Prince of Tennis, InuKai, 1300 words, G.
How things fit together.
"This seat is free," Inui says and moves over to the window. Kaidoh hesitates in the aisle and Inui looks at the dirt on Kaidoh's shorts, the scrape on his thigh. Kaidoh drops into the seat next to Inui, pushing his bag under the seat in front.
Inui rests his hand on his knee. Kaidoh's knee is next to it, approximately five centimetres away, and Inui moves his leg to close the gap to three. The bus rounds a corner and they bump. "Sorry," Kaidoh says and moves away. He pulls down the zipper on his jacket, opening it halfway.
"Do you know how zippers work?" Inui says and takes the plastic tag between his fingers. "The teeth have to enter the slide at the right angle and each hook fits into a hollow on the opposite side so that they link." He pulls it down a bit further, past Kaidoh's sternum. "Reverse and they separate."
"Oh," Kaidoh says. Inui lets go and leans back in his seat. Kaidoh pulls the zipper up again. He puts his hand on his knee. Inui looks out the window.
"Your shoelace is undone," Inui says. Kaidoh sits on a bench and Inui kneels in front of him. "I use a different knot, it's more secure." He can't catch Kaidoh's eye, just the damp hair on his forehead, the pattern on his bandana. "Can I show you?"
Kaidoh wraps his fingers around the edge of the bench. "Okay."
Inui crosses, loops, wraps, ties. He looks at Kaidoh's ankles, bare, smudged with dirt from the practice. He's never seen dirt on Kaidoh that didn't come from tennis; off the courts, he's immaculate. The knot is done. Inui takes the lace on Kaidoh's other shoe and pulls it loose. "You try that one."
Kaidoh tries, almost gets it. "Show me again, senpai," he says and Inui does.
"I keep losing my mobile in here." Kikumaru rummages through his bag. "It drives me crazy."
Inui pulls his practice shirt over his head. "I have just the thing." He takes out his own phone and shows it to Kikumaru. "A strap with a carabiner clip. You can hook the phone on your bag or your belt loop."
"Cool!" Kikumaru swings the phone by the clip. "Where did you get it?"
"I have an extra one." Inui remembers, too late, that he was going to give the extra one to Kaidoh. The clip is blue, the same colour as Inui's. Inui hands the strap to Kikumaru.
"Thanks, Inui." Kikumaru gives Inui a quick squeeze. Inui looks over at Kaidoh and Kaidoh looks away.
"Do you want one, Kaidoh?" Inui says. "They're very useful."
"I don't need one." Kaidoh swings his racquet once, a sharp cut through the air, and leaves the club house.
"Can you do this up for me, Kaidoh?" Fuji holds out his hand and Inui can see the coil of silver in his palm. Kaidoh looks at it, at Fuji, and Fuji smiles. "Please?"
Kaidoh picks up the chain by one end and it glitters in the sunlight, a bright thread between them. Fuji turns his back and lifts his hair. Kaidoh passes the chain around Fuji's neck, dropping one side and fishing for it down Fuji's collar.
Let me help you, Inui says, except he doesn't, he just holds his notebook and watches Kaidoh's fingers at Fuji's nape and the dull flush that creeps up Kaidoh's neck.
"Thank you." Fuji turns another smile on Kaidoh. "Kyoko-chan would be disappointed if I weren't wearing it. I have trouble with the clasp."
"It's no problem," Kaidoh mutters. He flexes both hands a few times.
Inui looks down his notebook. There's a blotch of ink in the middle of an important chart. When he looks back up, Kaidoh is gone.
The button comes off in Inui's hand. It's been loose for days, but he keeps forgetting to tell his mother. Now he'll have to go home with his shirt gaping. Or wear his practice outfit on the train.
"Too bad, Inui," Kawamura says. "Do you need a pin?"
"I said we should have a girl manager," Momoshiro says. "Then she would sew your button on and take care of the towels and rub our shoulders."
"A pin might work until I get home." Inui pulls the edges of the shirt together. The button slips through his fingers and rolls along the floor. Inui reaches for it, but Kaidoh's fingers close over it first.
"Here," he says, his face close to Inui's. "I'll do it."
"Do what?" Inui says.
Kaidoh reaches in his bag and takes out a leather kit. Clipper and file, needle and thread. "Here," he says again, and holds out his hand.
Inui takes off the shirt and hands it over. Kaidoh sits down and threads the needle, knots the end. His forehead creases as he works and Inui is surprised at how deft he is, and then surprised that he's surprised.
"Oi, Mamushi," Momoshiro calls. "You can be our girl manager."
"Shut up." Kaidoh gives the shirt back to Inui. The button is snug but not too tight, thread wrapped around behind it to make it stronger.
"Thank you, Kaidoh," Inui says, and puts it on.
"Come on, Kaoru-chan," Momoshiro tugs on Kaidoh's hair. "Be a good girl and give me a shoulder massage." Kaidoh takes a swing at Momoshiro's shoulder and winces as he connects. The blood drains out of his face and Momoshiro stops with his fist in the air. "Are you okay?"
Kaidoh opens his hand. The needle is driven halfway through his finger. "Here," Inui says and takes Kaidoh's hand. Blood is welling up around the needle. Oishi gets the first aid kit. Inui looks at Kaidoh. "Ready?" he says. Kaidoh nods and Inui pulls out the needle. They both exhale at the same time. Inui gets out the disinfectant. "This is going to sting."
"It doesn't hurt," Kaidoh says and his face doesn't change when Inui swabs the puncture, wraps it with gauze and a strip of tape.
"Take it off in the evening." Inui is finished, but he's still holding Kaidoh's hand. He looks up into Kaidoh's face, it's serious, his eyes are serious, looking into Inui's. "When the bleeding stops, the wound should be exposed to air."
"Yes," Kaidoh says.
"When was your last tetanus shot?" Inui says and brushes his thumb over Kaidoh's palm. Kaidoh doesn't answer. Inui moves his thumb again. Kaidoh doesn't move, doesn't even blink. Inui doesn't breathe.
Then Kaidoh pulls his hand away, turns his back. "I'll find out."
Inui puts the kit away. His hands are shaky and blood throbs in his temples. He grabs his bag and leaves, almost running, and when he's full outside, he does run, stumbling, stupid, away.
Inui leans up against the wall, presses his face against the cool brick. The shadow of the library building is long and dark, slanting off to the left. He scratches at the mortar and grit builds under his fingernails. He bites his tongue until it hurts, bites harder.
Kaidoh turns the corner and the shadow swallows him, feet first. "Senpai."
"I'm sorry, Kaidoh," Inui says. He can still feel Kaidoh's calluses under his thumb, the softer skin of the palm. He bites his tongue again.
"Inui-senpai," Kaidoh says, louder. He grabs Inui's wrist and Inui wonders if this is the prelude to a fight. "You..." His fingers tighten. "You told me how zippers work. Remember?"
Inui remembers, of course he remembers, he lies awake at night wondering why he would say something like that.
"Is it--" Kaidoh's fingers loosen, then slide down Inui's hand, pushing Inui's fingers apart, slipping through, linking up, holding hands. "--like this?"
The warmth starts there, between their hands, and grows, twisting like ivy to cover Inui's whole skin, except for his smile. He tightens his grip before Kaidoh can change his mind. He rests his forehead on the top of Kaidoh's head. He breathes.
"Close enough," he says.