A Little Knowledge by Halrloprillalar / prillalar
Prince of Tennis, Inui/Tezuka, barely R, 6100 words.
Inui experiences some technical difficulties.
Many thanks to the Boy for helping me with the plot and to Kest for beta and to both of you for hand-holding galore.
Timeline: Second Year. Which means no Horio. :(
Inui ran up to the net just as Tezuka sent a backhand drive to the baseline. Inui tried to fix that shot in his head as he moved to receive Tezuka's next serve. How far did he move his arm that time? The sun was in Inui's eyes and he wondered if he should start wearing a cap while he played.
Tezuka faulted and Inui shifted, swiping sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. Maybe a sweat band, then. Tezuka wasn't sweating at all, not that Inui could see. Tezuka was always putting on anti-perspirant before and after practice; maybe he used it on his face too.
Inui took two steps to the left as Tezuka threw the ball in the air. The second serve came right to Inui, like he was calling the ball onto his racquet. Now back on a diagonal for Tezuka's return. Move to the right. Three steps back. Left again. Inui could draw this pattern in his sleep, he could follow it without even looking. Up to the net. And Tezuka hit his backhand drive again and that was game - set - match.
"Good game." Inui dropped onto the bench. "Next time I'm going to win."
"You said that last time." Tezuka handed Inui a bottle of water.
Inui drank. "I've got all the data now." He closed his eyes and watched Tezuka's backhand a few more times. He had the angle now. He just had to enter it before he lost it. Inui rummaged in his bag.
His Vaio wouldn't wake up.
"You should take the battery out." Shinjo stopped in front of Inui's desk.
"I was just going to do that." Inui took the battery out and put it back in again. The Vaio chimed and the screen lit up.
Shinjo tapped her PDA with a stylus. "It's your day for classroom cleaning."
"I know," Inui said. The progress bar stopped moving. He pressed the reset button.
"Makihara!" Shinjo called. "Give Inui-kun a checklist."
"I know how to clean the classroom." The Vaio locked up. Inui jabbed the reset again.
Makihara dropped a checklist on his desk. "Be sure to hand this in to me or Shinjo-san."
Inui watched the progress bar slowly fill with green. Just start up for me and I promise to run defrag as many times as you want later. He stroked the side of the case. Just give me my files and I'll upgrade the OS and buy you more RAM.
It was almost complete. His ultimate project, his secret tennis weapon, his sure-fire guaranteed number one method to defeat Tezuka once and for all. And also his entry in the junior high computer programming competition: 100% Accurate Three Dimensional Tezuka Tennis Simulation.
And it was trapped on a Vaio that wouldn't start up.
"I hope you have back-ups."
"Of course I have back-ups." Inui had a good back-up routine. Only he wasn't quite sure how long it had been since he'd followed it. He might only have 89% Accurate Tezuka Simulation. Or even 72%. Inui tried another reset. This time he wouldn't watch. Watching was probably jinxing it.
He looked out into the hall instead. And there was 100% Non-Simulated Tezuka, standing in the middle of the floor in all three dimensions while students flowed around him. Inui got up and opened the window. "Tezuka."
Tezuka came over. He didn't say anything, just stood there in the exact same way, only at the edge of the hall instead of the middle.
"I have to do classroom cleaning this afternoon. Will you tell buchou I'll be late to practice?"
Tezuka nodded. "How is your computer?"
"Fine," Inui said. "Just fine." Or it would be soon. "I have all your data now for sure."
"I'll see you at practice," Tezuka said.
Inui went back to his desk. The progress bar was stalled.
"It's too bad you won't join the computer club," Shinjo said. "Then you could use our debugging tools."
Five chat windows popped up when Inui logged in. He typed his search into Google before flipping through them. Kawamura saying hi. Kikumaru with three more pop idol jpegs. Suzuki harassing him because it had been his turn in their go game for two days now. Shinjo asking him if he'd remembered to wipe off the blackboard ledge. Fuji with a new avatar that looked like an ugly hat.
What's with the hat?Inui wrote.
How's your Vaio?Fuji wrote.
How did you know about that?Inui scanned his search results and opened up three links.
I got a new vampire hunter game,Kawamura typed.
Want to come over and play it?
Inui grabbed a few mouthfuls of food from his supper tray and booted his Vaio into safe mode.
Word gets around,Fuji wrote.
I heard you were only down two games this time.
If you shoot the vampires in the head, you get extra power points.
What if you become a vampire?Inui typed.
Is that some sort of weird threat?Suzuki wrote.
Wrong window.Inui typed in a command on the Vaio, rubbed the case a few times for encouragement, and hit enter.
Yes,he typed to Shinjo,
Too busy,to Kawamura,
Very cute,to Kikumaru.
Next time I'll win,to Fuji.
Ready,the Vaio said, green on black, and Inui restarted it. He turned the screen away so he couldn't watch it.
I like your confidence,Fuji said.
I'll check it tomorrow,Shinjo said.
Go ahead.Inui scrolled down his contact list to see who else was around. Tezuka's name was greyed out. Tezuka never logged in.
Inui turned his Vaio around. Finally, it was booted and ready. And all the files in his simulation directory were corrupted.
Inui pulled a box out of his cubby and sifted through the contents. A flashlight, three green pens, a spool of copper wire, two pedometers, a softball.
"You'll be late to practice." Tezuka crouched down to tie his shoes.
"In a minute." A watch shaped like a pig, lead tape, a meal replacement bar four months past the expiration date, a magnetic go board.
Tezuka picked up his racquet and watched him.
"You don't have to wait for me." A package of overgrips, a C+ reference card, an overdue library book, three spongy tennis balls.
"Can I help?"
If you were a 3-D computer simulation of yourself, where would you be? Inui wanted to say. "I'm fine." He shoved the box back in and pulled down a bag he kept on the top of the cubbies. A half-used pad of graph paper, a stop-watch, a stuffed squid from a claw machine, a package of tissue.
"Tezuka-fukubuchou? Will you play a match with me?"
Inui looked up. Tanaka, another second-year. Very earnest but not much talent, Inui recalled. If he played Tezuka, that would be a good chance for Inui to get some supplementary data, for when he found his files.
"Do some drills to improve your net play," Tezuka said. "Then play a match with Kawamura."
Inui turned the bag out on the floor, but to no avail. A USB drive so small it can fit in your ear seemed so cool in the ad. Domo-kun would have been a better choice.
He pulled out the box again. Tezuka was still watching.
"You can go without me." Inui clawed through the contents. "I'll be ready in a minute." For sure it was here, he'd used it last Friday and dropped it into the box. "If you find the things you lose in the last place you look, logically, if I don't look anywhere else, it has to be here."
And there it was, stuck to the back of the go board by three magnetic stones. Inui plugged it into his Vaio.
Blank, of course.
"You should get changed," Tezuka said.
Tezuka threw the ball into the air and swung up to hit the serve. Inui observed the angle of his body and the lift of his feet. He moved twenty-two centimetres to the right and sent his return to the opposite corner, out of Tezuka's reach. He did it again. And again. It took one hundred repetitions to learn a new skill. Tezuka's dash was short by nine centimetres every time.
Inui opened his eyes. Mental practice was good, but human memory was so faulty. What if he was remembering the angle incorrectly? What if the speed of Tezuka's serve was off?
"You didn't hand in your checklist," Shinjo tapped on his desk.
Inui leafed through his book bag. "Here."
Shinjo smoothed out the paper and looked it over closely. "Okay." She handed it to Makihara. "I'm sure you had a good reason for not handing it in right away."
"Of course." He did have a backup on his desktop computer, but it was probably a month out of date. He'd just have do the work over again.
"Since the contest entries are due Monday."
And fast. If he cut back his sleep to four hours a night until the due date -- not optimal but, in this case, necessary -- he could rebuild the simulation. If he got the missing data. "Not a problem," Inui said.
At club time, he got out on the court ready to write down Tezuka's every move. Analog recording was safer than digital. But Tezuka wasn't there. "He's helping buchou with the ranking match line-ups," Oishi said. "We're supposed to do footwork drills and then practice matches."
On his way home, Inui pulled out his mobile and dialled Tezuka. A phone rang nearby and Inui looked up. Tezuka held up his phone. He was sitting on a bench in a small greenspace between two convenience stores. Inui sometimes stopped there to review his data on the way home.
He dropped down beside Tezuka. "Are we in the same block?"
Tezuka put his phone away. He didn't answer.
Too bad. But if he wasn't in Tezuka's block, Inui did stand a better chance of getting a Regular spot this time. And then he'd get more play experience, which would improve his tennis generally. So it would all improve his chances of defeating Tezuka. "Next time," he said.
"Probably." Tezuka's hands were on his knees, the sleeves of his uniform sliding up his arms. Inui looked at his wrists. He wondered if Tezuka did special exercises to strengthen them.
Inui got a tape measure out of his bag and wrapped it around Tezuka's wrist. 164 millimetres. He fished a notebook out and wrote it down. He measured Tezuka's upper arm. "Stand up," he said. Tezuka stood up. "Hold out your arms." Tezuka held out his arms.
"Are you making me a new uniform?"
Inui passed the tape around Tezuka's chest, snugging it tight in the front. Close to, Tezuka smelled like that deodorant he always used, a kind of citrus-y scent. "It's for science," Inui said and knelt down to do Tezuka's legs.
He took the length from ankle to hip, then the circumference of the calf. He rubbed the cloth of Tezuka's pants between his fingers so he'd know how much to subtract from the figures. "Tezuka." He pulled the tape around Tezuka's thigh. "Would you play a match with me soon? I know we just played, but--"
"Tonight," Tezuka said. "Seven o'clock." He sat down. There was a film of moisture over his forehead.
"Are you sick?" Inui rolled up the tape.
"No." Tezuka took out a handkerchief and wiped his face.
"Maybe you have a fever." Inui opened his bag. "I have a thermometer in here somewhere."
"I'm fine," Tezuka said. "I'll see you tonight."
The files on his desktop were only three weeks out of date. Inui worked on them for a while and added the info from Tezuka's measurements. He could pull this together, sure. Maybe he could even sleep four and a half hours per night.
After supper, he plugged in the USB drive and started a backup. He was out of DVD-Rs, but he could pick some up after the match. Plus, he could set up an online backup system and maybe a local RAID array. How many drives should he get? Three? Four?
His email chimed. Some spam that had got past his filter, a chain letter from Oishi, a revised class duties schedule from Shinjo -- she was addicted to Excel, poor girl -- and a note from Tezuka saying he'd taken his temperature and it was 36.6°C. And that he was sorry his thermometer wasn't accurate to more places.
Inui laughed and picked up his racquet. He left the Vaio at home.
The match was hard. Inui kept his notebook behind the baseline and scribbled in it between points. Maybe that was distracting him. But he got a lot of data. He had been wrong about the angle of Tezuka's serve after all.
Afterwards, Inui sat down to tidy up his notes. It was past sundown and the court lights didn't quite reach to the bench. He leaned forward to get what light he could. Tezuka sat beside him. "Here." He handed Inui a sports drink.
Inui put away his notebook. "A lot of bench time today."
Tezuka popped open his drink. "Did you get what you needed?"
"I know everything about you now." Near enough, anyhow. Inui drank. Orange. He flexed his calves so they wouldn't tighten up.
"Do you?" Tezuka put his drink down on the ground.
Inui finished his drink and set down the can. He'd never wondered what Tezuka thought about all of this. Everyone wanted to defeat Tezuka; that wasn't odd. But maybe constantly playing someone and writing down every little thing about them and making a computer simulation of them was a bit...obsessive.
He should probably re-think the whole thing. After the contest.
"Thank you," Inui said, and it was maybe for the drink and maybe for everything.
A cicada flew by, a dark whirring shape against the lights, and Tezuka put his hand on top of Inui's.
A kind of "you're welcome", Inui thought and closed his eyes. He could sit here for a while longer. He took deep breaths, pulling the slow air into his belly and pressing it back out again, until his limbs were heavy and relaxed.
Tezuka was still holding his hand.
Inui jumped up, his feet and his words tangling together -- "thank you -- sorry -- have to" -- grab his racquet, bag, towel, walk don't run, hand tingling, heart thumping.
"Inui," Tezuka called. "Your notebook."
Inui turned and snatched it from Tezuka's hand. Tezuka looked like his temperature was higher than 36.6. Inui thought he likely did too.
He was probably wrong. It didn't mean anything. Probably.
Inui dropped his bag on the floor. He could still feel the pressure of Tezuka's hand, warm and solid and friendly, that was it. Friendly. But definitely strange.
He needed clarification. Inui sat at his computer and opened his IM client.
You should try Taka-san's new vampire game.Not Fuji.
It's STILL your turn.Not Suzuki.
Look at this one! Her hair is so cute!Not Kikumaru.
Inui double-clicked on Oishi's name.
What is the significance of hand-holding?
Inui? I guess...liking.Oishi had a new avatar of a cartoon frog. And his text was green.
What kind of liking?
It depends. On who it is. Like it could be mother and child. Or friends.
What about a schoolmate?
Inui! Did you and someone...
That would mean ... you know.
Are you sure?
Well, probably. Does the person touch other people a lot?
Thanks.Inui closed the window. Probably you know.
A flicker on the screen caught his eye and Inui looked over at his contact list. Tezuka was logged on. Maybe he was asking Oishi what it meant when you held someone's hand and they jumped up and ran away. Inui stared at Tezuka's name for nearly three minutes. Then he logged out.
If Inui had his simulation working, he could test it on hand-holding. If the simulation did anything except tennis. If Inui knew anything about Tezuka that wasn't tennis.
Inui pulled his notebook out of his bag. He was scheduled to work on the program until 2 AM every night this week. Regardless of any you know, he had to finish if he wanted to enter the contest.
He propped his notes beside him on the desk and opened up his files. They were gone, from the computer and the USB drive too. All gone.
And his hand was still tingling.
"I wish I was as confident as you."
Inui opened his eyes. Shinjo. Which meant he must be in the classroom. He sat up and wiped his mouth. He hoped he hadn't actually drooled onto the Vaio.
"Of course since it's Inui-kun, it's no surprise you're so prepared you can spend your spare time napping."
"I'm sure you're far more prepared than I am." Inui tried not to yawn. He'd been up all night re-installing the framework, organizing his notes and algorithms, and re-writing code as fast as he could. During class time, he worked on getting his notebooks in order, so he could re-enter the data efficiently when the database was ready.
"Everyone is looking forward to your entry." Shinjo left to lecture Makihara about something. Inui wondered what her entry would be. Probably some fancy tracking system for organizing the class cleaning on an even more minute level. Or maybe a robot to beat up anyone who did a shoddy job.
Inui bent over the Vaio and erased the rows of gibberish his face had entered into the code. He was working on the object that controlled Tezuka's reaction time and couldn't remember what he'd done before. Why were his notes so sketchy? Why didn't he have a better back-up system? And why did it have to be Tezuka?
It was hard enough to re-do three months work in three days. But now there was Inui's tingling hand and possible you know from Tezuka and Inui hadn't slept, except for ten minutes on his keyboard, so he kept typing things wrong and nothing made any sense.
Inui closed the lid of his Vaio. There was no way he could reconstruct the simulation in time for the contest. And, anyhow, what was the point?
He'd thought he knew so much about Tezuka. But really he knew hardly anything at all.
Inui skipped tennis club. It would be too weird to see Tezuka right now. So he strapped his iPod to his arm and went for a run. It would keep his mind off things.
That worked until he had to wait at a light. Why did Tezuka like him, anyhow? Inui had friends, sure, but he'd never got a love letter or anything. But it did feel kind of nice to be liked.
Inui dodged around a baby stroller and wiped sweat off his forehead. The sidewalks were too crowded at this time of day. So, if Tezuka liked him, how did he feel about Tezuka?
He couldn't figure that one out. Tezuka was his tennis rival. Take away tennis and what was left between them? The song that was playing really said it well, I thought I knew you but you turned around and does that make me different too? It was a good song and Inui reached to play it over again. Then he stopped with his hand on the control wheel. Because he'd never heard this song before.
Inui jogged to the greenspace between the convenience stores. He sat down and flicked through the iPod. It was definitely his -- his mother had given it to him when he started junior high and she'd had it engraved. But the music, the settings, the files -- all different.
This was more than unlucky. Either Inui had some sort of techno-virus that caused all electronics around him to malfunction or this was sabotage.
He hadn't been keeping a backup of his simulation files on the iPod (although he probably should have been) but someone wasn't taking any chances. Inui slumped back on the bench. Someone either didn't want him to enter the programming contest or didn't want him to surpass Tezuka.
Maybe it was Tezuka. Maybe he sensed that Inui was close to completing his data and that his own defeat was imminent. He was using every means possible to prevent that, even pretending to like Inui just to throw him off. All very logical.
Something caught Inui's eye and he turned his head. In front of the convenience store, the one on the left: Tezuka, just standing there. He was in his school uniform, skipping tennis club just like Inui.
Their eyes met and weirdness swelled up like a giant puffball fungus that popped and filled the air with strange and uncomfortable spores. And Inui didn't know anything at all, except that it was not Tezuka who was deleting his files.
Tezuka was standing straight, his arms at his sides, but he seemed awkward and tense, and Inui wondered what it felt like to be Tezuka right now. He wanted to tell Tezuka not to feel badly, he wanted to let him know it was okay. He wanted to try holding Tezuka's hand again and see what it was like. And that surprised Inui so much he stayed on the bench and didn't say anything at all.
Tezuka turned around and walked away. Inui watched, clenching his hands into fists, and sucking the weirdness into his lungs, in case it wouldn't seem so weird once it was inside him. It was more exhausting than the run.
Ten minutes later, Inui still didn't know what to do about Tezuka. He picked up the iPod and scrolled through the songs again. He had a pretty good idea what to do about that though. He'd take care of it in the morning.
"It took you long enough," Shinjo said.
She shrugged. "You're annoying."
"Annoying?" She had ruined Inui's life because he was annoying?
"You think you're too good for us. You should be in the computer club but you won't join. Although now I'm starting to think you're too stupid for the computer club. How did you miss that email virus?"
Not like Inui hadn't asked himself the same question. About a million times. He should yell at her, he should pound his fists on her desk. But his anger was a heavy weight and it dragged him down instead of firing him up. "Is it gone?"
"I might still have a copy of your pathetic program." Shinjo took out her PDA and tapped the screen to life. "I'll tell you what: if you love your stupid tennis so much, play a match with me. If you win, you can have it back."
Relief splashed over Inui. But-- "That wouldn't be fair. Since you're a girl, you would have a physical disadvantage in the contest."
Shinjo's glare made Inui start back. "Are you some sort of sexist?" she said. "Or are you just afraid I'll beat you?"
There had to be a catch. She'd trapped him, so neatly he actually admired her for it. But mostly he was just mad -- at her, at himself, even at Tezuka a little, for being so damn unbeatable. Maybe it wasn't too late to quit tennis and computer programming and join the go club. At another school.
"Meet me in the computer room at four." Shinjo entered the date in her calendar. "And, you know, you never did clean the blackboard ledge."
The captain came up while Inui was changing for practice. "Inui!"
Inui's shirt got stuck around his head and his glasses mashed up against his face. "About yesterday," he said.
"Tezuka told me you were helping him with his assignment. Thank you." The captain slapped Inui on the shoulder. "Work extra hard today to make up for the time off."
"Yes, buchou," Inui said and wiped his glasses on his warm-up pants. Tezuka was across the room, his back to Inui, and he was standing absolutely still. Inui could feel the weirdness spores again, sticking in his lungs and making him wheeze. He should do something, he wanted to say something, but he still didn't know what. And thanks to Shinjo, he'd had no time to figure it out.
After that was over. Then Inui would sit down and be logical and devise a plan to reach his goal regarding Tezuka. And also work out what that goal was.
Oishi went up to Tezuka and Tezuka's head jerked around, like he was surprised. They left the clubhouse together.
Inui polished his glasses again.
Practice ran a little long and Inui was a few minutes late to the computer room, still in his warm-up suit, with his racquet in his bag. This should be over quickly, anyhow. Unless Shinjo was some secret tennis prodigy. If he'd had more notice, he could have done some research.
Shinjo and Makihara were sitting on the table, still in their school uniforms. "I thought you were going to forfeit," Shinjo said.
"Are you ready?"
"We are. But you're not." This could only be bad. "It's a doubles match."
"You didn't tell me that." Inui dropped his bag. Makihara swung her legs and laughed.
"I'm telling you now." Shinjo smiled. "So get yourself a partner."
A partner. Maybe Oishi -- but he would be in the library studying. Kawamura -- helping his father. Fuji -- at the movies with Kikumaru, and there went that option too. Maybe someone like Tanaka. But Inui needed to win and he didn't want to take any chances.
He pulled out his phone. Tezuka answered on the first ring.
"It's a doubles match," Inui said, not quite wheezing. "Will you be my partner?"
"Yes," Tezuka said and he was there in ten minutes. He just glanced at Inui as he came into the room. Inui glanced back. Not too weird.
"Interesting choice," Shinjo said. "You know, before we start, I ought to give you proof that I really have your program. Watch the big screen."
"You don't have to," Inui said and there on the big screen was 100% Accurate Three Dimensional Tezuka Tennis Simulation. Tezuka inhaled sharply. Inui wanted to have an asthma attack and die. This was way past puffball weird. And it would probably make the whole liking thing completely moot.
"Okay," Shinjo said. "Let's play."
"Which court?" Inui picked up his bag.
"Watch the big screen," Shinjo said.
It was a video game.
"You didn't tell me that either," Inui said.
Makihara hooked up the controllers. "Choose your players."
Inui wanted Roddick or Ivanišević. But there weren't any famous players to choose from, just build-your-own players with different hair, outfits, and one special move. Also, they were all girls. Inui picked green hair and outfit and the Hurricane Serve. Tezuka chose brown hair, a purple outfit, and the Drop Shot. It was kind of like 3-D Real Life Tezuka, just in a dress.
"Five set match," Shinjo said. "You can serve."
Inui picked up the controller. "Um, how?"
"Jeez." Makihara showed them how to run and serve and hit. "Turbo will activate your special move. But you can only use it once per game."
"Both up?" Inui said and Tezuka nodded. Shinjo and Makihara moved their players onto the court. "Okay." And Inui hit them with his Hurricane Serve. Let them deal with that!
Shinjo returned it before Inui could even get into position.
On the next point, Tezuka intercepted the return, but failed to swing. "Is it this button?" he said.
"For backhand." Inui pointed. "This is forehand. And this controls the angle." The buttons were all optimized for right-handers.
"What about spin?" Tezuka looked at Inui. Inui looked at Shinjo. Shinjo shrugged.
They didn't take a single point in the first set. But Inui was starting to get a feel for the gameplay. And Tezuka had figured out which buttons to push. "And Turbo for the special move?"
"Yes." Inui grinned. It was kind of fun to be better at something than Tezuka. "And let's try both back this time."
They won two games in the second set. Makihara's serves were predictable and Shinjo was too fond of her overhand volley. Inui thought he could lure her out of position so that Tezuka could send home the ball.
They pulled ahead during the third set. They were reading each other well and Inui thought they might even have a chance. "Don't think you're going to win," Shinjo said and evened the score.
"The match is just starting," Inui said. He used the Hurricane and caught Makihara off guard. Tezuka hit the same backhand drive he'd used against Inui. "How did you do that?" And they were at set point.
They were still in the game. Just this point, then two more sets. Inui served and Tezuka moved up to the net. Makihara lobbed it over Tezuka's head and Inui took off after it. He got to it just in time, leaning in the direction of the ball to make himself run faster, and crashed into Tezuka -- real Tezuka -- just as he hit the return. Inui dropped his controller. Makihara screamed. Shinjo hit a volley. Tezuka moved to intercept it. Inui bit his tongue. Tezuka pushed Turbo. Nothing happened.
"I don't think it's working," he said.
"You didn't activate it before the game," Shinjo said and won the set.
"I'm sorry." Tezuka flexed his fingers, like they were stiff.
"It's okay." And, really, it was. Inui didn't need that obsessive program in order to defeat Tezuka. It was a dumb idea in the first place. He turned to Shinjo and Makihara. "Good game."
"You did better than I thought you would." Shinjo handed her controller to Makihara. "And, you know, some of your code was pretty good too."
"No, the whole simulation was a bad idea," Inui said. "You did me a favour."
"Really? Because I was going to give it back to you anyway."
"Oh thank god," Inui said and wished he hadn't. He tried not to snatch the DVD-R too eagerly from her hand. "Listen, I'm sorry about the computer club. I shouldn't enter the contest."
"It doesn't matter if you do, I'm going to win." Shinjo pointed at the screen. "This is my entry."
"By the way," he said. "You were right, I didn't clean the blackboard ledge."
"I'm not forgiving you for that," Shinjo said. "Come on, Makihara."
Inui sighed. She was never getting off his case. He turned around. "Maybe we should play doubles for real sometime."
But Tezuka was already gone.
"Your mother let me in," Inui said.
Tezuka stayed in the doorway, looking at Inui. His room was detached from the rest of the house. That would be so useful, Inui thought, for noisy workouts or bad-smelling experiments or quiet studying. Or privacy.
"She seems really nice. Do you get to spend a lot of time with her?" Inui had planned out what to say. He'd practised in front of the mirror and reviewed his notes on the bus and none of that involved babbling about Tezuka's mother.
Tezuka stepped back and let Inui inside. The room was pretty much what Inui had expected -- tidy and comfortable. About the opposite of how Inui was feeling right now.
"So, I wanted to say thank you for helping me out this afternoon and I'm sorry, I really didn't know it was going to be a video game, she just said tennis, and I'm sorry about the whole simulation, it was stupid of me to spend all that time on it and I should have known it was inappropriate. But at least I didn't have you wearing a dress."
Tezuka didn't speak. His arms were at his sides and his face was still. He looked like he was waiting. The puffball spores expanded inside Inui's chest until it began to ache. He couldn't remember what was supposed to be next.
"I don't know anything about you," he said and took Tezuka's hand.
Their palms together were warm and clammy. Inui didn't know which one of them was sweating. He felt like something was filling him up, water pouring into a glass until it overflowed. Tezuka wrapped his fingers around Inui's.
It was good. Still weird, but good. Tezuka gave Inui's hand a tug and Inui followed him across the room. They sat down on the bed and Inui slid his fingers through Tezuka's. Inui stared at their hands, linked together, resting on Tezuka's knee. The air around them was thick with nervous happiness and unfamiliar options. It must be you know, Inui thought.
Inui turned and looked at Tezuka. Tezuka looked back. "Did you have something you wanted to say?" Inui asked.
"No." Tezuka lifted his free hand and touched Inui's face, just three fingers right above the jawline. Inui's pulse jumped in his throat and he tightened his hand around Tezuka's. Their faces were so close together, Inui thought he should be able to estimate it, but the distance kept closing and this was it, then, and Inui wished he'd done some Google searches before coming over.
Instead of bliss, there was a bump and a click. Whoever thought up kissing had neglected to account for eyeglasses. And noses. "Sorry," Tezuka said, and turned away.
"Tezuka--" Inui pulled off his glasses and set them on the bedside table. "Let's..." Tezuka took a deep breath. Then he handed his glasses to Inui.
He looked so different without them. Blurry, of course, but also strange, and Inui wondered if he looked just as strange to Tezuka. Inui moved in and so did Tezuka, so slowly that it was hard to pinpoint the moment when their lips actually touched. A long warm press, and it was okay, not bliss, but good. They kissed again and it was a little better. It takes a hundred repetitions to learn a new skill, Inui thought, and leaned in again.
On kiss fourteen, Tezuka opened his mouth and Inui felt the wet insides of his lips. On kiss fifteen, Inui did the same.
On kiss twenty-two, Inui sucked on Tezuka's lower lip and Tezuka slid his hands over Inui's back. On kiss twenty-seven, Inui pulled Tezuka down onto the bed and Tezuka rolled Inui against the wall.
He lost count around thirty-four, when he was sucking on Tezuka's throat and Tezuka was pushing his hands up under Inui's shirt and the air around them was on fire. He rocked his hips up against Tezuka and Tezuka pushed back, bodies jolting and bed squeaking and Tezuka's anti-perspirant failing, and then lights behind Inui's eyes like the birth of the universe, or maybe just a really great orgasm. Inui thought Tezuka came first but he was never sure.
Inui rolled onto his side and stared at the blurry white ceiling. Things were now intensely weird. He groped for Tezuka's hand and held onto it, like if they could just ground themselves, all the weirdness would flow through them and away. His breath slowed. He wondered how long it would take his pants to dry.
Tezuka shifted on the bed. "Inui, about the simulation."
"I'm sorry, I'll--"
"You worked hard on it."
Tezuka leaned his head on Inui's shoulder. "You should enter it in the contest."
"You don't mind?" Inui smiled and Tezuka's hair tickled his cheek. "Then I will. Even though I won't win, I should at least enter."
Tezuka squeezed Inui's hand and Inui squeezed back and they just lay there together. Inui remembered how Tezuka had tightened his fingers on Inui's shoulders when Inui found that spot just below his ear. He should write that down for future reference, maybe even build some sort of relationship simulation. There was some paper on the desk -- he'd just make a few notes. Tezuka sighed and rolled against Inui and Inui realized he'd fallen asleep.
Inui thought he could remember it until he got home.
Comments of any kind are always welcome. :)