sarisia: (sylar + cup)
[personal profile] sarisia
Disinclined to Acquiesce
In which Fuji, through his own irritated observations, learns to appreciate preferences.

There's a point - somewhere between Tezuka's arrival in his life and Echizen's - that Fuji becomes extremely irritated with Kaidoh.

After resigning himself to waiting on Tezuka's full recovery and determining that the rest of the tennis team, while not yet at their greatest potential, is not up to the task of challenging him, Fuji watches a scattering of first years watching the team practice through the chain-link fence. Curiosity has Fuji inviting the lot of them to show their skills; what he witnesses has Fuji dismissing them just as quickly.

Tezuka catches a pair of them by the shoulder. "Again," he tells them, already displaying the sureness of his reign as Captain. "Show me what you've got." Not for the first time, Fuji thinks him a fool, and not for the last, he realizes, when Tezuka assigns him to hit a few passes with them.

Momoshiro - Fuji grudgingly admits as he catches the weight of what's to become his Dunk Smash - has strength and speed, but no precision. At all. He swings his whole body into each of his hits, wildly casting the ball into whichever direction the gods desire, without control. His arrogance, too, knows as little bounds as his hits; he even has the nerve to start dancing when Fuji lets a ball slip past his racket. Fuji leaves it to Tezuka to correct him.

"Momoshiro-kun, you hit the ball out of bounds," says Tezuka before guiding the first year off the court. "Work on your control."

On the sidelines, the other boy smiles a little at the critique and steps forward for his turn.

Kaidoh is narrow and lanky, showing the first signs of his growth spurt, and Fuji is sure that the majority of the lean muscle he sees can be put to his own imagination. The first few shots have Fuji grimacing and Momoshiro giggling. Kaidoh's completely inept shots hit either the net or fly wide of the court. Irritated, Fuji hasn't bothered to move an inch.

"Have you ever played before?" Fuji demands before Tezuka can utter a word of advice.

But during the brief pause, Kaidoh's eyes have been on the adjacent concerts. He spins his racket in his palm as he returns his gaze to the game at hand and replies," No. Never, sempai."

But he learns fast, Fuji finds. His next shots are well inside the lines, and then closer to the edge of the courts as the rally goes on. They're all easy reaches, however, with neither the strength nor the speed of Momoshiro's potential, despite their increased precision.

"Hit faster, please, Fuji." Tezuka's eyes are trained on the first year.

Fuji's not sure why he bothers, but he ups the speed of his returns and sends them to opposite corners for good measure. To his surprise, Kaidoh returns each ball with the same control as before.

"Sempai," Kaidoh says coolly, speaking to Tezuka, but with his eyes still on Fuji. "If you're wondering, I can run very quickly."

"It's your stamina that I'm concerned about," Tezuka replies without batting a lash.

When Kaidoh stumbles two minutes later, that's the end of the lesson. Before leaving, Tezuka glances to his left, where Inui is dutifully taking notes, and then to his right, where Fuji is reaching for Kaidoh's hand over the net.

"I hope I get the chance to play against you in the future, sempai," Kaidoh says, looking very serious.

Fuji smiles thinly. "Quit while you're ahead," is his advice, feeling rather good about making Kaidoh's eyes flash upward.

A week later, when the new club recruits are introduced to the team and signed up for their training regimen, Fuji does his best not to look annoyed or surprised at seeing Kaidoh among their number with Momoshiro at his side, arguing.

Too often, Fuji catches sight of Kaidoh running laps long after the other first years have stopped, or turned his eye away from the sight of Kaidoh swinging his racket, scowling at Momoshiro while the sun sets behind them.

He does try to keep himself from being too mean to Kaidoh. He knows that he's just frustrated at having to wait for that perfect match against Tezuka, and that it's unfair of him to take it out on a boy that doesn't have a clue. Still, the beginner's unrelenting determination to increase his skill rankles on Fuji's nerves because he knows that Kaidoh will never achieve the skill needed to make the top, no matter how admirable his stubbornness is.

"I'm saving you wasted years," Fuji murmurs after he and Kaidoh have been sitting silently, side-by-side, on a court-side bench. "You should find yourself another hobby."

"I have hobbies, sempai," Kaidoh murmurs back with barely concealed hostility. "They don't include surrender."

Moments like these are few and far between, with even fewer words spared between them. As promised to him, Kaidoh has never managed to get Fuji as his sparring partner; that Kaidoh doesn't appear to be in any rush to press for it rattles Fuji at odd times.

-

Fuji can feel Kaidoh watching him. Momo is saying something to Kaidoh with a cheeky grin and Kaidoh replies solemnly back before a snit breaks out between them. It's brief. It's not long at all before Fuji senses Kaidoh's gaze again, more fierce than before.

"Who's that?" Fuji asks - to no one in particular. He's noticed the other boy's hovering for a while now, but when no one else saw fit to mention his presence, Fuji felt inclined. "Is he from a rival school?"

"No," both Momo and Kaidoh say at the same time, though Momoshiro looks surprised. Kaidoh sighs as he sets his racket aside - "I'll deal with him."

"If another student wants to watch the team play, let him," Tezuka says, voice managing to mangle bland with stern. His eyes become alert, however, when Kaidoh keeps walking.

Kaidoh hisses his frustration. "He's not watching the team, Buchou."

While the rest of the team resumes the usual practice, Fuji keeps an eye on the kohai. Kaidoh's body language - while always exuding a calm ferocity next to his polite mannerisms - is more tense than Fuji can remember him. He can hear the stern tones in Kaidoh's voice without the clarity of words.

As Kaidoh walks away, however, the observer's voice rings clear: "You can't run away every time, Kaoru!"

"Are you okay?" Fuji asks.

Kaidoh's face is a brilliant red. "Fine, sempai."

For the first time, Fuji considers the idea that some people might find stubbornness to be quite endearing.
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