Immediately after “The Continuation of War”, Yanagi and Inui finally get around to talking about how they parted. Drama With Romance, I-4

Pairing(s): Yanagi/Inui

As the Rikkai team made their way back to their bus, Renji found himself pausing for one more look back toward Seigaku’s courts. He had, perhaps unwisely, let himself be drawn into playing a second doubles match, today, this one against Yagyuu and Niou.

As a pair with Sadaharu.

They had both evolved over the years, of course, but they had also watched each other do so, and, while their particular moves had changed, their coordination was achingly familiar. He had read descriptions of how it felt to have a dislocated joint realigned, and, from what he recalled, it sounded remarkably like what he had felt this afternoon: a sharp pain accompanied by a hard wrench and a sudden feeling of rightness. Despite his distraction by such contradictory feelings, which he suspected Sadaharu shared, they had won.

Actually, Niou’s expression of indignation when they did had been rather amusing.

And despite his own knowledge, well borne out, now, that both of them played better in singles than in doubles, he found himself reminded of something he missed. Perhaps, he thought, whimsically, the first doubles partner one really had rapport with was like first love; it always had a special place.


He started, and looked around to see Seiichi smiling at him, sympathy in his eyes.

“Do you want to stay a little longer?” Seiichi asked, gently.

“I don’t…” Renji broke off. For the life of him, he couldn’t say whether he wanted to or not.

Seiichi shook his head at Renji, and reached up to take his shoulder and shake him lightly. “You need to settle this, Renji. If nothing else, until you do you’ll be vulnerable to the same kind of shock he gave you last time.”

Having a solid reason to go along with his ephemeral ones made Renji feel better about the prospect, and he smiled back, bowing his head to the knowledge that lurked in Seiichi’s gaze.

“Thank you,” he murmured.

“Don’t be foolish,” Genichirou said from behind him, hand warm on Renji’s back. “We’ll be waiting for you when you get back.”

Renji knew without looking that Genichirou’s expression was softer than his tone, and nodded.

After waving his teammates onto the bus, and thinking a little, Renji stationed himself five and a half blocks away from the school, under a handy chestnut tree. It should be far enough that anyone Sadaharu might walk with would have turned off already.

When Sadaharu appeared, and spotted Renji waiting there, his mouth took on a very satisfied quirk, by which Renji deduced that Sadaharu had predicted this turn of events.

“Renji,” Sadaharu greeted him, just a touch smug.

“Sadaharu,” Renji returned, suppressing a chuckle and falling in beside his old friend. “Do you have your room on separate environmental control yet?”

Sadaharu waved a hand. “I’m waiting until fall for that; my schedule is too irregular in summer to get good results.”

One of the things he had missed, Renji reflected, was someone who genuinely took Renji’s informedness completely for granted.

“Will that give you results in time for this year’s Exposition?”

“The baseline will be a little short, but the lower number of variables will make the entire study much cleaner.”

“That must be a pleasant break from the data you deal with all summer,” Renji murmured.

Sadaharu shot him a sidelong look. “Data that changes makes an equally pleasant challenge,” he countered. Renji smiled.

Sadaharu was a scientist to the core, and had a true scientist’s drive to constantly improve and adjust his models. It was a good thing, because otherwise, Renji was convinced, the frustration of attempting to map such stubborn imponderables as human performance in a game like tennis would have driven him mad within six months. The fact remained that Sadaharu was a scientist and looked for patterns that were stable.

When dealing with people, one had to look for patterns that moved, as well.

“And you?” Sadaharu needled. “Still cluttering your mind with the latest novels by Touma Shigure?”

Renji chuckled. “Much of history is written by storytellers,” he pointed out. “Comparing a contemporary story to contemporary events allows me to recognize the patterns of reinterpretation when I seem them in historical accounts.”

Sadaharu sniffed.

“Oh, come now,” Renji sighed. “Don’t pretend you don’t know the value of including emotional elements in calculations. Not when you demonstrated it so very well at the Regional finals.”

“That was different,” Sadaharu insisted, as he opened his front door and waved Renji inside.


“That was you. It was personal.”

Renji paused in toeing off his shoes to cast an exasperated look over his shoulder. For all his finickiness over his data, Sadaharu was as capable as the next person of fuzzy logic when it suited him.

“The most objective observation is always personal for someone, Sadaharu,” he admonished. “The observer always has a reason for observing.”

Sadaharu, too, paused, in the act of opening the door to his room. He gave Renji a crooked smile.

“You really will make an excellent professor,” he said, echoing their childhood nicknames.

“So will you,” Renji observed, closing the door behind him. “We’ll just be in different departments.”

This time Sadaharu stopped dead in the middle of the room, a soft, surprised laugh escaping him. Renji remembered that this was what they used to say to each other when they made plans to work at the same university when they grew up. And to move in together, getting a nice, big apartment in…

“Shiodome,” they said, together, and were both still for a moment, looking at each other through a tangle of memory and dreams so dense that Renji felt it like a knot in his chest. He thought about his comparison of first partners with first loves, and reflected that Sadaharu was probably both to him.

It was Sadaharu who broke the moment, turning to his desk to set down his bag. He had always been the one less comfortable with interpersonal nuances. Renji accepted the tacit request to change the subject and went to take a look at the bookcase. The Yukawa and Kaku were expected; the Kurzweil was a bit of a surprise, and he adjusted his assumptions about Sadaharu’s English proficiency to reflect it.

He had to stifle a laugh at the two novels by Touma Shigure.

But he did wonder about the couple of notebooks marked Recipes. “Sadaharu?” he asked, brushing his fingers over the spines.

“Ah,” Sadaharu said, pulling one out, “a little in the way of biochemistry.”

Renji raised his brows. Sadaharu flipped the book open and handed it to him with a faint smile. He read over the lists of ingredients and effects, brows climbing even higher at the recorded effects on other people. When he reached the section titled Penal-Tea he couldn’t help himself and burst out laughing until he had to lean against the shelves.

“Sadaharu! You didn’t!”

“It operates as a very reliable motivator,” Sadaharu said, serenely, only the evil curl to his smile giving him away.

Renji shook his head. “You and your sense of humor,” he mock lamented. “Niou was entirely correct about you.” He ruffled a hand through Sadaharu’s hair, unthinking, and they both froze.

Their old gesture, just as automatic as the old names. Just as easy. Just as hurtful, now.

Sadaharu snatched a deep breath and backed up to sit on his bed, head bent.

“Renji.” The low voice was huskier than usual. “Why didn’t you tell me you were leaving?”

“I didn’t want to think about it,” Renji told him.

“And?” Sadaharu prodded, still low but harder now.

“Your tone tells me you already know,” Renji hedged. He knew he was avoiding the point, but to speak of it now would make the pain new again, and wasn’t once enough?

“Tell me,” Sadaharu insisted, roughly.

“And when I did think about,” Renji admitted, eventually, “I thought that it would push you away from doubles, and into singles. Where you belong.” He could see the muscles along Sadaharu’s jaw standing out, and he didn’t want to say the next thing, but Sadaharu had asked.

“And I was right,” he finished, softly.

Sadaharu’s mouth tightened, and he nodded, a little stiffly. “You were always better at people,” he said, flat and toneless. “It was a good move, for our games.”

Both statements were completely truthful, and made Renji’s heart feel like lead. He had known what he was doing, then, but he hadn’t understood what it would mean, and he couldn’t leave the results to lie where they had fallen. He crossed the room and laid his hands on Sadaharu’s straight, tense shoulders.

“I’m sorry,” he told his once-best friend. “I should never have done that. Not to a friend.”

Sadaharu’s head came up quickly, and his mouth was uncertain now. Renji knew he had unbalanced Sadaharu’s decision to focus their interactions solely through the lens of the game they both played, had intruded more personal matters back into the issue. But this was one pattern he found he needed to at least try to break.

“Can you forgive me?” he asked, quietly.

Slowly, the tension drained away under his hands, and Sadaharu’s expression settled, a little wistful but at ease, and open in a way Renji hadn’t seen in years.

“Yes,” Sadaharu answered.

“Thank you,” Renji whispered.

Sadaharu heaved a sigh, and leaned forward to rest his forehead against Renji’s chest, clasping his hands loosely behind Renji’s knees. Renji passed his hand through Sadaharu’s hair again, tightening his other arm around Sadaharu’s shoulders. The stillness this time was comfort, as their memories settled into alignment with their present.

Eventually Renji broke the silence, passing a hand over Sadaharu’s shoulder and down his arm. “You really have gotten much stronger,” he noted. Sadaharu snorted.

“Chasing after Tezuka, I’ve had to,” he pointed out.

“Is he your goal, still?” Renji asked, curious. Having observed Tezuka’s pattern of trying to make his team members aware of the breadth and variety of the world of tennis as a whole, he would be very surprised if Tezuka had not been trying to do something about that.

“One of them,” Sadaharu answered, after a pause. Renji smiled down at the dark head leaning against him. Then Sadaharu looked up, an inquiring tilt to his brows. “Is Yukimura one of yours? I’ve never gotten enough data on the two of you to tell for sure.”

“Not exactly,” Renji answered, still running his fingers absently through black hair that was becoming more mussed than usual. “I like to match my skills against his, but it isn’t from any particular drive to exceed him. It’s just that he calls out my best; it’s what he does for all of us, really. It’s his gift.” He paused, and then added, more softly, “He’s the one who sent me to you.”

Sadaharu tilted his head, mouth quirking in the terribly familiar preface to teasing. Renji braced himself.

“Did he?” Sadaharu asked, tone suspiciously light.

“Yes,” Renji answered, warily.

“Well, I suppose I had already gathered that he didn’t mind sharing,” Sadaharu murmured, as if thoughtfully.

“Sadaharu…” Renji growled, throttling down the urge to blush. His friend’s toothy grin didn’t help matters any. “Toy with me, will you?”

“Who said I was?”

Renji looked down at Sadaharu, trying to place the expression on his face now. Sharp. Almost challenging. But there was amusement running under it, too, and that wistful edge once again.

“Aren’t you?” he asked.

“Merely examining your reaction,” Sadaharu defended himself.

Oh, yes, Sadaharu could split hairs with the best. Renji ran his fingers down Sadaharu’s jaw, tilting his head up, and leaned in a little.

“And is this the reaction you expected?”

“It was one I considered.” The quickening pulse under Renji’s fingertips contradicted the steadiness of Sadaharu’s voice. “Previously, I had calculated the probability as fairly low, though.”

Renji thought back to the knowing look in Seiichi’s eyes, to Genichirou’s reassurance. If he wanted to do this they would have no problems with it. They knew he would be back.

Did Sadaharu?

Renji raised his hands to Sadaharu’s glasses, and Sadaharu let him remove them. Dark eyes gazed back at him with an undeniable edge of desire, but also with an awareness and reserve that told Renji that his friend did understand.

“You really don’t mind?” he asked, hesitant for once.

“Anything more would be too much, Renji,” Sadaharu told him, gently.

Just because Sadaharu wasn’t as good as he was at calculating interpersonal reactions, Renji reminded himself, didn’t mean his analytical skills were any less. And he had often applied them to their particular relationship with downright dazzling success. So be it, then.

He set one knee on the bed, and pressed Sadaharu down with a hand on his chest. The other hand braced him as he leaned over his friend, brushing a light kiss against Sadaharu’s lips before nipping softly at his throat. Sadaharu’s body tensed against his.

“Renji!” he gasped, hands closing on Renji’s shoulders.

“You’re used to being the one who causes this response, not the one who gives it, aren’t you?” Renji murmured against his ear. A shiver answered him. “Do you need that, Sadaharu?”

Long fingers spread against his collar bone, slid down his chest. He lifted his head to see Sadaharu’s eyes. They were bright and laughing, the way Renji hadn’t seen them for a very long time, as Sadaharu shook his head.

“Not with you,” he said, simply.

Renji smiled and leaned back down, tasting Sadaharu’s caught breath as they kissed again.

He went slowly, savoring the strength with which Sadaharu answered his kiss, his hands against Sadaharu’s skin. Feeling Sadaharu arch under the stroke of Renji’s fingers down his chest or thighs, seeing the sleek lines of his muscles tense into sharp definition when Renji pressed his lips to the hollow of Sadaharu’s hip, hearing his low moan as Renji parted his legs, these wrapped around Renji tighter than any physical grip could have. Seeing the abandon in Sadaharu’s eyes now, he recognized the pretense he had seen on the court for what it was: the shell of this loosed passion. The knowledge that Sadaharu trusted him, again, with so much of himself stopped Renji’s own breath. The note of that trust in Sadaharu’s voice, when he called Renji’s name, even more than the heat and welcome of the body twined with his, drew Renji, helpless, over the edge of pleasure.

It was a long time before he could raise his head from the curve of Sadaharu’s shoulder, or relax the trembling tightness of his hold.

“Renji,” Sadaharu said, eventually, sounding thoughtful.


“You said Yukimura isn’t you goal; that you don’t play like that.”

Renji propped his head on one hand so he could see Sadaharu’s face. “Yes.”

Sadaharu tilted his head on the pillow. “Does that mean you’re going to have a problem playing all out against me?”

Renji stroked his fingers down Sadaharu’s cheek, silently acknowledging the similarities Sadaharu had seen. “No,” he said, softly. “I won’t. Seiichi sent me back to you today, and he’ll send me back to you this weekend, too.”

An appreciative smile curved Sadaharu’s mouth. “You have a good captain.”

“Yes,” Renji agreed, shoving back the shudder that tried to walk up his spine at the memories of Seiichi’s absence.

Sadaharu seemed to feel it anyway, and pulled Renji back down to him. “It’s all right,” he murmured. “He’s back.”

Renji sighed, and nodded. Sadaharu’s arms tightened, and an edge of teasing crept into his voice.

“Can you stay a while longer before I send you back to him?”

Renji laughed, quietly. He’d forgotten how easily Sadaharu could make him laugh. He twined their fingers together and settled closer.

“Of course.”