In the Lurch by Halrloprillalar / prillalar
Prince of Tennis, Inui/Kaidoh, 5300 words, G.
In which Inui confesses his love to Kaidoh. Or tries to, anyhow.
Thanks to kestrelsan for beta and encouragement!
Today was the day that Inui would confess his love to Kaidoh. Today was the day and nothing was going to stop him.
He'd tried before, but something always went wrong. Like the time that he'd got Kaidoh alone in the tennis club house and had adjusted the lighting to a suitably romantic level and opened his mouth to tell Kaidoh how every time he saw him, Inui's heart beat faster and he heard sweet music in the air, when Eiji and Momoshiro burst in and pelted them both with water balloons. Which, in retrospect, had given Inui an opportunity to revise his prepared speech, but at the time, it was very annoying.
Or the time that he called Kaidoh up and primed him with chat about Kaidoh's admirable work ethic and amazing tennis abilities and impressive muscle definition and was just about to segue into his own tender feelings when he got call waiting and it was Oishi saying that Tachibana from Fudomine had just invited Seigaku over for a picnic and lawn bowling and they should come right away since Inui was the best lawn bowler in the school and so that attempt was ruined too. He did win the lawn bowling, though.
Or the time when he took Kaidoh out for ramen and they both had extra pork and it was really tasty and they were both full and happy and Inui opened his mouth and there was freak cyclone that carried away the ramen cart and they had to run for cover.
But that wasn't going to happen today. Today Inui would avoid Eiji and Momoshiro and turn off his mobile and prevent any cyclones or typhoons through sheer force of will. Nothing could possibly go wrong.
"Kaidoh," Inui said into his phone. "Meet me behind the third-year building. I'd like to speak with you."
"I'm out running," Kaidoh said.
Okay, so in all the planning Inui had forgotten to consider Kaidoh's schedule. That could happen to anyone. Especially anyone in love. Being in love made Inui absentminded and prone to daydreaming and his new productivity system did not fully compensate. Because he sometimes forgot to use it.
However, this was only a tiny glitch. There was still time between Kaidoh's run and morning practice. Inui positioned himself by the gate so he could divert Kaidoh on arrival. He switched off his mobile and ran through his speech a few times.
When Kaidoh jogged into sight, Inui waved him over. He lost track of time as he gazed at Kaidoh and thought about how handsome Kaidoh was and how nice and how talented and how completely adorable in every way. Then he said good morning.
"Good morning, senpai," Kaidoh said and Inui wanted to fold him in his arms. "What did you want to talk to me about?"
"Oh!" Inui shook himself out of his daze. "Let's go--" And someone bashed into him and knocked him over.
"Senpai, are you okay?" Kaidoh bent over Inui. Inui blinked and wondered if he had actually just confessed to Kaidoh and Kaidoh had punched him. But that didn't seem likely. Kaidoh held out his hand and Inui grabbed his wrist and pulled himself up to his feet.
"It was that idiot." Kaidoh pointed. Momoshiro was chasing a dog around the sidewalk. The dog growled around the paper bag in its mouth. It shook its head and half a sandwich fell onto the ground. "Good dog," Kaidoh said.
"Let go, you mangy mutt!" Momoshiro dived and tackled the dog. "You can't have my lunch!"
Privately, Inui thought that even if Momoshiro retrieved the lunch, it wouldn't be worth eating now, but he expected Momoshiro would feel differently.
The dog staggered off -- probably dizzy from running in circles -- into a laughing group of boys, basketball players, Inui noticed. Momoshiro scraped food off the pavement, swearing while the other kids laughed.
Inui felt a touch on his back. He turned around. "Hold still," Kaidoh said. He brushed at Inui's uniform. Inui closed his eyes.
"Kaidoh," he said, when Kaidoh had finished. "Come with me."
And then the bell rang.
After lunch, Inui headed out behind the second-year building. There was a good chance Kaidoh would spend his extra time there practising against the wall. And a reasonable chance he would be alone.
Inui pulled out his 3x5 cards and reviewed them as he walked. He'd revised this speech so many times, they were getting hard to read. Well, this would be the last time he'd need to. "...long admired..." he muttered. He bumped into a girl and lost his place. "Sorry. Okay, let's see...long admired...always together...sunset..."
When he got to the courtyard, Inui stopped in the shadow of the wall and watched Kaidoh hit. He had an adorably serious expression, which made Inui's heart go all swoopy, especially since there was a smudge of dirt on Kaidoh's normally immaculate nose.
Concentrate, Inui told himself. Which was easy, so long as what he was concentrating on was Kaidoh's ass. Which Inui pretty much had memorized at this point but there was no harm in further study in case of any developments.
A ball whistled past Inui's head. He blinked awake, heart pounding. "Sorry," Kaidoh called, jogging over. "Hi, senpai."
"Hi," Inui said. He wanted to wipe the smudge off of Kaidoh's nose but A. it was really cute like that and B. Kaidoh would probably be embarrassed which, although it would likely make Kaidoh even cuter, would not make him as amenable to accepting Inui's confession.
"Are you working on a project?" Kaidoh wiped sweat off his forehead and nodded at the cards in Inui's hand.
"In a way," Inui said and his heart began to beat even faster. "Shall I tell you about it?"
"Sure," Kaidoh said, his dark eyes looking sweetly up into Inui's own, though Inui wasn't quite sure if Kaidoh could actually see Inui's eyes since his glasses polarized in the sunlight.
Inui took a deep breath and glanced down at the first card. "Kaidoh," he read, "For a long time now--" And someone walked right into him and knocked the cards onto the ground.
"Watch where you're going," Kaidoh yelled after the boy, who just kept going. He was with a whole group of boys from the basketball club and they were stumbling a little as they crossed the courtyard.
Probably their practices were too intense, Inui thought as he scrabbled for the cards. Or maybe they were sick. Inui hoped H1N1 wasn't going around; he'd only had his vaccination four days ago, not long enough to take maximum effect.
One of the boys had a dog -- Momoshiro's lunch thief -- on a makeshift leash and Inui noticed Kaidoh looking at it. "Don't chase them," Inui said. "I think they might have the flu."
Kaidoh stooped and picked up a couple of cards. Inui snatched them away. "Thank you," he said and hoped Kaidoh couldn't read his secret shorthand.
"What were you saying before?" Kaidoh looked sweetly at Inui again, just down instead of up.
Inui stood. He looked down at his cards. They were hopelessly out of order. And the top one had a footprint over his best phrase.
"Never mind," Inui said. "Show me your backhand."
After-school practice was a bit disorganized. A bunch of club members were missing and quite a few of the ones left weren't playing well. Some of them were just wandering aimlessly. And Momoshiro kept pestering people for snacks.
Inui took a long drink from his sports bottle, then put on a face mask. "Do you think it's H1N1, Tezuka?" Tezuka didn't answer, just stared out at the courts with a sour look.
Kaidoh dropped his bag on a bench and started to stretch. Inui handed Kaidoh a face mask with Pikachu on it. "I think it's H1N1."
With the mask obscuring most of his face, Kaidoh's eyes seemed even bigger and darker and more beautiful. Also, he looked like a sexy nurse. Inui had to take a moment.
In fact... "Kaidoh, I want to talk to you. Come with me." Inui had thrown out his 3x5 cards but he'd been thinking about his speech all through his afternoon classes and he was confident he could recite it from memory.
He led Kaidoh behind the club house so they could be alone and romantic. It was too bad that the masks would keep Inui from sealing their love with a tender kiss but they would have to postpone that until after the H1N1 outbreak.
"Kaidoh," Inui said. His stomach turned over and he hoped it was just nerves and not the flu. "I have to tell you something."
And a bunch of basketball players shambled up.
Inui sighed. "You should be at your club time. Or go to the infirmary if you're sick."
None of them left. Kaidoh took a step forward and clenched his fists. "What do you idiots want?"
The tallest boy shuffled closer. "Brains!"
"Kaidoh," Inui said.
"Senpai," Kaidoh said. And they both ran.
"Fuji!" Inui called. "Tezuka! Oishi! Into the club house!" Kaidoh grabbed Momoshiro with one arm and Echizen with the other. Most of the Regulars came over to see what the fuss was about. "Bring Eiji," Inui called to Oishi.
The basketball players approached, slowly but steadily, their lurching gait becoming more pronounced. From the tennis courts, Arai and Ikeda were staggering in much the same way.
"We can't let them in," Inui said. "They might be infected." He slammed the door and Kaidoh dragged the bench in front of it.
"Infected with what?" Oishi asked. "Is it swine flu?"
"No," Inui said. "They're zombies."
"Zombies?" Eiji yelled.
"Are you sure?" Fuji said.
"Look." Kaidoh pointed out the window. The basketball players had swarmed Hayashi. Two of them were chewing on his head.
Oishi peered out. "It's probably just a hazing ritual. We should stop them before someone gets hurt."
Hayashi's head split open and the basketball players began to feast on the fresh brains.
Oishi threw up.
"What causes zombification?" Fuji said.
"This isn't one of your juice experiments, is it, Inui?" Eiji looked accusing at Inui, while wiping Oishi's mouth with his handkerchief.
"I don't supply the basketball team with juice." Inui felt a little offended that anyone would suspect him of creating a zombification juice. True, sometimes in the past his juice had caused strange side-effects that might give those who consumed it the appearance of the walking dead, but no one had ever actually tried to eat brains.
Tezuka went to the window. "Members of other clubs shouldn't be here during practice time."
"What are we going to do?" Oishi said.
"I'm sure Inui has a contingency plan," Fuji said. "Remember when there was the flash flood? Or the measles outbreak? Or the evil clown?"
It was true that Inui had created contingency plans for every eventuality he could imagine. He rummaged through his bag for the Emergency Procedures notebook. He flipped past Electrical Storm, Lyme Disease, and Sprained Ankle. There it was: Zombie Apocalypse.
Unfortunately, the only other thing on the page was his and Kaidoh's names under an umbrella.
"Um," Inui said.
Echizen slung his bag over his shoulder and headed for the door. Oishi grabbed him. "Where are you going?"
"But there are zombies out there!"
"You can't go out there," Inui said. "They'll eat your brains."
"And your guts," Kaidoh said. He was still looking out the window, which Inui felt was very dangerous. But also impressive. Kaidoh had hardly flinched in the face of danger and it made Inui want to go over and hug him.
"At least we're all safe and together," Eiji said.
"Where's Taka-san?" Fuji said.
There was a sound of breaking glass.
"The back window," Inui said. "We can't stay here."
"Everyone stay together," Oishi said. "Inui, how do we defeat zombies?"
Inui tried to remember. It seemed like the kind of thing he should know. Sunlight? No, that was vampires. Salt? No, that was slugs. Blunt force trauma? Probably. If he'd only got a smart phone instead of the VAIO, he would be able to surreptitiously check Wikipedia and make sure.
"Just hit them," Inui said. "If you have to." He took a quick drink from his sports bottle to keep his electrolytes up. "We'll make a run for it. Oishi and I will go first. Kaidoh, you and Momoshiro guard the rear. The rest of you in the middle." He pulled out his racquet.
"Um," Kaidoh said. He was looking at Momoshiro. Momoshiro was looking back. Blankly. He took a step forward and it was definitely a bit lurch-y. Kaidoh poked Momoshiro with his racquet. "Are you hungry?"
"Yes," Momoshiro said. He lurched another step.
"What do you want to eat, Momo?" Kikumaru asked.
"He's not a zombie," Fuji said.
"But he's turning," Inui said. "We'd better--"
But Kaidoh was already one step ahead and was binding Momoshiro's arms behind him with a piece of old net. He grabbed Momoshiro's shoulder. "I'll watch him."
"Meat bun?" Momoshiro said, in a dull but hopeful voice.
"Shut up." Kaidoh gave him a little shake.
Inui thought that Kaidoh was really rather good at handling Momoshiro. He wondered if he should be jealous about it. And then realized that if Momoshiro was a zombie, there was really nothing to worry about. Except having his brains eaten.
"Eiji, you take the rear with Kaidoh." Inui put his hand on the door knob. "Use your racquets on the zombies if you have to."
"Don't let your guard down," Tezuka said.
"Yes, thanks, Tezuka," Inui said. Everybody ready?" He kicked aside the bench and opened the door.
Zombies crowded around. "Brains!" some muttered. Others just staggered forward, slack-jawed and ponderous.
Inui waved his racquet at them. "Shoo!" Oishi said. They stepped outside and tried to clear a path. Inui pushed Arai and he toppled over. Ikeda tripped over him.
"They're slow and clumsy!" Inui called.
"Yeah, but what about the zombies?" Eiji said. Echizen snickered. Tezuka frowned disapprovingly, but whether at the joke or at the zombies, Inui couldn't tell.
They moved away from the club house, shoving the zombies and pushing them with their racquets. One of the basketball players was particularly pesky, getting up again and again. But they got clear in the end, running back towards the school until the pack was no longer visible.
"Okay, bye," Echizen said and started to walk off towards the gate. Fuji grabbed him by the collar.
"Stick together," he said. They rounded the corner.
And were surrounded.
There were boys and girls from all sorts of clubs -- basketball, volleyball, baseball, literature appreciation -- and also the lady that ran the canteen. They were slow, yes, but there were hundreds of them, closing off every avenue of escape.
"Gather up!" Inui yelled. Kaidoh pushed Momoshiro onto the ground behind them and stood back to back with Inui.
"What do we do now?" Oishi said.
There wasn't much they could do, not so far as Inui could tell. Except take down as many of the zombies as they could before they went down themselves.
"If I turn into a zombie," Eiji said, "I'm eating the English teacher's brains. And then Tezuka's."
The leading zombies stumbled closer. Kaidoh punched the first one and he tumbled backwards, taking a few more down with him. Inui swung his racquet at another and cleared a small space in front of them.
"Good job," Kaidoh said and Inui glowed with pride and joy and love. Also fear.
Beside them, Oishi and Eiji were fighting off zombies with co-ordinated grace and a couple of bats they'd liberated from the baseball club zombies. Fuji and Echizen were using tennis balls for ranged attacks, pinpointing the key zombies to knock down and cause the most chaos.
"This is against school rules," Tezuka said. "The student council will deal very harshly with this infraction." Momoshiro snapped at his ankle. "Momoshiro, fifty laps!"
But the zombies they knocked down got up again, shuffling and staggering and moaning for brains. And more kept coming.
The tennis players pressed closer together, fighting desperately. Momoshiro tried to bite Kaidoh's calf and Kaidoh kicked him in the ribs. A girl from the sewing club snapped at Inui's arm. He barely dodged.
Fuji and Echizen ran out of tennis balls. Oishi and Eiji were tiring, Inui could tell. And Tezuka looked like his head was going to explode. Fuji huddled close to him.
This was it. They were going to die. "Kaidoh," Inui said, pushing down a first year tennis club member. "I have something to tell you." Kaidoh hit the first year a few times with his racquet. The he looked up with his sweet, dark eyes. Inui took a deep breath. "Kaidoh, I--" The first year struggled back to his feet and lunged at Kaidoh. "Watch out!"
The first year's head exploded. Inui wiped the mess off his glasses just in time to have them splattered with a basketball player's grey matter.
"Over here!" someone called. Inui cleaned his glasses again. Then one more time, to make sure. It was Kawamura.
He was dressed in his Regulars uniform. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up, exposing his biceps. He'd tied a bandana around his forehead. And he was carrying a rifle.
Fuji dropped Tezuka's arm.
"Good-bye zombies!" Kawamura yelled. He took aim and another zombie's head burst into soup. "I am the zombie hunter!" A corridor was beginning to clear.
"Taka-san!" Oishi called. He grabbed Eiji's hand. "Come on, guys."
Inui went to grab Kaidoh's hand, because even if he hadn't been able to make his confession yet, he figured it would be allowed under special circumstances, like fleeing certain death. But Kaidoh was manhandling Momoshiro to his feet, pushing him in front and using him to sweep excess zombies out of their path. Like a cowcatcher, Inui thought. Very smart.
"Okay, see you," Echizen said and headed in the opposite direction.
"Echizen, stay with the group," Tezuka said. "Attendance is mandatory."
"Hurry!" Kawamura yelled again. He pulled a grenade out of a bandolier across his chest and yanked the pin out with his teeth. He lobbed it into the roiling mass and a rain of guts, blood, and bone fell onto the Regulars. Tezuka brushed an ear off his cheek.
Inui fell in behind Kaidoh, checking to make sure Echizen was following him. Kawamura squinted down his scope and took out two judo club members who were blocking their way. "To the cafeteria!" Kawamura said. He covered them until they were all past and then brought up the rear.
There were a few stray zombies shambling through the hallways but Kaidoh knocked them down with Momoshiro. He banged into the cafeteria doors and they all tumbled through.
They barricaded the doors with a pile of tables and chairs. They could still hear the zombies scratching, trying to get in.
"Aim for the head," Kawamura said. "You have to destroy the brain otherwise they'll just get up again."
"Why didn't you know that, Inui?" Fuji said. Inui pretended not to hear him.
"Did anyone get bitten?" Kawamura asked. Kaidoh poked Momoshiro with his foot.
"Brains!" Momoshiro said.
"He's a zombie all right," Kawamura said. "But I don't see any bite marks. Maybe it's airborne." He nodded at Inui. "Good idea with the masks."
"How do you know so much about zombies, Taka-san?" Fuji asked, sidling closer to Kawamura.
Kawamura kicked the floor, looking shy. "I guess I learned it from video games."
"It's very impressive." Fuji smiled. Tezuka frowned.
"Is there anything we can do for Momo?" Oishi asked.
"I don't know," Kawamura said. "Video games are only about killing zombies, not curing them. Although there was this one game where you are a zombie, but you're just trying to eat people."
"Being a zombie is against school rules," Tezuka said.
There was a banging at the door.
"Tell them that," Eiji said.
"Everybody get back!" Kawamura picked up his rifle. Inui pulled Kaidoh down and they crouched behind a table. Kaidoh had collected a basket of assorted kitchen implements and he grabbed a ladle, ready to throw. Inui took another swig from his sports bottle.
The door burst open.
"HELLO ZOMBIES!" Kawamura yelled. He shot the first eleven zombies and they clogged up the doorway. But soon, others crawled over the back of their headless comrades and lurched forward. Kaidoh threw his ladle. Kawamura reloaded.
Inui grabbed a knife from the basket and got the lunch lady right between the eyes. She went down but three first year girls took her place. There was no stopping them. "Retreat!" Inui called. "Into the back!"
"I'll cover you," Kawamura said.
"You're so brave," Fuji said.
"Firearms are forbidden in school," Tezuka said.
Everyone scrambled into the kitchen area, Kaidoh dragging Momoshiro behind him. Zombies surged through the cafeteria. Kawamura screamed, spraying fire until his rifle jammed. He threw his last grenade. Then they engulfed him, tearing at his flesh, gnawing at his skull.
And the zombies kept coming.
"This is it," Oishi said.
Inui looked around for a vat of boiling oil, a waffle iron, anything at all. "No," he said. "In here." And he pulled open the freezer.
They crammed inside and Kaidoh shut the door behind them.
"But won't the zombies just open it?" Eiji said.
"Probably not," Inui said. "They have diminished reasoning capacity and very poor motor control."
"So we'll just freeze to death." Echizen shrugged and sat down on a box of chicken necks.
"Well..." Inui said. "We'll likely suffocate first."
There was a scrabbling sound from the other side of the door.
"What did you say about their motor control?" Fuji grabbed Tezuka's arm.
"Those chicken necks are very poor quality," Tezuka said.
Inui shivered. He pulled down his mask and took another drink before the juice froze solid. "We'll think of something." But he really wasn't sure. He turned to Kaidoh. "Have you played any zombie video games?"
Kaidoh frowned. He shook his head a little. "What?" He looked up at Inui. But his eyes were dull.
Inui's stomach filled with ice. "Kaidoh?" He touched Kaidoh's shoulder. Kaidoh turned slowly and fixed his blank stare on Inui's arm.
"Inui." Fuji came up and pulled him back. "Look." He pointed. There, on Kaidoh's ankle, was a bite. Definitely human. Definitely broken skin. "It must have been Momo."
"No," Inui said. Kaidoh took one lurching step forward, clawing at his mask and pulling it down around his neck.
"I'm sorry," Fuji said. "But you have to leave him. Oishi?"
"No." Inui didn't know what Fuji was telling Oishi to do, but he wasn't going to let him do it. Not to Kaidoh. No matter what.
"Inui, step back!" Tezuka said.
Fuji tugged on Inui's arm. Inui wrenched away. "No!"
"Brains," Kaidoh whispered.
Inui took a deep breath. He pulled off his own mask. "Today is the day," he said. And he took Kaidoh in his arms and kissed him.
The boys all gasped and the zombies banged at the door and Inui's feet were so cold he couldn't feel them. He kissed Kaidoh like it was their last day on earth and even if it hadn't been, it would have been just the same.
He kissed Kaidoh and held him and touched his hair and every word of every speech flowed out of Inui, through his fingers, his mouth, his breath. He kissed Kaidoh and then he let him go.
"Okay," Inui said. He picked up a cleaver and handed it to Fuji. "I'm infected now too. Do us both."
"Senpai?" Kaidoh said. Inui wheeled around. Kaidoh blinked. "What...what's going on?"
"He's better!" Eiji said.
Inui grabbed Kaidoh by the shoulders. He didn't look all the way back to normal but he didn't have that slouched posture any more, that dead look in his eyes. Maybe this was the answer, maybe all you needed to cure a zombie was sweet, pure--
"Inui, what's in that juice you drank?" Fuji picked up the bottle.
"Fish oil, mostly. It's my new Omega 3 Mega Mix."
"Yuck!" Eiji said.
"The residue on your mouth--" Oishi said. "Maybe..."
Inui thought hard. "It's logical," he said. "Zombies crave brains. Brains are full of fatty acids, especially Omega 3. So it must be an extreme form of Omega 3 deficiency." He took the bottle from Fuji. "Kaidoh, take a drink."
Kaidoh looked doubtful. "Juice?"
"Trust me," Inui said. Kaidoh looked up at Inui, a little blankly, but still sweetly. Then he took the bottle and drank. "Okay, now walk."
"There's no room," Kaidoh said. But he took a few steps.
"He's not lurching!" Eiji grabbed Kaidoh around the neck. "You're not a zombie anymore, Kaoru-chan."
"I wasn't a zombie," Kaidoh muttered. Inui smiled so hard his face hurt.
"Now Momo," Fuji said. Oishi and Eiji held Momoshiro down and Fuji poured the juice into his mouth.
It took a minute, but the haze cleared from his eyes. "Hey!" Momoshiro said. "Why am I tied up? Why are we in the freezer? Where did the dog go?"
"You bit me, you idiot." Kaidoh kicked Momoshiro in the leg.
"Everyone's better!" Eiji grabbed Oishi's hands and twirled him around. And the door rattled.
"Not quite everyone," Fuji said.
"Hey," Echizen said.
"So we're still going to die," Eiji said.
"That's all the juice I have," Inui said.
"Senpai," Echizen said.
Kaidoh picked up the cleaver. "We should go down fighting."
"I think I'd rather freeze," Oishi said. "You get all sleepy and warm."
"Excuse me," Echizen said.
"I'm sorry you won't be able to fulfil your destiny as the Pillar of Seigaku, Echizen," Tezuka said.
Echizen pointed at a stack of boxes. Twenty cases. Of--
"Fish sticks!" Inui said. "It could work."
"Good job, ochibi!" Eiji said.
Echizen shrugged. "Can I go home now?"
They tossed the fish sticks out in batches. The zombies scrambled for them, stuffing them into their mouths and then blinking as the symptoms faded and they turned back into normal students.
Oishi and Eiji deputized a handful of ex-zombies and headed out through the school with the remaining boxes of fish sticks, looking for any stragglers. Momoshiro tagged along after them, pestering Eiji with questions about what he'd missed while he was a zombie and calling for the dog.
Fuji sifted through the bodies in the cafeteria until he found Kawamura's left arm. Inui wasn't at all sure it actually belonged to Kawamura but Fuji was adamant. "We'll award him this year's MVP."
"He really didn't play very well," Tezuka said.
Echizen went home.
Inui looked around for Kaidoh. He wasn't in the cafeteria. Inui found him back behind the school, hitting against the wall. His shirt was streaked with blood and guts. He'd lost his bandana and there were bits of brains in his hair.
"Kaidoh," Inui said. He watched Kaidoh for a moment. "You were very brave."
Kaidoh hit the ball with a savage backhand. "No, I wasn't." Forehand. "I was stupid." Backhand. "I let myself get bitten."
"You didn't want to leave your team-mate behind. That's not stupid." Inui smiled. "You could never be stupid."
"You're the stupid one." Kaidoh smacked the ball. It slammed into the wall but Inui felt it in his gut. "You--" smack "You did that on purpose." smack "You were just going to die." smack
"Kaidoh." Inui took a step forward, then stopped. "I--"
smack "You have to live." smack "No matter what."
"Not without you," Inui said. He clenched his fists. "Not without you."
"Senpai." Kaidoh looked at Inui. He wasn't smiling, but the anger had fallen away. He looked open, fearful, hopeful. He dropped his arm and the ball flew past him, into a shrubbery.
"Ouch!" yelled the shrubbery. In a rather familiar voice.
Kaidoh got there first. He pulled the occupant up by the collar. "Mizuki-san."
"Ah, Kaidoh-kun." Mizuki brushed himself off. "Inui-kun. How lovely to see you both."
"So you were behind this," Inui said. "I should have known."
"You really should have." Mizuki looked at Kaidoh. "Could you let go, please? I don't want to get brains on this shirt."
Kaidoh looked at Inui. Inui nodded and Kaidoh shoved Mizuki away.
"I have two questions," Inui said. "How and why?"
"I should think 'why' was obvious." Mizuki ran his fingers through his hair. "To keep Seigaku from going to Nationals, of course. So Saint Rudolph could step in to fill the gap. However, I see that hasn't worked out."
"That depends," Inui said. "Does Saint Rudolph have a basketball team?"
"As to 'how'," Mizuki continued. "I purchased the zombification agent online. For an infection vector, I chose--"
"That dog!" Kaidoh broke in. "It chewed up Momoshiro's lunch."
"What a smart boy," Mizuki said. "You're wasted here at Seigaku, you know. Yes, the agent spreads in saliva. A bite is the most direct method but even a cough or sneeze is enough to infect someone else. I trained the dog to steal lunches, infected it, then set it loose when Momoshiro entered the campus."
"That makes sense," Inui said. "I'm sure I would have figured it out if I hadn't been dealing with more pressing matters. But when I said 'why', I meant 'why zombies?'. They're far too random. Robots, for example, would have been more effective."
"Too expensive," Mizuki said. "Zombies are self-replicating."
"But you could start with a single cyborg and have it assimilate others," Inui said. "You could probably do it pretty cheaply. Hmm..."
"I costed it out," Mizuki said. "Unless you know of a more efficient assimilation process."
"Well, I think if you started with the equipment most likely to be available in a common middle school--" Inui broke off. Kaidoh was staring at them both with a strange expression. "I'll call you later," Inui said to Mizuki.
"I'll show myself out," Mizuki said. He left.
"Should we just let him go?" Kaidoh said.
"Oh, I think so." Inui pulled out his phone. "I'll just text Fuji to meet him at the gate."
"Senpai," Kaidoh said, when Inui was finished. He looked up and Inui thought how even with brains in his hair and a smear of guts on his cheek, Kaidoh still made Inui hear music in the air.
"I had a whole speech," Inui said. "But I lost it."
"Words don't matter," Kaidoh said.
"And then I..." Inui thought he might actually be blushing. "But you were a zombie so you probably don't remember."
"I remember the end of it," Kaidoh said. "But not the beginning."
"Well, I think Eiji recorded it on his phone, so you'll probably be forced to watch it later."
"Maybe you could..." Kaidoh looked sideways. "You know...remind me?"
"Kaidoh." Inui reached for Kaidoh's shoulder, then dropped his arm. "Are you sure? I mean, after all we've been through it's natural that you might be feeling a little confused and I don't want to take advantage--"
"You are the stupid one." Kaidoh grabbed Inui around the neck and kissed him until Inui's palms were sweating and the world was spinning and Inui really did hear music in the air. "I think that's your phone," Kaidoh said.
It was Oishi. "So," Inui said, when he'd rung off, "Tezuka says practice starts in five minutes."
"But what about--" Kaidoh gestured at the bodies lying in the courtyard.
"The Beautification Committee is dealing with that, apparently."
Kaidoh picked up his racquet. "Senpai," he said. "I'm sorry I tried to eat your brains."
Inui smiled. "You're the only one I'd let do it."
Kaidoh squeezed Inui's hand. Inui squeezed back.
They were late for practice.
Comments of any kind are always welcome. ♥