This is a slightly edited version and there's some bonus material at the end. If you didn't have a chance to read it during the fest, I hope you'll check it out now.
Delayed Development by Halrloprillalar / prillalar
Prince of Tennis, Inui/Fuji, R, 5300 words.
Pornography, photography, and Rafael Nadal.
Inui clicks the link in Kawamura's email: Check out these girls!. Another site of drawings; Kawamura's links always are. The women's breasts are impossibly large, their buttocks impossibly round. Inui navigates through the pages, taking his time over their naked bodies and blushing faces, and waits for something to happen.
Inui closes the site, clears his cache, and runs his virus checker. Maybe the women are too fake to cause a reaction. Maybe he can't suspend his disbelief in the face of such anatomical incorrectness, such defiance of the laws of physics. Maybe it's nothing to worry about.
When the scan is done, he plugs his camera into the USB and reviews the day's pictures. He makes some annotations on a photo of Oishi serving. Three photos of Kaidoh's net play -- he's improving a lot. In the background of one, Inui can see Kikumaru and Momoshiro by the fence, laughing with the girls who are gathered to watch.
Five of Fuji, rallying with Kawamura. Inui makes some notes on Kawamura, but it's useless to analyse Fuji from these. He's giving nothing away. And one photo of Tezuka, standing on the side of the court.
Inui sighs. There's not much time left until the ranking matches. Maybe it's just as well he only seems interested in tennis. He reaches into his bag for his notebook and pulls out an envelope instead. Inside there's a photo. Of Inui.
He turns it over. There's no note, no name. No reason. He makes a mental note to keep a closer eye on his bag the next day. And then, since he has the photo anyhow, he makes some non-mental notes on his backhand.
It's late when he finishes and he drops down in front of the TV. He checks his list and puts on the next of Federer's matches: Wimbledon 2006, the final against Rafael Nadal. The flow moves back and forth between them, but more often to Federer. Inui plays one of the rallies over again, trying to catch the movement of Nadal's arms, his legs.
He puts out the lights afterwards, lying in bed with his eyes open. He reaches under the sheet and holds his dick in his hand, stroking slowly until he's drawn it up, then faster, with a squeeze. He pushes the women from Kawamura's website into his head but the tennis match keeps flicking back in, even when he closes his eyes.
He comes anyhow.
"Go!" Inui clicks his stopwatch and Oishi hops his way through the footwork drill. "One more time."
Fuji stops beside Inui. "Wouldn't you rather be practising? We could get one of the girls to be our manager."
"Kawamura, you're next." Inui notes the times on his clipboard. "It's too distracting for the club if members get crushes on the manager."
"I'm sure you're right." Inui doesn't look away from Kawamura's feet, but he can hear the smile in Fuji's voice. "And this way you have more time to take all our data before the ranking matches."
"I need more than time to get your data, Fuji. Kikumaru, you're up!"
"Maybe we can work out a trade."
Inui looks up and completely misses Kikumaru's timing. "A trade? You want data on someone else?"
Kikumaru careens into Inui and he staggers back. "I'm the fastest, right, Inui? Right?"
"Right," Inui says and picks up his clipboard. Fuji is gone. "Tezuka, your turn." The girls watching outside the fence cheer. Tezuka-san! Do your best! Inui grips his stopwatch tight and blinks against the sun.
"Here's a new one!" Kikumaru thrusts a magazine at Inui, not bothering to hide the naked women with their naked breasts on the cover. Real ones, not drawings.
"Jeez, Eiji-senpai," Momoshiro says. "You should at least be embarrassed."
"Like you went red all over when I lent it to you?" Kikumaru slings his arm around Momoshiro's shoulder. "You kept it long enough."
"Inui doesn't get embarrassed," Fuji says, smiling. "Do you, Inui?"
Inui slides the magazine into a buff envelope and puts it away in his bag. "Our interest is only natural." He pushes his glasses up his nose. "So naturally there is no need for embarrassment." He looks at Kikumaru and Momoshiro. How can he be behind them? He's older, he's bigger. It doesn't make sense. Is there something they're doing, something that Inui isn't?
He leaves before they can suspect anything.
In his room, Inui flips through the magazine. The women are real, or at least they mostly look it. He examines them carefully, takes his time turning the pages. Nothing happens. He puts it back into his bag.
Inui chains three anonymizers and googles his condition. He reads about Fraser-François and Cushing's and testosterone. Klinefelter's, Ullrich-Turner, and hypopituitarism. Nothing fits. He has all the physical characteristics of puberty. But, still, something is missing.
He downloads the day's photos. Maybe if he studies them -- Kikumaru, Momoshiro, Kawamura -- he'll see what makes them the same, and Inui different.
There's nothing he can see. Only Kikumaru vaulting over Oishi's shoulders to catch a lob, only Momoshiro and Kawamura rallying, mouths open in a shout.
And in his bag, in between his math textbook and his Vaio, there's a photo of Inui, flying.
He's jumping to hit a smash and even though he can remember with his body just how difficult that shot was, in the photo, it's effortless, he's floating, walking on the air, and he's never coming down.
He still doesn't know who it is. One of the girls who crowd around the court? Maybe tomorrow he'll see something.
The next Federer match is cued up on the DVD player, but Inui gets out Nadal and Agassi in Montreal instead. He watches it all without taking any notes. When Rafael jumps for a smash, it's like he's flying.
Inui snaps pictures of Kaidoh running wind sprints, back and forth until his bandana turns dark over his forehead and his chest heaves to suck in air.
"You can add four more sets after this." Inui clicks back through the photos, checking Kaidoh's body composition. "And 500 grams more on each ankle." He looks back further, for the shots of Kaidoh at practice.
And there's a photo of Inui. On his own camera. He's serving, reaching for the ball, feet just barely off the ground.
"Senpai," Kaidoh says.
It can't be one of the girls; Inui's bag is inside the courts all through practice.
"Senpai, can I ask you something?"
Maybe if he set up some sort of surveillance, a second camera, trained on the first camera. But he only has one camera.
"What do you do if...if you like a girl?"
Inui's head snaps around. Kaidoh's face is red and he's looking at the ground. And even he's ahead of Inui now.
"I don't know," Inui says and drops the camera into his bag.
He stops at a bookstore on the way home. He just hasn't found the right magazine yet. He hovers by the shelf, glancing at the covers, then away, closing his eyes for a second to gauge his reaction to each.
But he can't choose. Just take one at random, he tells himself, and reaches out. He freezes. Coming through the shop door: Fuji Syusuke. And Inui can't do it, can't buy a dirty magazine in front of Fuji. Even if it's normal, it's still embarrassing.
The poster rack is on the next aisle and Inui darts there, browsing the sports section until Fuji appears at his elbow.
"Looking for inspiration?"
"It's useful to study the top players." Inui flips past Tsonga and Roddick.
"More data then."
And there's Rafael Nadal, hair flying, racquet arcing, mouth open in a shout. His feet are just above the court, like he doesn't ever have to touch the ground. Inui pulls out a copy.
Fuji reaches out and traces the curve of Nadal's biceps. "Why Nadal?"
"He's number two," Inui says.
"Wouldn't it be more logical to study Federer then?"
"Would it be logical for me to only take Tezuka's data and not yours?"
Fuji's eyes narrow. "Who says Tezuka is number one?" Then he smiles. "It's a good choice. I'll get one for myself." He picks one up. And he takes Inui's copy out of his hands.
"It's a present," Fuji says. "For your birthday last week."
"You should let me buy yours. Then I can trade it for some of your data."
"That's not what I want."
"Then what?" Inui fishes a pen out of his pocket in case he needs to jot down a list.
"I'll let you know." And Fuji goes to the register.
"Thank you," Inui says, when Fuji hands him the bag. He takes the poster home. He needs his walls for scribbling notes, so he puts it on the ceiling, above his bed.
If he looks at it long enough, he can almost see Rafael swing.
At practice, Inui takes more photos than ever. He's surprised what he sees when he looks through the viewfinder: Oishi's worried expression dropping away when he's on the court, Momoshiro sneaking peeks at a training manual. Kaidoh looking off the court, at a girl who blushes and drops her book bag. Tezuka watching Echizen. Fuji looking right into the camera.
He clicks back through them before he leaves the courts. There are no pictures of himself.
But when he gets home, there's one more photo at the end: Inui in the clubhouse, his back bare as he pulls his t-shirt over his head.
He still doesn't know who. And he doesn't know why.
There's a link from Kikumaru in his email. It's the usual, the same old stuff that never works. He looks at the women's faces. He wonders why they do this, if they like it, if it's just a way to make money.
He goes to YouTube instead and watches clips of Rafael, his tennis, his interviews, a few slideshows set to music. He can't really understand the interviews but he likes them anyhow, the sound of Rafa's voice, his quick smile, his moving hands. He wonders if Rafa ever uses his left hand for anything besides tennis.
It gets late without Inui noticing and there's no time for a match before bed. He lies on his back, light filtering through the curtains so he can just make out Rafa above him.
When he jerks off, he uses his left hand.
"Catch, Taka-san!" Momoshiro tosses a box over Inui's head to Kawamura.
"Oh, you're done?" Kawamura says. "It was good, right?"
"Excellent," Momoshiro says. "But it made me fail my math test."
"I thought that was your brain, Momo-senpai." Echizen doesn't manage to dodge Momoshiro's headlock.
"Do you want it next, Inui?" Kawamura holds it out. It's an ero game.
"You lent it to me before," Inui says. He doesn't say that he didn't even finish it.
Tezuka comes into the club house and Kawamura quickly stuffs the game into his bag. Inui thinks about the memory card in his pocket, three meagre pictures of Tezuka demonstrating a serve.
"Did you put your poster up, Inui?" Fuji pulls off his practice jersey and takes his uniform shirt out of his cubby.
"Yes. Did you?"
"On the back of my door. Where's yours?"
"On the ceiling above my bed."
Fuji smiles. "Does it give you nice dreams?"
"I never remember my dreams," Inui says and picks up his bag.
Inui stops at the stationery store on the way home. He's going to synthesize all his data on Tezuka. He has room in his current notebook, but he'd rather buy a new one. A fresh start, a new chance.
There's a video store next door. Inui stands on the sidewalk, staring at the signs in the window. And he's just so tired of never catching up, he's ready to try anything.
He's in front of the adult video shelf before he remembers he's still in his school uniform. He grabs a video anyway. The clerk doesn't even bat an eye.
Inui drops his change into his pocket. And his fingers close around a plastic container. He pulls it out and opens it up. It's a roll of film. If he'd been more careful, maybe he could have lifted some fingerprints off of it. Then he'd just have to get the prints of all the club members.
Now the clerk is starting to look at him. Inui drops the canister back into his pocket and pushes out the door. He takes it down the block and hands it in for developing. It usually takes an hour but one of their machines is broken and he has to wait until the morning.
He gets out his planner to make a note. Then he spots Kaidoh across the street. With a girl.
It's the girl from the photos, the one who watches tennis practice and blushes when Kaidoh looks over. Sakamoto Hitomi, Inui thinks. Second year, but not from Kaidoh's class. They're walking together, heads down so they can't see each other. Kaidoh bumps into a trash can.
Inui grabs his emergency cap from his bag, pulls it down over his eyes, and follows them.
They go into a 100 yen shop full of baubles and bits, phone charms and coloured stickers. Inui counts sixty, then opens the door. He picks up a pink fan and snaps it open to hide his face. Kaidoh and Sakamoto are two aisles over and if Inui positions his head just right, he can mostly see them through the gaps in the shelves.
They're walking slowly, facing away from each other, eyes on the shelves. Kaidoh glances at Sakamoto quickly and looks away again. She stops in front of a bin of plush animals and Kaidoh doesn't notice until he's four steps away.
"They're cute," she says and pulls out a stuffed dolphin. Even from here, Inui can see that it's lopsided, with a lump on its tail that looks like a tumour and one eye larger than the other.
"Oh," Kaidoh says. He grabs it out of her hand.
"Kaidoh-kun!" She looks up finally.
"I...uh..." Kaidoh almost sprints to the cash register. Inui has to duck behind a stack of frying pans. Kaidoh shoves the bag at Sakamoto. "Here."
She thanks him and they both shuffle their feet for nearly a whole minute before they leave the store. Inui's almost at the door before he remembers to put down the fan.
They stop on the sidewalk to decide where to go next and Inui wishes he'd just bought the fan. He keeps his back to them and watches their reflections in a store window.
"Whatever you want, Kaidoh-kun," Sakamoto says.
"No, whatever you want," Kaidoh replies, back and forth, until Inui is ready to just reveal his presence so he can teach them his never-fail decision-making method.
They head to a coffee shop at last and slide into a corner booth. Inui parks himself where he can see Sakamoto's face and the back of Kaidoh's head. He drinks weak coffee while they stare at the menus, at the table, then, by accident, at each other.
Colour floods Sakamoto's face and, ninety-eight percent probability, Kaidoh's as well. Kaidoh loudly orders ice-cream for both of them. Inui knows he's lactose-intolerant. They push around the ice-cream with their spoons, Sakamoto pushes out bits of conversation, like baby birds from a nest, and they all plummet and die.
They leave the melted mess on the table. Inui follows them out, just in time to see Kaidoh duck his head, to hear him blurt out sorry, to see him bolt.
Sakamoto watches him go, clutching the paper bag with the dolphin so tightly it crumples. Inui wonders if he should apologize to her. But he goes home instead. He doesn't write any of it down.
The new notebook smells like winning. Inui works on Tezuka's data, the new and the old, until it's time for supper. Afterwards, he gets out the AV and stares at the bag for a long time. He's spent the money already, he might as well watch it.
He pulls the TV around so the screen can't be seen from the door. He hooks up his headphones. He gets a package of tissues. And he presses play.
It's completely disgusting.
He turns it off after fifteen minutes. Nothing happens, nothing's ever going to happen. And after seeing Kaidoh on his date, Inui thinks that's maybe for the best.
The images from the AV crowd behind his eyes and Inui shakes his head, trying to chase them away. He moves the TV back and sees the blinking light on the DVR. The French Open final was last night, too late to stay up for. He cues it up.
Even knowing the results in advance, he's completely absorbed, leaning forward as Rafa controls the court. By the time Rafa's beaten Federer in straight sets, Inui's forgotten all about the porn.
Tennis club is cancelled on Tuesday. After school, Inui heads down to the river. Kaidoh is already on the bank, doing racquet swings. His form is ragged and his power is nearly twenty percent more than normal. He doesn't stop or even nod when Inui drops his bag onto the grass and gets out his camera and notebook.
When Inui looks through the camera, all the pain in Kaidoh seems to sharpen, stark and vivid on his face. Inui's chest squeezes. He doesn't take any pictures.
"Stay on the current menu for next week," he says, when Kaidoh finally drops his racquet. "But today--" If it were a problem with Kaidoh's forehand or his math homework, Inui could tell him how to solve it. "Today I think you should do half again as many reps. And add five kilometres to your run."
Kaidoh stuffs his racquet in his bag. Then he stands, facing away, waiting. "Go ahead," Inui says. And Kaidoh goes, not looking back.
Inui sits down on the bank. The sun is warm, the grass smells fresh. He plucks a few blades and chews on them. They taste thin and green, not much nutritional value. There are some tiny white flowers -- he's not sure what they're called -- and he points the camera at them. He should really get a better one; the macro mode is lousy.
"Finished already?" Fuji drops onto the grass beside Inui.
"Special circumstances." Their legs are stretched out in front of them. Inui takes a picture of their feet, two scuffed white V-signs on a green field. "It's Kaidoh."
"Kaidoh?" Fuji turns his head sharply.
"Girl trouble." Inui tells Fuji about Kaidoh's disastrous date. "What do you think we should do?"
"About Kaidoh?" Fuji shrugs out of his jacket. "He has to deal with it himself."
Inui frowns. Of all people, he expected Fuji would know the answer to these kinds of situations. "What brings you by?"
"Special circumstances." Fuji leans back on his hands. "Are you taking up nature photography?"
Inui focuses on the river, the weeds growing by the bank. "Everything looks different through a camera."
Inui turns the camera on Fuji. He's looking up at the sky, sun on his face, and he's not smiling. He looks...uneasy? No, more like he's anticipating something, an important match that he's not sure he can win. Inui can't remember seeing him like that before. Then Fuji turns his head and smiles, eyes crinkling, everything normal, and Inui's missed the shot.
He snaps a picture anyhow. "What do you see?" Fuji asks.
"With you, I never know."
"Maybe you need new glasses."
"Maybe I need new eyes." Inui puts the camera away. "Did you watch the French Open finals?"
"Yes," Fuji says. Then he leans over and kisses Inui on the mouth.
It's over in a second, like the click of a shutter, the burst of a flash. Inui's left blinking at Fuji while the sensations come to him more slowly. The puff of Fuji's breath. The dry pressure of his lips. The shock that stings Inui's face, then all his skin. The blood that rolls up after it, burning his cheeks.
Fuji's blushing too. He looks straight in front of him. "That's what I want," he says.
"What?" Inui's voice cracks and he digs his nails into his palms.
"What do you want?"
"I--" Inui's breath is stuck in his throat. And he doesn't understand the question.
"Inui," Fuji says.
Inui's joints unlock and adrenaline shoots through him. He staggers to his feet. He fumbles his bag onto his shoulder. "I don't know."
He looks back when he's half a block away. Fuji is still sitting there.
It's time for Inui's training, so he trains. Like Kaidoh, he's shaky and distracted, over-powered and imprecise. He takes his own prescription and pushes harder, working off the energy that's souring his belly and choking his wind.
He drops onto a bench and wipes his forehead with a towel. He buries his face into it, like he's five years old and pulling a blanket over his head so the aliens can't find him. There's something soothing about the muffled darkness.
He takes a deep breath. It's probably time to wash this towel.
Then he gets out his camera and stares at Fuji on the review screen. Fuji looks so tiny and far away and normal. Inui closes his eyes again, he's almost dizzy. Everything's rotated ninety degrees and his brain can't make the adjustment.
He doesn't know what to think, he doesn't know what to do. Call Fuji? Make a list? Try to wake up, in case this is a dream?
He decides on go home and take a shower.
There's a lot of work to do, but Inui just can't focus. He gets out his DVD of the 2007 Wimbledon final and watches Federer and Nadal.
The tennis is amazing, sometimes almost shocking. Federer is so good, he's always good. Rafael is graceful, he's surprising, his volleys, his dives, his smiles. "I love you, Rafa," a man yells out just before his serve.
They trade the sets between them and Inui leans forward as he watches, clenching his fists, moving his body with the ball. He's seen this match before, many times, but when Rafa breaks Federer twice in the fourth set, he starts to hope that somehow, maybe, this time, Rafa will win.
They go to the fifth set. Inui turns it off at 5-2. He can't bear to watch the final game.
He needs to move some more. He's still got that AV in his bag and he needs to get rid of it. Kawamura or Kikumaru would probably appreciate it but he can't bring himself to do that. Six blocks away should be far enough to dump it.
He rummages in his school bag for it. And there's the claim ticket for the photos.
He makes himself wait until he's back in his room before he opens the envelope. There are twelve pictures in all. Inui at practice: serving, swinging, checking the tension in his racquet. Inui writing in his notebook. Inui clicking his stopwatch. Inui in his classroom, getting out his books before the lesson. Eating lunch. Reading in the library. Inui training alone, hitting against a wall. Inui slumped on the train, dozing.
A photo of the empty riverbank. And one of Fuji, alone in his room. He has that same face Inui saw today, the anticipation, the hope. Inui looks at it for a long time. He touches Fuji's cheek and leaves a smudge on the photo.
And something happens.
It's like a door opening and a fire starting and a bell ringing and everything tilting another ninety degrees all at once.
Inui looks up at Rafa and it happens again.
He laughs and falls back on the bed and laughs and masturbates and laughs some more because now he knows. He knows, he knows.
He goes to his computer and looks for new websites, sites with men, and some are kind of skeezy, but the others are okay, and it works, they work, and he gets off again.
The photos are scattered, half on the bed, half on the floor. Inui gathers them up. He looks at Fuji again. He still doesn't know the answer. But at least now he understands the question.
Then he jerks off one more time.
In the morning, he still doesn't know what to do. He spends the day looking over his shoulder, in case Fuji is around. He tells Oishi that he's sick and can't come to practice. He works out on his own instead.
At home, Inui props the photo of Fuji up on his desk. He stares at it for a long time. What do you want?
He reads through all his data on Fuji. It's extensive but not very useful, not for tennis, and definitely not for ... whatever this is. Liking. How do you tell if you like someone?
He looks at the photo again. Fuji's face, his expression. The smudge on his cheek from Inui's finger. Inui's chest aches and his gut twists and, yeah, he likes Fuji.
If you like someone, what do you do about it?
Kaidoh knew he liked Sakamoto. And he must have told her somehow. Inui is already scrolling through the contact list on his phone before he decides asking Kaidoh is a very bad idea.
Maybe the whole thing is a bad idea. What if he tells Fuji that he likes him and they go on dates and it all turns out like Kaidoh and Sakamoto? Or worse.
But a data set of one is useless for extrapolation. Whatever happens, Inui and Fuji aren't going to sit across from each other blushing and unable to speak. Probably.
Anyhow, didn't Fuji say he'd trade his tennis data?
Inui grabs his phone again. He still doesn't know what to say. I like you, while accurate, is just too sentimental. I would like to experiment sexually with you, while also accurate, is probably not socially acceptable. And it's not like Fuji said anything like that.
Inui holds up the phone and takes a picture of himself. It's not great but he's smiling and if he squints, he can make out the photo of Fuji in the background. He enters Fuji's number.
The door opens and Fuji steps inside.
He shuts the door behind him. They look at each other. "Inui," Fuji says. "I came over to apologize for kissing you."
Inui presses send.
Fuji takes out his phone when it chimes. He looks at the message for seventeen seconds. Then he crosses the room.
"Fuji, I--" Inui says. Fuji trips him and he falls backwards onto the bed. Fuji climbs on after, straddling Inui on his hands and knees, and maybe this would be a good time to say I would like to experiment sexually with you but Fuji leans down and then they already are.
Kissing, anyway, the damp undersides of their lips clinging, then pulling back with a smacking sound, sending threads of warmth curling out under Inui's skin. Fuji's hair falls into Inui's face. Inui tries to brush it away and his glasses go askew. "Sorry," Fuji says. He stops.
"No," Inui says. "Let's..." He cranes his neck and kisses Fuji, catching his bottom lip and some of his chin. "There's an elastic band on the desk." He straightens his glasses, then takes them off altogether.
"Okay." Fuji smiles. They start again, and it's better now, warmer, each kiss is longer and Inui's breath is shorter. He puts his hand on Fuji's arm, then his shoulder, his back. Fuji collapses on top, his hands framing Inui's face, and his body pressing Inui down into the bed.
Inui is more turned on than he has ever been before, more than he ever thought it was possible to be. He opens his mouth wider and hugs Fuji closer. Fuji's spit runs down Inui's throat and he gulps to keep from choking. He moves his hands down Fuji's back. Fuji's shirt is bunched up and Inui touches his bare skin, hot against his palm.
Fuji squirms, wet lips shifting against Inui's face, and his erection presses into Inui's belly. Inui rocks up, rubbing his own cock against Fuji's thigh.
"Here," Fuji says, "just..." He moves again, sliding down Inui's body so their hips are together, and Inui rocks again, hands on Fuji's ass. Fuji twists his fingers into Inui's shirt and bucks with him, gasping a ragged "oh!" into Inui's chest on every roll.
Inui holds on tighter and bites his lip and stares up at the blurry figure of Rafael Nadal. Fuji groans and shakes against him, digging in his nails and biting Inui's shoulder.
And Inui holds his breath and comes in his pants.
They lie there silent for a minute, limp and messy. Inui's shoulder still hurts a little. And he's scared to move because no matter what, it's going to be weird.
Fuji props himself up so he's looking down into Inui's face. "Inui," he says. "I always apologize properly."
They both grin and it's not too weird after that.
They kiss a little more, sleepy and warm, and Fuji curls up around Inui, nudging at Inui's jaw with his nose, touching his tongue to Inui's earlobe.
"You not really going to give me your data, are you?" Inui gets his arm around Fuji's ribcage and pulls him closer.
"No," Fuji says, his voice tickling Inui's ear. "But I'll tell you where Tezuka practises."
Inui almost comes again.
Two days later, Inui detours to the river. Kaidoh is there already, doing burpees on the bank.
"You should do those at the gym, then you could add a pull-up," Inui says. He hands Kaidoh an envelope.
Kaidoh frowns and opens it. It's a photo Inui took at practice. Kaidoh's on the court, waiting to receive. Sakamoto is on the sidelines, watching him. Inui's drawn a helpful arrow along her eye-line to make sure that's obvious. And circled the lopsided stuffed dolphin hanging from her book bag. "Senpai?" Kaidoh growls, predictable pink rising in his cheeks.
"Your best quality is your persistence, Kaidoh." Inui pulls out another envelope. "And in the meantime, maybe this will be useful to you."
When Kaidoh sees the magazine cover, he goes so red Inui worries about his blood pressure. But Kaidoh just mutters a thank you and thrusts the magazine into his bag.
Inui climbs up to the sidewalk. He looks back. Kaidoh is standing absolutely still, staring at the photograph in his hand. Inui snaps a picture before he leaves.
Then he goes to watch Tezuka practise.
Inui has just finished transferring the last of the data into his spreadsheet when his mobile rings.
He sits down on the bed, chatting with Fuji. "Do you want to come over?" he asks. He's still not quite sure how this is supposed to work.
"I'm already on my way," Fuji says and Inui grins. Maybe next week, they can try a date or something. Fuji rings off and Inui lies back on the bed, looking at Rafa.
"Do your best," he says and holds out his fist. Three days until the ranking matches start.
And twelve more days until Wimbledon.
Comments of any kind are always welcome. :)
BONUS MATERIAL: Inui's Summer Project