, push-ups, leg lifts, as many as he can. It's after two when he goes to bed. There are a few dark hairs on his pillow, too long to be his own.
Inui is late to practice in the morning, drinking his 2x Hyper Special Energy drink from a sports bottle and trying not to yawn. Kikumaru is telling Fuji off for playing too seriously and his voice goes right through Inui's head.
Inui sits on a bench and opens his notebook. He looks at the empty space. There is nothing he wants to write down.
A shadow falls across the page and Inui looks up. "Good morning," Kaidoh says and, to Inui, it sounds like Kaidoh has come to pay his respects. Like they're nothing more than senpai and kohai.
"Good morning." Inui closes the book. He wants to take Kaidoh and shake him.
"Senpai, are you all right? You don't look so good."
"I just stayed up too late." Inui takes another drink and hopes the caffeine will kick in soon. He should have brought the 3x version instead.
"Maybe you should skip training this afternoon."
"No," Inui says. "I'm fine." They train together three times a week, enough for Inui to keep an eye on Kaidoh's condition.
"You work too hard."
"This from you." Inui gives Kaidoh half a smile, but it's not likely Kaidoh sees it. Neither of them speak for a while and Inui's thoughts drift to black coffee and his unfinished chem lab. "You should practise," he says and Kaidoh goes back to the court. And Inui should go and get something else done, if he's not going to make any progress here.
But he stays on the bench, squinting against the sun, and watches Kaidoh rally with Kawamura. He doesn't leave until the courts are empty.
One of Inui's classmates invites him out for the evening. A group of kids is going to skate and then out to eat. "Saturday night," he says to Inui. "Party, party!"
"Too busy," Inui says and Kaname laughs and calls him an old man.
Inui feels like an old man today. His body aches and his mind wanders. After school, he pulls his training back 20%. He can't let this happen again. He looks over at Kaidoh stretching beside him and wonders if he'll be able to prevent it.
They play a practice set. "Don't go all out," Inui says. "I want you to practise controlling your shots, being more precise about how much power you use."
Afterward, they sit down together, out of the sun. "That was good," Inui says. "Kaidoh, do you see how much more accurate you are when you're only at 80%?"
"Yes," Kaidoh says and takes a drink of water.
"Give me your racquet." Inui hefts it a few times. "You should have more weight." He pulls out his bag and adds a strip of lead tape along the bottom of the frame. "How is it now?"
Kaidoh takes the racquet and swings it. "Better. Thank you."
"And the overgrip. Isn't it too slippery for you?"
"The kind I use is out of stock."
Inui takes the racquet out of Kaidoh's hand. "I have some extra." He gets out a roll. It's black, with a slightly tacky feel. "Will this do?"
"You don't have to."
"It's all right. What do you think?"
Kaidoh strokes the surface with two fingers. "It's good."
Inui wants to move so that it's his hand Kaidoh is touching. Instead, he unwinds the old overgrip and starts the new one, wrapping it carefully. His hands shake a little. He shouldn't have had that last can of coffee.
"You're working so hard." Inui tapes the overgrip at the top and passes it to Kaidoh. "You should have a break."
Kaidoh shifts the racquet in his hand. "Thank you." He puts it into his bag.
"Why don't we go out tonight and see a movie? My treat." Inui feels Kaidoh tense beside him. "It's just a movie. Nobody will think anything of it."
"It's too much trouble for you."
"I can't." Kaidoh stands. "Thank you for today, Inui-senpai," he says and Inui can't catch his eye before he leaves.
Inui sits for a while, staring at the crumpled handful of silver tape. Then he pulls out his phone and makes a call.
Skating is easier than Inui expected. Gliding around the rink is so smooth, so fast. And his classmates are fun too, calling to each other, laughing when they fall down. Four boys, four girls, even numbers.
Inui hasn't been this relaxed in months. After they eat, they go to karaoke and the girls make Inui sing four times. "You have a wonderful voice," they say over and over and Inui isn't at all displeased to hear it.
It's after eleven when he finally gets home, chilled from the night air and almost stumbling with two days of fatigue. A light is burnt out in the hallway and he's nearly at his door before he notices something in front of it. Kaidoh, sitting on the floor, fast asleep.
Inui stands for a moment, looking at him. Kaidoh's knees are drawn up to his chest and his head is cradled in his arms. Inui wonders how long he's been waiting.
He should send Kaidoh home. It's too late to keep him out. Inui puts his hand on Kaidoh's head to wake him and he knows he won't send Kaidoh home. Because it's Kaidoh and Inui always wants more.
Kaidoh jerks awake, stares up at Inui with wide, blank eyes. Then he blinks and focuses. "Inui-senpai."
"How long have you been here, Kaidoh?" Inui unlocks the door. Kaidoh doesn't answer. "You didn't have to wait."
Kaidoh stops at the door. "Do you want me to go?"
"No." Inui turns to look at Kaidoh. "No, no. Come in." And Kaidoh comes in. Inui puts his arms around him. "Are you cold?" Kaidoh is still for a moment. Then he leans against Inui.
"No," he says. "I'm fine." But he is cold. Inui can feel it on his skin. He rubs his hand over Kaidoh's bare arm. "Senpai," Kaidoh says. He puts his cheek on Inui's shoulder so that he's facing away. His muscles tighten a bit and Inui wonders why. "Where..."
"Out with friends," Inui says. "I didn't think to tell you I'd be gone." And why should I, he wants to say, if you don't want to go out with me? But he can still see Kaidoh sleeping in the hallway, waiting for him.
Kaidoh is still tense in Inui's arms and Inui brushes his hand along the back of Kaidoh's neck. "Kaidoh," he says, and he means to say more, but then Kaidoh is kissing him and pushing him and pulling him. They're more than half-undressed by the time they reach the bed.
Kaidoh is warm now, his kisses are hungry. He won't let go of Inui's mouth. Inui doesn't want him to let go. They roll over and Inui slams against the wall as their bodies try to find a way to occupy the same space at the same time.
The churn of emotion is still there beneath it all, the confusion, the frustration. Inui still wants to shake Kaidoh, they shake each other, they hold on tight, and Inui knows they're going to drown.
Afterward, Inui is lying on his back and Kaidoh's head is on his chest. He strokes Kaidoh's hair and Kaidoh's mouth moves slowly against his breastbone. And Inui counts. 1...2...3...
275...276... "Kaidoh," he says. "You should stay over. It's too late for you to be out."
The breath sighs out of Kaidoh's body, blowing over Inui's skin. "It's all right," he says. "I'll be fine."
Inui should press the point, not just because it's Kaidoh, but because it really is too late to be out. But he's too tired, too fucking sick of this to even try. When Kaidoh gets up, Inui stays in bed, staring at the ceiling. He hears Kaidoh let himself out. Light angles in through the bedroom door. Inui can't bring himself to get up and turn it off.
On Sunday, Inui wakes up at his usual time. He eats breakfast, cleans his apartment, does his laundry. He calls his parents before he remembers that they are out of town. He works out and does his homework. And he thinks about Kaidoh because he doesn't know how not to.
In the afternoon Inui gets out all his data -- notebooks, videotapes, photos, spreadsheets -- and goes through it all. He makes more notes, everything he can recall about their time together, everything about Kaidoh, no matter how insignificant. He thinks of what his math teacher said about measuring the coastline: the smaller the ruler, the longer the distance.
It's 6:00 PM when Inui realises he's forgotten to eat lunch. But he almost has it now, a clearer picture of Kaidoh than he's ever had before, a working model. His ability to predict Kaidoh's actions has increased by at least 17%.
It's 6:10 PM when Inui realises that's no help at all. He drops his notebook on the floor and closes his eyes. He's nauseated and it hurts to breathe.
Statistical analysis can only predict what Kaidoh will do. It will never tell Inui why he does it.
He makes himself tea. He drinks too soon and scalds his tongue. Inui can't do this, he can't ask Kaidoh why. Because of the statistical probability that Kaidoh will turn around and leave, that Inui will never have his arms around Kaidoh again.
He stares at the door. His tea has gone cold. He drinks it anyhow.
When he hears the knock, Inui closes his eyes for a moment, squeezing the cup between his palms. It will be fine, he tells himself. This is what he wants. He can already feel Kaidoh's forehead against his cheek, Kaidoh's hands against his skin. He puts down the cup and opens the door. There is Kaidoh, looking sideways, down, away.
"Kaidoh," Inui says.
"Inui-senpai." Kaidoh steps out of his shoes and into the room.
It's good to see you, Inui is going to say. How are you? Inui is going to say. But then Kaidoh does look up, just for a moment, and something tears inside of Inui. "Why are you here?"
Kaidoh's face pales, then reddens, as though Inui has slapped him. "Senpai..." he says and looks at the floor.
"Why?" Inui takes Kaidoh by the shoulders, not quite shaking him, not yet. "Tell me why."
Kaidoh shrugs out of Inui's grasp. He's looking right at Inui now and his eyes are hot and angry. Inui wonders if he's going to get the Momoshiro treatment. But Kaidoh just stands there, staring, his hands clenched at his sides.
Now Inui is the one who looks away. "Kaidoh," he says. "I'm sorry." He can feel the next words forming in his throat, sliding off his tongue, and he can't seem to stop them. "Maybe we shouldn't do this anymore."
"Senpai?" Kaidoh's voice is loud, larger than the room.
Inui doesn't speak. He's afraid to let any more words out. His body is stuck in place, rooted to the floor, his head won't turn to look at Kaidoh. Kaidoh hisses, Inui flinches, and there's a crash. The door slams.
It's ten minutes before Inui can make himself go sweep up the shards of the cup. He concentrates so he won't cut himself. Damn Kaidoh. Inui has had this cup since he was eight years old and now it's broken. Now Inui can't smash it himself.
He tips the pieces into the trash. Then he sits down, his back against the wall. His eyes are stinging, his stomach is turning over. This didn't just happen. Kaidoh didn't just leave. Inui didn't just tell him to go.
There's only a 0.2% chance that Inui would do something like that.
Inui goes to school. He walks quickly but the night before follows him like a dog at his heels, catching him up at the train. He wishes he could at least send it home to wait for him there.
Kaidoh is always early to morning practice. Inui makes sure that he is late, cutting it so close that no one is left in the clubhouse when he goes to change.
Everyone is warming up, stretching on the courts. Arai has his hands on Kaidoh's back, pushing him down as he reaches out to touch his feet.
Recent research suggests that stretching before physical activity may actually contribute to injury rather than preventing it. This is what Inui planned to tell Oishi and Ryuzaki-sensei this morning. Instead, he goes to C-court and hits smashes, aiming at the same spot, over and over.
"Faster," he tells the first-year feeding him balls. He misses and misses, his accuracy is only 38%, but today he doesn't care. He smashes harder, swings wildly, until his arm is on fire and Oishi calls to him to stop, practice is over, time to go.
In chemistry, he burns his hand with acid. In Japanese, he leaves his kanji test unfinished. He throws his lunch away uneaten and sits under a tree, drinking water from a bottle.
It's like a toothache all over his body, a dull, heavy pain underneath everything he does, and even his throbbing hand can't distract him. It's all a misunderstanding, he wants to say, his arms around Kaidoh's shoulders and his mouth on Kaidoh's ear.
He looks at the red mark on his skin, touches it and winces. Not understanding is not the same as misunderstanding.
Kaidoh doesn't show up for training. Inui wasn't expecting him to, but he waits anyhow, sitting under a tree, listening to the cicadas whine like stuttering dentist drills. He can't think of what else to do with his time. The minutes tick away and Inui follows the schedule in his head: calisthenics, practice, jogging. Kaidoh's arms as he swings his racquet, Kaidoh's legs as he runs. Kaidoh's face as he plays. The sweat on his body. The look in his eyes.
Inui knows the routes that Kaidoh takes. He checks his watch and walks three blocks. He stands behind a tree and watches Kaidoh do his road work. Kaidoh looks just the same as always.
It would be so easy to step out and catch his arm as he passes, to take him by the shoulders. But Inui doesn't know what he would say and then Kaidoh is gone, a flash of motion in the distance.
Kaidoh doesn't need Inui, he doesn't need anybody. Inui pushed himself into Kaidoh's life like a fencepost into water and now that he's pulled away, there's no mark to show where he's been.
Tuesday afternoon, Ikeda asks Inui for help with his backhand. Inui watches him for a while. "Here," he says, "like this," and stands behind Ikeda, moving his arm in the stroke, the follow-through.
"Thank you, senpai," Ikeda says and takes the instructions Inui scribbles for him.
When Inui turns around, Kaidoh is walking away.
"How many should I do each day?" Ikeda asks and Inui can't work out what he's talking about.
Inui writes Kaidoh a note. Then he throws it away. He doesn't know what to say. He tries again and again, twenty-seven sheets of paper through the shredder, until it overheats and he has to turn it off. He should have got the heavy-duty model.
Can we talk? he writes at last and lies awake until one wondering what he'll say when they do.
He dreams the words, the perfect, right words, and Kaidoh smiles and kisses Inui and they live together on a green-painted houseboat with flowers on the roof and a dolphin for a pet. But when the alarm rings, the words sink through Inui's pillow, down, gone, and he's back on dry land. He takes the note along to school anyhow.
In the entryway, he sees Kaidoh and his heart jumps in his chest. Kaidoh is putting something into Inui's shoebox. A shock of hope hits Inui and it's almost painful, like an ocean wave crashing over him, cold and stinging.
He waits until Kaidoh is gone. Blood pounds in Inui's ears as he reaches in, looking for the note, for whatever Kaidoh left him.
It's a package of overgrips. Inui throws them away. He tears the note across and crumples it into a wad in the palm of his hand. He throws it hard and it misses the trash can. He doesn't pick it up.
Momoshiro and Kaidoh start fighting on the court, more than just a scrap, they're throwing punches, not even yelling at each other. Inui and Kawamura are the closest by and Kawamura grabs Momoshiro. Inui gets his arm around Kaidoh's chest and pulls him backwards. Kaidoh struggles and Inui takes an elbow to the stomach.
Inui can't see Kaidoh's face, but Momoshiro's lip is bloody. He can feel Kaidoh's breath heaving against him, the anger in his body.
"Calm down," Inui says and Kaidoh stiffens. For a moment, he is completely still, frozen, like a metal statue in Inui's arms. Then he wrenches away and Inui staggers back.
"Kaidoh," Kawamura says.
Kaidoh leaves the court and starts running laps. He doesn't wait to hear how many. There is a bruise on his cheek and his eyes are dark.
"Jeez." Momoshiro wipes his mouth on the back of his hand. He stares at the blood. "What's with him?"
Inui wants to break something. He goes into the clubhouse and looks at the training videos he keeps there. There are eight of Kaidoh and Inui pictures himself smashing them open, pulling out the tape, strewing it all over the floor.
But he can't bring himself to destroy his data. He can't even play this part correctly.
He drops onto a bench and leans against the wall, pulling off his glasses and rubbing his eyes. If he had realised this would be the end result, he wouldn't have even started with Kaidoh. He should have researched more thoroughly, studied more carefully.
His stomach hurts where Kaidoh elbowed him. He can feel Kaidoh in his arms still, recoiling, breaking free. Kaidoh always was the first to pull away.
The door opens and there is Fuji, outlined against the sunlight. "Oishi says that was the worst fight in the history of the Seigaku tennis club."
"Are you all right?" Fuji must know. Fuji knows things that even Inui doesn't know and Inui has never worked out how he does it. "Inui?"
"No," Inui says and puts his glasses on. "I am sleeping badly and eating poorly. I have not been training properly. My tennis skills have degraded. My performance in school is dropping. I have not taken proper data in days. I am uncertain when this state of affairs will change."
Fuji sits down beside Inui. "Do you have a plan?"
"No." Inui stares at the videotapes. He can't take his eyes off Kaidoh's name. "I have no plan."
"You can't plan for everything," Fuji says.
"Yes, you can," Inui says, and stands, and leaves.
Inui knows he has to eat, but he has no meat or fish and all his vegetables are spoiled. He throws them out and fills the rice cooker. While he waits, he does his homework. It's still hard to think, but he can't let things slide any more.
He's dishing out the first bowl when his mother calls. "How are you, Sadaharu?" she asks and Inui pauses for a moment before he says he's fine. "How are your grades?" Fine. "Tennis?" Fine. "I put some money into your bank account." Thank you. "Are you coming out on Sunday?" Yes. "I forgot, I have a meeting and your father has to entertain for work. Next week?" Fine. "Work hard." Yes.
Inui eats his rice. The first mouthful sticks in his throat, but he swallows and after that it's easier. The calories help. The warmth helps.
After dinner, he sits down to make his plan. He taps his pen against the paper and covers it with little dots. He doesn't even know what he's planning for. To get Kaidoh back? Or to get over him?
He writes across the top: Reasons To Like Kaidoh Kaoru. If he can work this out, then maybe he'll know what to do. He writes for half an hour, filling up three sheets. It's not hard to find reasons: Kaidoh's determination, his skill, his intensity on the court, the way his hair falls over his forehead, the way his ass looks in his shorts, the way he kisses Inui in the dark.
Inui reads through the list twice, then drops the paper on the table. This still doesn't say why Kaidoh. There are other boys with determination, with intensity, with pretty hair and attractive backsides.
What made Inui hold Kaidoh that first time, made him keep holding on when Kaidoh tried to pull away? Inui closes his eyes and imagines Kaidoh in his arms, in his bed.
All he can come up with is that Kaidoh just smells right. He touches Kaidoh's name on the paper. "Kaoru," he says out loud and smiles as though it's funny.
He still doesn't have a plan.
When he wakes in the morning, Inui realizes he doesn't need one. The logical thing is to cut his losses. To get over Kaidoh and move on and not get involved with anyone until he has the time for it. Until he's figured out how it's supposed to work.
All he has to do is act like he's over Kaidoh. And eventually, he will be. That's all he needs to do.
Inui is early to morning practice and when he walks into the clubhouse, Kaidoh is already there, changing. They are alone. Inui's heart slams into his ribs and adreneline shoots through his system. He wants to run out of the room. He wants to grab Kaidoh and bend his head back and kiss him.
What would the pre-Kaidoh Inui do? Inui tries to remember back; it's just a few months, but it seems like years.
Kaidoh holds his uniform shirt in front of him like a shield. He looks down at the floor.
"Good morning," Inui says. He can't quite bring himself to say Kaidoh's name. He turns his back and changes, forcing himself to be calm. Even the air in the room is panicked and he breathes shallowly so it won't infect him. When he's done, he picks up his racquet.
Kaidoh is facing away, pulling his practice shirt over his head, and Inui watches the bare line of his back disappear underneath it. Inui can almost feel Kaidoh's skin under his fingers, warm and smooth and stretched over moving muscle.
But he wouldn't have been thinking that before. "Work hard today," he says. And then he's out the door, not looking back.
That wasn't so bad, he tells himself and it's a lie and not one that he can make himself believe, not yet.
"Doubles practice this afternoon," Oishi says. "Inui-Kaidoh pair against Momoshiro-Kawamura pair, okay?"
Kaidoh's shoulders hunch and his whole body clenches. His hand tightens around his racquet, his knuckles whitening. It makes Inui hurt. Hurt more. Pre-Kaidoh Inui would play doubles with his assigned partner, use the opportunity to gather data, improve his own play.
Post-Kaidoh Inui can't bring himself to do that, not when it looks like Kaidoh would rather eat broken glass than be Inui's doubles partner. He remembers their last match together, against Midoriyama. The way they shared the court, moved together, two interlocking parts in a precise machine. The way they won.
"It would be better," he says to Oishi, "for Momoshiro and Kaidoh to play together."
Kaidoh's hand relaxes and the four of them go onto the court. Inui's eyes meet Kaidoh's over the net and Inui has to look away. Kaidoh serves and the ball almost hits Inui in the face. Maybe it was an accident.
The match is hard. Kawamura plays by instinct and when he's on the court there's no talking to him, he'll hardly hear. No way to co-ordinate their strategy, no machine to set in motion.
Kaidoh and Momoshiro start out as badly. Kaidoh can't get it together, can't play like he usually does. They yell at each other and Inui wonders if they'll fight again. But somehow they calm down and play a game that Inui wishes he were watching, so he could write it down. Even with Kaidoh's bruised face and Momoshiro's split lip, they're completely in sync and they bang their fists together after match point.
Inui forgets to go shopping after practice.
After a few days of "What would pre-Kaidoh Inui do?" Inui's brain is scrambled like eggs in a frying pan. It's like one person pretending to be someone else acting like another person entirely and Inui has never been very good at acting. He wishes he knew how long it was going to take to start working. The ache in his chest saps his energy, what's left of it after all his brain contortions.
"We're going out again this Saturday," Kaname says to him. "The girls told me to make sure I invited you along."
Inui can almost remember the skating last week. "Yes," he says. "I would like that." He can't be sure if that's a proper pre-Kaidoh thing to do, but last time was fun and he could use some fun right now. Especially if it doesn't involve his brain.
They go bowling and out to eat. Then the girls insist on karaoke again. "We want to hear Inui-kun sing some more!" The boys roll their eyes and complain that Inui is upstaging them. Miko pulls Inui up to sing a duet with her.
She's so tiny next to him and he leans down when they get to the chorus. She sits beside him after, close like there's not enough room, but it's not until Kaname whispers that they can all split up after this that Inui understands.
He sits there while the music goes on, her shoulder pressed against his arm, and this is just the garnish of confusion to a week of turmoil. He wonders how far she would go with him, what she would do if he took her home with him. It's been a long week.
Miko gets up to sing again. She bounces with the music and her short hair swings against her cheeks. Her friends clap their hands. "You could be a pop star, Miko-chan!"
"Oh, no," she says and smiles sweetly. "I'm not that good."
"You're very good," Inui says to her, because it's true, and she turns the smile to him, bright as the high-score display on a game at the arcade.
"Not as good as you," she says, and puts her hand on his arm.
When their booth rental is up, it's late. They bunch together on the sidewalk and Kaname catches Inui's eye. "Maybe we should..."
Miko is beside Inui and he looks down at the top of her head. He could make a list of all the things he likes about her: she is smart, cute, works hard at her studies, plays volleyball, sings well. She's bright, fun, happy. She looks up at Inui and smiles like she enjoys his company.
But she just smells wrong. Maybe that's because she's a girl, but none of the boys smell right either. Nobody smells right. The fun of the evening shreds and falls away from him and underneath is the pain in Inui's chest and the twisting in his stomach. "I have to go," he says. "I'm sorry."
He walks away before anyone can stop him, down to the train. He stands as he rides and stares out the window, into where the darkness would be if he weren't in the city. His stop goes by. Then another. He gets off and starts to walk. The night air is cool and he breathes in as much of it as he can.
He stops at a cross street. It's too late at night for this. But he turns anyhow, left, then right and right again. Inui has never been inside Kaidoh's house, but he knows where it is. He knows which room is Kaidoh's.
A cicada whirrs past under a streetlight, just missing Inui's head. He puts one foot in front of the other. He doesn't know what he's going to do when he gets there.
The house is dark. Inui stands on the street and looks up at the black rectangle of Kaidoh's window. He wants to climb in and lean over Kaidoh and watch him sleep. To link their hands together and feel Kaidoh's fingers tighten. To wait until Kaidoh wakes and smiles at seeing Inui's face.
But breaking and entering takes planning and the chance of Kaidoh reacting well to it at any time is low. Inui clenches his fist. He's got to do something.
He pulls a coin out of his pocket and throws it, arcing it so it taps lightly on the glass. Come down, he'll gesture. Come down and we'll talk.
Nothing happens. Inui throws another coin, a little harder this time. The light stays off, the window stays closed. He wants to try again, to break the glass, to yell and shout. He wishes he were the kind of person who would do that. He turns around and walks home.
Kaidoh is sitting in front of his door.
When he sees Inui, Kaidoh jumps to his feet. Inui gets a glimpse of his face: it's closed, like a book put away on a shelf, like a locked door. Then Kaidoh bows to Inui. "I'm very sorry, senpai," he says, and waits, hands at his sides, eyes on the floor.
Inui looks down at Kaidoh. His back is at approximately 82 degrees. His bandana is dark blue. His hands are shaking.
Inui's hands are shaking too. His heart beats crazily, like a trapped bird against a windowpane. His tongue is thick behind his teeth and it takes him two tries to speak. "Kaidoh," he says, and he wants to take Kaidoh by the shoulders and pull him up, pull him close, and never, ever let go again. But there's a small, dry part of him that makes itself heard over the heart-pounding and grab-wanting and just plain hope that clamour inside of him. Don't be stupid, it says and Inui never wants to be stupid.
"Kaidoh," he says again. "What are you sorry for?"
"What...whatever I did," Kaidoh says and his voice is harsh. "Senpai, please."
Inui takes Kaidoh by the shoulders and pulls him up. But he keeps him at arm's length. "Do you want to come in?"
"Please." Kaidoh's head is down, eyes on the floor. He's still but Inui can feel the strain in his body. He must be very close to bolting. Inui tightens his grip.
"You can come in," Inui says, "if you stay. Stay over. If you don't want to stay--" He swallows and forces out the words. "Then leave."
Kaidoh stiffens like he did the other day, cold and silent like a block of stone. This is it, it's over. Inui drops his hands so he doesn't have to feel Kaidoh pull away.
"All right." Kaidoh doesn't move, but the air between them changes. "If you want me to."
Inui can hardly get the key into the lock.
He puts his hands on the kitchen counter and just stands there, back to the room, while Kaidoh calls home. Inui remembers the dark windows and wonders if Kaidoh will get in trouble.
Kaidoh's phone clicks shut. "Senpai?" Inui turns around. "I can stay." Kaidoh pulls the bandana off his head. Inui can't help reaching out to touch his hair. Two steps and they'll be in each other's arms.
Come down and we'll talk.
"Excuse me," Inui says and locks himself in the toilet. Why is Kaidoh here now? Is it duty? Because he thought that's what Inui wanted?
And it is what Inui wants. He wants Kaidoh, he wants to push him down onto the bed and have him right now. Inui's hard, he's ready just thinking about it.
He smacks his forehead. Think, idiot, think, he tells himself. Think with your brain. He turns on the cold water and holds his wrists under the tap. The water swirls down the drain.
When Inui comes out, Kaidoh is already in the bedroom. The light is off and from the door Inui can see Kaidoh is half undressed, his shirt twisting between his fingers.
Inui shuts the door. The bed sighs as he sits down and puts his hand on Kaidoh's back. Muscle and bone and skin, just like Inui remembers. Kaidoh shifts, moving closer in the dark. Once their mouths touch, Inui won't be able to hold back.
"Kaidoh, wait," he says. He slides his glasses off and puts them down. He unbuttons his shirt, but leaves it on. Then he moves on the bed until he's sitting with his back against the wall. "Come here," he says and turns Kaidoh in his arms so that they are nested, back to chest, Inui's cheek against Kaidoh's temple and his arms around Kaidoh's shoulders.
"Senpai," Kaidoh says and the growl of it vibrates against Inui's chest. He sits stiffly for a while, his hands at his sides.
"You don't have to be here," Inui says softly. "You don't have to be here if it's not what you want." He rubs his thumb along Kaidoh's shoulder. He has to know. "Did you think this was something that you owed me?"
Kaidoh's chin drops onto Inui's arms and the breath blows out of him.
"You don't owe me this." Inui rubs his face in Kaidoh's hair. "This is only if you want it."
Kaidoh just sits and Inui waits, biting his lip and hardly breathing. Then Kaidoh puts his hands on Inui's arms. "It's okay," he says, so low it's hard to hear. But he relaxes against Inui.
Inui tightens his arms. "Kaidoh," he says and the lump behind his chest begins to dissolve, the pressure on his shoulders lifts. He kisses Kaidoh's shoulder and they shift together so they fit better. Kaidoh puts his mouth on Inui's arm, not quite a kiss, more a taste.
"This is okay too," Inui says. He lays his head on Kaidoh's shoulder. "It's okay to spend time together."
"But you're so busy," Kaidoh says against Inui's skin. And finally Inui understands the counting, the leaving.
"No. Yes. But it's okay." Inui kisses the back of Kaidoh's neck, just a press of his lips against the top of the spine. "If it's you." It's too dark to see, but Kaidoh squirms a bit and Inui knows he's flushing. "I went to your house," Inui says. "I threw things at your window."
Kaidoh turns his head, nose against Inui's cheek. "Senpai."
And Inui can't wait any more so he pulls Kaidoh down and they kiss, slow and deep, and happiness goes through Inui like the sound of a struck gong.
Then Kaidoh's hands are rushed and hard and Inui lets him do anything he wants. They move together and the universe contracts to a single point of white hot light, then explodes.
It's not enough, so they do it again.
They lie together after, Kaidoh's head on Inui's shoulder as his breathing slows and his body goes lax. Inui touches his tongue to Kaidoh's temple and Kaidoh stirs in his sleep, muttering something that Inui can't decipher.
Water leaks from Inui's eyes, dripping down into his ears, and he counts to 3597 before he falls asleep.
Inui wakes up feeling good, warm, safe, happy. He remembers why and rolls over. He's alone in the bed, but when he slides his glasses on, he can see Kaidoh's bag still on the floor, along with Inui's crumpled clothes.
He pulls them on and stumbles out of the room. Kaidoh is sitting at the table and Inui throws a "good morning" to him on his way to the toilet. He's uneasy now and as he washes his face, he wonders how he should act, what he should say. It was easier last night in the dark.
Inui stares in the mirror. His face is clean. His hair sticks up in a funny way and he's never really thought about that before. Maybe he should do something with it. Maybe he should get contact lenses. Maybe Kaidoh is feeling just as strange.
Inui takes a deep breath. He goes out and sits down at the table, across from Kaidoh.
"You don't have any food," Kaidoh says and passes Inui a cup of tea.
Inui drinks. The tea feels good, warm, safe, happy. He wraps his hands around the cup. "I could go and get something."
"I'm supposed to go out with my family this morning. I'll get some food at home." Kaidoh puts his cup down on the table. It's blue, with a white heron on the side. Inui has never seen it before. The cup in his hands is a match. He looks at Kaidoh and Kaidoh looks away.
"If you have some time this afternoon," Inui says, "I need to buy some new running shoes. Maybe you could come with me." He reaches over and touches the back of Kaidoh's hand. Kaidoh looks up. "Only if you want to."
The room is quiet for a few moments. People pass by in the hall, talking, and Inui can't quite make out what they're saying. Kaidoh's hand is warm, like the bed, like the tea. "Yes," Kaidoh says and turns his hand until their fingers link.
"Call me when you're free." Inui smiles and Kaidoh smiles a little in return and Inui doesn't know what to say next. Everything is awkward, but in a good way. Probably. Kaidoh's face isn't closed any more, anyhow. And this time Inui will try harder.
"I have to go," Kaidoh says, and pulls his hand away. He goes to get his bag and Inui drinks the rest of his tea, tracing the heron with his fingertip.
He stands when Kaidoh comes back into the room. "Kaidoh," he says and puts his hand on Kaidoh's shoulder.
Kaidoh stands still for a moment. Then he drops his bag and grabs Inui around the chest, hugging him so tightly Inui can't catch his breath. Kaidoh presses his face to Inui's throat, cheek bumping up against Inui's jaw, and breathes in deeply.
Inui counts to 67 before Kaidoh lets him go.
Feedback and comments of any kind are most welcome.