Up by Halrloprillalar / prillalar
Prince of Tennis, Inui/Yanagi, 1000 words, PG13.
Future fic. The next stage.
As ever, thanks tokestrelsan.
The first night in the new house, Renji can't sleep. He gets up and stands by the window, looking out into the unfamiliar street, watching a cat playing underneath the street light.
He's already planned his outfit for the first day, dark suit, dark tie, plain blue shirt hanging on the closet door, even though Sadaharu said the pinstripe was better.
Sadaharu turns over and the bed creaks. He curls his arm around his pillow and sucks in his breath with half a snore. Renji goes into the kitchen and makes their lunches for the next day.
"The kids are great," Sadaharu says. He eats too fast, dropping grains of rice onto the table, catching a piece of chicken just before it falls. "They're unruly but I've been reading some books on animal training."
"They're not animals." Renji loosens his tie and takes a second helping. Sadaharu's cooking is erratic. Tonight it's excellent, next week it will be terrible.
"Human beings are animals." There's a spatter of sauce on Sadaharu's shirt. "I'm going to try classical conditioning on my first class and operant conditioning on my second."
"Let me know which one works best. I'll use it on my subordinates at work." Renji says that to make Sadaharu smile. His subordinates are already well-behaved.
Renji wakes at five am. The house is grey and quiet. He makes tea and stands by the window as he drinks it. When he goes back into the bedroom to dress, Sadaharu is still asleep, the blankets twisted around him and his arm flung out over Renji's side of the bed.
Renji gets his camera and takes a picture. He prints it out and leaves it, folded, inside Sadaharu's lunch box.
He's at his desk by seven. At noon, Sadaharu emails him. Are you studying me?
Someone interrupts Renji before he can reply.
The product launch is gruelling. It's after ten before Renji makes it home. Sadaharu follows him into the bedroom.
"Was it a success?"
Renji nods. More than a success, a triumph. No less than he expects from himself. His superiors are beginning to expect the same. He hangs his suit jacket in the closet, coils his tie.
"I'm glad." Sadaharu smiles. "My day was also eventful. I'm the new advisor for the baseball club."
"Not tennis?" Renji takes off his shirt and puts it in the laundry.
"The tennis club already has an advisor. The sport isn't important. I've been researching some theories about mental preparation. That should give them an edge."
Renji crosses the room to Sadaharu. "Aim for Koushien?"
Sadaharu laughs. "I'll make you some supper."
"No," Renji says. He puts his hand on the back of Sadaharu's neck and kisses him. Sadaharu comes alive, pushes Renji back into the room, onto the bed.
They make love slowly, their bare skin sticking, pulling apart. Renji closes his eyes, arches against Sadaharu, gasps, comes. The aircon rattles and whines.
"I thought I'd fixed that," Sadaharu says.
When Renji gets back from his business trip, the house is filled with charts and papers -- baseball statistics, training plans, jotted notations -- the walls, the table, the countertop. Renji hangs his jacket on the back of a chair and washes the dishes.
There's no food, but he's not hungry. He makes a cup of tea and thinks back through his meetings until the door bangs.
"I missed you." Sadaharu smiles and adds fresh paper to the stacks. "Did the deal go through all right?"
There's a smudge of dirt on Sadaharu's face. Renji takes out his handkerchief and wipes it off. "I thought you were the advisor, not the lead-off hitter."
"These kids suck at baseball," Sadaharu says. "But they've got a lot of heart."
The laundry is just closing when Renji gets there. They don't have his order. He's about to argue when he thinks to check his messages. Sadaharu picked it up three hours ago.
The street lamp flickers beside the bar on the corner. Two crows are sitting on the roof, keeping watch. Renji takes their picture with his phone. He emails it to Sadaharu and goes inside.
Renji is on his second beer when Sadaharu arrives. "What's the occasion?"
"Laundry day," Renji says and pours out Sadaharu's beer. "How are your classes?"
"Operant conditioning is definitely the most effective technique," Sadaharu says. "And their marks are all improving."
"Cheers," Renji says and they drink until the moon rises behind the laundry.
When they come outside, the crows are on the sidewalk, fighting over a plastic bag. "Does operant conditioning work on crows?" Renji says and bumps against Sadaharu's shoulder.
"Renji." Sadaharu stops and Renji stops too, hands in his coat pockets.
"You'll never advance there, Sadaharu." The crows scream at each other and Renji wishes he had a rock to throw. "There's nowhere to go." He laughs and it sounds far away. "Not even Koushien."
Sadaharu puts his hand on Renji's back, starts them both walking again. "Up isn't the only direction," he says.
Renji has his things in the hall when Sadaharu gets home. "It's an important promotion." Renji looks Sadaharu in the eye.
"I know" is all Sadaharu says. A pen has leaked green ink onto his white shirt. He's standing very still.
"I could come up next weekend," Renji says. "No, the weekend after."
"I have a training camp."
"Sadaharu, there are other schools."
"Renji." The corners of Sadaharu's mouth twist up. "People don't change."
"Not without operant conditioning," Renji says and they stand apart, looking at each other, until Sadaharu picks up Renji's suitcase.
"Come on," he says. "You'll miss your train."
Comments of any kind are always welcome.