Show Your Work by Halrloprillalar / prillalar
Prince of Tennis, InuKai, 4500 words, G.
No reward without effort. No belief without proof. No science without hamsters.
"Probability that Kaidoh will double-fault: 82%."
Kaidoh's arm jerked and the ball went wide. He threw his racquet on the court and turned around. "You idiot!"
"Hmm, this data stuff is easier than I thought." Momoshiro stuck his pencil behind his ear.
Kaidoh grabbed at him but Momoshiro jumped out of the way. "You finally decided to come to practice," Kaidoh said. "So practise, instead of getting in the way."
Momoshiro's eyes narrowed but, disappointingly, he didn't snap back. "Just trying to be helpful." He flipped through his notebook. "You shouldn't jerk your arm like that when you serve."
"It was peaceful around here for a few days," Kaidoh said, turning his back. Too peaceful, really, but Momoshiro didn't need to know that.
"Hey, you know what would be really great? If you would borrow Inui-senpai's notebook for me. So I could, you know, study his methods and such."
"Steal our data, you mean."
"Kaidoh," Kikumaru called across the net. "Are you forfeiting?"
"No, senpai!" Kaidoh bent and picked up his racquet. There was a new scratch on the frame. "Steal it yourself," he said to Momoshiro.
"But you and Inui-senpai are friends, so he'd give it to you if you asked."
"Friends. He talks to you all the time and you hang out together and stuff." Momoshiro grinned. "Not that I'm surprised you don't know what friends are."
"Ten seconds to forfeit," Kikumaru yelled. "Nine! Eight!"
"I'm serving," Kaidoh called. He pulled a ball out of his pocket and got set up at the baseline. "Inui-senpai is like that with everybody." He bounced the ball a few times.
"Kaidoh, you shouldn't jerk your arm like that when you serve." Inui stepped onto the court and put his hand on Kaidoh's shoulder. "Let me show you."
"One! I win!" Kikumaru called.
Momoshiro laughed. "Probability of Kaidoh being right: 0%."
"Here's your new training menu, Kaidoh." Inui handed over a folded piece of paper.
"Thank you, senpai." Kaidoh tried to look into Inui's notebook without looking like he was trying to look into Inui's notebook. Not that he was trying to steal Inui's data, and especially not for Momoshiro. But maybe then he could get some clues to prove Momoshiro wrong.
"We're going for ice-cream, Inui," Fuji said. "Are you coming?"
"Kaidoh and I are going for a run," Inui said.
This was news to Kaidoh, but it was okay by him. Running with someone else was sometimes a pain, but with Inui it was always fine. He set a good pace and stressed proper form and if he did talk a bit too much, it was usually useful information.
Kaidoh picked up his bag. "Ready."
After the run, they sat together under a tree. Kaidoh rested his back against the trunk while Inui flipped through his notebook. "Good stamina," Inui said and leaned over to squeeze Kaidoh's shoulder. "Did you see that show last night about the soccer players?"
"No." Kaidoh drank from his water bottle. He didn't watch a lot of TV; he mostly played video games in his spare time.
"I think you'd like it. I'll burn you a copy." Inui smiled and something inside of Kaidoh loosened, like a spring uncoiling.
"Thank you, senpai." Kaidoh stretched his legs out in front of him. The work-out was over, but it was such a nice day, he didn't want to go just yet. When Inui stood up and slung his bag over his shoulder, Kaidoh felt a twinge of disappointment.
"Kaidoh, are you hungry? There's a shop a few blocks away that sells nutritionally-balanced snacks that I've been wanting to try out." He out his hand. "My treat, of course."
Kaidoh clasped Inui's wrist, letting the strength from Inui's shoulder pull him onto his feet. They walked to the shop and ate seaweed wraps with a strange-tasting filling while they talked about racquet tension and second serves.
"It was a good afternoon," Inui said, when they were done. He squeezed Kaidoh's shoulder again and warmth spread through Kaidoh's chest like the first swallow of hot tea on a cold winter morning.
Maybe proving Momoshiro wrong wasn't so important after all.
Kaidoh finished his push-ups and rolled over onto his back. Inui was lying on his stomach on the grass, making notes. He looked up and tapped Kaidoh on the wrist. "Good job, Kaidoh. Oh, before I forget." He reached into his bag and pulled out a DVD. "This one is about baseball."
Kaidoh wasn't finished the soccer series yet, but it was good, so this would probably be good too. Also it gave him something to talk about with Inui when he called. "Senpai," he said. "Do you...do you want to come over to my house?"
Inui smiled, not the scary smile he sometimes got at practice, but a happy smile, like the time he won the intra-mural math league competition, and Kaidoh thought he must be getting the hang of this friends thing finally.
He almost regretted it when he saw the fuss his mom made, thanking Inui over and over for taking care of of Kaidoh and Inui thanking Kaidoh's mom for taking care of Kaidoh and Hazue hanging around gawping like a brat, but Inui was still smiling so that was okay. Plus Kaidoh's mom made them some really great snacks to eat.
"Your room is bigger than I imagined," Inui said, setting down his bag. "But just as tidy."
"Please have some snacks." Kaidoh wondered what Inui's room was like. Probably highly organized, with charts on the wall and maybe a laboratory where he concocted his juice recipes. Kaidoh's room seemed pretty boring in comparison.
Inui put in the baseball DVD and they watched the first episode. The second one was starting when Kaidoh's mobile rang. "I'm sorry," he said, and answered it.
"Why are you calling me?"
"Tell Momoshiro I said hi," Inui said.
"Tell Inui-senpai I said hi back."
"Should I just give him the phone?"
"No, I need to ask you a favour."
Kaidoh glanced at Inui's bag. "I'm not going to get...you know."
Momoshiro laughed. "No, no. Unless you get a good chance. Anyhow, there's this guy in my class and there's this girl in your class and she likes him and he wants someone to tell her that he likes her back."
"I'm not talking to her for you."
"You don't talk to her, you talk to her friend and then her friend talks to her. And then she talks to her friend and her friend talks to you. You talk to me and then I talk to the guy."
"It's how these things are done."
"But if he knows she likes him, someone must have already talked to her friend, so get him to do it."
"Well, nobody talked to her, but he can tell she likes him because she keeps bringing him treats for lunch. And she hangs onto his arm and touches him a lot and offers to do his homework and stuff."
"That's how it works, not that you would know. So will you do it?"
Kaidoh closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He wanted to tell Momoshiro to forget it, but that might make him look bad in front of Inui-senpai. Plus Momoshiro would keep bugging him for days. "Okay, but just to get you to shut up."
When Momoshiro finally hung up, Kaidoh turned off the phone so it wouldn't ring again. "I'm sorry," he said to Inui.
"That's okay," Inui said. "Romance is complicated." He pulled a bag out of his pocket. "I brought these for you."
"Thank you." Kaidoh took a grapefruit HiCHEW.
Inui started the DVD up again. "This is the best part," he said and put his arm around Kaidoh's shoulders.
Inui-senpai was so nice to him, sometimes Kaidoh wondered why. He kept squeezing Kaidoh's shoulder and helping him with tennis and bringing him treats and...
Kaidoh almost choked on his HiCHEW.
Ridiculous. Kaidoh paced up and down his room. Inui was just being friends with Kaidoh, it didn't mean that he liked him in a ... a romantic way. Plus that would mean that Momoshiro was right about romance and how likely was that?
Not likely at all. Which Kaidoh would prove in the morning by asking the girl to ask the other girl about the guy. She would say that the guy was crazy and that would be an end to it and all Kaidoh would have to do is re-watch episode two of the baseball series because he had not been able to concentrate on it at all with Inui's arm against the back of his neck.
Just...ridiculous. So ridiculous that Kaidoh didn't fall asleep until past two am, scratching the back of his neck and smelling grapefruit even though the leftover HiCHEWs were in a paper bag on the table by the TV.
So ridiculous that Kaidoh marched into class in the morning and told the friend of the girl that the guy liked her. So ridiculous that Kaidoh pre-composed the mail to Momoshiro and waited with his thumb over the send button.
So ridiculous that when the girl came back and said that of course the girl liked the guy, she'd been obvious enough about it, Kaidoh's mouth dropped open.
His phone buzzed and he dropped that too.
It was mail from Inui, hi from chemistry class, and Kaidoh felt so completely ridiculous that he ran to the washroom and locked himself in a toilet stall, until that started to seem a little ridiculous too.
There was still a chance that he might be mistaken. But when he got to tennis club and really watched Inui, that chance seemed slimmer and slimmer.
Because even though Inui talked -- talked a lot -- to just about everybody, Kaidoh was the only one he passed DVDs and snacks to. Kaidoh was the only one he called by name three times in every conversation. Kaidoh was the only one he touched.
"So, did you talk to her?" Momoshiro poked Kaidoh in the back with his racquet.
"Yeah," Kaidoh said. "She likes him."
"Told you so."
"Shut up," Kaidoh said, but his heart wasn't in it.
"Let's go to the sports store," Inui said after practice and Kaidoh had no plan for how to say no. If he even should.
Inui looked at shoes while Kaidoh picked out a package of new overgrips, sneaking peeks at Inui out of the corner of his eye, in case he noticed how ridiculous Kaidoh was feeling.
"I'll buy those for you." Inui plucked the package out of Kaidoh's fingers.
"That's okay." Kaidoh took them back.
"No, it's my treat." Inui took hold of the package but Kaidoh didn't let go. Inui frowned. "Kaidoh, is everything okay?"
"You already do too much for me," Kaidoh muttered. He twisted the package away.
"But I like to." Inui reached out and put his hand on Kaidoh's shoulder.
It seemed heavier than usual, like Inui was pressing Kaidoh into the ground. Hotter, like he was raising Kaidoh's core temperature. And Kaidoh felt that spring inside of him again, only this time it was winding up, winding tighter, so Kaidoh could hardly breathe.
Inui squeezed. And something flashed all through Kaidoh, a message, informing his brain of what his body already knew: he liked Inui too.
Kaidoh stared at the package in his hand. He didn't know which one of them had paid for the overgrips in the end. He couldn't even remember walking home. Just that feeling inside of him, still inside of him.
And it wasn't ridiculous at all. It made complete and utter sense. He just didn't know what to do about it.
He imagined himself telling Momoshiro to tell Kikumaru to tell Inui that he liked him. And then he imagined himself having to change his name and move to another country.
And then he imagined Inui moving to the other country with him and the two of them watching TV together snuggled up on the couch and becoming famous tennis pros and maybe getting a cat.
He imagined that until his mobile rang. He dived for it, but it was only Momoshiro. "Hey," Kaidoh said.
There was a pause. "You're not going to yell at me for calling you?"
"You called so I could yell at you?"
"No," Momoshiro said. "That guy in my class, he said to tell you thank you."
"Oh. So they're..."
"A happy ending. At least some people are having a good day. My mother was complaining about my room. She thinks it's messy or something. She said she'd been hinting about it for a week, but I said that I'm a straightforward guy, so just tell me right out."
"Mmm hmm." Kaidoh flopped down on his couch, holding the phone vaguely near his ear as Momoshiro went on about how it was really his little sisters who caused all the mess anyhow.
Kaidoh was a straightforward guy too. So was Inui. Maybe they didn't have to move to another country for this to work out.
If Momoshiro would ever shut up.
"What did you want to talk about?" Inui looked down at Kaidoh.
Kaidoh took a deep breath and opened his mouth to speak. His stomach growled audibly. He'd skipped breakfast and lunch today.
"Let's go for food and talk there," Inui said.
"No. I want to--" It was surprisingly hard to get the words out of his mouth. "Inui-senpai, I wanted to tell you--"
"What is it, Kaidoh?" Inui put his hand on Kaidoh's shoulder.
And that warm feeling flashed through Kaidoh again and gave him the jolt he needed. "Senpai," he said, looking down at the ground. "I like you too."
"I like you back," Kaidoh said, a little louder. "You know. Like you like me. We like each other. You know." He was babbling now, the words falling out of his mouth, impossible to catch. "It's special. Like that. Not just friends. I like you. I mean--"
Kaidoh looked up, into Inui's face. His cheeks had gone red and by the feel of it, Kaidoh's had as well. It was a bit embarrassing and Kaidoh wished they could just skip to the part where they were snuggled on the couch.
"Kaidoh," Inui said. "You're mistaken."
What? Kaidoh said, only all his words had already escaped and all he had left was the breath that hissed out between his teeth.
"We're friends, but--" Inui's hand dropped to his side. "I don't like you like that."
A jolt smacked Kaidoh, like he'd been running pell-mell and crashed into a wall. "I'm sorry," he whispered, pushing the words out into the air between them. And then he was running, pell-mell, his chest burning and his eyes too.
He stopped in the park, half-dead on the grass, and wondered how he could have been so stupid. He punched the ground. He punched his thigh. He wished Momoshiro were there, so he could punch him too.
Not that it was Momoshiro's fault, not really, but it would be a relief to punch somebody.
Kaidoh's phone rang and when he looked at the call-display, there was a red half-second when he wanted to punch Inui too. Then a flood of hope. Maybe Inui had changed his mind.
Or maybe he never wanted to see Kaidoh again.
He let it go to voicemail. As soon as the notification popped up, he listened.
Kaidoh...I'm sorry about the misunderstanding, Inui said. I still want to be friends, though. We'll just pretend it never happened, okay? It won't make any difference.
Kaidoh lay in the grass, hands over his eyes, feeling totally ridiculous, until he knew his mother would tell him off for being late.
On the way home, he thought about what his new name should be.
In books, when people did stupid things, it never seemed so bad in the morning. This turned out to be a total misrepresentation. For the first time in his life, Kaidoh considered skipping school entirely.
But in the end, none of the new names he was considering seemed right and since he was stuck being Kaidoh Kaoru, he had to act like Kaidoh Kaoru. And Kaidoh Kaoru did not run away from his problems.
Well, except for yesterday.
Kaidoh marched to school and he sat through class and if he didn't go play tennis at lunch hour, that was because he had a lot of homework to do.
At practice he marched up to Inui and said, "Good afternoon, senpai," and Inui said, "Good afternoon," and it was completely awkward and awful and Kaidoh's tennis really, really sucked that day.
"Let's go for a run," Inui said after. Kaidoh stared at Inui's back the whole ten kilometres, letting some of the frustration and embarrassment pound out of him every time his foot struck the pavement. By the time they were sitting under the tree together, it was mostly gone, he could mostly look at Inui without wanting to bolt.
But not without wanting Inui to like him back. Kaidoh dug his fingernails into his leg. He would just have to deal, somehow.
"I have some notes about your forehand." Inui opened his notebook and scooched closer to Kaidoh. "Here's a diagram." He leaned over, holding the notebook where Kaidoh could see it, and put his hand on Kaidoh's back.
Kaidoh's skin burned under Inui's palm. His stomach jolted. And his mind cleared.
"You'll get more control if you follow-through like this," Inui said.
Kaidoh was right, he was right, and Inui was wrong. Inui did like him. Kaidoh knew it with his gut, like when he knew which way his opponent was going to hit. Like when he looked at a math problem and knew the right answer, even if he couldn't explain why.
"And keep your feet far enough apart." Inui turned to Kaidoh, his hand still warm between Kaidoh's shoulder-blades. "Do you understand?"
Kaidoh looked at the page, at the figures and notes and graphs. Show your work, Kaidoh's math teacher always said.
"Senpai," Kaidoh said. "Where do you buy your notebooks?"
"You know what you're supposed to do?" Kaidoh narrowed his eyes.
Horio clutched the notebook to his chest. "Yes," he squawked. "Write down everything Inui-senpai does."
"Because you can't do it yourself because you have to practice."
"And then you'll teach me the Snake shot."
"I'll show you the Snake shot," Kaidoh said. "Three times. After that, it's up to you to learn it."
"I'll come and cheer for you when you challenge Inui-senpai!"
Kaidoh leaned down until he was right in Horio's face. "Don't say a word about that to anyone."
"Of course not!"
Kaidoh turned to leave.
"Um, Kaidoh-senpai...do you have a pen?"
Kaidoh went to the back of the clubhouse and leafed through the notebook. Five day's worth of Inui's data. And Horio's handwriting was better than Kaidoh had expected. Neater than Inui's, for sure.
The problem now was what to do with it. He could email it to Inui. Or put it in his shoebox with a note. But it was a jumble like this, everything mixed in together: people and tennis and probably the colour of the stripes on Inui's socks. It wouldn't mean anything, not without graphs and diagrams and equations.
Which Kaidoh pretty much sucked at.
"Hey, Mamushi! You did steal it after all."
Kaidoh slammed the notebook shut and shoved it into his bag. "It's just some stuff for math class."
"Sure," Momoshiro said. "Whatever you say. But if you see any good gossip about Eiji-senpai in there, be sure to let me know."
"What did you say about me?" Kikumaru pushed himself between them.
"I said that you liked to gossip." Momoshiro gave Kikumaru a shove. "Let's go to the pet store now, okay? I want to pick out my hamster."
"Your mother finally said you could have one?"
"No, but she will. When I clean my room." They drifted out of the clubhouse.
Kaidoh wondered if he should ask his mother for a hamster too. They were cute and furry and didn't take up much space. He wondered if maybe Inui had a cage of hamsters in his room, to test his juice recipes on.
And then Kaidoh had a really good idea.
"Thanks for helping me, senpai." Kaidoh put a stack of notes down on the library table.
"I thought this might be about your challenge." Inui grinned.
Kaidoh should have known better than to trust that stupid Horio to keep his mouth shut. He was like Momoshiro Junior. Now Kaidoh would have to challenge Inui to a match for real. Not that that would be bad. But first things first.
"It's my science project." He pushed the notes across to Inui. He'd re-written them, picking out only the relevant data, and coding them so all the names were replaced by numbers. "Our class has a bunch of hamsters and I'm investigating their social behaviours."
"Sounds interesting." Inui scanned the first page and turned to the second.
"I have all these notes on how hamster number three interacts with all the others. But I need help figuring out what it means."
"They don't have names?"
"You didn't name the hamsters, Kaidoh? That seems unusual for you."
"They...I thought numbers would be more scientific."
"Science doesn't have to be impersonal." Inui put his hand over Kaidoh's, just for a second, and a shiver went down Kaidoh's spine.
This had better work, he thought. Or else...he'd do something drastic. "Can you show me, senpai?"
They worked on the hamster project for an hour and a half, Inui sketching graphs and Kaidoh copying them neatly, colouring them with pencil crayons and labelling them carefully.
"Are you finished writing the conclusion now, Kaidoh?"
"I think so." He passed the page over to Inui. "Will you read it and tell me if it's right?"
Inui looked it over. "Hamster three shows a definite social bias towards hamster seven. I think that's understating the case a little, Kaidoh," he said. "Based on the frequency of interaction and the level of physical affection, I'd say hamster three has a major thing for hamster seven."
"Is that a scientific term, senpai?"
Inui laughed. "How about 'strong attraction' then?"
"Thank you for your help making everything so clear." Kaidoh swallowed hard. "There's one more thing. There aren't any hamsters." And he handed Inui the key, numbers in one column, names in the next.
Inui stared at it. His mouth opened a little. His fingers tightened, creasing the paper. He didn't speak. He didn't look up.
"Excuse me," Kaidoh said and ran out of the library.
He ended up behind the school, in the same spot he'd made a fool of himself the first time. He put his back to the wall and slid down until he was sitting, knees against his chest, pulling himself into the smallest possible space.
Stupid, ridiculous, twice in such a short time. He put his head down on his arms and bit his tongue so that he wouldn't cry.
Hamsters. What an idiot.
He reached for his mobile to turn it off, so he didn't have to listen to any more voicemail about how he was confused and wrong. But he'd left it and all his other things in the library. He'd just have to wait Inui out.
Unless Inui tracked him down. Kaidoh raised his head. His eyes were still stinging and he blinked hard, bit down on his tongue again.
Inui crouched in front of him. "Kaidoh," he said again. "You were right."
"You were right. I was wrong. I like you. I like you too." Inui pushed his glasses up his nose. "The data were very clear."
Kaidoh blinked some more. "So, it's just the data?"
Inui reached out slowly and put his hand over Kaidoh's hand, sliding his fingers into the grooves between Kaidoh's fingers. "No," he said. "It's this." He leaned in until their foreheads were touching and they stayed like that, breathing the same breath, occupying the same space, until Kaidoh thought his heart would beat its way right through his chest.
"Ridiculous," Kaidoh whispered.
"Is it?" Inui moved back. Kaidoh unfolded himself and fell forward, knees cracking on the concrete, hands grabbing Inui's shoulders.
Kaidoh pressed his lips against Inui's face, against his cheek and just the corner of his mouth. They overbalanced and collapsed, Kaidoh half on top, Inui's arm trapped underneath him.
"Kaidoh," Inui said. "Excellent job on the data, by the way."
Kaidoh felt the smile start on his face and grow until it felt like every bit of him was grinning. He pulled Inui up and they sat together, backs against the wall, holding hands until it was time to go home.
"Probability of Kaidoh being a dumbass: 97%."
Kaidoh turned. "Probability of Momoshiro getting beaten up: 110%."
"Jeez," Momoshiro said. "You sound about as threatening as Oishi-senpai."
Kaidoh shrugged. He couldn't help it. Even Momoshiro couldn't spoil his mood these days. "Check your data if you don't believe me."
"I'm not doing that anymore. Anyhow, if I need any data--" Momoshiro pointed across the court. At Horio. Who had a brand-new notebook and a pair of glasses too big for his head. Horio reached up to adjust them and they fell off onto the court.
Of course. Well, it was better than Horio following Kaidoh around, hissing at everybody.
"I guess only Inui-senpai can really use the data," Momoshiro said.
"Obviously," Kaidoh said and went to the clubhouse to change.
The hamsters rustled in their cage, hiding behind the pile of shredded cardboard. "They look healthy," Inui said. "Did you name them?"
"Yes," Kaidoh said. "They're Three and Seven." Inui grinned. Kaidoh looked down. "Ridiculous."
"The data say otherwise." Inui squeezed Kaidoh's shoulder.
And they snuggled down on the couch to watch TV.
If you enjoyed the story, I'd love to know. :)