Secondhand Angels

Ann discusses older brothers with Michael. Drama, I-3

Character(s): Michael, Tachibana An

He should have known Ann was going to come after him at some point the minute
his bastard of an older brother had shown up. Well, he had known, to be honest,
though he had been avoiding thinking about it.

She gave him a couple of days of space before cornering him while the guys practiced
singles (except for Kamio and Ibu, who were double-teaming Tachibana). "So,"
she said, settling the box of water bottles down on the ground. "’Mika-chan’?"
Her grin was sly as she stood.

"I fucking hate being called that," Michael growled.

"I could tell," she said, sounding just like her brother at his driest.
"He really pisses you off, huh?"

"Been doing that since we were born," Michael admitted, after a moment.
"The bastard." He waited for the inevitable round of questions—and
waited, and waited. She didn’t ask.

Instead, Ann chuckled. "I think that must be the natural function of older
brothers," she said. "Kippei can piss me off just by breathing."

Michael blinked. "He can?"

Ann rolled her eyes at him. "Of course he can. We’re siblings, y’know? If
we didn’t fight like cats and dogs, we wouldn’t be normal."

"But—" Michael was having trouble processing the notion, and this was
an excellent digression from the topic of his own brother. "You and Tachibana
fight?"

"Oh, yeah. Not as much these days, since I think he’s growing up on me or
something, and it’s like trying to pick a fight with the wall, but we manage."
Ann waved a hand. "He spends way too much time in the bathroom, fussing with
his hair, for one thing."

"He does?" Michael boggled.

"Uh-huh. He’s really vain." Ann grinned. "You don’t have to tell
him I told you that."

"Of course not," Michael managed, still trying to process these revelations.

"And according to him, I spend way too much time on the phone." Ann
tossed her head. "Which is silly, but what can you expect from a guy?"
There was no way Michael was crazy enough to answer, but Ann fixed him with a
piercing stare. "What do you and Lucifer-san fight about, Michael-kun?"

"Everything," he said, automatically.

Ann cast her eyes heavenwards. "Obviously," she said. "So tell
me about it."

"We’re twins," Michael said, and waited for the usual round of questions.
Ann just nodded, so he went on. "And there was this prophecy about us, that
one of us was gonna go bad someday. Everyone… thought it was gonna be me."

"That’s a nice sort of thing to saddle someone with," Ann muttered.
"Why you, and not him?"

Michael snorted. "Look, if you’d known him, you wouldn’t have to ask. The
bastard was born knowing how to do everything right. Me, I was the fuck-up. It
made sense that I’d be the rebel." In any case, it made more sense than the
way things had actually turned out.

Ann shook her head. "Mm-mm-mm."

"What?"

"Nothing," she said, still shaking her head back and forth.

"What?" he demanded.

"It’s just… That’s a really shitty thing to do to a kid," she said.
She paused. "I’m not going to get hit by a lightning bolt for saying that,
am I?"

Michael had to laugh. "No," he said. "No lightning."

"Then I’ll blaspheme to my heart’s content." She cocked her head to
the side. "You don’t really think you’re a fuck-up, right?"

Ann had a gift for catching him off-guard, that’s for damn sure. "Umm."

"Thought so," she murmured, fixing him with a look—the same look Tachibana
tended to give the guys when the goofing off got out of hand. "Don’t be such
an idiot."

"Fuck, you’re bossy," Michael grumbled.

Ann grinned at him. "Dealing with all them, you kinda have to be," she
said, and looked out over the tennis courts. "I was kinda mad, at first."

"What?" Michael blinked at this latest change of direction.

"About getting a secondhand angel," she clarified, still studying the
guys.

Michael bristled. "Secondhand—"

Ann held up a hand. "Hear me out," she said, and he subsided. "Look,
when you came down here, you didn’t come to us in order to counter Hatter. You
went to Seigaku. They’re clearly the favorites to win Nationals, right?"

"They’d already defeated Rikkai," Michael admitted, and left the corollary—that
Rikkai had defeated Fudoumine—unspoken.

"Exactly my point," Ann said. "Everyone expects them to go on to
win Nationals, I think—in spite of Rikkai’s demon." She snorted. "And
they had the nerve to turn down angelic assistance and pass it off to us? That’s
pretty damn insulting, if you ask me."

"Um." Michael was at a loss. "Sorry?"

Ann shrugged. "It’s not your fault. It’s Seigaku’s captain who needs the
lesson about not underestimating his opponents." Her grin was sudden, and
fierce. "They don’t expect us to win. No one expected us to make it out of
district preliminaries, even. This being in Nationals thing? Just a fluke, as
far as everyone else is concerned."

"That’s a lot of hard work, just for a fluke," Michael said, jerking
his head at the fierce battles taking place in the practice matches.

"Exactly." Ann’s smile turned thin. "If we," she said, her
gaze sweeping over the boys and Michael, too, "had any intention of following
people’s expectations of us… we’d never have gotten anywhere. You know why we
don’t have a coach, Michael-kun?"

He’d wondered, but hadn’t pursued the topic. "No?"

"The boys ran him off," she said, tone dripping with satisfaction. "Used
to be that only upperclassmen played tennis around here. Didn’t matter how good
you were; if you were a freshman, all you did was pick up balls."

"That sucks," Michael said.

"Doesn’t it? The guys thought so, too," Ann said. "So they split
off, and formed their own team, and when their sempai hassled them, the guys fought
back. Now we have the tennis club, and their sempai play other sports."

"…So what happened to the coach?"

"Kippei beat him up," Ann said, matter-of-fact.

"He did?" Michael studied Tachibana. Yeah, okay. He could see that,
actually. "Cool."

Ann wasn’t done yet. "So when Seigaku gave us a hand-me-down angel, I was
pissed off. For one thing, I’d thought Tezuka had more respect for us."

"I think he does respect you," Michael offered.

"Yeah, yeah, I know." Ann’s smile was rueful. "I cooled off eventually.
But that’s not the point. I was pissed off that he thought we couldn’t hack it
in Nationals without help."

"Like I’ve been that much help," Michael scoffed. "You guys were
just fine without me."

"Maybe we were," Ann agreed. "But I think we’re even better now."
She stretched, lacing her hands behind her head. "No one expects anything
of us. We’re the school no one’s ever heard of, the school that’s an accident.
It’s just a matter of time before we drop out of the play-offs, right?"

Michael snorted. "Yeah, right."

"We’re going to win." Ann’s voice was quiet, and dead serious. "Screw
what everybody else thinks of us. To hell with their expectations. Just because
they think it doesn’t make it true, right?"

"Absolutely," he agreed, grinning.

Ann leaned over and flicked his forehead. "So apply that to yourself, idiot,"
she said. "Same standards apply to you, as long as you’re one of ours."

"One of yours?" Michael repeated, rubbing at the sore spot.

"Aren’t you?" Ann’s smile was sweet, and utterly devious.

"I thought you didn’t want a secondhand angel," he said.

Ann grinned. "What would we do with anything else?" She looked at the
courts, where the matches were starting to wrap up. "Looks like they’re about
done. Here, make yourself useful." She kicked at the box of water bottles,
scooting it toward him, scooped up an armload of towels for herself, and trotted
off to the guys.

Michael picked up the box and followed after.

… Damn, but he liked these kids.